February 2020 Prime Picks
Biography and Autobiography
Thomas Dunne Books
Rachel Maddow: A Biography comes from a veteran journalist and represents the first biography of this news personality, documenting her entire story from her childhood and coming of age to her work as an activist for HIV/AIDS groups, her coming out as a lesbian at Stanford University, her relationships, and the evolution of her political beliefs.
Maddow grew up in a conservative California town, but defied her upbringing to evolve an approach to life that would lead her to become a news personality with an analytical approach to facts like none other.
Fans of Maddow who avidly follow her show will be particularly interested in her growth and background, and will appreciate Lisa Rogak's attention not only to Maddow's world, but the cultural and social forces which shaped it.
Michael Seth Starr
Applause Theater and Cinema Books
Shatner offers a biographical focus on the evolution of the actor as a performer, focusing on interviews and archival research, and following his career both before and after his iconic role in Star Trek.
William Shatner's career was rocky, shaped by failures as well as successes, and personal struggles and losses.
With this performance-based exploration of his life, readers are invited to consider how his career choices and personal life intersected and evolved over time.
Shatner offers more depth and exploration of career and personal life than previous biographical approaches, crafting a survey that is engrossing and teaches not just facts about William Shatner, but how an actor progresses in his field.
When Life Gives You Pears
Grand Central Publishing
Readers may know Jim Gaffigan as a comedian, but this autobiography by his wife holds just as much inspiration and wisdom and proves that she has a powerful sense of humor as well, as it recounts her serious diagnosis of a brain tumor and her survival process.
Jeannie Gaffigan faced not only the usual medical challenges, but as the mother of five children, she had to come to terms with her mortality, her family connections and changing relationships, her intense religious convictions, and how to move from being an active young mother to patient and back again.
Her insights embrace humor, family, and faith in a spunky, spirited story that may be initially chosen because of prior interest in Jim Gaffigan's world, but which will ultimately be relished for Jeannie's own strengths and words apart from her famous comedian husband.
Cider Mill Press
Dumplings: Over 100 Recipes from the Heart of China to the Coasts of Italy provides cooks with a global ethnic consideration of dumpling recipes that can be used for soups, main courses, or side dishes.
The fillings vary from plain meat- and cheese-filled fare to spicy soup dumplings, embellishments on traditional dumplings such as Pork and Roasted Squash Potstickers, and sweet dessert dumpling dishes such as a Blueberry Varenyky.
Full-page color photos abound in a cookbook that at times stretches the traditional idea of a dumpling (including baked fare such as vegetarian Empanadas or Cornish Pasties), but includes many winning creations under the umbrella of the dumpling concept.
Easy Keto in 30 Minutes
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Easy Keto in 30 Minutes: More Than 100 Ketogenic Recipes from Around the World covers main courses, desserts, and snacks that are in keeping with keto's low-carb diet, but offers much simpler preparation options than many keto diet books.
There are some surprises to the definition of 'easy', and these lie in the focus on prepared ingredients that streamline the cooking process, making it simple to literally throw together ingredients for dinner. Thus, an Indian Paneer Tikka, which typically involves a big cheese-making effort, starts with cubed paneer that requires access to an Indian market. This pairs with ingredients that can be either thrown together last-minute or marinated for up to 3 days before cooking.
Some of the dishes call for make-ahead ingredients that, once made, may be kept on hand, such as harissa. Others streamline the process by recommending frozen ingredients, such as frozen chopped kale.
Keto cooks will find Easy Keto in 30 Minutes an appealing way of producing wholesome keto meals when on a budget and in a rush.
Feasting and Fasting
Aaron S. Gross, et.al.
New York University Press
Feasting and Fasting: The History and Ethics of Jewish Food blends a discussion of Judaism with culinary history and debates about how food reflects Jewish values, pairing a historical and cultural exploration with an examination of food in Jewish lives.
This is no recipe collection, but a scholarly consideration of how Jewish ethnic food reflects in values and religious sentiments in various cultures around the world, from Hungary to the U.S.
In addition to its globe-hopping considerations, Feasting and Fasting surveys the evolution of Jewish dietary laws, Biblical representations of food and their modern translations in Jewish culture, and contemporary Jewish ethical dilemmas in dietary management and culinary tradition alike.
