From the Shelf
Gardens, Sisters and Secrets
The onset of gardening season makes me nostalgic for my childhood home. Our backyard was equipped with a crumbling, moss-covered air raid shelter from World War II and a pair of foxes that made their home behind our pear trees. A brook ran under the grassy expanse, making it soggy year-round, a feature that didn't register with us until after we had moved in. For us four sisters though, it was a magical place of make believe games and later on, a good spot for a stealthy smoke and the sharing of secrets.
Fictional gardens often come with their own hidden pasts and sibling entanglements. Garden Spells (Bantam, $16) by Sarah Addison Allen features Claire and Sydney Waverley, sisters estranged by time and history but bound together by their mystical family property in North Carolina. The Waverley garden brims with the stories and secrets of previous generations, as well as edible flowers imbued with magical powers and a whimsical apple tree that has a mind of its own.
In The Wildling Sisters (Putnam, $16), a British country estate is the setting for a suspenseful story about four siblings, a missing cousin named Audrey and some deadly secrets. Eve Chase's generation-spanning mystery focuses on the magnificent garden where the Wildling girls spent their summer holidays many years ago. In the present day, a succession of revelations leads to the whereabouts of Audrey, again with the estate grounds as the focal point.
And for gardens, sisters and secrets of a very different kind, Nancy Friday's My Secret Garden (Gallery Books, $17.99) is a collection of essays exploring the hidden sexual fantasies of women. With the guaranteed freedom of anonymity, hundreds of real women form a sisterhood of shared private fantasies, creating a veritable garden of liberating confessions. --Shahina Piyarali, writer and reviewer
In this Issue...
by Raynor Winn
The lives of a husband and wife are transformed by financial ruin and terminal illness, then by their decision to walk a 630-mile coastal path in England.
by Davide Enia
This intimate look into the realities of the refugee crisis takes readers from emotional disconnect to a profound understanding.
by Samira Ahmed
Internment is a gut-wrenching young adult novel set in a future United States in which Muslims are imprisoned in internment camps.
Review by Subjects:
From Liberty Bay Books
03/25/2019 - 6:00PMPort Orchard Book Club at Slaughter County Brewing the 4th Monday Night at 6pm
03/26/2019 - 6:30PMMarie Bostwick A PNW author, Marie joins us for the launch of her new novel Hope on the Inside at The Loft Restaurant
03/28/2019 - 6:00PMFANTASTIC BOOKS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM Bremerton Book Club meets at Love Craft Brewery, reading mainly fantasy books. Join us on the 4th Thursday of the month, 6pm
03/28/2019 - 10:00AMMystery Book Club We always meet the 4th Thursday each month at 10am at our Poulsbo store. Plan to join us. Always a great discussion
How to Throw a Game of Thrones Wedding
Cultura Collective offered tips on "how to throw a Game of Thrones-themed wedding party."
"Typefaces are like actors. Guess who is Comic Sans?" Fast Company asked.
Alexandre Dumas thought his 1,150-page compendium on cookery, Le Grand Dictionnaire de cuisine, would be his masterpiece, Gastro Obscura noted.
Kirsty Mitchell told the Guardian her best photograph is "a storyteller in a bluebell wonderland."
Philosopher's corner: "An animated introduction to Friedrich Nietzsche's life & thought" was featured by Open Culture.
DIY: Goods Home Design shared tips on "how to make a bookshelf chair."
Ben Sevier: One Lucky Editor
Ben Sevier is senior vice-president and publisher at Grand Central Publishing, where he's responsible for acquiring and publishing about 400 titles a year across all of GCP's different lists. Throughout a career that has spanned two decades, Sevier has worked with some of the biggest names in the literary world, including Nicholas Sparks, Lisa Gardner, Sandra Brown and Scott Turow. And he published the debut novels of authors such as Louise Penny, Charles Finch and Jussi Adler-Olsen.
Here, he talks to Shelf Awareness about editing New York Times bestselling author Harlan Coben, and why he thinks Coben's new novel Run Away is so special.
Tell us about your experience as Harlan Coben's longtime editor.
I'm lucky enough to have edited 11 of Harlan's books over the last decade. That means every year I get to be one of the first readers of the new Harlan Coben novel. How cool is that?
How much does he run ideas by you?
