Disney: Journey to Star Wars The Force Awakens Novels

Tattered Cover Book Store Issue for Friday, September 4, 2015

From the Shelf

Jonathan Tasini: 'Crashing' a Book

How do you capture the spirit and energy of a lightning-fast movement and get that information to people in a hurry? That's the task I faced in writing about Bernie Sanders and his populist presidential campaign.

I was perfectly suited to writing The Essential Bernie Sanders and His Vision for America (Chelsea Green, $14) because half of my professional life has been in social and political organizing. To be useful, this book had to be about Bernie and speak to the millions of people who want to hear what he has to say. Which means, as the author, I had to get out of the way.

Roughly 95% of the book is Bernie's words taken from his speeches, statements and media appearances over the course of his political career. Because he is relatively unknown to a large swath of the voting public outside of his home state of Vermont, it was important to end each chapter with a few clear examples of Bernie's voluminous, concrete accomplishments.

I also worked to make the book light and easy to carry, and to make sure each chapter is very short so people could easily find the individual issue or issues drawing them to Bernie's campaign.

This whole publishing miracle was made possible by the dream relationship with Chelsea Green. To try to keep pace with the surge fueling Bernie's campaign, I believe we broke a record: only 22 days elapsed from the time publisher Margo Baldwin asked for an outline to the day I submitted the final copy; then only 37 more days until we had bound books! And who better to work with than a Vermont, independent, employee-owned publisher?

The stars aligned perfectly with a movement's messenger, who questions the dominance of powerful corporations, linking up with a nimble publisher dedicated to independent voices. --Jonathan Tasini

Tasini is a writer, organizational strategist and an economics and political analyst. He served as president of the National Writers Union (UAW Local 1981) for 13 years.

Seventh Street Books: Hollow Man by Mark Pryor

Bloomsbury: A Curious Tale of the In-Between by Lauren DeStefano

Poisoned Pen Press: Thirteen Guests by J. Jefferson Farjeon

In this Issue...

Reviews

A darkly funny, surreal portrait of contemporary America.

Read this review >>

Leo: A Ghost Story

by Mac Barnett

A delightful ghost story by Mac Barnett and Christian Robinson that is a friendship story, too.

Read this review >>

Best Boy

by Eli Gottlieb

When an autistic man's comfortably predictable life is turned upside down, he determines escape is his only option.

Read this review >>

Review by Subjects:

Fiction Mystery & Thriller Graphic Books Science Children's & Young Adult

New Harbinger: Wide Open by Gracie X

Book Candy

Back to Hogwarts!; Women Writers to Read in Translation

Back to school, wizards! J.K. Rowling "tweeted about James Sirius Potter's first day at Hogwarts, and the Internet lost it," Bustle noted.

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Flavorwire recommended "22 essential women writers to read in translation."

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Featuring "10 music videos pulled straight out of literature," Quirk Books noted that when musicians "reference these works in their music videos, that's when things get really interesting."

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"What is the fifth thing on Margo's list to Q?" As a tribute to John Green, the Guardian offered a Paper Towns quiz.

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"Travel by book": The Romanian city of Cluj-Napoca "offered free public transportation to anyone reading a book on the bus."

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Buzzfeed found "31 places bookworms would rather be right now."

Perigee: Shakespeare Not Stirred by Caroline Bicks & Michelle Ephraim

The Writer's Life

Alex Sheshunoff: We're All Just Beginners

A Beginner's Guide to Paradise (NAL) tells the story of Alex Sheshunoff, a nonfiction writer who quit his Internet job in the late 1990s and headed to the Pacific, eventually settling on Yap, where he met his wife and built a house. The book is full of humorous anecdotes about his almost aimless search for paradise and what he ended up finding among the islanders there.

Returning to the mainland, Sheshunoff earned an MFA at Iowa, spent some time in Anchorage, Alaska, and lives in California, where he and his wife are raising their two young sons, Ian Shenanigan and Andrew Commissioner Sheshunoff.

How were you able to pack up and move to a tropical island?