This wide-ranging discussion of the history, philosophy, religion, and origins of Jewish culinary traditions should be in any serious culinary and Jewish history collection alike.
Half the Sugar All the Love
Jennifer Tyler Lee and Anisha Patel, MD, MSPH
Half the Sugar All the Love: 100 Easy, Low-Sugar Recipes for Every Meal of the Day comes from a cookbook author and an associate professor of pediatrics at Stanford University who are both concerned about the amount of sugar in the average family diet.
Parents who agree with this insight and who want to take action to modify the family's diet receive discussions about sugar myths, where sugars reside in the modern American diet, and how to produce kid-friendly recipes which eliminate the sugar rush from the equation.
Readers might think that "kid-friendly" and "low/no sugar" don't equate, but Half the Sugar All the Love demonstrates that sugar needn't be a requirement for satisfaction. It shows that some traditional favorites, from chocolate layer cake to "Newtella", can remain on the family menu with only a little modification.
Chapters include prefaces comparing the amount of sugar in a given recipe with what the dish traditionally holds in other places, while fare such as Blondies with Chocolate and Almonds and a no-sugar Chinese Barbecue Pork-Fried Rice prove that sugar needn't be an essential ingredient in the modern American diet.
Low & Slow Cooking
Page Street Publishing
Low & Slow Cooking: 60 Hands-Off Recipes That Are Worth the Wait focuses on easy slow-cooked recipes that require only cooking time to bring them to fruition, emphasizing minimal effort for the most flavorful results.
In other cases, this would translate to a slow cooker, but professional chef Robyn Almodovar remakes classic recipes to embrace the 'low and slow' method of cooking independent of a particular device. Thus her recipes often involve Dutch ovens, 300 degree (or less) ovens, and cooking times that can run to 6 hours or more.
All this means that home cooks need to think in advance. Since this is usually the case anyway, the only special requirement is that recipes should be browsed a day or two ahead so that the longer cooking times are taken into account.
Another plus: the book isn't just intended for busy weekday cooks, but includes volume recipes for entertaining, dishes that lend to potlucks, and others that rely on advance preparation. Color photos complete and compliment an appealing book that excels in hearty comfort food-style creations.
Purezza Vegan Pizza
Filippo Rosato, Tim Barclay and Stefania Evengelisti
Purezza Vegan Pizza: Deliciously Simple Plant-Based Pizza to Make at Home is from the first vegan pizzeria in the UK, and fulfills its purpose of making vegan pizzas superior to traditional non-vegan fare.
The chefs achieve their goals using a sourdough crust that is easy to make at home, focusing on recipes which are equally easy for home cooks to reproduce, from Mixed Mushroom and Sausage Pizza to Pear, Gorgonzola and Walnut Pizza.
Recipes for sides and toppers such as Tepanade Dip, Salmon-Style Filets, or a Chickpea and Lemon Sauce, feature a wide range of homemade embellishments that can be made ahead and used for quick toppings.
Vegans who look for full-flavored pizzas now have many fine plant-based choices to choose from, complimented by full-page color photos.
The Secret Garden Cookbook
Harvard Common Press
The Secret Garden Cookbook: Inspiring Recipes from the Magical World of Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden focuses on the food references throughout Burnett's iconic children's story, providing 50 recipes updated for modern kitchens.
These hold a decidedly British flavor and dessert emphasis, as in Currant Buns, a Fruit Tea Loaf suitable for English teas, and traditional Pease Pudding.
Accompanying discussions focus on recipes and The Secret Garden's influences and cultural explorations which, when paired with appealing color illustrations, add a dimension of literary and culinary insight atypical of the usual cookbook structure.
Fans of The Secret Garden and culinary explorations will find The Secret Garden Cookbook a delight.
Page Street Publishing
Weeknight Keto: 75 Quick & Easy Recipes for Delicious Low-Carb Meals focuses on weekday Keto recipes that range from one-pot meals to skewers, skillet dishes, and hearty main-course salads, all of which excel in low carbs, flavor, and ease.
Some use only a handful of ingredients, most take only 30 minutes to put together, and Kristy Bernardo focuses on texture as well as flavor to assure that Keto-based recipes satisfy the palate on more than one level.
