From the Shelf
Myla Goldberg's novel Feast Your Eyes (Scribner, $28) is written as a retrospective exhibition catalogue of photographs by the late Lillian Preston. Composed by her estranged daughter using letters, journal entries and interviews, the catalogue takes a biographic shape. Besides a scandalous obscenity trial over a nearly nude picture of her young daughter, Preston's legacy is her skill in capturing the profundity of quotidian scenes. The undershirts billowing on clotheslines webbed across apartment ventilation shafts or a child's arrested leap from a rope swing slung from an abandoned building are reminiscent of Vivian Maier or Helen Levitt's famous street photographs, and the paramnesia I suffered trying to look up Preston's work online I attribute to Goldberg's skillful descriptions.
Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer, the illustrated narrator of Ben Katchor's collection Cheap Novelties (Drawn & Quarterly, $22.95), likewise makes the fictional unnamed urban neighborhood he perambulates feel like a remembered place through his attention to ordinary details. In the series of comic panels, Knipl tallies phone booths, vanished newsstands and movie theater marquees. He observes obscure trades like electric sign watchers and records the magical banalities of discarded beauty school cases or dropped playing cards.
It's this same attention to familiar urban detritus that Susanna Ryan uses in Seattle Walk Report (Sasquatch Books, $19.95) to inspire readers to get out and explore their own neighborhoods. Triggered by the popularity of her formerly anonymous Instagram feed of the same name, Ryan's collection of illustrated field notes maps exploratory walks through her hometown. Dutifully recording paper cup sightings alongside historic building entrances, Ryan emphasizes the pleasures of small discoveries that might go otherwise unnoticed. Even if your own neighborhood explorations don't include counting lost socks or tracing the taxonomy of fire hydrants and water fountains, Ryan hopes you'll at revel in the little joys and mysteries of your sidewalk discoveries.
In this Issue...
by Christopher Leonard
Kochland is a gripping, highly detailed biography of Koch Industries, surveying the secretive company's vast business empire and increasing political power.
by Pablo Cartaya
Emilia is unsettled by the changes occurring in both her family and her town in Pablo Cartaya's intricate, wise middle-grade novel.
by Chris Terry
This fresh and innovative novel explores both whiteness and blackness in contemporary America.
Review by Subjects:
From Rainy Day Books
02/26/2020 - 7:00PMEVENT OVERVIEW: Mark Greaney, The New York Times Bestselling Author of The Gray Man Series, will Present his New Hardcover Novel One Minute Out (Gray Man #9). This Event is Co-Presented by Rainy Day Books & Mid-Continent Public Library. ABOUT MARK GREANEY: Mark Greaney has a Degree in International Relations and Political Science. In his research for the Gray Man Novels, including Mission Critical, Agent in Place,...
03/10/2020 - 7:00PMEVENT OVERVIEW: Erik Larson, New York Times Bestselling Author, will Present his New Hardcover The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz. This Author Event is Co-Presented by Rainy Day Books, America's National Churchill Museum & The National WWI Museum and Memorial. ABOUT ERIK LARSON: Erik Larson is the Author of 5 National Bestsellers: Dead Wake, In the Garden of Beasts, Thunderstruck, The Devil in...
Middle Ages Reconsidered
"A rediscovered erotic poem might indicate the Middle Ages were sexier than we thought," Mental Floss promised.
The Codex Argenteus, "a beautiful and mysterious bible from the sixth century, is now safely stowed in Sweden," Atlas Obscura reported.
Open Culture noted that a beautiful digital edition of Emily Dickinson's herbarium, a collection of pressed plants & flowers, is now online.
A Perfect Spell, "a reservation-only wizarding restaurant in the theme of Harry Potter," will open in Maine this fall, WCYY reported.
"Ahead of the pack: the best books about running" were recommended by Ben Wilkinson in the Guardian.
"This historic Michigan library looks like something out of Hogwarts," MLive wrote.
