From the Shelf
In Celebration of Black History
I feel so lucky to be able to end Black History Month with an excellent interview between celebrated illustrators/authors Jerry Pinkney and James Ransome. Below, they speak about their recently published books and their years-long relationship as mentor/mentee and friends. To build on this, here are some other recent fantastic books by Black creators.
Newbery Award winner Mildred D. Taylor concludes the Logan family saga in the decades-spanning epic of self-discovery All the Days Past, All the Days to Come (Viking, $19.99, ages 12-up). Now a young adult, Cassie follows her brother during the Great Migration, eager to make a life away from the racism and brutality of their native Mississippi. But she quickly learns that while the North may not have "Whites Only" signs, segregation and racism persist throughout the post-World War II U.S.
Inspired by the strong women in their lives, The Old Truck, by debut author-illustrators and brothers Jarrett Pumphrey and Jerome Pumphrey ($17.95, Norton, ages 3-5), is a quietly powerful ode to hard work and perseverance. A farming family cheerfully toils through the seasons, using their red truck until it settles into the weeds by the weathered barn. The daughter works side by side with her parents, tinkering with the tractor and truck engines. Time passes. Now a grown woman, the next-generation farmer hauls the old truck out and works day and night to repair it.
With Black Is a Rainbow Color (Roaring Brook Press, $17.99, ages 4-8), debut author Angela Joy pens a loving tribute to all the ways Black is beautiful. Caldecott Honor and Coretta Scott King Award-winner Ekua Holmes's brilliant collage illustrations elevate the text's themes of resilience and strength. With its charming simplicity, Black Is a Rainbow Color is a great way to begin unpacking a wide spectrum of connections and ideas behind the layered definitions of Black.
In this Issue...
by Brandon Taylor
In this powerful and heartbreaking novel, a black, gay graduate student reckons with the trauma, racism and homophobia that have shaped his life.
by Margi Preus
A group of teens proves that it is possible to resist institutionalized evil in this stirring, masterful YA novel based on events during World War II.
by Frank "Big Black" Smith , Jared Reinmuth
This graphic memoir vividly illustrates the uprising at Attica and emphasizes its important place in ongoing struggles for justice.
Review by Subjects:
Canadian Fiction for Black History Month
CBC Books recommended "6 works of Canadian fiction to read for Black History Month 2020."
Quirk Books offered some reading recommendations for Eleanor Shellstrop of TV's The Good Place.
Breads Bakery in Manhattan "is now selling cake wrapped in an Etgar Keret story," the Forward reported.
Open Culture showcased Vincent Van Gogh's favorite books.
Author Michael Christie chose his "top 10 books of eco-fiction" for the Guardian.
Cattelan Italia designed a nearly six-foot high, rotating bookcase tower in the shape of a double helix structure of DNA.
Rediscover: Ralph EllisonIn 1953, Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man won the National Book Award for Fiction, beating Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea and John Steinbeck's East of Eden. Ellison (1913-1994) did not publish another novel for the rest of his life. Instead, between essays and short stories, he produced an unfinished manuscript more than 2,000 pages long. His friend, biographer and literary executor John F. Callahan condensed Ellison's writing into Juneteenth, a 368-page novel published in 1999. With help from Adam Bradley, professor of English at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Callahan incorporated larger sections of Ellison's unfinished work into Three Days Before the Shooting..., a 1,101-page book published by Modern Library in 2010. It follows a man of unidentified race named Bliss, raised by a black Baptist minister, who adopts a white identity as an adult and becomes a racist U.S. Senator.
Invisible Man remains Ellison's most influential work. The tribulations of its unnamed black narrator, including his interest in and later disillusionment with the Communist Party, are all endured with a sort of stoicism, a feeling of social invisibility that contrasts starkly with Ellison contemporaries like Richard Wright, Ellison's longtime friend and author of Native Son. Invisible Man is available from Vintage Books ($16, 9780679732761). --Tobias Mutter
The Writer's Life
Jerry Pinkney and James Ransome: A Landscape of Mutual Respect
Author and illustrator Jerry Pinkney's accolades include the Caldecott Medal, five Coretta Scott King Awards, five Coretta Scott King Honor Awards, four New York Times Best Illustrated Books picks and four gold medals from the Society of Illustrators. He served on the National Council of the Arts, is a trustee emeritus of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art and has taught at New York's Pratt Institute, the University of Delaware and the University of Buffalo. He lives in Westchester County, N.Y.