Whether home cooks are new to the Keto concept or already well versed in its boundaries, Weeknight Keto abounds in a range of classic dishes modified to Keto dietary rules as well as new dishes such as a Sheet Pan Salsa, Chicken & Peppers.
By appealing to everyday busy cooks, this book places the Keto concept on the dining room table for the entire family to appreciate.
Novels and Mysteries
The Andromeda Revolution
Daniel H. Wilson
The Andromeda Revolution is a highly recommended techno-thriller which will please fans of the late Michael Crichton's classic and takes place decades after the original story, when a project has long waited for the Andromeda Strain to reappear.
Nothing has happened and the world begins to relax, but this is just when something mysterious surfaces in a Brazilian jungle which indicates danger may be rising once again.
A team assigned to investigate discovers the frightening possibility that the microbe is evolving. And even quarantine may not keep the world safe from its destruction, this time.
A thoroughly engrossing thriller entirely in keeping with the original story evolves to delight new generations, new audiences, and prior fans who loved the original story.
Simon and Schuster
Molly Bit is a debut novel about Hollywood, acting, and an aspiring young woman's journey to becoming a Hollywood star. Molly faces more than a challenging career choice. She is ignorant of the politics and social milieu of Hollywood and finds herself moving from Boston to California to confront not only her own skills as an actress, but the harsh environment which will make or break them.
Dan Bevacqua's strong characterization drives the story line, but it's the detailed insights into the film industry, acting and directing world, and the viewpoints of directors, producers, screenwriters, and others around Molly which bring her story to life.
Perhaps its realistic portrait stems from Bevacqua's own experience working sets as a background actor and production assistant, or his knowledge of theory. All of these elements lend an authenticity and compelling attraction to the story, which is hard to put down.
1950s in Vogue
Rebecca C. Tuite
Thames & Hudson
1950s in Vogue: The Jessica Daves Years, 1952-1962 follows the efforts of one of only seven editors-in-chief of Vogue Magazine, considering her impact on the evolution of fashion history in America and its influence around the world.
This detailed survey comes from a fashion historian who gathers themes for her biography and fashion history sketch, presenting the changing styles and influences in an oversized format that features numerous photos, illustrations, and spreads from Vogue's archives.
Unpublished photos, letters from Daves's own personal collection, and social and arts world insights create a powerful fashion survey that should be in any fashion or arts history collection.
Dangerous Melodies: Classical Music in America from the Great War through the Cold War comes from a historian and Julliard-trained musician who provides an intriguing history of classical music and culture.
Music's connections to political sentiments, nationalism, and controversy on both sides of the Cold War is charted with an eye to exploring the tunes, conductors, and classical community's debates and interactions on subjects that often strayed beyond musical performances and composition choices.
Social issues that were debated included whether foreign performers should be banned, the German influence on classical music and its potential threat to Americans, and how touring orchestras began to serve as unofficial ambassadors representing their countries.
From relationships between individual musicians and political perspectives to how classical music in the 1930s influenced United States citizens to view Europe differently as newspaper reports drew connections between artists and the rise of fascism, Dangerous Melodies crafts a fascinating examination that's unique and hard to put down.
A Rare Treatise on Interior Decoration and Architecture: Joseph
Friedrich zu Racknitz’s Presentation and History of the Taste of the
Joseph Friedrich zu Racknitz
Presentation and History of the Taste of the Leading Nations originally appeared as four volumes published between 1796-99. While it was a revolutionary work in its time, today it's largely unknown.
German aristocrat Racknitz surveyed nations of the world to delineate some twenty-four regional tastes, from ancient Eastern civilizations to comparative modern Europeans, creating a wide-ranging analysis of these cultures.
This translation of his work reproduces some of the original color plates, adds essays on the author's life, and is replete with historic art notes about the evolution of French grotesque taste, Siberian taste in comparison with Russian culture, and more.
At once an artistic and cultural cross-examination Presentation and History of the Taste of the Leading Nations is not just an art survey of interior decoration and architecture, but a work of cultural and historical scholarship that should be in any serious world history or arts collection.
The Second City
Second City with Sheldon Patinkin and Liz Kozak
The Second City: The Essentially Accurate History offers a newly revised, expanded second edition of a classic coverage of the comedy institution which promoted many careers and hosted many famous personalities. It is a top pick for performing arts collections strong in contemporary comedy history.
