January 2019 Prime Picks
American Comic Book
Chronicles: the 1990s
Jason Sacks and Keith Dallas
American Comic Book Chronicles: the 1990s continues to expand an ambitious history of American comics with this latest decade, packing in color panels and comic book displays to supplement a coverage of the era's pivotal artists and publications.
The 1990s were replete with changes. Batman suffered a major injury, Marvel Comics went bankrupt after its creators formed their own company, and Neil Gaiman's Sandman opened up new opportunities for DC Comics and artists.
The ups and downs of the decade, the new comic artists that introduced different heros and a revitalized era of new readers, and the launching of original series is all detailed in pages packed with information and color spreads of comic covers and panels.
The result is a solid, informative addition to a fine series that is a 'must' for any collection strong in American comic history and culture.
Artist, 3rd Edition
The third updated edition of Pavement Chalk Artist: The Three-Dimensional Drawings of Julian Beever profiles the artist's ongoing creations and unique three-dimensional approach, selecting drawings to accompany the artist's own descriptions of his perspective and how he creates these works.
Gorgeous, full-page color examples of this quite intricate three-dimensional art includes public displays and viewer reactions alike, while accompanying text explains each piece's origin, commission, approaches, and even Beever's caveats about his creation.
Pavement Chalk Artist is an outstanding, accessible survey that will interest not just aspiring chalk artists, but general-interest viewers with a special affection for public art in general and the challenges of working in the 3-D form in particular.
Andaluz: A Food Journey Through Southern Spain is more than just a cookbook. It provides a culinary history of Andalucia, examines the international influences brought to the region by conquerors and rulers, and profiles local restaurants and their owners, including recommended restaurants for destination-bound travelers.
While this wider-ranging approach could have been featured in our travel section, it's reviewed here because cooks interested in the region should not bypass this lovely coverage simply because it is more than a recipe book.
Color photos pepper recipes for dishes such as Arugula and Asparagus Salad with Orange and Ginger Dressing or Duck Leg with Bay Leaf and Quince. Photos and discussions of the region create an added bonus, following Fiona Dunlop's journeys throughout the area.
German Meals at Oma's
German Meals at Oma's: Traditional Dishes for the Home Cook stands out from other German recipe books in several ways.
First, it shares the author's German heritage and stems from her blog Just Like Oma, focussing on her family and country's classic German fare.
A big plus is that the book is divided into chapters for each state in Germany, exploring the regional differences between German dishes. Lovely photos accompany tips that make German cooking easy to reproduce even for Americans with little prior familiarity with the cuisine.
Both the German and popular names are provided for dishes such as Kartoffelpuffer (Potato Pancakes) and Schmandschnitzel (Schnitzel with Cream Sauce), which also makes it easy for native Germans to recognize their favorite dishes.
The result is a fine introduction to German comfort food that will prove easy for American newcomers to assimilate.
Erin Byers Murray
St. Martin's Press
Grits: A Cultural & Culinary Journey Through the South covers the author's personal journey through Southern cuisine and her own heritage as she travels the South tracking down facts about grits.
Readers expecting another cookbook will be surprised to learn that this isn't a recipe collection, but a focus on the culture and related perspectives surrounding grits and southerners. Thus, chapters are steeped in surprising issues of race, gender, and politics in the South as they examine the popularity of grits, their production, and their cultivation.
It's rare to see an investigation of a kitchen staple delve into political and social territory; but Grits: A Cultural & Culinary Journey Through the South does just that, and is highly recommended for cooks with a prior affection for and interest in the history and culture of not just grits in particular, but the South in general.
The Complete Indian
Instant Pot Cookbook
The Complete Indian Instant Pot Cookbook: 130 Traditional & Modern Recipes offers keys to using Instant Pots to produce Indian fare, and requires only an interest in Indian food and the Instant Pot to prove appealing.
Indian fare may seem time-consuming to many Americans; but the Instant Pot speeds the process of making scratch ingredients from yogurt to paneer, streamlining the entire Indian culinary process.