James Ransome's numerous commendations include a Coretta Scott King Medal, two Coretta Scott King Honors and an NAACP Image Award. He lives in upstate New York with his wife and collaborator, writer Lesa Cline-Ransome. Here, the two discuss their long relationship, illustration and guidance for other artists.
Please tell us about your most recent books, A Place to Land and Overground Railroad (both published by Holiday House).
Jerry Pinkney: A Place to Land, written by Barry Wittenstein, is a behind-the-scenes window into Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s process of drafting his iconic "I Have a Dream" speech. Dr. King delivered his remarks that hot day in August of 1968 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and everything hinged on the moment Mahalia Jackson interrupted him with an encouraging shout of, "Tell them about the dream, Martin!" MLK switched course midstream, and the outcome of that speech was very much on par with Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, in that it propelled the idea of equality into our collective 20th-century American mystique.
There have been many moments in our nation's history that have altered the African American experience, among them slavery, the Underground Railroad, the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Great Migration and the civil rights movement. James and I address two of these momentous events in our latest books.
James Ransome: Several years ago, I began reading Isabel Wilkerson's The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration. In Wilkerson's meticulous research, she recounts the stories of countless African Americans who traveled North from various points South, and those stories paralleled the travels of my own family, who left behind sharecropping and poverty in Rich Square, N.C., in the hopes of finding something better in Paterson and Newark, N.J.; Baltimore, Md.; and Brooklyn, N.Y. Overground Railroad, written by my wife, Lesa Cline-Ransome, is the story of Ruth Ellen and her parents traveling North aboard the Overground Railroad with the same hopes and dreams as so many other African Americans had who traveled during the Great Migration before and after the journey of Ruth Ellen and her family, all dreaming of a better future.
How did you two first meet? What were your first impressions of each other?
Pinkney: James and I first met at my studio in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y. He had sent me a letter asking if I would entertain the idea of a meeting to review and critique his portfolio. I don't remember the specifics of the letter, but I can recall the articulate, passionate way he spoke about furthering his artistic practice. Over the years, I've received quite a lot of correspondence from aspiring young illustrators asking to spend time with me, but none was as earnest as James. I was eager to know more about this determined young Pratt graduate, so I took it upon myself to call him. We connected immediately. I recognized James as a person with infectious energy, and if he desired my help, I was happy to support his image-making efforts and dreams.
Ransome: During my sophomore year at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, I met a fellow illustration student named Scott Pinkney, and he told me his father was an illustrator named Jerry Pinkney. The following year, when I was a junior, Jerry began teaching an illustration class for seniors at Pratt, and even though I was only a junior, I introduced myself and often sat in on his classes. When I saw Jerry at the graduation ceremony the year Scott and I graduated, I saw him not only as an artist but as a husband and father, and that was inspirational. He was everything I was often told artists could not be. He was stable and creative, successful and an artist. He was normal. And that told me that I, too, could be a successful illustrator.
After graduation, when I received my first illustration job, I wrote to Jerry, asking if I could visit him in his studio, and he graciously agreed to see me.
You have a longtime personal and professional connection.
Pinkney: We've always had much in common and plenty to talk about. There is a landscape of mutual respect for what we both do: make narrative images. We also share a love of family as part of our DNA. I pursue that focus in my personal and art life, and I feel it whenever I am in the presence of James and his wife, Lesa, for any length of time. That generosity of spirit spills over to our larger family of artists, students and community.
Ransome: Jerry and I genuinely like each other. My wife teases me because she feels we are even beginning to dress alike. We have a shared love of jazz and very similar taste in artists. Since our very first meeting in his studio, Jerry has offered me the equivalent of a second degree in illustration, but, more importantly, he has been a guiding force, inspiration and dear friend for nearly 30 years. For me, Jerry is family.
James, what drew you to Jerry as an inspiration?