I really don't think I did anything exceptional. When you're in your late 20s, maybe anything feels possible. I didn't have any dependents and I was fortunate to be in a position where I knew I could slide back into my old life if I needed to. I didn't have a mortgage. I didn't have any kids. It gave me the flexibility that I know a lot of people don't have. That said, I do think it's a story that a lot of people who are burned out at work can relate to. At least that's something my publisher is hoping.

Who hasn't thought of leaving and going to a deserted island?

This is not a self-help book. It's just a personal story with a lot of jokes. I'm not like John Milton who said he wrote Paradise Lost to justify the ways of God to man. In my book, at least, there's a lot of sugar to help just a little bit of medicine go down.

This is a funny book. Why tell jokes? Is that just how you tell stories?

When things don't go well in life, people always say, "At least you learned from it." After five years of working 60-hour weeks in New York, I realized that I was tired of learning by experience. Maybe I could learn from the experience of others. If you go to a small island in the Pacific without a plan, you're kind of a goof. But if you go to a small island in the Pacific with a hundred books, then you're a man on a mission.

How did you live and eat on the island?

The islands are not that expensive, fortunately. I left New York right as the real estate boom was hitting, so I was able to sublet my apartment and it covered all my expenses while I was there. Credit cards helped because beyond the plane flight, once you actually get to a place like Yap, there's not a lot to buy. Your expenses are really kept in check.

There was one ATM on Yap. I would pay for things with cash and, for the most part, my only expenses were food and lodging. It was kind of a depressing thought on occasion to realize that whoever was subletting my apartment in New York was working crazy hours so that, in effect, I could live on a small island in the South Pacific.

What didn't make the book?

At one point, Sarah and I met a guy in a bar in Fiji who claimed to have downloaded some maps from NASA and thought he had found an undiscovered island. He needed a crew to sail 500 miles north of Yap to find this island and see if it was real or if the image was clouds. The short answer is it was clouds, but we did spend a long time at sea on a 28-foot sailboat.

That sounds small.

Yeah, it's really small. The captain was seasick for the first three days, which isn't what you want in a captain. We had no sailing experience, but [we made] the cut. The other thing is that, especially after Eat, Pray, Love, I felt like I had an obligation to not spend too much time gazing at my navel. So, it's a quick read with a lot a jokes.

Good job--it sure kept me reading. What do you think you got out of this experience, besides a book deal?

I guess there were three things I learned out there. The first is to be wary of the time-sucking illusion that commitment to bad choices will somehow make them better. Commitment to bad choices just makes them worse.

The second is to stay focused in the things that I actually cared about. It sounds really simple, but a lot of us spend a huge amount of energy working towards goals that aren't meaningful or are other people's goals.

One thing I learned is if you have a dream, something you really want to do, go ahead and do it. Don't get too tangled up in your own fear, or asking yourself if it's the right thing. Don't listen to the experts because when it comes to the big decisions, the big choices, we're all just beginners.

I didn't get a lot of inner dialogue from your book--at least in the first part.

Right. And then you feel like that changes over the course of the book, or does it stay?

It changes. Was that growth of character?

That's an interesting question.

You need to feel that you're reading about somebody who is different at the end of the book than at the beginning of the book. Something has to have happened to the character. When I went out there, it was really an organic experience. I'm not one of these people who set out to wear blue for a year and write about how it changed them as a person. This is what actually happened, and it just so happened that what I did out there ended up making a nice story for the book because in the beginning I'm moving around all the time, trying to find the perfect place. Then about halfway through I settled down and realized it's not about the place--it's about the person. That is hopefully what comes across in the book as well. Again, mostly it's for jokes.

I liked the way you portrayed the beginning of your relationship with Sarah--as though she was your partner in crime. Someone to sneak up on people with and pour water on their tent.

That's a great way of putting it. Hopefully it will stay that way. But then you have kids and you have to pretend to take things seriously.

It gets more complicated, right?