Typically, Harlan disappears for a while after he and I have sent his latest novel to the printer. Usually, just when I've thought it's been a while since I've heard from Harlan, an e-mail will show up, unannounced and unexpected, containing a short but usually perfect tease for a new idea. We talk it out a little. I tell him what I like about it (a lot, always) and voice any questions that occur to me (a few, occasionally) and then Harlan goes off and works his magic. The result, well, read Run Away!
What might readers find most surprising about the way you two handle the editing process?
Maybe that he doesn't need much editing. I don't think Harlan will mind me revealing that the biggest consistent problem I look for in his first drafts is missing words in the middle of sentences. I can always tell when Harlan is on a roll, entertaining even himself, because the sentences come so fast he'll drop a word here and there. I like to imagine him trying to keep up with the plots of his own novels as he types. The missing words haunt me. I've missed more than a few, and the copyeditors always save us.
How has his writing evolved over the years? And in what ways has it stayed consistent?
He's been a pro since before the two of us ever met, and the quality of his novels is consistent in a way that I think only a few other writers can boast. But I will say I've noticed a new discipline in his storytelling and plotting in the years since he first started seriously, and successfully, writing for TV and film. Some writers I know will say they are much different and unrelated skills, but from my vantage point, novels, TV, film--all kinds of entertainment--inform each other, and learning how to write for a new medium must certainly sharpen the tools and grow the muscles for writing novels. Harlan would probably have a different answer--ask him on tour. Or watch [Coben shows] Safe or The Five on Netflix after you read Run Away and see if you agree with me.
This is the first title you're doing together for a different publisher. Did the process change in any way?
The one consistent thing is that book people are the best people, and that's been true as long as either of us have been in the business. We've both been very lucky to work with incredible publishing professionals across several companies. It's been interesting to see how two different sets of people attack the same challenges in many similar, but occasionally much different, ways.
Please share an example.
One of the most visible changes is the bold new jacket look for Run Away, which is the work of GCP creative director Albert Tang. I think our jacket is both modern and a bit retro, with an almost Hitchcockian suspense vibe that really signals what the reader can expect from the story. Sometimes it takes dozens, and even hundreds, of drafts before we settle on the right cover, but when Harlan and I saw this one, we both felt it was perfect. Harlan has always had great jackets, and I'm happy that this one sets the tone for this new stage of his career.
What makes Run Away stand out from all his other books? If someone has never read Harlan Coben, why should he or she start with this book?
I'm not sure you can make a bad choice picking among Harlan's books, but you can make a best choice, and Run Away has to top that list. Of all Harlan's surprise endings, this one will make you think, and want to discuss, for a good long while after you put it down. Which will probably be after you read it in one sitting. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis
by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Lawrence Ferlinghetti (A Coney Island of the Mind) holds nothing back in his exuberant autobiographical novel, Little Boy.
Ferlinghetti, who turns 100 on Sunday, March 24, is famous for his poetry and for founding City Lights Books in San Francisco. He hails from the Beat Generation, which shows in his unpunctuated, stream-of-consciousness style. Little Boy starts out as simply a memoir. The author traces his upbringing with his French aunt and, later, with a foster family in upscale Bronxville, N.Y. Events of his early adult life are also recollected, including his service in World War II and his time spent in Paris. After this brief and sunny summary, something strange happens. The language launches in different directions as Ferlinghetti mashes up his memories with countless allusions, random thoughts and poetic digressions. The rest of the book is one big surging mass of prose poetry in the style of Allen Ginsberg.
Little Boy can be a little tedious and intimidating. But Ferlinghetti's risks pay off. His language surprises and dazzles. He elicits "the very tongue of the soul"--the fourth-person voice, he calls it. He means the unconscious voice of poetry that moves the conscious mind forward into "the ecstatic music of being." He refers to himself as a "would-be anti-hero" and the boy's life (his life) as one of "endless adventures in that wilderness of being on earth." That his work is nonlinear speaks to the way the author views the mind--as both porous and infinitely expanding. As he tries to relive memories on the page, he discovers "the eye at the center of consciousness."
Because of its experimental nature, Little Boy is not for everyone. But it will reward the daring reader with moments of pure lyricism. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset
Discover: City Lights Books founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti explores his youth and the nature of memory in this stream-of-consciousness novel.
Who Killed the Fonz?
by James Boice
In the same vein that characters from the Archie comics were updated and transported into the noir TV series Riverdale, James Boice (The Shooting) has lifted the cast of the sitcom Happy Days and inserted them into a cozy noir mystery. Who Killed the Fonz? picks up the characters from the show, which was set from 1955 to 1965, 20 years later, in 1984. (The TV series aired from 1974 to 1984.)