Rediscover: Lee Bennett Hopkins
Lee Bennett Hopkins, American educator, children's poet and advocate of poetry in education, died on August 8 at age 81. Born in Scranton, Pa., and raised in a housing project in Newark, N.J., Hopkins earned a Masters in education and taught elementary school. Between 1968 and 1976, he was a curriculum specialist for what was then Scholastic Magazines, where he began writing books for teachers, publishing articles in Horn Book and Language Arts, and anthologizing children's poetry. In 1976, Hopkins left Scholastic to pursue writing and education advocacy full-time. Pass the Poetry, Please (1972, revised in 1987 and 1998) outlined his thesis: that poetry could complement any children's curriculum and it is important to match students with the right poet. To that end, Hopkins collected more than 100 anthologies of kid's poetry over the course of his life. He is recognized by Guinness World Records as the "world's most prolific anthologist of poetry for children."
Been to Yesterdays: Poems of a Life (1995, originally published by Boyds Mills Press) is a collection of autobiographical poetry about Hopkins' tumultuous childhood--from his parents' divorce to his early dreams of being a writer. It was named a Golden Kite Award honor book in 1996. Been to Yesterdays is available in paperback from WordSong ($9.99, 9781563978081). --Tobias Mutter
The Writer's Life
Sarah M. Broom: Resurrecting a House with Words
|photo: Adam Shemper|
Sarah M. Broom's debut memoir, The Yellow House (Grove Press, $26), is a deeply personal portrait of a family, a house and a city still coming to terms with the destruction from Hurricane Katrina--and with destructive forces entirely manmade, including institutionalized racism and the frequent mythologizing of New Orleans. A native of New Orleans East, Broom holds a Masters in Journalism. She has been awarded a Whiting Foundation Creative Nonfiction Grant as well as fellowships at Djerassi Resident Artists Program and the MacDowell Colony.
Your urge to record what's around you has been lifelong; by fourth grade your nickname was "Tape Recorder" for your ability to parrot nearby adults' conversations. Did journalism and memoir feel inevitable?
No, but storytelling certainly did! I wrote my first book when I was very young--maybe six. It was 10 pages, broken into six sections. The edges were stapled and there was an author's bio on the back. My mother, Ivory Mae, had it stored away with her important papers. She gave it back to me when I was reporting this book. That is a meaningful circle for me.
Sometimes you build images gradually, while other times you slip in a line that so perfectly captures something, nothing else needs to be said. Did you find yourself writing more poetically about certain subjects or fighting that tendency anywhere?
When I'm writing, I'm thinking about time, pace, rhythm, cadence. Sometimes the language is upright, more formal in sound--my getting out of the story's way. Other times, the words lay down, lean, fall on each other, play differently, which makes a different sound and music. That's the part of craft that I love most. Thinking about how to stack the language.
You write, "Sometimes, when I want the world to go blurry again, I remove my glasses.... In this way, I learn to see and to go blind at will." What kind of armor does it take to gather such a personal story, including seeking answers to questions that some in the family might prefer to remain blurry?
The armor is the work--the utter difficulty of writing. Finding structure and shape. This book is layered with family lore, archival research, hundreds of hours of interviews with family members. This may sound strange, but that work felt less personal to me--especially in the early drafts--than like a Sisyphean task of making something of the evidence and the silences, which sometimes speak loudest.
I spent many hours of every day revving up to do the work. I had to give myself permission--over and over again--to transgress; the baby writing the history of a black American family; writing about my experience in city politics; telling on New Orleans, the mythologized, beloved city. Permission. I was also quite obsessed, burying myself in the research, in library archives, in the questions. I drove up and down Louisiana roads, to Raceland, where my father was born, and elsewhere. That ritual and practice protects me in many ways still.
Your mom's line "You know this house is not all that comfortable for other people" haunts this book, and you acknowledge the discomfort of putting your family's stories out there. What are the upsides of discomfort?
I've never made or done anything I've felt even vaguely confident about without an enormous amount of discomfort, which appears as agitation when it comes to me. Here's the wonderful thing: when faced, most things become less daunting. Not immediately, perhaps. The American problem, as I see it, is partly a terror of any discomfort. We are masters of looking away--oh, that film/book/artwork is "hard to watch." And so we don't face; we conjure fantasy, rely on our myths, get overtaken by amnesia. As a black woman writer, I don't have this privilege. I need to know for my own safety and security, as did my mother.