You have to play the part. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor

Poisoned Pen Press: Dark Places by Reavis Wortham

Book Reviews

Fiction

You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine

by Alexandra Kleeman

Alexandra Kleeman's You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine is a terrifying, exhilarating display of intelligence. The world of the novel is contemporary and familiar but taken to a disconcerting extreme of satirical surrealism. The narrator, a young woman known only as "A," is a copy editor languishing in a featureless neighborhood, in an apartment she shares with "B," who is an insecure, anorexic version of A. A is dating "C," a nice guy who likes reality television, watches porn while they have sex and thinks that A worries too much.

A is obsessed with "Kandy Kakes," a highly processed food product that can be found at Wally's, a supermarket chain with borderline-dystopian shelving policies and an overabundance of veal. In her despair she is eventually drawn into a cult-like group that claims to want to free her "ghost" through an exorcism of individuality, which involves wearing a white sheet and eating nothing but Kandy Kakes.

The hyper-modern setting, and the disenfranchised millennial characters coping with crippling apathy, seem to belong to the Internet-driven micro-genre of alt-lit, yet there's much more to this novel than a bleak portrait of overeducated, underemployed ennui. Kleeman expertly parodies the consumerist haze of life under late capitalism in the United States, pinpointing the bleakness of fading individual identity. The plot itself is straightforward, if absurd, and the language is clean and highly readable. Kleeman's triumphant debut is a highly entertaining book with stunning hidden depths, worth reading and reading again. --Emma Page, bookseller at Island Books in Mercer Island, Wash.

Discover: A darkly funny, surreal portrait of contemporary America.

Harper, $25.99, hardcover, 9780062388674

Best Boy

by Eli Gottlieb

Todd Aaron is a seasoned veteran of Payton Living Center. The 50-year-old autistic narrator of Eli Gottlieb's (The Face Thief) lives in a cottage on the center's grounds, works in a nearby school cafeteria and follows the rules so he can be a "best boy."

With the exception of his annoying roommate, Todd is content at Payton--until the arrival of "Mike the Apron." The new staff member reminds Todd of his abusive father, and his discomfort foreshadows trouble for the vulnerable protagonist: "I was nervous and I stayed that way. I carried it around with me like a fizzy drink I drank too much of fast, that was always about to make me burp. The pressure was inside me and pushing steady, even though I hoped it would go away."

To compound Todd's uneasiness, a female resident named Martine encourages him to stop taking his medication. Torn between his budding attraction for her and his need to be a best boy, Todd says, "My feelings pushed out of me towards Martine as strongly as the Law pushed back. I stood between the feelings while they canceled each other out to make an emptiness in my head."

The burp comes when Todd decides he can't cope any longer. Quietly setting off in the night, he leaves Payton, determined to go home to a place he hasn't been since he was 11.

Best Boy packs an emotional whopper of a story into a relatively quick read. Gottlieb respectfully molds Todd, avoiding stereotypes in a faithful portrayal of autism. Both heartbreaking and heartwarming, Best Boy leaves a dazzling impression. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: When an autistic man's comfortably predictable life is turned upside down, he determines escape is his only option.

Liveright, $24.95, hardcover, 9781631490477

Fortune Smiles: Stories

by Adam Johnson

After his 2012 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Orphan Master's Son, Adam Johnson's highly anticipated follow-up is the wildly diverse and stiflingly intense short story collection Fortune Smiles. The title is baldly ironic: not a single protagonist in the six long stories that make up the collection is living an enviable life. Two stories--"Nirvana" and "Interesting Facts"--depict the difficulty of maintaining relationships in the face of debilitating illness. "Hurricanes Anonymous" covers the fallout from the one-two punch of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in Louisiana. "Dark Meadows" offers a brutal deep-dive into the psychology of a pedophile. And, finally, "George Orwell Was a Friend of Mine" and "Fortune Smiles" both return to the theme of totalitarian regimes, and the psychological wreckage they leave behind, so skillfully explored in Johnson's previous novel.