Richard ("Richie") Cunningham is now in his 40s and living in Los Angeles with his wife and widowed mother. He has an Oscar-nominated screenplay to his credit but is finding it hard to get the green light for his literary film project when movie studios only want to produce rip-offs of The Terminator and Star Wars. When he learns that his longtime friend Arthur Fonzarelli has been killed in a motorcycle accident, he flies back to Milwaukee to attend the memorial. Once there, he's reunited with his friends Potsie Weber and Ralph Malph, and the trio begins to realize that the Fonz's death was a murder set up to look like an accident.
Who Killed the Fonz? could have easily descended into campiness, but Boice has respect and affection for the characters and skillfully adds layers of dramatic depth to them. Boice also knows how to plot a tight and engaging mystery that embraces both light noir and coziness. Fans of the 11-season sitcom will enjoy being reunited with the cast of familiar faces and will appreciate their lighthearted banter while they play amateur sleuths to solve a murder and cover-up. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant
Discover: This clever, tight and affectionate mixture of nostalgia, noir and cozy mystery reunites characters from TV's Happy Days to solve a murder.
Midnight: Three Women at the Hour of Reckoning
by Victoria Shorr
In Midnight: Three Women at the Hour of Reckoning, Victoria Shorr's (Backlands) remarkable literary voice illuminates the lives of three famous women. Jane Austen, Mary Shelley and Joan of Arc each stand at respective thresholds in these well-researched fictionalizations, their extraordinary lives given immediacy and power and even--despite what we already know--suspense.
At 27, Jane Austen is practically an old maid by her society's standards, and essentially homeless. When the younger brother of dear friends proposes the salvation of marriage, Jane agonizes through the night, but decides she cannot marry for less than love, like the best of her heroines.
Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin is on a beach at 24, after the deaths of two children, pacing the shore where Percy Bysshe Shelley has sailed away. He was due back days ago, and now Mary reviews her choices. Might she have been happy if she'd never met Shelley?
Readers find Joan of Arc on the platform beneath the stake where she is to be burned, in the moment when terror strikes her and she renounces her saints and her cause, hoping to avoid death. Over the next week in prison, she relives her triumphs and her faith, then dies at the stake after all. It is a brief interlude in her life, but an enormous one for the reader, who feels in this extended flashback all the intensity she's lived.
Shorr's prose is incisive, thoughtful and personal, deeply exploring the interior lives of her characters. Fans of Austen, Shelley and Joan, as well as fans of rich inner lives in historical fiction, will be riveted. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia
Discover: Well-researched and perceptive, this is a gripping triptych that explores the inner lives of Jane Austen, Mary Shelley and Joan of Arc.
Mystery & Thriller
Smoke and Ashes
by Abir Mukherjee
London author Abir Mukherjee returns with a third novel featuring his marvelously flawed hero, Captain Sam Wyndham of the Imperial Police Force. The year is 1921 and, scarred by his experiences in World War I, Wyndham is wallowing in Calcutta and spending his evenings in an opium-induced haze. On a particularly eventful night, the opium den he's lying in is raided by police and Wyndham stumbles into a gruesome murder scene while attempting to escape. He can't report the crime without incriminating himself, which leaves him in something of a sticky situation that is made exponentially worse the next day by the discovery of a second, similarly mutilated body.
Wyndham's search for the murderer takes place against the backdrop of British imperialism in India and the movement for Indian independence. With appearances by and references to real historical figures, Mukherjee grounds his mystery in a context of social and political unrest. This tension is mirrored in Wyndham's friend and assistant, Sergeant Surendranath Banerjee--nicknamed "Surrender-not" by the British superiors who couldn't pronounce his name--whose choice of career isolates him from his family and people. Mukherjee writes with an energy and urgency that is well suited to the turbulence of his setting and brings historic Calcutta to muggy, sweaty, visceral life. In Sam Wyndham he has created a complex and entertaining hero, marked by a pragmatic humor that makes Smoke and Ashes not just an excellent historical mystery, but a wonderfully entertaining read. --Judie Evans, librarian
Discover: A flawed hero investigates grisly murders amid the fight for Indian independence.