Ransome: I was first introduced to Jerry's work in the Society of Illustrator's Annuals. Browsing these catalogs and seeing the subject matter he painted, I often wondered if Jerry Pinkney was African American. It was only when I met his son, Scott, that I realized Jerry was his father. Scott and I often discussed his father's work and discussed going to visit Jerry's studio, but we were unable to make it happen with our conflicting schedules. When Jerry later began teaching at Pratt and then spoke to illustration students is when I first had the opportunity to meet him. In college, when Lesa brought me a copy of one of Jerry's books, The Patchwork Quilt, I was working on my portfolio. Before seeing his book, I thought only of being a sports illustrator, hopefully on assignment for Sports Illustrated magazine. After seeing Jerry's book, I added a series of images of a young girl to my portfolio, which caught the eye of an editor, the late Richard Jackson. It was because of that series that Richard offered me my very first picture book. So from the very beginning, Jerry has been a very big influence on my artwork, and I strive to meet the standards he has set.
Jerry, what made you want to take James on as a mentee?
Pinkney: It was his ability to see and demonstrate how, through dedication and hard work, artistic achievement is a promise. And that my investment would be rewarded in his own creative success.
Do you have words of advice for aspiring children's book illustrators?
- Work at developing a sense of curiosity.
- Try looking at the world through as many lenses as possible.
- Look for and cultivate interests.
- Keep a sketchbook handy and draw daily. You can draw anything, and for whatever amount of time works for you--five minutes, 15 minutes or even longer. Feel free to return to the sketch later... or not. The goal is to foster mind, eye and hand coordination, and to explore mark-making and see where it leads.
- Push to surprise yourself. Remember: there is no failure in exploration.
Ransome: I agree wholeheartedly with everything Jerry listed, and I would add that it is important to also visit museums and galleries as often as you can to help you find the inspiration to surprise yourself. Always remember to experiment with color, layout, perspective and medium. And most importantly, visit bookstores and libraries to read and study children's books to see how current illustrators tell stories visually.
by Brandon Taylor
Real Life, the debut novel by Electric Literature's Recommended Reading senior editor Brandon Taylor, has all the notes of a classic "campus novel." It's got academic in-fighting; it's got complex hierarchies--and an associated web of alliances and betrayals--that link friends, lovers and rivals. And, most importantly to qualify for the genre, it's got a vaguely threatening undercurrent roiling beneath a placid collegiate surface. But Real Life tells a story that the others don't, and thus is starkly more "real" than its peers.
Wallace is black, gay and Southern at a large (and largely white) Midwestern university. He is in the trenches of a graduate program in biochemistry--far enough into the program that he's become brutally disillusioned by academia, but not far enough for graduation to be in sight. Reserved and self-protective, he is both completely consumed by the insular universe of his graduate program and apart from it, which only intensifies his sense of seclusion. On the last weekend of summer, minor disaster strikes in his lab, he is chastised and shamed by his colleagues, and he begins a precipitous, tense affair with an ostensibly straight friend. These events, and their implications, threaten to annihilate Wallace's careful defenses, another wound from which he may never recover.
But if there is joy in Real Life, it is in Taylor's elegant, thoughtful prose. The novel ends on a note of hope in reverse. With shattering elegance, Taylor suggests that the tolls of abuse and institutional subjugation are malignant and inescapable. --Hannah Calkins, writer and editor
Discover: In this powerful and heartbreaking novel, a black, gay graduate student reckons with the trauma, racism and homophobia that have shaped his life.
by Colum McCann
In a 2010 e-mail conversation in The Believer with Bosnian writer Aleksandar Hemon, Colum McCann observed, "I happen to think that an ounce of empathy is worth a boatload of judgment." That's the principle animating his magnificent novel Apeirogon, an unforgettable encounter with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from both sides of the chasm separating the antagonists, that's audacious in both substance and form.
McCann (Thirteen Ways of Looking; Let the Great World Spin) anchors Apeirogon in the true stories of Palestinian Bassam Aramin and Israeli Rami Elhanan. In 1997, Rami's 13-year-old daughter, Smadar, was one of eight victims of a terrorist bombing on Jerusalem's Ben Yehuda Street. Ten years later, Bassam's 10-year-old daughter, Abir, was killed by a rubber bullet fired by an 18-year-old Israeli border guard. Already acquainted with each other through the organization Combatants for Peace, and now linked by these twin tragedies, Bassam and Rami eventually unite as passionate advocates for a peaceful end to the conflict.