Fortune Smiles is no laugh-riot, but thankfully, Johnson peppers his stories with emotional release valves in the form of pitch-black humor and the same slightly absurdist streak that helped to leaven The Orphan Master's Son. In "Nirvana," a programmer creates a virtual simulacrum of a dead president to give him advice. "Fortune Smiles" features a surprisingly poignant scene where a North Korean defector attempts to airlift himself back over the DMZ by attaching balloons to a plastic chair. Johnson applies a familiar theme--institutional cruelty transmuting itself into absurdity (see: Kafka, anything Russian)--to life itself, implying that the human experience is just another exercise in institutional cruelty. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books

Discover: A stunningly bleak short story collection elevated by absurdist grace notes.

Random House, $27, hardcover, 9780812997477

The Fall of Princes

by Robert Goolrick

Robert Goolrick's novel The Fall of Princes has its roots more in his family memoir, The End of the World as We Know It, about his wealthy parents' life of ostentation, addiction and abuse, than in his first novel, A Reliable Wife, set in the early 20th century. The Fall of Princes is the story of Rooney, a high-flying Wall Street trader caught in the swirl of 1980s New York excess, and what he calls its "megawatts of greed and glory and rapaciousness... like a giant testosterone flambé." Rooney gives his account after the money, drugs, high-end hookers, Brioni suits, Bryn Mawr alumni wives and chauffeured Lincoln Town Cars have been replaced by his rat-infested West 35th Street apartment and a job in short sleeves and khakis at Barnes & Noble. Looking back on his brief run as what Tom Wolfe tagged a "Master of the Universe," Rooney concludes, "When you lose everything, you don't die. You just continue in ordinary pants with nothing in your pockets."

Goolrick's New York City in the '80s reflects a twinge of nostalgia, but the ravages of all that sex, drugs and money took their toll--AIDS, divorce and, in Rooney's case, "the slammer... four times, twice in rehab for various addictions, and twice to the loony bin." It finally takes the plaintive singing of an inexperienced young call girl, the unquestioning love of a transvestite streetwalker, a full reading of Proust's Á La Recherche du Temps Perdu and a bookstore job to cushion his dizzying descent. Given the height from which he fell, only a big cushion would do. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: A Wall Street trader's rise to riches and fall to bookselling, blending exuberant reminiscences of 1980s excess with a sober desperation for redemption.

Algonquin, $25.95, hardcover, 9781616204204

The Admissions

by Meg Mitchell Moore

The Admissions is Meg Mitchell Moore's (So Far Away) account of a very eventful autumn for the Hawthornes of Marin County, Calif. After years of academic and extracurricular preparation, eldest daughter Angela is submitting her application to Harvard, while 10-year-old Cecily is preparing to compete in the world championships with her Irish dance troupe, and Maya, the youngest, is entering second grade still unable to read on her own. Nora, their mother, on the verge of the biggest sale of her real estate career, is managing her high-maintenance clients, driving carpool, keeping tabs on Angela's crushing senior-year obligations, and searching for a reading tutor.

Nora has told no one why she blames herself for Maya's trouble with reading. While she pushes to close a challenging sale, she also tells no one that a lawsuit is brewing over another sale she made several years earlier. So close to realizing her dream of admission to Harvard, Angela tells no one that pills are helping her hold onto her spot at the top of her class. And while the whole family knows how much Harvard matters to Angela, only her father, Gabe, truly knows exactly why it matters--and he can't tell anyone.

The Admissions quickly establishes the Hawthornes as an upper-middle-class family dealing with severe pressure, community expectations and their own occasionally desperate decisions. There's plenty of drama--and a surprising amount of comedy--in the convergence of events that exposes all of the family secrets. But while Moore lets her characters unravel, she doesn't leave them in pieces. The Hawthornes may truly have learned from, and been changed by, experience. --Florinda Pendley Vasquez, blogger at The 3 R's: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness

Discover: A family keeps secrets from each other as they scramble to keep up appearances and live up to expectations.

Doubleday, $25.95, hardcover, 9780385540049

Mystery & Thriller

The Reckoning: Book Three of the Niceville Trilogy

by Carsten Stroud

In The Reckoning, the gruesome murder of a Niceville family helps detective Nick Kavanaugh finally admit that there is a dark, supernatural presence in his town. Along with a group of confidants, Nick must confront the creature at its source before it fully takes over his foster son, Rainey Teague, allowing an evil relation from the past, Abel Teague, to become immortal.