All that's needed is access to basic spices, some Instant Pots, and an interest in producing classic Indian fare more quickly than the norm. Cooks will find this an excellent introduction that uses this equipment to best advantage.
Wasn't That a Time
Wasn't That a Time: The Weavers, the Blacklist, and the Battle for the Soul of America provides a fine story of the Weavers, a group that ultimately saw its demise due to the U.S. government. It goes beyond most music group histories to address how the pop group's original songs came to be interpreted as a national security issue.
Other books have been written about the Weavers and their times; but more so than most, Wasn't That a Time captures the feel and politics of an era in its vivid memoir. Perhaps this is because it uses previously unseen journals and letters, unreleased recordings, and new information to document the social and political milieu and pressures of the times and the group that fostered and reflected changing attitudes.
No music history or American popular culture history collection should be without Wasn't That a Time, a powerful documentary of social change and political turmoil.
Novel New Novels
978-1720209232 $19.99 Paper/$9.99 Kindle
309 centers on Lisa Hudson, a journalism student living in Pittsburgh who finds herself facing a much-changed world after disaster, forced to undertake a journey she never imagined in her future.
The religious concept of the rapture takes on an eerie specter of something more than a spiritual change as Lisa observes changed people and structures that begin to transform her world in ways no prediction could have foreseen.
It's hard to tiptoe around the many surprises 309 brings to its audience while outlining a story based on satisfyingly unpredictable twists and turns of plot. Suffice it to say that 309 is an outstanding combination of psychology and science novel that draws in readers through Lisa and other characters' observations, creating a solid investigation into the nature of an object that simply shouldn't exist.
Looking for an
absolutely riveting thriller-combined-with-world-
After the Fall:
978-1530563203 $12.99 Paper/$3.99 Kindle
After the Fall: Jason's Tale tells of an electromagnetic pulse attack on the U.S. that shuts down society and causes it to fall apart. So far, the premise isn't new: there are a blossoming number of EMT disaster novels on the market, these days.
What sets After the Fall: Jason's Tale apart from the others, however, is its focus on an individual who literally heads for the hills to avoid the inevitable anarchy, immerses himself in solitude, and then discovers a hidden mountain valley where Anne and her two daughters struggle to survive.
Although evil forces find their way into this world, and the power is still off, Anne and Jason become committed to building a new life with each other away from the forces that would tear them apart. Both their quest and their relationship with one another assume epic proportions, filled with satisfying twists.
Readers may tire of many EMT disaster novels, but After the Fall: Jason's Tale is hard to put down, and is a cut above most of its competitors. Perhaps this is due to its attention to detail, which brings the sights, smells, and dilemmas of the times to life in a rare glimpse of family life and connections forged under extreme duress and gritty efforts to not just survive, but to love again.
Science, Nature & Technology
Anti-Science and the
Assault on Democracy
Michael J. Thompson & Gregory R. Smulewicz-Zucker, Eds.
Anti-Science and the Assault on Democracy: Defending Reason in a Free Society should be not only in science libraries from high school and up, but in political science and social issues collections.
It gathers essays from experts in science, history, social science, and other disciplines who all consider recent anti-science trends and link scientific with democratic processes.
Analysis and articles range from discussions of the philosophy and ideal of an open future to the legacy of the American founding fathers' support for science, myths about the nature and purpose of experts, and analysis of the relationships between science and democracy.
The result is a thought-provoking and surprisingly diverse collection of discussions perfect for classroom discussion and debate.
Never Home Alone
Never Home Alone: From Microbes to Millipedes, Camel Crickets, and Honeybees, the Natural History of Where We Live considers over a hundred thousand species that exist in one's home, but it isn't about creatures that are necessarily detrimental. Indeed, many are beneficial residents.