Four "movements" compose The Yellow House. That word is so rich in connotations: motion, music, social advancement. Why did you choose to structure the book this way?
Early in the process, I laid out the rooms of The Yellow House in a line on the floor, just as our shotgun house was structured. Living room, Mom and Dad's room, kitchen, etc. That led me to consider the ways in which the book was a house and needed a kind of architecture, flow. What room would the reader enter first, I wondered. Where would they sit and pause, how comfortable would that seat be, what would they see, how much would that first room tell them about the rest of the house? My main question was to see if it was possible to resurrect a house with words. The movements became my architecture, a way of speaking on multiple frequencies to create layer and also mystery. They allowed me to, in a way, write a few different yet interconnected books, with varying feeling and tone. The book is quite literally about a series of physical movements--dislocation, departures and returns, settling in. Like a symphony, they can be read in parts but they are stronger and make the most sense when taken together, in context, like a long Fela Kuti or Sun Ra track.
You're a sponge for language. You write an unforgettable original line, adapting your Sunday school vocabulary to your burgeoning sense of good choices: instead of just saying no to drugs, you offer: "Just rebuke those drugs!" Where do you find yourself soaking in new language these days?
Oooh. From everywhere. I most love hearing how people talk. I live in Harlem; much of what is recorded in my notebook are things people have said to me on the street. Harlem people remind me of New Orleans people--some of the best talkers. I love to overhear, focusing on how words are put together to make you feel--not merely hear--the sentiment. Often, while listening, I'll think about June Jordan saying, "don't you idolize the diction of the powerful," and think about the person speaking: they've won! I also have a habit of writing down what people are saying during phone calls, especially ones with my mother. I write down almost everything she ever says. Also, I live in a house where (the language of) music is always playing, with a filmmaker who adores reading and words as I do. I do love to abide in and with language, especially someone else's. And to note its limitations, its frames, so to speak. The best poets master the writing of a line in order to break it. I learn from them. --Katie Weed, freelance writer and reviewer
by Chris Terry
Chris Terry (Zero Fade) draws from personal experience in his provocative novel Black Card.
Like Terry, the unnamed narrator is the mixed-race child of a black father and white mother. The novel is structured around the narrator's identity crisis as he deals with all the racist trappings of Richmond, Va., where he works in a coffee shop and plays in a punk band called Paper Fire. The narrator reveals he turned to the mostly white punk scene because he felt alienated from other black kids growing up. He never felt he was black enough and still struggles to fit in. His black friend Lucius gives him a "black card," with black privileges written on the back, to affirm his identity. But when the narrator fails to confront racism, Lucius revokes the card, and the rest of the novel shows the narrator's attempt to get it back.
Terry's conceit provides plenty of humorous moments as the narrator switches back and forth between his whiteness and blackness. Terry works wonders describing the punk scene, his stylish prose revealing a deep understanding of music and counterculture. But for all the young and flippant hipster drama he covers, Terry never lets go of the serious social commentary at the heart of his novel. The narrator comes into his blackness after being targeted by the police for a crime he didn't commit. In this way, Terry reveals blackness as being the constant recipient of racist projections: "We're satellites. People's vision bounces off of us. The reflections glare in their eyes." What begins as a quest to be cool and comfortable in one's blackness becomes a greater struggle to survive.
Black Card is a bold and affecting novel--funny, infuriating and at times profound. Terry is a new talent who's managed to examine race in America like few writers before him. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset
Discover: This fresh and innovative novel explores both whiteness and blackness in contemporary America.
I Heart Oklahoma!
by Roy Scranton
Roy Scranton (Learning to Die in the Anthropocene) flings an exceptionally odd, of-the-moment novel at Trump's America with I Heart Oklahoma!, a fever-dream road trip featuring three shapeshifting central characters. Jim is a nonconformist bad-boy filmmaker out to record contemporary Americana with the help of his regular cameraperson, Remy. He hires Suzie to write his script--two pages a day as they drive the country in a lime-green 1971 Plymouth. Suzie is skeptical of the whole thing, and pretty repelled by Jim personally, but she needs the money, and wasn't doing much else with her New York City apartment but feeding Steve the Cat. So the eccentric threesome hits the road.