Apeirogon is a word describing a geometric shape with a countably infinite number of sides. McCann tells these stories in numbered sections, some of them as short as a few words, others several pages in length. At the precise center of the novel, Rami and Bassam are allowed to speak in their own eloquent voices about the devastating event that set each one's life on a radically different, desperately unwanted, course.
McCann's daring storytelling technique must be experienced to be understood fully. On a subject where beliefs are often etched in stone, Apeirogon's skillful blend of fact and fiction presents readers with a distinct challenge--to think for themselves. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer
Discover: Colum McCann gives a daring view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the lens of two fathers' tragic losses.
by Aravind Adiga
"A man without rights in this world is not freed from his responsibilities." So thinks Danny, an undocumented worker in Sydney, Australia, upon realizing that he has information about a murder that by all rights should be reported to the police. Amnesty by Aravind Adiga (Last Man in Tower; The White Tiger) follows Danny, a Sri Lankan national, over the course of a day as he bargains with himself and conducts imaginary negotiations for asylum in exchange for helping the police with their investigation. As the minutes tick by--readers see each timestamp--the tension builds toward a resolution that seems anything but preordained.
Danny entered Australia legally as a student four years ago but dropped out of college and overstayed his visa. Almost immediately he realized the gravity of his mistake, and "from the day he had become an illegal, he had been trying to reverse things. To find some way around his decision." After four years, Danny has convinced himself that he can live in Sydney indefinitely. So, the news of a body discovered at a nearby riverbed barely registers until Danny realizes it's Radha, one of Danny's former employers. Radha, along with her lover Prakash, discovered Danny's undocumented status without turning him in. When Danny hears details of Radha's murder, he suspects her lover is responsible.
Amnesty moves quickly and presents each character as fully formed and complex. Danny represents asylum-seekers around the globe who, unsafe in their own country and unwanted in others, wonder, "Where does it end, then, and who is responsible for what has been done to us?" --Cindy Pauldine, bookseller, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, N.Y.
Discover: Over the course of one day, an illegal worker in Australia debates whether to provide key evidence to the police in a murder investigation or remain in hiding.
by Amy Bonnaffons
In this poignant story, Rachel is in love with a dead man. He was dead when they met. Maybe it's the strange glow that Thomas seems to have about him, or the otherworldly heat of his skin, but Rachel believes him when he shares some of his story. Due to an error when he died, Thomas must wait another three months on Earth before crossing over, following instructions meant to avoid incurring any additional regrets. Starting relationships in this condition is not recommended, but after several weeks of noticing each other in the café or at the bus stop, he disregards the guidelines.
The Regrets, the debut novel from Amy Bonnaffons, demonstrates that the author is as skillful at probing subjects such as desire and mortality in the long form as she is in her short stories (The Wrong Heaven). The intensity with which Rachel and Thomas leap into their romance and the isolated world that they occupy--he because of his state of limbo, she because of the impossibility of explaining her new boyfriend--vividly evoke the obsessive fever of a new love affair. In a dreamlike tale, switching in long sections between the perspectives of Thomas, Rachel and Rachel's former boyfriend, Bonnaffons movingly conveys the haunting power of grief, whether for the end of a relationship or the end of a life. In this surreal yet satisfying version of the world, the ultimate challenge is still to find a way to carry on. --Kristen Allen-Vogel, information services librarian at Dayton Metro Library
Discover: In this hauntingly beautiful debut novel, a love affair crosses the line between the living and the dead.
by Anna Burns
Little Constructions by Man Booker Prize-winner Anna Burns tells the frenetic story of a family on the brink of annihilation. Jetty Doe enters a gun shop one day, blindly determined to buy a weapon with which to seek revenge. From there, an enigmatic, first-person narrator takes readers on speeding taxi rides, through abuse-strewn homes, and across generations as the Doe family sows a legacy of violence, betrayal and hatred. The female members of the Doe clan rage and combust around their brutal patriarch, John Doe, while onlookers struggle, often futilely, to steer clear of their destructive, gravitational pull.