There's a blossoming movement revolving around sterilizing one's home with cleaners, insecticides, and processes that kill non-human life in homes. But Dunn argues that such efforts to kill all non-human life have resulted in sealing homes away from the natural environment and excluding beneficial insects as well; a move that actually encourages bacteria and the kinds of resistant species that no home dweller wishes to harbor.
Chapters make a case for encouraging indoor species that are beneficial. A basic knowledge and awareness of microbes and insects is needed in order to make some of these choices, and Never Home Alone provides this information in a book highly recommended for homeowners and residents alike.
Lost Railway Journeys
from Around the World
White Lion Publishing
Lost Railway Journeys from Around the World profiles 33 rail journeys that have been all but forgotten by anyone but avid rail historians, and is a fine choice for readers interested in railroad history and vanishing railways.
Over 200 rare, unusual photos from private collections (many are previously unpublished, so even rail buffs won't have seen most of these images) pack a history designed to be engrossing. These stories were chosen above others for their particular history and engineering marvels, and are organized by continent to make it easy to browse the photos, poster and old postcard reproductions, and accounts of rail journeys. These journeys include traversing Australia on its Walhalla Railway, New Zealand on the Rimutaka Incline, and Canada's Kettle Valley Railway, to name a few.
Black and white and color illustrations abound, nicely complimenting maps and vivid recollections of these antique journeys and their attractions. Lost Railway Journeys from Around the World is a standout among railway books and is especially recommended for rail buffs and collections looking for new rail history material.
My Life in a Cat
My Life in a Cat House: True Tales of Love, laughter, and Living with Five Felines is a fun, fine feline celebration and pet memoir whose only prerequisite for reader enjoyment is a prior affection for cats.
Readers may know Gwen Cooper from her best-selling Homer's Odyssey, and she returns here with more adventure stories centered around her cats and their impact on her life.
From how one rescue kitten turned into a family of five to handling the competing personalities of five distinctly different felines, favorite stories from Cooper's Curl Up With a Cat Tale ebook series create a collection which will especially delight those who like their books in paper format, and who have long wanted to enjoy Cooper's cat stories.
Out of the Dog House
Dick Portillo with Don Yaeger
Out of the Dog House: Turning a $1,100 Investment into a Billion-Dollar Profit details the fame and fortune of Dick Portillo, an unassuming entrepreneur who, in 1963, opened a hot dog stand in Illinois from a small trailer with no running water.
Little did he know that The Dog House would, fifty years later, become an institution with 50 locations and a reputation for authentic Chicago-style dogs.
This blend of business book and memoir follows Portillo's life, business decisions, and how he built his successful restaurant chain on a shoestring. It will prove an inspiring and fun read for anyone interested in stories of entrepreneurial success and Chicago culture.
The Sky-Blue Wolves
The Sky-Blue Wolves is the final novel of The Change series and concludes a post-apocalyptic story set two generations after the Change, when advanced technology failed and a new society was born.
A princess struggles with the legacy of peace that her father brought to the former western North America, but also faces new and terrible forces that walk among mankind and threaten not only peace, but human survival.
Along with Japanese Emperess friend Reiko, Órlaith is charged with stopping the Yellow Raja, who has imprisoned her brother, and facing down the Sky-Blue Wolves of the High Steppe who return Genghis Khan's terrible legacy to the world.
Readers who enjoyed the prior books or who seek a vivid story of confrontation and change will appreciate the continuing action and changes in this latest and last saga.
Four lovely new picture book presentations are delightful, original picks that libraries and parents will appreciate.
Peter Horáček's The Mouse Who Wasn't Scared (9780763698812, $15.99) tells of a brave little mouse who wants to play in the woods. She thinks nothing can make her feel afraid, even darkness and big animals; but even though "nothing frightens" this brave soul, one thing gives her pause for thought and leads her to heed the words of wise Rabbit and other friends in this engaging story of courage versus recklessness.
Simon James' The Boy Who Went to Mars (9780763695989, $16.99) tells of a boy who is angry about his mother's departure, and who decides to go away, himself. Stanley determines that he's going to visit Mars. This is especially attractive because a Martian has volunteered to take his place in the family. Can anyone really replace Stanley? And how will the Martian like his new home, with its many odd rules? A fun fantasy evolves.