Fans of theater, standup performances, and American comedy's evolution will find The Second City a strong, in-depth survey of comedy theater from its early roots to the many personalities who got their start at The Second City.
Color photos of these personalities accompany biographies, quotes, insights on The Second City's support systems and evolution, and more.
Replete with black and white vintage photos, color shots, and discussions of the comedy club's goals and ideals as it moved to television shows that expanded the range of aspiring comedians, The Second City: The Essentially Accurate History is a 'must' reference for any library interested in comedy's history and growth.
The Way We All Became the Brady Bunch
Grand Central Publishing
At first glance, The Way We All Became the Brady Bunch: How the Canceled Sitcom Became the Beloved Pop Culture Icon We Are Still Talking About Today looks like another review of the popular sitcom for The Brady Bunch fans, but TV historian and entertainment journalist Kimberly Potts does more than document the show's personalities and events.
Her analysis considers how The Brady Bunch grew in popularity to reflect the ideals of the blended family American home of its times, considering its wide-ranging influences through generations of viewers, its social and psychological draws, and how it came to reflect the humor and ideals of family situations different from the nuclear family concept.
From origin stories and threats of legal action to viewer novelty and the evolution of taste, this story is as much about the evolving American family structure and its changing media tastes and relationships as it is about the Brady TV phenomenon, and deserves a spot in social issues and media studies as well as performing arts collections.
Brilliant Maps for Curious Minds
Brilliant Maps for Curious Minds: 100 New Ways to See the World provides 100 maps that translate statistics and states into visual geography, providing a fun connection between history, politics, culture, and locations around the world.
These aren't your usual maps. They provide visual embellishments of such collected facts as European countries that have invaded Poland, roads throughout Europe that actually lead to Rome, a map that shows why you can't dig to China from the U.S., and a U.S. state map of cat versus dog popularity.
Fun, creative facts and approaches make this map collection a real winner.
The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2020
World Almanac Books
The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2020 updates old yearly editions and includes new sections for 2020, from an election preview detailing state primaries and caucuses to new sections on education, food and agriculture, and the latest statistics about popular culture, including podcasts and world religious populations.
This wealth of statistical information in book format offers leisure readers and researchers a fine browse of the latest facts unique to the year's events and progression, creating a gathering of inviting information and data that should be in every general lending library.
The History of the American Space Shuttle
Dennis R. Jenkins
The History of the American Space Shuttle follows America's long efforts to build a successful space shuttle (some 30 years), documenting the many achievements and failures involved in the process.
It surveys the development, technology, and testing process, packs in technical information about space missions and their crew members, and holds numerous color photos throughout as it examines all facets of the American spae shuttle's evolution.
The color photos of both flight attempts and individuals working on the shuttle project are exceptional and range from official NASA photography (the majority of the photos are from NASA archives) to personal contributions from private collections.
The result is an outstanding survey that should be a basic acquisition for any astronomy or American space history library.
A Ladybird Book About Donald Trump
J.A. Hazeley, N.S.F.W. and J.P. Morris, O.M.G.
Ladybird Books Ltd.
Readers unfamiliar with the Ladybird imprint might at first deem A Ladybird Book About Donald Trump only fit for picture book young readers; but nothing could be further from the truth.
Hidden in its short stature and a little over fifty pages with facing pages of color illustration is a decidedly adult spoof on Trump which considers his words, presidency, and ironies with pointed observations that adults will find hilarious.
The format allows for especially intriguing juxtapositions of fact and critical irony. In true British form, the ability to poke fun and ridicule Trump while using an exceptionally simple, polite format that seems to be a simple children's guide makes A Ladybird Book About Donald Trump a top winner among all the Trump spoofs, humor, and commentary on the market today.
It's accessible to a much wider audience, who will find its size and commentary crafts stellar observations easy to digest, hard to ignore, and especially well thought out.
Kenneth Kraegel's Wild Honey from the Moon (9780763681692, $17.99) tells of a shrew mother concerned about her baby's illness. She knows there's only one cure for his particular ailment: wild honey from the moon.
Good reading skills or parental read-aloud assistance will enhance enjoyment of this story of a determined mother who travels beyond everything familiar for the sake of her son's health.
The wordy descriptions make for fine detail suitable for a bedtime read spread out over several nights.