Early on, the novel reads as a coherent story: tensions hover at barely manageable levels between the prickly, offensive Jim, impatient Suzie and Remy, who aims to please and therefore displeases Suzie, who wants an ally against their shared boss, and maybe wants to sleep with Remy. Sex and violence are constant undercurrents in the Plymouth, as in the country and culture they traverse, making fun and satirizing, for example, in a memorable scene starring Suzie in a wedding dress moving in slow motion through the Oklahoma City bombing memorial. After one member of the team abandons the others, the narrative turns decidedly hallucinatory.
This novel of sex, violence, apathy, despair and art offers a bizarre, lightning-paced excursion through the present. For readers on board with its wild, winding style, I Heart Oklahoma! incisively parodies a weird time to be alive. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia
Discover: The era of Trump and three dysfunctional artists combine in a phantasmagoric road trip across the United States in this strange, lively novel.
by Scott Johnston
Campusland by Scott Johnston is a satirical debut novel set on the picturesque grounds of Devon University, a fictional Ivy League institution, at the start of a new school year. It is clear from the moment Johnston introduces English professor Eph Russell that he intends to have plenty of fun at the expense of elite universities thriving on bloated endowments and emotionally coddled students.
Eph is young, handsome and popular with students. So popular, in fact, that he becomes the target of campus agitators looking for Instagram attention. Lulu is a bored legacy student who decides that an affair with the professor will be just the thing to make college more interesting. Red, an aimless trust fund kid in his seventh year at Devon, takes advantage of Eph's Mark Twain lectures to incite moral outrage among students as a way to boost his own diminished popularity. Making matters worse for Eph, the dean of diversity and inclusion is on the hunt for a trophy Title IX case to justify her high salary, while the president will do anything to avoid the wrath of generous alumni, including throwing the innocent professor under the bus. Johnston brings these characters together for a comedy that will entertain readers even as they wonder if there is any truth to the extreme political correctness that paralyzes Devon.
Excerpts from the campus newspaper documenting mishaps at Devon serve as an amusing sidebar to the main action, but Johnston's parting thought is a sobering one: Campusland may be a work of fiction but it is based closely on the realities of college life today. --Shahina Piyarali, writer and reviewer
Discover: This debut novel smartly skewers Ivy League culture in the 21st century through the rise and fall of a popular professor.
Mystery & Thriller
by Steve Cavanagh
Legal thriller extraordinaire Steve Cavanagh (The Defense, The Plea) has an uncanny aptitude for placing his star lawyer in plausibly impossible positions. Watching Eddie Flynn work his way out of them is any reader's sheer delight.
In Thirteen, Flynn gets a call from fellow attorney Rudy Carp, who is working on an explosive celebrity double-murder case and hopes Flynn will aid the defense in poking holes in evidence mismanaged by the police. While he's initially skeptical of the offer, Flynn could use the generous fee Carp promises--as well as the possibility of greater stability, if he hopes to win back his wife and daughter. What's more, after meeting with Carp's client--top-tier movie star Bobby Solomon--Flynn believes the guy is innocent.
What Cavanagh could have written as a straightforward case of courtroom intrigue and rhetorical flourishes in the pursuit of truth and justice becomes exponentially more tense as serial killer Joshua Kane meticulously plans his infiltration of the jury for the Solomon trial. Fitting the profile associated with the most intelligent 1% of this criminal type, Kane goes to extreme lengths to fulfill his mission. His pattern of killing, framing and convicting may seem farfetched to some, but chillingly possible to true-crime fans.
Thirteen is a thrilling blitz of a novel, for new readers or old fans. Even as the driving question is less who and more how, there is no shortage of plot twists. Cavanagh serves Flynn a tall order, and the lawyer steps up with aplomb. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness
Discover: Eddie Flynn takes on the celebrity murder trial of the decade while attempting to catch the serial killer behind it in this propulsive thriller.