I Do Not Like Books Anymore! by Daisy Hirst (9781536203349, $15.99) tells of Natalie and Alphonse, who really enjoy books and stories. Natalie can't wait to learn how to read, but when she makes the attempt, she becomes confused and angry.
Her love of books turns into resentment about the challenges of reading them as she struggles with learning to read herself, in pursuit of independence and knowledge.
Page Tsou's Highest Mountain Smallest Star (Big Picture Press imprint, 9781536204056, $22.00) will lend to library displays with its oversized presentation. This may also prove a shelving challenge, but will attract leisure readers with its vivid cover and style.
This pictorial compendium of nature presents the author's vivid illustrations of collections, such as the largest animals on land, the highest mountains in the world, and the fastest creatures.
Many an adult will also relish this unique picture presentation, which packs intriguing drawings onto every page.
New picture books and young adult leisure reads from this publisher promise a diverse selection of fine stories that parents, librarians, and kids alike will find delightful.
Teen to adult fans of postcards will enjoy Poster Art of the Disney Parks: 36 Postcards to Inspire Creativity (9781368012447, $12.99), but younger kids will enjoy coloring these black and white representations of Disney park posters.
Original illustrations not just from American Disney parks but from those around the world capture the attractions of a range of Disney creations.
This same audience will appreciate Jeff Kurtti's Travels with Walt Disney: A Photographic Voyage Around the World (9781484737682, $29.99), which publishes rare black and white and color photos of Disney and his worldwide travels.
Eyewitness recollections and anecdotes add to the feel of a travel journal that follows Walt's encounters with different places and peoples in a lovely illustrated journey that profiles his adventures and international influence.
Molly Booth's Nothing Happened (9781484753026, $17.99) is recommended for mature teens who can appreciate a modern version of Shakespeare's classic Much Ado About Nothing.
This story takes place at camp where two sisters have lived for their whole lives, as their parents own the grounds. Every summer they help small children enjoy the outdoors; but this year, romance enters the picture for both of them, creating trouble and conundrums.
Advanced elementary readers have several books that are especially recommended for leisure pursuit.
Fans of the A Wrinkle in Time movie who aren’t quite up to reading L'Engle's classic will welcome A Guide to the Universe (9781368022965, $12.95), Meg's journal of her discoveries and travels.
Meg and her companions narrate their impressions in this book, which is peppered with original color artwork capturing time-traveling experiences and adventures.
Jason Lethcoe's The Golden Paw (9781484788141, $14.99) presents a fun book in the 'Tales from Adventureland' series and tells of adventurer Andy Stanley, a member of the Jungle Explorers' Society who faces dangerous animals, criminals, and a cursed artifact, the Golden Paw.
The lively story is perfect for kids seeking vivid leisure reads that are hard to put down.
Christopher Robin: The Little Book of Pooh-isms With Help from Piglet, Rabbit, Eeyore, Owl, and Tigger, Too! (9781368025898, $9.99) provides a facing page of classic Pooh drawings by Mike Wall to accompany fun quotes and inspirational insights perfect for all ages.
These quotes are designed to make readers think, smile, and enjoy; and are varied enough that parents and kids alike can share this approach.
Jef Czekaj's Hip & Hop in the House: A Free- Flowing Tortoise and the Hare Collection (9781368022132, $16.99) provides young picture book readers and their read-aloud parents with two easy stories that blend the tortoise and the hare classic tale with comics, short raps, and a story about some fun, cool characters.
Hip & Hop in the House's cartoon appearance will especially appeal to youngsters who love comics and graphic novels.
Deborah Underwood's Part-Time Mermaid: Girl by Day. Mermaid by Night. (9781484726808, $16.99) is illustrated by Cambria Evans and tells of a girl who becomes a mermaid by night. Her life is filled with adventure, exploration, and undersea marvels, as well as secrets, and invites young picture book readers and their parents into a colorful series of adventures.