The woman who lives in a strange limbo, inside Nick's antique mirror, takes in lost souls and has them fight the evil that has descended on Niceville. Together, these spirits chase down an evil sorcerer who seeks to live forever by inhabiting Rainey's body. But metaphysical villains are only part of the problem. Mob goons shacked up in a hotel suite face off with FBI surveillance camped out in the high-rise across the street, as the goons figure out what to do after the death of their boss.

Carsten Stroud (The Homecoming) takes readers back to Niceville in The Reckoning, the third installment of his series, a novel that tells a fascinatingly macabre story. Stroud seems more confident and playful in this novel, showing off with blackly humorous chapter titles like "Never Get Out of the Car," with a local policeman who investigates a haunted sewer, or "Tito Detects Stuff," in which a Mafia hitman takes out an informant. While the plot is complicated, the story rockets along, keeping readers engaged and looking for every next twist and turn. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor

Discover: An ominous and gruesome thriller about an ancient evil that infects the minds of smalltown Niceville residents, causing them to commit acts of unspeakable horror.

Vintage, $15.95, paperback, 9781101873021

Hostage Taker

by Stefanie Pintoff

Days before Christmas, St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City is seized by a hostage taker who threatens to kill the captives and blow up the landmark if his demands aren't met. The first demand: negotiations must be handled by Eve Rossi, an FBI agent who heads up a division made up of ex-cons.

The hostage taker wants Eve and her team to bring five specific people--who have no obvious links to each other--to the scene to witness an event the perpetrator has planned. The task must be completed within hours or the church and everyone inside will be lit up, but not by Christmas lights.

In Hostage Taker, her first contemporary thriller, Edgar Award-winner Stefanie Pintoff (In the Shadow of Gotham) pulls out the big guns, literally and figuratively, by taking aim at one of New York City's most iconic landmarks. Though several characters lean toward stereotypes (one of the five witnesses is an actress who behaves in a self-centered, spotlight-grabbing way), and the narrative occasionally states the obvious ("she saw the telltale red marks on his wrist. The sign of having been recently bound"), the suspense level is high as Eve and her unit race against the clock to prevent a catastrophe.

Eve's tactics offer an interesting glimpse into how a negotiator must walk the thin edge between placating and outwitting her opponent. And the hostage taker's motivation resonates, giving dimension to a character who, despite committing dastardly deeds, may not be completely heartless. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, blogger at Pop Culture Nerd

Discover: An FBI negotiator and her team try to stop a hostage taker from blowing up St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City.

Bantam Books, $26, hardcover, 9780345531407

Graphic Books

Snowden

by Ted Rall

Pulitzer Prize-nominated and Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award recipient Ted Rall (To Afghanistan and Back; 2024: A Graphic Novel) has created a compact, sympathetic profile of Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor and Central Intelligence Agency employee who leaked classified information about the agencies' post-9/11 domestic surveillance program to the world. Using simple and unobtrusive illustrations as a background to his narrative, Rall demonstrates how George Orwell's 1984 became fact rather than fiction and how one man's conscience and pursuit of justice pushed him into political exile.

Rall analyzes Snowden's youth in his attempt to understand what prompted Snowden down the path of whistleblowing. For all intents and purposes, he was living the good life--a conscientious and trustworthy Boy Scout who grew up in the D.C. suburbs and earned his GED at 16, a lucky millennial who turned his love of technology into a lucrative career as a systems administrator for the NSA and CIA, mining personal data from millions of Americans in search of terrorism threats. A State Department assignment to Switzerland exposed Snowden to leftist European political views, opening his eyes to abuses of power and propelling him to a course of action branded as treasonous.

Rall interviews boyhood acquaintances, teachers and government whistleblowers such as Thomas Drake, and draws together his own political views in developing his portrait of Snowden. Rall imparts a humanity to the man who government and media outlets portrayed as a traitor, and he leaves no doubt where his own loyalties lie, as he ties in Snowden's fate with Orwell's Winston Smith. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

Discover: A sympathetic portrait of the man who exposed the depth of the U.S. government's post-9/11 surveillance program.