Timothy Knapman's What's Next? (9781536209891, $16.99) receives lovely drawings by Jane McGuinness as it explores a baby badger who at first is content to sleep all day.
It's only when he grows older that he begins to wonder if there's more to his life. Daddy leads him into the world for his first adventure and the exploration of a magical realm outside his burrow.
As the little badger sees more of his world, the tale visually moves from black and white to full color in this inviting story of growth.
Helen Cooper's The Hippo at the End of the Hall (9781536204483, $17.99) will appeal to advanced elementary to middle grade readers who are fans of fantasy adventures and presents a debut novel that opens with an odd invitation to the Gee Museum, which is delivered by bees.
Ben knows the invitation was meant for him because it leads him to recall memories of his father, who was lost at sea a long time ago.
When the museum reveals a host of talking animals who call him their savior, Ben finds his mission embraces both his life and a greater world. It's a lively adventure kids will relish.
All are top-notch reads.
City of Beasts
City of Beasts is set in a world where the sexes are divided. Glori grows up as a 'fee', savvy about how to kill beasts and live safely in a post-nuclear hometown that holds the remnants of times past, such as abandoned Costcos.
When her mother secretly gives birth to a baby beast, Glori finds her concepts radically changed, especially when he's taken away in a raid and sent to live in the forbidden City of Beasts.
Powered by sisterly love and a determination to get him back, Glori enters this forbidden world with a group of friends, only to discover their actions hold the possibility of confronting something far greater than the divisions in their personal lives.
Teens who choose this post-apocalyptic dystopian novel for its setting will be delighted with its action and underlying social commentary.
Two excellent new titles reach different age groups with memorable stories and engrossing discussions.
Middle school grades and up will find Kate Milford's latest Greenglass House story, The Thief Knot (9781328466891, $17.99), a thoroughly engrossing tale that mixes a ghost story with that of young detectives and family secrets.
Some might anticipate this would require prior familiarity with the other books in the series, but this is a satisfying stand-alone mystery that excels in a story needing no introduction to prove accessible and involving.
Marzana and her best friend are looking for adventure, which finds them when her parents are called upon to help solve a senseless kidnapping.
As two best friends become involved and recruit a group of other kid detectives to join them, adventure more than fills the pages and delights leisure reader imagination with satisfying twists and turns.
Gary D. Schmidt and Elizabeth Stickney's Almost Time (9780544785816, $17.99) receives fun illustrations by G. Brian Karas. It surveys a child's puzzles about time perception in a picture book story that covers everything from loose teeth to the uncertainties of maple sugaring time.
Both are superior, inviting leisure choices.
Three new Disney titles are recommendations for young picture book readers seeking whimsical stories and appealing drawings. Marilyn Singer's Who Named Their Pony Macaroni? Poems About White House Pets (9781484789995, $17.99) is illustrated by Ryan McAmis and documents the various creatures who, along with their presidents and First Family humans, called the White House home. Singer's poems offer fun insights into animals and their people, and will involve young readers in rhymes which are revealingly, delightfully whimsical.
Minh Lê and Gus Gordon's The Perfect Seat (9781368020046, $16.99) tells of a moose who can't read a book until he finds the perfect seat to share with his young charge. But, what constitutes perfection? As various seats are tried and found wanting, both moose consider the roots of satisfaction in this zany tale.
Ryan T. Higgins' Bruce's Big Storm (9781368026221, $17.99) tells of a home already too crowded when a storm hits and sends other woodland animals to his doorstep, seeking refuge.
Bruce is a bear who does not like neighbors, so this causes many problems because they live all around him, and always seem to need something from him even during the best of times.
Can grumpy Bruce, who eschews visitors, handle this sudden influx of unwanted company during a crisis? A fine story evolves about storms, helping others, and solitary plans.
Two new Firefly productions provide picture book audiences and elementary-grade readers with appealing stories.
Rachel Salt's The Plastic Problem (9780228102311, $9.95) discusses the issue of plastic pollution and its causes and solutions, and comes from the head writer and producer of the award-winning YouTube show AsapSCIENCE.
This picture book surveys the global issues of plastic production and use, considering its role in various economies around the world, what makes it harmful to the environment, and how to deal with the problem on various levels, both at home and globally.