Connections in Death
by J.D. Robb
Connections in Death, the 48th full-length novel by Nora Roberts (Shelter in Place, Year One) writing as J.D. Robb, is a gripping addition to this futuristic murder mystery series. The year is 2061, and ever since murder cop Lieutenant Eve Dallas married reformed thief and self-made richest man in the world Roarke, she's had an increasingly difficult time keeping her work life and her personal life separate. So she shouldn't have been surprised at one more set of worlds colliding: one of Roarke's newest employees, Dr. Rochelle Pickering, is the girlfriend of Wilson Buckley, aka Crack, the big, black, Down and Dirty bar owner. He's one of Eve's oldest confidential informants-turned-friends from her early days on the force.
When Rochelle's brother is found dead in her apartment, Crack calls on Eve to investigate the suspicious death. She uncovers secrets that have ties to past investigations and major repercussions for New York City's gangs. It's not just one gangbanger who's going down for this--in typical Eve Dallas fashion, it's all of them. The emotional drama among the characters is kept to a minimum, while the action steadily builds to a crescendo that, of course, brings justice with it.
While this thriller can be enjoyed with no prior world-building knowledge, spoilers relating to previous character development abound by this point in the series. --BrocheAroe Fabian, owner, River Dog Book Co., Beaver Dam, Wis.
Discover: Lieutenant Eve Dallas takes on the gangs of New York in J.D. Robb's 48th In Death novel.
A Dangerous Collaboration
by Deanna Raybourn
Veronica Speedwell, intrepid lepidopterist and amateur detective, is off-kilter as A Dangerous Collaboration begins. She has feelings for her friend and colleague, Stoker, with whom she is establishing a natural history museum. But the strictures upon married women in the Victorian era have made Veronica refuse to contemplate marriage, leaving her confused about Stoker.
When Stoker's elder brother, Lord Tiberius Templeton-Vane, persuades Veronica to pose as his fiancée for a trip in search of an elusive butterfly, Veronica cannot resist. But when they arrive at the tiny Cornish island where the butterfly resides, Veronica is annoyed to find Stoker there, too. Relations between the Templeton-Vane brothers and Veronica are already strained when they discover that the island holds many more secrets. Malcolm Romilly, owner of the isle and an old friend of Tiberius, has been in semi-seclusion since the disappearance of his bride, Rosamund, on the day of their wedding three years earlier. What can have happened to Rosamund Romilly? Veronica is determined to find out.
Clever and quickly paced, featuring Veronica's typically witty tongue, but with a bit more introspection than she usually engages in, A Dangerous Collaboration is a delightful fourth entry in the Veronica Speedwell series by Deanna Raybourn. Her banter with both Tiberius and Stoker is truly funny, and the reasons behind Rosamund's disappearance are sure to surprise even the most astute of readers. Perfect for fans of historical fiction and mystery alike, A Dangerous Collaboration is an engrossing blend of adventure and romance. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans, Tucson, Ariz.
Discover: In this delightful historical mystery, a fearless female detective attempts to find out why a bride vanished on her wedding day three years earlier.
Biography & Memoir
The Salt Path
by Raynor Winn
Raynor Winn and Moth, her husband of 32 years, are living a nightmare at the start of Winn's memoir, The Salt Path. Having lost everything following a court battle, they huddle under the stairs of their lovingly restored farm haven, hiding from the bailiffs come to evict them. Tragically, losing their business and home isn't the worst of it. The day after the judge's decision, they finally have time to follow up on Moth's ongoing shoulder pain and learn he's terminally ill.
Peering at packing boxes, Winn spies a copy of Five Hundred Mile Walkies, Mark Wallington's story of traversing the South West Coast Path, England's longest footpath. Homeless, penniless, with two kids at university and a bleak future, they look at each other and think, "What the f*ck, let's go for a walk." Despite the doctor's admonitions that Moth not get cold, tire himself, walk too far, carry heavy weight or look too far ahead, they fill their packs and head out for the 630-mile trek.
Winn's chronicle is filled with beauty, humor and surprises. Glorious landscape a given, the loveliest scenery is the pair themselves, their affection and easy camaraderie treasures to behold. Facing grief, harsh elements, starvation and judgment about being homeless, they relish growing feelings of achievement and purpose. When, miraculously, Moth starts to feel better, their future grows more unclear. The Salt Path is a great travelogue of surroundings, passersby and local merchants, but its heart is in Winn and Moth finding meaning in the chaos. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review
Discover: The lives of a husband and wife are transformed by financial ruin and terminal illness, then by their decision to walk a 630-mile coastal path in England.