Love and Death Among the Cheetahs
by Rhys Bowen
Rhys Bowen (The Victory Garden, Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding) has finally sent Lady Georgiana and her new husband, Darcy O'Mara, on their honeymoon. When Darcy tells Georgie that he wants to surprise her, she never expects him to choose Kenya as their honeymoon destination.
The newlyweds arrive in Happy Valley, the center of British colonial society, only to discover that things aren't quite what they seem. First of all, Darcy confesses that he came to Kenya at the behest of the government, in search of a jewel thief, and Georgie is appalled to discover that partner-swapping is the main theme of the parties among the elite.
Things get more complicated when a local landowner is brutally murdered. Naturally, Darcy and Georgie get involved in the investigation, and learn a lot more about the sexual habits of their neighbors than they ever wanted to know. Soon it seems like someone is targeting Lady Georgiana as the next victim. Will they survive their honeymoon?
Rhys Bowen has aptly captured the hedonistic culture of the decadent final days of English rule in Kenya. As Bowen notes in the introduction, modern readers will be appalled at how the British speak about the local Kikuyu and Maasai, but her historical accuracy is spot-on. Lady Georgiana's typically lighthearted adventures take on slightly more sinister undertones than usual in Love and Death Among the Cheetahs, although nonetheless enjoyable. This will definitely appeal to fans of historical fiction and mystery alike. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans, Tucson, Ariz.
Discover: In this historical mystery, Lady Georgiana and her new husband are shocked at the antics of the local gentry when they head to Kenya on their honeymoon.
Biography & Memoir
Is There Still Sex in the City?
by Candace Bushnell
Candace Bushnell hit pay dirt with her 1997 debut book, Sex and the City, a compilation of lifestyle essays she wrote for the New York Observer. Her fame skyrocketed the following year when HBO turned Sex into a racy sitcom about a group of women in their mid 30s and early 40s in the Manhattan dating world. Two decades later, Bushnell has returned with Is There Still Sex in the City?, which she describes as "autofiction"--a combination of autobiography and fiction. No matter what it's called, it's vintage Bushnell--sassy, smart, funny and insightful.
Candace and her band of confidantes are now in their late 50s and, after several divorces, find themselves back in the dating world. The dating terrain is stacked against women of a certain age--not only are they seemingly invisible to men their own age, but the rules have changed, too. The focus has moved from flirting with people in person to making yourself a commodity on dating apps (which, as one male friend says, "feed into the worst part of your psyche. The part that secretly wants to judge a beauty pageant."). Amid the MAM (Middle-Aged Madness) and cosmetic surgeries, Candace and her friends try to find the ideal man in a dating pool filled with very young men interested in older women and men who are old enough to be their fathers.
With her finger on the pulse of women her age, she manages to be hilarious but not flippant about the responsibility. Bushnell's rollicking misadventures are witty, confident and compassionate. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant
Discover: With wit and compassion, Bushnell's autobiographical novel is sure to delight fans as she and her 50-something friends handle the new dating landscape.
The Yellow House
by Sarah M. Broom
"How to resurrect a house with words?" That question, and task, drives The Yellow House, Sarah M. Broom's beautiful and unflinching debut memoir.
Broom's larger-than-life mother, Ivory Mae, purchased the titular yellow shotgun in 1961, anchoring her family, for better and for worse, to New Orleans East. Broom maps her family's story onto the house itself and the city around it, probing not just the stories she seeks but their holes, silence and absences. New Orleans East, after all, is absent from tourist maps of "the Big Easy," its residents among the most dispossessed by Hurricane Katrina.
Architect of her own history, Broom follows her lineage back a century, tracing the lines straight through the shotgun house. She conducts interviews, looks to old letters and scours the minutiae of recovery efforts, refusing to romanticize the city that so many others cloak in mythology. She revels in language and nuance, as she recounts her stint as a writer for New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, when she is "hired to 'creatively tell the story of the City's recovery after Hurricane Katrina' " at a time when recovery seems measurable in "spoonfuls."