Seven Stories, $16.95, paperback, 9781609806354

Science

While Glaciers Slept: Being Human in a Time of Climate Change

by M Jackson

"I cannot untangle in my mind the scientific study of climate change and the death of my parents." M Jackson is a scientist, National Geographic Expert and glacier specialist, but her memoir While Glaciers Slept: Being Human in a Time of Climate Change rarely takes a scientific perspective and never claims objectivity. Rather, Jackson tells the story of losing both her parents when she was a young woman just embarking on life, and the trauma and extended grieving process that resulted.

Following a brief, lovely foreword by Bill McKibben, Jackson poetically conflates her loss with the slow and still mysterious effects of anthropogenic climate change. Her scientific background and explorations of fascinating places--Denali and Chena Hot Springs in Alaska, Zambia with the Peace Corps--inform her writing and yield striking images, as she runs on spongy Alaskan tundra or contemplates cryoconite holes atop glaciers. But it is the personal side of her narrative that allows Jackson to address society's psychological difficulties with climate change.

Each chapter of While Glaciers Slept is a finely braided essay, considering an aspect of her parents' lives or deaths alongside a facet of climate change's challenges. Jackson mourns her mother with the help of Joan Didion's writing; windmills offer possible "undulating answers" and comfort her on her drive home upon learning that her father is dying. She employs a disordered chronology that slightly disorients her reader, just as Jackson was disoriented. The effect is an evocative, lyrical work of musing and allegory rather than a scientific treatise. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: A scientist's personal reflections on climate change and personal loss.

Green Writers Press, $24.95, hardcover, 9780996087261

Voices of the Wild: Animal Songs, Human Din, and the Call to Save Natural Soundscapes

by Bernie Krause

With Voices of the Wild: Animal Songs, Human Din, and the Call to Save Natural Soundscapes, Bernie Krause shares his delight in the sounds of the natural world and makes an impassioned case for the importance of such acoustics.

Krause is a soundscape ecologist who's been recording the noises of natural settings for nearly 50 years. As a pioneer in his field, he's acquired his knowledge the hard way, beginning with the technological challenges of recording with equipment designed for indoor use, and has seen changes as the field has grown. For example, the scientific establishment's emphasis on single-species recording is giving way to Krause's preference for capturing an entire biome.

Voices of the Wild is designed to educate laypeople on the existence and significance of soundscapes, and how to undertake amateur recordings. Krause introduces the terms "geophony" (non-biological sounds, as of wind and water), "biophony" (non-human biological sounds, like bird- and whalesong) and "anthropophony" (human-created sounds, from speech to traffic). He makes predictions about the future of soundscape ecology, including technologies that will change the field and its impact on various disciplines, from architecture (interior soundscapes have implications on education and psychology) to biology (in which soundscapes inform our understanding of biodiversity), and many more. The field has enormous scientific and cultural relevance, for example in comparing the therapeutic value of biophonies to that of music: the former "may be more beneficial, perhaps because they are culture neutral." Accompanied by recordings available online, Voices of the Wild offers a mildly academic but fascinating look at a little-known but potentially influential field. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: An engaging introduction to the science of soundscape ecology, from a pioneer of the field.

Yale University Press, $20, hardcover, 9780300206319

Children's & Young Adult

Leo: A Ghost Story

by Mac Barnett , illust. by Christian Robinson

Mac Barnett (Sam & Dave Dig a Hole) and Christian Robinson (Last Stop on Market Street) reimagine the classic ghost story to probe the idea of what it's like to be truly seen by a friend.

Leo the ghost has lived contentedly alone in a house for years. But when a family moves in one spring, he welcomes them with a tray of tea. Readers see what the family sees: a floating tray, and they're scared. When it's clear he's not wanted, Leo heads into the city to be a "roaming ghost for a while." Most people can't see Leo, but readers can--he's a transparent boy, outlined in blue acrylic paint. A girl named Jane, chalk-drawing on a city sidewalk, sees him, too. The artist renders Jane as a blue collage figure with cornrows neatly secured in a ponytail. She invites her new friend to play Knights of the Round Table. Jane, as king, knights Leo (she uses a branch as her scepter). Barnett and Robinson celebrate play, as Jane breaks gender roles and includes Leo among her imaginary friends, including Sir Ruffs ("a loyal dog") and Sir Mews ("a loyal cat").