Notes on a Shipwreck
by Davide Enia , trans. by Antony Shugaar
On the Italian "island of an island," Lampedusa, playwright Davide Enia explores the vast landings--and devastating shipwrecks--of refugees fleeing Libya, Syria, Somalia and other terror-filled places. He experiences landings and speaks with the migrants, as well as volunteer rescue workers, doctors, divers and others involved in the first responses. He pieces together their stories to create an affecting glimpse of this nightmarish reality that exists in the midst of the Mediterranean. As Enia explains of his own realization, "Coming face-to-face with someone directly involved in these matters called everything into question--my preconceptions, the categories I use, even the way I think." Notes on a Shipwreck will have his readers doing the same.
Part journalistic report, part memoir, Enia also weaves in an element of the relationships he has with his father and uncle. His father accompanies him to Lampedusa, and the journey teaches Enia as much about their bonds as it does refugees.
Passionate and compassionate, Notes on a Shipwreck examines the refugee crisis from various angles. Some horrific--recovering dead children from the sea--others hopeful, like the volunteer who reports, "I've seen people dance and kiss the ground the minute they disembark, I've seen others pray... and others clap and stamp out a rhythm with their hands and feet. I have beautiful memories." They are all insightful and all worthy of attention. Enia's intensely personal voice and his poetic language engage his audience in a difficult subject, producing a powerful result. --Jen Forbus
Discover: This intimate look into the realities of the refugee crisis takes readers from emotional disconnect to a profound understanding.
Women Who Dared: To Break All the Rules
by Jeremy Scott
"She was the best of womankind; she was the worst," says the opening line of Women Who Dared: To Break All the Rules. Jeremy Scott highlights women who were often more infamous than heroic, and who flagrantly broke rules both real and imaginary.
Scott creates a template for defiant women with his opening portrait of Victoria Woodhull. In 1872, she was the first woman to run for president of the United States, when women couldn't even vote. Charismatic and brash, unapologetically promiscuous, she was admired and reviled by men, who were patronizing, and by many women, who were scandalized. "Women have every right," she maintained. "They only have to exercise them."
Action rather than words and a disregard for the opinions of others are hallmarks of the six women profiled in this book. Mary Wollstonecraft published "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman" in 1792. Preacher Aimee Semple McPherson, in the early 20th century, didn't believe that women should be subservient to anyone other than God. As one admirer said, "She taught me how to praise the Lord and get out of bondage to Man." Edwina Mountbatten, Margaret Argyll and Coco Chanel are depicted here, too. Their pursuits range from noble to ignoble, but all defied societal expectations for women in the economic, sexual and political arenas. They were publicity-savvy and manipulated the media of their day to advance their purposes. This book is an entertaining, gossipy depiction of women who not only broke rules, but broke trails for generations ahead. --Cindy Pauldine, bookseller, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, N.Y.
Discover: Women Who Dared: To Break All the Rules profiles six women in history who defied convention and scandalized the world with their actions.
The Secrets of Paper and Ink
by Lindsay Harrel
Lindsay Harrel (The Heart Between Us) entwines the stories of three women whose lives are uprooted by failed relationships in her novel The Secrets of Paper and Ink.
Ginny Rose is the struggling proprietor of Rosebud Books, located in Cornwall, England. She and her husband, Garrett, operated the bookstore together. But after five years of marriage, Garrett decides he needs a break. He sets off to London to find himself. Upon his departure, Ginny realizes he's left her and the bookstore in dire financial straits.
This forces Ginny to take in a boarder: Sophia Barrett from Phoenix, Ariz. Sophia is a women's therapist who suffered a nervous breakdown after the death of her abusive, alcoholic husband. Sophia's passion for books set in the English countryside inspires her to escape to Cornwall for respite. There, she takes a job in Ginny's bookshop. The two become friends.
In the storeroom of the shop, Sophie finds a journal. The pages, written by Emily Fairfax, describe the secrets and intimate thoughts of a young woman, a governess from the Victorian era--an aspiring writer pining for a man above her social class. Is the work fiction or drawn from Emily's life? Sophia becomes determined to solve the mystery and learn more about Emily's story.
Harrel unspools a gentle, captivating narrative about women who unknowingly discover their strengths and fortitude. As they learn to let go of the heartbreaks of life, they find joy, enlightenment and romance along the way. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines
Discover: A thoughtfully rendered, hopeful story about three brokenhearted women who put the pieces of their respective lives back together.
Children's & Young Adult
by Samira Ahmed
In Internment, Samira Ahmed (Love, Hate and Other Filters) paints a chilling vision of a not-too-distant-future dystopian United States.