As in her novels Milkman and No Bones, Burns displays her lyrical skill with complex and affecting prose. Every sentence is a knot of emotional heft that Burns progressively tightens, only to unwind and start again. The narrator of Little Constructions, in particular, tells this catastrophic story in a wonderfully distinctive voice that is as colloquial as it is opaque. Despite the brilliantly complex network of characters and relationships Burns's narrator spins, the story's central tragedy and themes remain clear and always in focus. In fact, it is the very chaos and insatiability of the novel's structure that illustrate the impossibility and futility of assigning singular blame or seeking perfect justice in a world built upon such interwoven networks of causation. Like the rhythm of Burns's prose, which follows each labyrinthine, intricate sentence with a simple bullet, Burns is able, at a key moment in the text, to condense the entirety of her elaborate assemblage into one image: "Beautiful women, with blood on their hands." --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor
Discover: A kaleidoscopic look at the histories of violence committed against and by women, Little Constructions is a literary and linguistic feat packed with tension and set to spring.
Science Fiction & Fantasy
The Unspoken Name
by A.K. Larkwood
The Unspoken Name, the debut novel from A.K. Larkwood, is a satisfying epic fantasy with several interesting wrinkles. Csorwe is an orc priestess who spends her life preparing to be sacrificed to a god known as the "Unspoken One." She decides to abandon her fate to serve a mysterious wizard who arrives and offers her another path. Much of Csorwe's story is about the weight of obligation and debts that can never be paid--the wizard Belthandros Sethennai helps convince her to abandon one form of servitude only to enter another.
The novel proceeds in a somewhat episodic fashion. After helping Sethennai secure the city from which he was exiled, Csorwe becomes his agent in a hunt for the Reliquary, a powerful item and a fairly standard fantasy McGuffin. The Unspoken Name sets itself apart, however, with its worldbuilding: Csorwe navigates a kind of fantasy multiverse in her travels, one filled with airships, giant snakes, gods and many dead worlds. There is a Lovecraftian unknowability to Larkwood's gods that adds to the gothic, doomy mood.
Against this backdrop, Csorwe's quest begins to be derailed by her increasing affection for a powerful magic user, Shuthmili, an Adept in a strict order that has dark designs on her future. As the relationship develops between the two, Larkwood takes as her theme the painful process of unlearning orthodoxy. Both Csorwe and Shuthmili were "raised for death"--the most challenging part of their journey is learning how to choose a more hopeful fate. --Hank Stephenson, manuscript reader, the Sun magazine
Discover: In this epic fantasy debut, an orc priestess raised to be sacrificed to a god chooses a new fate for herself in the service of a powerful and mysterious wizard.
Big Black: Stand at Attica
by Frank "Big Black" Smith , Jared Reinmuth , illust. by Améziane
Big Black: Stand at Attica is an unflinching graphic memoir from Frank "Big Black" Smith, providing a firsthand account of the 1971 Attica State Prison uprising in New York. Big Black's nickname derives from his impressive physical stature, which, along with the respect he earned as the prison's football coach, inspired his position in charge of security among the rebelling prisoners. Big Black is clear about what the prisoners wanted--broadly speaking, improvements to the dehumanizing living conditions--but for a much more detailed breakdown of what led to the events at Attica, Heather Ann Thompson's Blood in the Water makes an ideal companion.
Big Black's distinctive contributions to the story of Attica lie in its focus on a single figure, Big Black, and in the illustrations. Améziane's art is capable of cinematic sweep--the opening panels show a helicopter ominously descending on the prisoners' makeshift camp--and of precise, almost documentary detail. The artwork portrays Big Black as a peacekeeper: he does his best to mediate between numerous factions among the prisoners and makes sure that the prison guards held hostage are treated humanely, despite how they treated the inmates.
Big Black positions the Attica uprising as part of a larger history of racist oppression. Only a few generations removed from slavery, the author finds himself working for insignificant wages at a prison that the warden runs "like his personal plantation." After the shocking state violence that ends the rebellion, the narrative turns to how Big Black survives the aftermath, placing his story in the context of a long struggle for human dignity. --Hank Stephenson, manuscript reader, the Sun magazine
Discover: This graphic memoir vividly illustrates the uprising at Attica and emphasizes its important place in ongoing struggles for justice.