Leo worries that if he tells Jane he's a ghost, "I will scare her away." But later that night at Jane's house, Leo uses his creativity (and ghost skills) to scare away an intruder. Will he be able to explain himself without blowing his cover? This deceptively simple story examines deep themes of perception and truth, friendship and loyalty. When Leo risks being honest with Jane, their friendship deepens. --Jennifer M. Brown, former children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A delightful ghost story by Mac Barnett and Christian Robinson that is a friendship story, too.

Chronicle, $16.99, hardcover, 48p., ages 4-8, 9781452131566

The Accident Season

by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

Magic and reality spin and blur in this lyrical YA debut novel set in small-town Ireland. Irish author Moïra Fowley-Doyle weaves a deliciously dark story of a family who pads the kitchen-counter corners every time the "accident season" rolls around... because someone is bound to get hurt.

"Bones break, skin tears, bruises bloom": the accident season starts on October 1 and ends on Halloween. Sometimes someone just gets scratched up a little, but occasionally someone dies. Seventeen-year-old Cara walks around with "the vague aroma of echinacea and anxiety" following her "like a strange sad cloud," and her best friend, Bea, doesn't help with her gloomy tarot-card predictions of a particularly bad October. Seemingly on cue, Cara's older sister, Alice, has fallen down the stairs, and their paranoid, purple-haired mother has asked 89 times if she's okay. Uncertainty churns. Is the accident season real, or just... accidents? Why has a mousy forgotten friend named Elsie appeared in all of Cara's pictures for the last 17 years? And, most excruciating of all, how can Cara possibly not kiss her irresistible ex-stepbrother, Sam, even though it seems so taboo? The mysteries of the accident season are unveiled as awful family secrets spill out, and the electric energy of all the undercurrents crescendos into a wild, wine-soaked Halloween party in an old, abandoned house where guests are encouraged to "come as what you feel like on the inside."

Bones, bridges and hearts break in this literary, mesmerizingly sensual novel of flashbacks, dreams and Halloween surprises. --Karin Snelson, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: An Irish author's thrilling, poetic YA debut novel about a family's dark secrets.

Kathy Dawson/Penguin, $17.99, hardcover, 304p., ages 14-up, 9780525429487

Zora’s Zucchini

by Katherine Pryor , illust. by Anna Raff

There's such anticipation for those long, lazy days of summer, but when it finally arrives, Zora, like countless children before her, grows bored. There are only so many times one can ride a bike in loopy circles around the neighborhood. So when Zora circles past the hardware store, she's delighted to spot a new sign that says FREE ZUCCHINI: "Free zoo-kee-nee... Z, like me." She fills her basket with zucchini plants and heads home to plant her treasure. Anyone who has set out more than one zucchini plant in a growing season can guess what happens next. When Zora's family (rendered sweetly in ink and watercolor, then digitally colored) can no longer keep up with her daily zuke harvest, Zora formulates a plan to team up with her zucchini-less (and tomato- and apricot-full) neighbors: a garden swap!

Katherine Pryor and Anna Raff’s second veggie collaboration, following Sylvia's Spinach, is full of the kinds of quiet details that make children return to a book again and again. Zora's orange tabby cat appears on nearly every page, although sometimes readers will have to search for him. See his paw swiping zucchini bread from the dinner table? See him worrying with Zora as she wonders if her "Garden Swap was a Garden Flop?" The book ends with an inspiring note about what to do with an overabundant harvest ("Donate it. Preserve it. Share it.").

Even if readers never plant anything in their lives, Zora's Zucchini satisfies every appetite with its clean, happy storyline and whimsical illustrations. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

Discover: A young girl finds a smart solution for a surfeit of zucchini.

Readers to Eaters, dist. by PGW, $16.95, hardcover, 32p., ages 4-8, 9780983661573

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