Broom invites readers to reflect on power in its myriad forms: the power of institutions, the power of nature and, critically, the power of story. It's an enormous undertaking and Broom nails it, inviting readers to wonder what else we're not hearing, what other stories exist beyond the edges of the map. --Katie Weed, freelance writer and reviewer
Discover: In this powerful memoir, a New Orleans native wrestles with the complexities of what it means to call one of the U.S.'s most mythologized cities home.
Business & Economics
Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America
by Christopher Leonard
At a densely footnoted 700 pages, Christopher Leonard's Kochland is no lightweight read, yet its subject--Koch Industries--more than warrants that level of scrutiny. While Charles and David Koch have attracted notice in recent years for their political activities, their sprawling empire remained practically invisible to the public for decades. Leonard shows how Koch specialized in complicated industries necessary to modern American life, all built around the backbone of Koch Oil.
Kochland is about more than the Kochs, even though Charles Koch's management philosophy receives plenty of attention. Leonard breaks down the story of Koch Industries into flashpoints. One lengthy section involves the vicious battle over the Pine Bend oil refinery in Minnesota, where Koch eventually broke the back of a powerful union. Another portrays Charles Koch's successful campaign to defeat Obama's ambitious cap-and-trade bill, and the role of the Koch political wing in directing the aims of the emergent Tea Party. Leonard shows each as a dramatic story that sheds light on Koch Industries' participation in major trends in the American economy: weakening labor, funneling profits to the ultra-wealthy and ignoring the threat of climate change.
Leonard's greatest achievement is in writing an accessible book about an institution designed to be inaccessible. This is necessarily a book awash in technical details and dozens and dozens of characters, yet Leonard grounds it all in human drama--Bill Koch's efforts to wrest control of the Koch Empire from his brother Charles, for example, are worthy of the television series Succession. Kochland is an epic, in-depth work. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, N.C.
Discover: Kochland is a gripping, highly detailed biography of Koch Industries, surveying the secretive company's vast business empire and increasing political power.
Dwell: One Woman's Search for Home and a Sense of Belonging
by Hallie Lord
Hallie Lord (On the Other Side of Fear) shares candid stories of her life and her perpetual search for home and its implications in Dwell, 15 essays that offer a wellspring of enlightened inspiration. Lord is a writer, speaker and the host of a show on SiriusXM. In every medium, she explores concerns about practical life questions, viewing them through a prism of spiritual Christian living informed by her Catholic faith. Her presentation is never preachy--it's faith-based in principle, yet rich in accessibility and appeal.
In a warm, witty, conversational style, Lord shares details about her yearning for a sense of belonging and the "safe haven" home implies. The divorce of Lord's parents early on left her feeling "disoriented and unmoored," and that carried over into her own married life. Lord is a wife and a mother of eight children. Having moved with her own family 11 times in just 15 years, she's had to adjust and adapt to traditional ideas--and revise her dreams--of setting down permanent roots. She shares many anecdotes about each move, relationships forged and lesson learned along the way. Seasons of joy and loneliness, struggles and trepidations--and her reflecting upon them--have helped to reconcile her fate and define the idea of "home" in a broader, spiritual sense. The often bumpy road she travels on the way to finding peace offers deeply felt personal revelations and entertaining wisdom that will radiate universal themes to other faith-based seekers. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines
Discover: A collection of inspiring personal essays that explore the concept of home through a prism of spiritual Christian living.
State: A Team, a Triumph, a Transformation
by Melissa Isaacson
Melissa Isaacson spends the evening before her Niles West High School basketball team's 25th reunion with her parents, both long suffering from Alzheimer's-induced memory loss. As she reconnects with her teammates, they implore her to delve into their own recollections and document the team's story. For more than a decade, she turns her sports journalist's eye to the tale of a remarkable group of girls from Skokie, Ill.
State begins shortly after the 1972 inception of Title IX, prohibiting sex discrimination in federally funded education activities. Isaacson was one of many "tomboys" who wanted to play sports and were running out of patience. Given the opportunity, her teams made spectacular runs at the state championship, ultimately winning it all in 1979, only five years after the school's inaugural season.