Ever since the president was elected, there have been changes: the Muslim ban, a Muslim registry, book burnings and, finally, the authorization of the Exclusion Laws. Layla's father, a professor and poet, sticks to his belief that Taqqiya (concealing one's religion) should only be used during a time of duress; not believing they are in a life-threatening situation, he registers the family as Muslim on the census. As a result, the family is targeted. Layla's father loses the job "he'd had for over a decade" and, due to the stigma around interfaith relationships, Layla is forced to meet in secret with her Jewish boyfriend, David.
The story turns even darker when, in the dead of night, Layla and her family are abducted by armed men. They are taken to Camp Mobius, an internment facility for Muslims believed to be political dissenters. The motto of the camp --"Unity. Security. Prosperity"--drips with irony: to foster division, the government has organized Mobius by ethnicity. Under severe surveillance, Layla enlists allies to help her resist in any way she can.
Ahmed captures an authentic teen voice in strong, passionate Layla. In evocative language, she uses parallel experiences in the U.S.'s painful history to entrench the reader in Layla's terrifying story. Ahmed also skillfully uses poetry throughout as both a tool of resistance and a tie between Layla and her father. Internment explores forbidden romance and expertly highlights how prejudice can be used systematically to oppress, illustrating how easily people will turn a blind eye to injustice. Ahmed's work and Layla's battle showcase the importance of resisting in the face of oppression. --Tasneem Daud, blogger and booktuber, Nemo Reads
Discover: Internment is a gut-wrenching young adult novel set in a future United States in which Muslims are imprisoned in internment camps.
The Weight of the Stars
by K. Ancrum
Ryann Bird is known for both "compulsively rescuing people from themselves" and fighting anyone who pisses her off. Ryann is intuitive, with a talent for opening people up; her friends include her selectively mute younger brother (she's his legal guardian) and an eclectic mix of teens who don't necessarily fit anywhere else. When a new student, Alexandria, arrives, a teacher enlists Ryann to engage her.
Alexandria is a minor celebrity: 20 years ago, a privatized space company called SCOUT sent a group of people "to the edge of space." All of the Uninauts chosen for the trip were young women; it was later discovered that one had been pregnant during training. After she secretively gave birth, her child was given to the father months after the Uninauts launched. Alexandria is that child. Ryann works to befriend Alexandria--making some severe missteps along the way-- until she finally convinces the young woman that she and her friends are trustworthy. What follows is a surprising, offbeat journey that includes a developing love, tender loss and messages from space.
K. Ancrum's (The Wicker King) character development is a particular highlight of this unconventional young adult novel--her teens are well-developed, occasionally eccentric and always individual as they interact in unpredictable ways. Their relationships are strongly felt and dearly held, and are more the driving force of the novel than the circumstances of the plot. The Weight of the Stars is a far-out trip that is sure to attract readers looking for something outside the ordinary. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness
Discover: In K. Ancrum's sophomore young adult novel, The Weight of the Stars, a young woman with the weight of the world on her shoulders discovers the weight of the universe.
by Paola Quintavalle , illust. by Alessandro Sanna
Crescendo takes the reader through human gestation, beginning at the fifth week of pregnancy and extending through the 40th. Each week is honored in a two-page spread featuring Paola Quintavalle's spare, carefully chosen text and a facing illustration. Taken together, every four weeks of snippets read like a freestanding poem. For Month 6: "You are learning to cry/ Your eyes conserve the color of the night sky/ You cannot see, but you sense the light/ As you turn and tip and tip and turn." This is all lovely, but how is an artist expected to produce dozens of engrossing illustrations based on developments occurring entirely within the womb? Alessandro Sanna has come up with a rather ingenious plan: for each featured month, he offers an illustration of a pregnant woman's body in profile followed by four images--one representing each week--that contain a line mimicking that very same swerve of breast and belly.
Is there a picture book out there that better marries art and science? Sanna seems to be working in watercolor with a brush dipped in celestial light and fairy dust, and yet Crescendo is deeply scientific. Quintavalle has loaded her pen not with sunshine and moonglow but with information about human gestation; her narrative, utterly faithful to the stages of embryotic and fetal growth, concludes with the section "Developmental Facts That Inspired the Text." Crescendo is a book that belongs on multiple shelves in the kids' section of a bookstore or library, but the truth is, it wouldn't be out of place in an adult's collection. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author
Discover: Scientific facts and metaphorical imagery take the reader on a memorable picture book journey through human gestation.