A Map Is Only One Story: Twenty Writers on Immigration, Family, and the Meaning of Home
by Nicole Chung , Mensah Demary, editors
The title originates in poet Jamila Osman's essay, "A Map of Lost Things": "A map is only one story," writes the Canadian-born daughter of Somali immigrants who now lives in Portland, Ore. "It is not the most important story. The most important story is the one a people tell about themselves." Osman is one of 20 writers--some already award-winning, others just beginning their careers--whose intimate essays share distinctive, diasporic stories traversing borders and cultures. Curated by Catapult magazine editor-in-chief and memoirist Nicole Chung (All You Can Ever Know) and Catapult founding editor Mensah Demary, A Map Is Only One Story marks the magazine's debut anthology.
Born in Malaysia, Los Angeles artist Shing Yin Khor's "Say It with Noodles" stands out for its graphic format, in which they learn from their grandmother to speak the language of love through food. Toronto BASHY magazine publisher Sharine Taylor also channels her grandmother's language in "My Grandmother's Patois and Other Keys to Survival," revealing the power and comfort of private and public speech. Indian Australian lawyer and activist Kamna Muddagouni learns "How to Stop Saying Sorry When Things Aren't Your Fault." As a Finnish transplant to Florida, poet Niina Pollari discovers an exceptional "normal" in "Dead-Guy Shirts and Motel Kids." Escaping Lagos's "have-beens and once-weres," MFA student/writing teacher Kenechi Uzor (the lone male voice) escapes "one hell for another" in Utah in "This Hell Not Mine."
Perhaps unsurprising with collections, quality isn't quite consistent here. As contributors "reveal and explore the human side of immigration," the compilation stands out for the voices that shout loudest, linger longest--and exhort readers to confront their own journeys toward that elusive destination called home. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon
Discover: Twenty writers from Catapult magazine cross borders and straddle cultures as they provocatively, vulnerably examine "immigration, family, and the meaning of home."
Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women that a Movement Forgot
by Mikki Kendall
In Hood Feminism, Mikki Kendall persuasively argues that, given the ways in which race and class, disability and sexual orientation are interwoven with gender, feminists must reckon with oppression within their ranks and focus on the needs of the many, rather than a privileged few: "Instead of a framework that focuses on helping women get basic needs met, all too often the focus is not on survival but on increasing privilege. For a movement that is meant to represent all women, it often centers on those who already have most of their needs met."
Kendall breaks the book into highly digestible chapters, covering subjects like unachievable beauty standards, respectability, media coverage of missing girls and reproductive freedom. But rather than focusing only on issues that mainstream white feminists speak about regularly--if not inclusively--Kendall points to much-ignored issues millions of women and girls in the United States face every day. Drawing from research and her experience, she describes long-term hunger, poverty and gun violence as obstacles women must navigate even as they fight against sexual violence and patriarchal expectations.
This book addresses more than one audience. In turns, Kendall speaks directly to allies, to the Black community, to disabled and LGBTQ+ communities. In her closing chapter, Kendall explains the difference between being an ally and an accomplice--talking about the problems versus doing the work while letting marginalized feminists lead. Hood Feminism intentionally makes readers uncomfortable as it asks them to take that discomfort and turn it into growth and action for the benefit of all. --Suzanne Krohn, editor, Love in Panels
Discover: Mikki Kendall's Hood Feminism is an imperative call for a more inclusive and nuanced feminism.
The Falcon Thief: A True Tale of Adventure, Treachery and the Hunt for the Perfect Bird
by Joshua Hammer
In this enthralling true story, a man enters the shower at the Emirates Lounge at Britain's Birmingham International Airport with several bags and stays for 20 minutes. After he leaves, a suspicious janitor discovers the shower is dry, virtually untouched save for a discarded egg carton holding a single egg. Unsure of what to make of this, police are called and interview the man. He's ordered to strip, and they discover 14 eggs wrapped in socks and tied around his abdomen.
