30 September 2010

Christmas Gift

Christmas Gift
R. William Bennett
children/young adult/adult fiction
This is really fine for anyone ages about 10 and up.

Bennett has written a simple, yet profound, tale of forgiveness. What if, instead of returning cruelty with cruelty someone offers forgiveness and friendship?
Sixth grader Scott is just one of bully Ben's victims. Scott is just an average kid, but he feels bad about yelling at Ben one day. Will Scott take the easy path and be like everyone else. Will he be one of the kids that makes up stories about Ben and his family? Will Scott go on to bully other kids?
This book is brief. Although it is a hardback, it is about the size of a paperback with a slim 135 pages. The lettering is fairly large and the layout is like the average Nicholas Sparks, Richard Paul Evans, Robert James Waller, or Karen Kingsbury "Red Gloves" book.
This book is coming out in time for people to read it and purchase a second copy to give as a "gentle read" Christmas gift to family and friends, but the message and most of the book don't have anything to do with the modern American commercial version of Christmas, so readers should feel free to pick up this book any month of the year.
When I lead a monthly book club each year we looked for a short inspirational book to read for our December discussion since everyone was busy that time of year. This is a good choice for a Christmas time discussion due to its brevity and universal appeal. Although it is written by a man and has two boys as main characters, the message and packaging should appeal to woman and girls as well.

This book was provided for review by the publisher.

27 September 2010

Banned Books Week


Stop in to the East Branch Library beginning Monday, September 27 through Saturday, October 2 and listen to excerpts from banned and challenged books being read aloud by staff and volunteers. Titles featured will highlight books from the children's, young adult and adult collections. Reading will take place throughout the week in the famed Banned Books Cage during all open hours.

You can even take your own turn reading in the Banned Books Cage! Call the East Branch Library to schedule some time in "jail" for reading banned books.

Banned Book Week Activities*

at the East Branch Library

Read a book in our “Banned Books Cage,” a physical representation of what libraries might be like if books were truly banned.

Follow the clues. Finish the hunt. Win a prize!

Create a bookmark using recycled magazine pages, old comic book pages or a map!

Let us take your picture with your favorite banned book, and we’ll make you a sticker!

Play an old-fashioned game of memory,
with a Banned Books Week twist!

What are your thoughts about our freedom to read and access information?

*Activities may vary throughout the week, depending on supplies. Calling in advance is advised to participate in the read-out.

24 September 2010

David Goes to School

David Goes to School
David Shannon
children's ficton/autobiography
ages 5-8

Oh, boy! David is back! The star of "No, David!" returns with more misbehaviors. I can only assume that David is based on author and illustrator David Shannon's life as a child. Call him a menace. Call him hyperactive or ADHD. Call him a juvenile delinquent. Whatever you call him, you had better keep an eye on David when he is in your classroom.
We all know a child like David. Maybe you were that child. Maybe David is your child. David is wild, but the author does not glorify this. He just presents it. That is how David is. In the telling, it is pretty funny.
I haven't read much about author David Shannon, but I hope I am correct in assuming that eventually David (the book character) learns to channel his energy and grows up to be a successful illustrator and author.
A quote from David Shannon: "My advice would be that getting into trouble isn't the end of the world".
This book can certainly be a good discussion starter. How should David behave differently? How can his teacher help David to have a good day? Would medication help David? Would therapy?
Whatever you take from this book, it belongs on the shelves of every American elementary and public library. The illustrations are perfect for a book about an elementary school and the text is even written in pencil on manila lined paper.

23 September 2010

Treasure in Books

There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island.
---Walt Disney
(Thank you to Paula Dale for this quote).

22 September 2010

Kissing Hand

Kissing Hand
Audrey Penn, Ruth E. Harper, and Nancy M. Leak
children's fiction
ages 4-6

Published in 1993, this book has become a phenomenon. Teachers, social workers, parents, librarians, and more ask for this book. Warning: If you think you want to read this in September, you had better buy your own copy. Each year it is always checked out of the library in August and September. A number of craft and storytime activities have been developed using this book.
A little raccoon is afraid of starting school. His mother reassures him that although they will not be together physically, he will always be in her heart and she will always be in his as he goes off and has new experiences.
To give him a sense of security, she kisses his palm then tells him that any time he is lonely for home he can hold his hand to his cheek and think of her kissing him on the cheek.
This is a sweet book published by the Child Welfare League of America who recommends it for children starting school, being placed in foster care, going away to camp, etc.
Lovely illustrations show woodland creatures at a nocturnal school.
There are some sequels to this book, but the original is the one that library patrons clamor for.


Lesley Hauge
young adult science fiction

Keller is a young woman who is learning her career. She is a border guard on an island after some kind of horrible disaster. Civilization has collapsed and humankind has ended up deformed and mutated. Somehow an island of strong women was shielded from this genetic catastrophe and has formed a closed society where only women may dwell. Hauge obviously has modeled the society after the mythical Amazons.
Men are not welcome on the island and they do not trade with the outsiders. New girls are added to the society by some kind of bringing of the Seed. We assume this is some kind of frozen sperm.
Not everyone embraces such a strict, conformist society and can the women continue on like this? Are changes in order? They are fearful that their pure society will end up perishing.
This is in the YA section of my library, but some parents may object to their children reading this kind of book. It is violent and cold blooded at times. The main character is rather rigid as she observes the world around her. She and her friends dabble with the forbidden concepts of friendship and femininity, but are largely repulsed by them.