Mary Batten's Spit: What's Cool About Drool (9780228102328, $9.95) comes from a children's science writer who offers physiological insights on the source of saliva in human and animal worlds.
From spit tests and spit's healing properties to various cultural meanings of saliva, Spit surveys science, physiology, and natural and human history alike, compiling fun facts and pairing them with modern visuals that kids will enjoy.
Both are educational, fun reads that can serve as leisure choices as well as introductory study guides.
Just Like Me
Just Like Me reaches ages 4-8 with a fine poetry collection featuring short pieces about all kinds of girls, from different ethnicities to urban and rural inhabits, girls who have different social and family concerns, and more.
Lovely bright illustrations capture the sentiments of the narrators with full-page, good-sized drawings, while the poems themselves excel in free verse explorations in the first person which require some good reading skills and an interest in girls' viewpoints about their lives.
Youngsters will find Just Like Me a lively, astute set of observations that are both fun and psychologically revealing.
Three books provide lively, unusual leisure readers perfect for young picture book enthusiasts and their read-aloud parents.
Zoë Foster Blake's No One Likes a Fart (9781524791896, $9.99) illustrates the dilemma faced by a little fart who is rejected by would-be best friends, from a boy and his dog to a mother with a baby.
Adam Nickel provides bright, colorful drawings of the fart and illustrates his dilemma over finding a best friend who will accept him for what he is in this hilarious story of loneliness and resolve.
Jonathan London's Froggy Builds a Snowman (9781984836366, $16.99) is illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz and tells of Froggy's enthusiasm for the snowiest season of the year, when all kinds of new play opportunities arrive.
His preparations for the Winter Carnival and his determination to have fun are the central features of a whimsical series of snow adventures which require good reading skills or parental assistance, rewarding this effort with a hilarious story of Froggy's latest escapade.
André Rodrigues, Larissa Ribeiro, Paula DeSgualdo and Pedro Markun's The President of the Jungle (9781984814746, $17.99) is translated from the Portuguese by Lyn Miller-Lachmann and provides a story about Lion, King of the Jungle, who is self-centered enough that his subjects are sick of him.
It's obviously time to elect a new King. But who will take over? There are many animal candidates, but when Lion decides to run against them, trouble ensues. Who will make the best president?
Election savvy blends with a pointed, hilarious story kids will appreciate.
Middle grade to young adult readers will relish the fifth novel in Ransom Riggs' Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children series, The Conference of the Birds (9780735231504, $22.99).
Familiarity with the prior books will foster appreciation for this latest scenario in which Jacob goes on a mission to contact a strange operative. She is being hunted for her role in a prophecy that predicts an apocalypse for the peculiar world.
Jacob must not only find her, but must follow clues from the prophecy to save his world.
An outstanding story evolves, perfect for prior fans of the setting and series.
Something is Bugging Samantha Hansen
Something is Bugging Samantha Hansen tells of ten-year-old Samantha, who is entering 4th grade with a love for science. At first, it was all about rocks. Now she loves insects, and is becoming involved in the plight of honey bees.
As Samantha learns about bees, creates lists of insect facts, and becomes involved in community efforts to support the bee populations and confront the forces decimating them, readers will enjoy a story filled with nature insights as well as the revealing explorations of a girl who loves science.
Story Boat features fine drawings by Rashin Kheiriyeh and provides very young readers with the story of a little girl and her younger brother who are forced to flee their home, with their family.
As they learn about making homes and finding new pleasures in the world while being refugees, readers receive a surprisingly positive story of hope and dreams as they absorb not just how refugees struggle, but how they make new homes for themselves.
A fine story of hope and change evolves, taking a difficult subject and making it accessible to a younger audience than the topic usually reaches.
The Story That Cannot Be Told
J. Kasper Kramer
Simon and Schuster
The Story That Cannot Be Told provides middle grade readers with a fine story set in the final months of Communist rule in Romania in 1989.
Ileana is a story collector who gathers history, cultural heritage tales, and folklore. But those which are politically volatile can land you in trouble.
She learned that early, when her Uncle Andrei vanished after criticizing the government. Now she faces her own challenges when her parents send her away to live with her grandparents and dangers follows her to her new home.
Romanian life and history contribute to a warm and engrossing story of freedom and persecution that will educate readers about the country as it follows the efforts of a spunky heroine who struggles to cope with her world.