I Lost My Tooth! By Mo Williams (9781368024570, $12.99) adds to the Unlimited Squirrels series and provides a zany tale of baby teeth and those who lose them. Fun 'emote-acorns' pop up when Squirrels have "big feelings", while kids must read closely to get an accurate picture of the differences between Zoom, Zip, and other similar-sounding squirrel names.
Parents and kids will relish the fun story of these zany squirrels who face a big crisis.
Dear Substitute by Liz Garton Scanlon and Audrey Vernick (9781484750223, $17.99) features pictures by Caldecott Medalist Chris Raschka and tells of a substitute teacher who is mixing everything up.
Letters between teacher and students illustrate the substitute's common challenges in taking over an unknown classroom, and the students' equal puzzlement over her actions in a story any student or teacher will quickly relate to.
Disappointments, challenges, and confusion often result in unexpectedly whimsical comments on the entire experience ("Dear Turtle, We're supposed to clean your tank today. It's Tank Tuesday—everyone knows that! The substitute says maybe tomorrow. Please don't explode, or die of dirt, or escape.") in these back-and-forth letters.
All are fine additions to any leisure lending library.
Four Seasons of Fun
Pamela Duncan Edwards
Sleeping Bear Press
Four Seasons of Fun: Egg Hunts! Fireworks! Pumpkins! Reindeer! celebrates the four seasons with a picture book that reinforces climate information with indoor and outdoor activities unique to each season.
Verse will appeal to a wide age range as the story, illustrated by Sylvie Daigneault, romps through sunbeams, birds and blossoming trees, pool play in summertime, and sipping hot chocolate in the dead of winter.
The lovely drawings add life and a sense of adventure to this excellent seasonal celebration, which links nature with human responses to changing weather patterns.
These new picture books and young adult selections represent some top picks in Holiday House's catalog, and are recommended acquisitions for lending libraries seeking lasting value.
Young adults will find much to like in Polly Horvath's Very Rich (9780823440283, $17.99), the warm story of ten-year-old Rupert Brown, who wants to help his poor family.
On Christmas Day, he encounters the richest boy in town and is introduced to a whole new world that offers much promise, until he loses everything.
Can the rich family make up for his loss by providing adventures and promises of magic?
A.B. Greenfield's Ra the Mighty Cat Detective (9780823440278, $16.99) is a fun mystery illustrated in black and white by Sarah Horne, and will entertain advanced elementary to early middle grade readers with its story of the Pharaoh's spoiled cat and the mystery that evolves over a missing amulet.
Ra and his friend might be the only ones who can save her in this fun Egyptian fantasy about a dung beetle and his buddy.
The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle by Christina Uss (9780823440078, $16.99) tells of twelve-year-old Bicycle, who has lived at the Mostly Silent Monastery in Washington, D.C., surrounded by silence. Her few encounters with other children come with much noise, which she shuns, and she always winds up peddling away from the kids on her bike.
Concerned about her isolation, guardian Sister Wanda sends her to camp to make friends; but Bicycle decides on an alternative journey and, through a roundabout, different path, finds her own solutions in this whimsical, fun read.
Picture book readers also have some fun stories to look forward to.
Valeri Gorbachev's No Swimming for Nelly (9780823437801, $17.99) tells of a pig who wears her new swimsuit all the time. This wouldn't ordinarily be a big problem, but the one place she won't wear it is swimming.
Nelly refuses to swim, but Grandma has a plan in this fun story of fear and courage.
Gail Gibbons' Flowers (9780823437870, $17.99) paints a lovely picture using her signature, colorful drawings: this one revolving around lovely blooms.
This introduction to flowers covers their life cycles, identifies their parts, and provides tips for growing a colorful flower garden.
Yuyi Morales' Dreamers (9780823440559, $18.99) also excels in gorgeous drawings as it provides the winning story of a new life in a new country with a strange language, customs, and opportunities couched in many mistakes.