The man, Jeffrey Lendrum, was caught smuggling peregrine falcon eggs with the intent of selling them to Middle Eastern clients, where racing raptors is a prestigious sport for the ultra-wealthy. Lendrum is interviewed by Andy McWilliam, an officer for the U.K.'s National Wildlife Crime Unit, who learns that Lendrum is an accomplished thief whose travels have taken him from his childhood in Rhodesia to the Canadian Arctic, Welsh valleys and the cliffs of Patagonia in search of rare raptor eggs. Lendrum has been arrested before, but with the lenient punishments for wildlife crime, he develops an unquenchable sense of adventure and hubris, returning to egg thievery again and again.
In The Falcon Thief, Joshua Hammer (The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu) explores the thousand-year history of falconry and the near extinction of peregrine falcons by the pesticide DDT in the 20th century, as well as conservation efforts in response to climate change. But Lendrum's drive for adventure and the conflict "between his love for animals and his need to possess them," despite the small financial reward, is the enigma at the center of this terrific account of true crime. --Frank Brasile, librarian
Discover: This rollicking tale follows the exploits of an audacious thief who stole raptor eggs from all corners of the globe for decades.
Children's & Young Adult
Village of Scoundrels
by Margi Preus
Based on events that took place in several southeastern French villages during World War II, this breathtaking novel follows a group of teens as they carry out covert operations to shelter and transport Jews who would otherwise be deported to internment camps.
Drawing on their individual strengths and skills, 16- and 17-year-old Gentiles and Jews join an extensive secret network of sympathizers working against the Nazis and the collaborationist Vichy regime. Philippe, a passionate, youthful-looking redhead, dons a boy scout uniform to help refugees flee to neutral Switzerland. Jean-Paul, a Latvian Jew with hopes of a future as a doctor, forges documents for himself and countless others. The naturally shy Celeste masters her fears to deliver messages for the maquis (guerilla resistance fighters). These brave teens hide small noisy children in the forest while police trucks and motorcycles roar through the village searching for "non-Aryans." They continually outsmart an ambivalent young French national police officer (whose name, Perdant, means "loser," much to their giggling delight). The group of friends--scoundrels all, according to Perdant--risks everything to try to address one question: "What are you supposed to do when the law is morally wrong?"
Newbery Honor author Margi Preus (Heart of a Samurai; The Bamboo Sword) delivers a deeply researched, suspenseful story that includes photos, documents, a pronunciation guide and a bibliography. She closely models her characters after real players in the Resistance, as described in the epilogue, and the heartbreakingly realistic dynamics play out among the teens as they experience first love, homesickness and absolute terror. Both thrilling and chilling, Village of Scoundrels will surely keep readers engrossed from start to finish. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor
Discover: A group of teens proves that it is possible to resist institutionalized evil in this stirring, masterful YA novel based on events during World War II.
The Feminist Agenda of Jemima Kincaid
by Kate Hattemer
Driving Kate Hattemer's The Feminist Agenda of Jemima Kincaid is one of the best kinds of righteous indignation: the kind served with gallons of humor.
It's April of narrator Jemima Kincaid's senior year of high school, and as one-third of the Chawton School's Senior Triumvirate, she's partly responsible for organizing the prom. Not a fan of the sexist tradition of guys asking girls, Jemima comes up with the idea of the Last Chance Dance: using a match-making website set up for the purpose, students can privately submit the names of all the kids with whom they would consider attending. As Jemima explains to her Latin class, "The new prom system makes it so girls don't have to wait around for guys to ask them out. It gives girls choice. And power." But if Jemima is such a good feminist, then why, when she learns that her best friend Jiyoon Kim asked out her crush object, does Jemima find herself thinking that Jiyoon was being a little... forward? And why did she overlook Jiyoon when she was scouting around for a junior who could run against the loathsome Mack Monroe for the following school year's Senior Triumvirate? Does the fact that Jemima is sure that Jiyoon will lose, despite--make that because of--being the better candidate, make Jemima something arguably as bad as a bad feminist: a bad friend?
In her third YA novel, Hattemer covers much territory (first sexual experiences, flawed parents, white privilege), lots of it through the cheeky dialogue of precocious private school kids. If some of these kids are too smart for their own good ("I'm concerned that your ironic yo is becoming a real yo"), they are never too smart for the reader's good. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author
Discover: In this feisty YA novel, a school election and other developments force a senior to consider that she's not the flawless feminist she thinks she is.