State is a treasure trove of personal reporting at the "squeak and rubber" level of shoes on the court. Significantly, looking back as an adult allows a view of the glory days through varying lenses of school, family and societal experiences and traumas that lay hidden under the surface for these suburban teenage girls. Details emerge about the coaches and administrators who fought for and supported them, and parents who sometimes did not.
Isaacson, the Chicago Tribune's first woman columnist and beat writer, artfully shifts voice between youthful naiveté and seasoned veteran. Her pre-game poems have evolved into great storytelling, imbued with warmth and, quite often, hilarity--a testament to the game that shaped the lives of the girls who played it. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review
Discover: Journalist Melissa Isaacson shares the stories of the individuals and forces that gave rise to her team's high school basketball championship.
Children's & Young Adult
Each Tiny Spark
by Pablo Cartaya
Twelve-year-old Emilia is going through a period of transition. Her father is coming back from deployment and her mother is leaving for a job interview in San Francisco. She'll be gone only for a week, but Emilia, who has Inattentive Type ADHD and sometimes has "a hard time organizing and paying attention," relies upon her mother to help her plan her school work. Abuela (her papi's mother) lives with them, but Emilia knows she won't get the same kind of support from Abuela that she gets from Mom. Also, Papi has been gone for almost a year. "We hardly ever spoke the whole time he was away," Emilia thinks, and she's sore because, even though she sent him tons of video messages, he never responded. "It feels like my whole life is changing. Like everything that's normal is becoming the opposite." Then, Emilia is assigned a school project to create a visitor's guide for Merryville. As she begins learning the history of her city, her eyes are opened to the inequity all around her.
Pura Belpré Honor-winner Pablo Cartaya (The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora) confidently and expertly shows in Each Tiny Spark how politics are inextricable from the personal. Emilia's Cuban-American family, which speaks a mix of Spanish and English, deals with racial and religious politics every day. Religion and colorism, PTSD and neurodivergence, racism... all of it is personal and all of it affects Emilia directly. Cartaya's fluid text never shows the work that must have been involved in so consciously building a world that reads this true. Each Tiny Spark is an elegantly wrought middle-grade novel that has the potential to speak directly to any reader. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness
Discover: Emilia is unsettled by the changes occurring in both her family and her town in Pablo Cartaya's intricate, wise middle-grade novel.
by Brittany Cavallaro , Emily Henry
Winona's father, Stormy, is a beloved weatherman and philanthropist. Even though his wife died many years ago, he and Winona appear perfectly put-together--which is exactly his plan. Winona, terrified of her father, would do just about anything to make him disappear. "If her dad died," though, "she would have starved to death. She didn't have the key to the locks he kept on the pantry." Lucille, Winona's best friend, is part of a family everyone knows is "trash, the same way they [know] that you'd go to hell for killing someone." Her older brother, Marcus, lives with Lucille and her mom, deals drugs out of the house and steals from them both.
The girls meet one night after Winona is physically assaulted by Stormy, Lucille by Marcus. A friendship and a plan are born: after graduation, they will escape to Chicago. Plans change, however, when Winona discovers that her mother isn't actually dead--she ran away and has been in hiding all these years. Lucille and Winona steal a car and take off to find Winona's mother.
Cavallaro (Charlotte Holmes series) and Henry (The Love That Split the World) get straight to the point in Hello Girls: girls are aged-up to be objects of sexual attraction; young women are infantilized so as to not taken seriously. This YA Thelma & Louise tribute hits on all the important notes, effectively pointing out how little has changed about society's treatment of women and girls in the near-30 years since its release. The girls' slow slip into worse and worse trouble reads true as they try desperately to get away from the corroding influence of destructive men. Fans of Moxie and Sadie should absolutely pick up Hello Girls. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA Editor, Shelf Awareness
Discover: Two young women escape controlling, dangerous men and go in search of a long-lost mother in Brittany Cavallaro and Emily Henry's Hello Girls.