When the narrator stumbles upon a library packed with wonders that are both frightening and improbable, a surprise is in store in this gentle tale of the wonders of the written word and its potential for solving all issues.
All are excellent books, promising lasting lending value.
Simon and Schuster
These new young adult leisure reads and children's picture books are top picks for discriminating libraries looking for strong writers and standout themes, offering lasting lending library value.
Advanced elementary grade readers will appreciate Alison McGhee's Dear Sister (9781481451420, $13.99), a series of handwritten letters from a brother to his not-always-beloved younger sister.
Joe Bluhm's black and white illustrations add whimsy and a realistic sense to the story of a boy whose parents force him to add drawings and notes to his little sister's baby book. They can't force him what to say, however; and so readers receive a candid tale of both an evolving life and an evolving relationship with a little sister that explores family and friendships alike.
Patti Kim's I'm OK (9781534419292, $16.99) will reach ages 10 and older with the whimsical story of a get-rich-quick scheme that revolves around OK Lee, who decides to contribute to the family's income by starting a hair braiding business.
He tries to reject a friendship that evolves from his efforts, determined to stay on track with his purpose; but faces both overtures of help and a bully's threats, and comes to realize his family faces more than financial struggles in this whimsical tale of life changes and challenges.
Sharon M. Draper's Blended (9781442495005, $16.99) tells of preteen Isabella, who is used to all kinds of comments about her mixed race heritage. But these were nothing compared to the mixed-up challenges of her parents' divorce and being split between them in so many ways.
Who, really, is Isabella? And how can her divided life, heritage, and world come together? When disaster strikes, Isabella is forced to confront the real questions and meaning of her world in this moving story of a blended family at odds not just within themselves, but with life.
Ryan Calejo's Charlie Hernandez & the League of Shadows (9781534426580, $17.99) provides middle grade readers ages 10-14 with a fantasy inspired by Hispanic folklore and myths.
Charlie Hernandez is a middle school kid with the usual problems with friends, bullies, and romance, but when his house burns down, his parents vanish, and he sprouts horns and feathers, his world diverges from anything normal.
Not only is he charged with rescuing his parents, but he must learn new skills, face new responsibilities beyond school and home life, and open up to a world of opportunities and conundrums.
Picture book readers have a number of exceptional new arrivals to choose from, as well.
Beth Anderson and Elizabeth Baddeley's An Inconvenient Alphabet (9781534405554, $17.99) tells of the efforts of Ben Franklin and Noah Webster to simplify the English language with an alphabet designed to make English easier to read and write.
Their goal seemed simple enough at the time; but freeing the King's English from its own unreliable rules prove a challenge in this involving, true saga of the English language's evolution and influences.
Tom Fletcher and Dougie Poynter's The Dinosaur That Pooped the Bed! (9781481498708m, $15.99) tells of a hungry dinosaur that makes a big mess.
Mom won't let Danny
and Dino watch TV until they clean their room; but with a hungry
doesn't seem to be a problem: he'll just eat up all the mess.
The problem arises when Dino eats the desirable furniture, as well.
Garry Parsons provides fun drawings to a zany story of greed and problems.
Pierrette Dubé's The Little Pig, the Bicycle, and the Moon (9781534414723, $17.99) features art by Orbie as it tells of a little pig who dreams of riding a bike.
Ages 4-8 will laugh at the story or Rosie, who decides to try riding the bike at night, only to experience failure after failure. Perhaps her friend the moon can help, but will she give up on her seeming-impossible dream due to too many bad experiences?
Tomie dePaola's Quiet (9781481477543, $17.99) celebrates the act of being quiet, and includes a grandfather's reflections that "Everything is in such a hurry." Even the birds fly too fast. As he invites his grandchildren to tarry awhile, new observations of how nature becomes quiet offer important lessons the family can follow.
The result is a powerful story that holds a simple lesson for all.