Magic Tree House #6 Afternoon on the Amazon

Magic Tree House #6 Afternoon on the Amazon
Mary Pope Osborne

Some of the Magic Tree House books are more realistic and some are more fanciful and magical. Although there is some anthropomorphic traits to animals, this book in the series relies on the real life adventures to be had in the Rain forest. The Amazon is full of creatures right out of stories - piranha, crocodiles, monkeys, and Army ants. No exaggerations or car chases are needed.
Schoolchildren Jack and Annie are magically transported to today's Brazil and spend pretty much this whole book running from animals.
After we were done, my audience wanted to know if the animals in this book were real. One child was especially worried about vampire bats that were mentioned in the book. I assured her that although they are found in South America, they are not found in Pennsylvania or Ohio. We have considerably smaller and tamer bats here that eat mosquitoes and are considered to be an asset to a backyard.

18 September 2010

Wednesday Wars

Wednesday Wars
Gary Schmidt
(This author has won the Newbery Honor award and the Printz Honor award)
young adult fiction

Holling is growing up in Long Island in 1967. He is a Protestant 7th grader in a class full of Catholics and Jews. On Wednesday afternoons the Jewish and Catholic kids all leave for Wednesday religious classes. Holling is the only one left in Mrs. Baker's English class. She has him takes on assignments reading Shakespeare. He is reluctant, but at first learns to love Shakespeare's curses and uses them under his breath. As time goes by he appreciates more about Shakespeare, even acting in a play.
Since he is in 7th grade, he is learning a lot about himself and who he wants to be. His older sister is a flower child. His father wants Holling to be an architect like he is. Holling doesn't know what he wants, but a girlfriend would be nice!
A colleague of mine recommended this book and said that it should have won the Newbery award instead of getting runner-up status.
This is the kind of book that English teachers and librarians love to recommend, but children don't always want to read. The year 1967 is before today's 7th graders were born, and even before many of their parents were born, so this book may need some "selling" on the part of adults getting students to read it.
Once they do crack this book open, however, they will find that some thinks about 7th grade remain the same - the jokester in class, the awkwardness, the "what-if" of early adolescence, and more. In constrast, some aspects of this book are very 1967 - hippies, atomic bomb drills, and the Vietnam conflict. I can see that an essay would compare and contrast 1967's hippies with today's Goths, atomic bomb drills with today's lockdowns, and the Vietnam conflict with today's Afghanistan and Iraq.

I Am Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman: I Am Wonder Woman
Festival Readers
Nina Jaffe, Ben Caldwell, and William Moulton Marston

children's fiction, ages 5-8

This is a simple book showing how Wonder Woman, superheroine, became Wonder Woman and what she does with her super powers and her directive to help people. She is modestly attired and this is family friendly.
Grandparents and parents may want to introduce a new generation to Wonder Woman!
Go, Wonder Woman!

16 September 2010

Bring on the Blessings

Bring on the Blessings
Beverly Jenkins
African American contemporary fiction

I don't generally read African American contemporary fiction, but I read that this book featured a historical town in Kansas founded by African Americans. I enjoy getting my history lessons in fiction rather than nonfiction books, so I figured this would be a more palatable way to find out about African Americans during Reconstruction.
I thought that this would also be Christian fiction and it is - sort of. Most of the people are churchgoers or at least believe in God, but this is not a right-leaning book. These are more realistic Christians. Christians with real problems and who are not so holier-than-thou -ones that might sleep around a little before a church wedding, but whose hearts are in the right place. God/Jesus/Holy Spirit are all referred to in vague ways. At one point the main character says a prayer to The Sister in the Sky. I am not so sure if this is referring to God as a male and female figure or the Blessed Virgin Mary. Two characters are descendants of Black Seminole, so maybe they are talking about a Native American spirituality. I would call this more inspirational or spiritual fiction than Christian fiction.
Here is the plot - Bernadine Brown, age 52, has come into money in a divorce. When we say money, this means a LOT of money. She prays about what do with her life and with the money. She sees an advertisement to purchase an entire historic town. The residents pray that she can bring back the sense of pride and community that this town has lost along with its population and its businesses.
Bernadine has a plan. This will be a town where the citizens welcome foster children. It will be a place of hope for everyone. Bernadine uses her contacts and her experience as a social worker to make big changes. She has some opposition, but most people are cheering for her.
It was a well written book, but I can tell that I was not the target audience. I am not sure what all of the street lingo, jargon, and contemporary African American phrases meant. One teenager nicknames a boy and I have no idea what the nickname was referring to.
Even though I did not catch all of the references, I recognize that Jenkins has created a rich world of multi-dimensional characters. In the epilogue she says that there are at least two other books of hers which incorporated her fictionalized town in Kansas. I can see that she would have fans that would like to continue to read about her world.
I would recommend that public libraries with medium to large populations of African American readers add this book, and the series, to their collections.

Sheila Rae's Peppermint Stick

Sheila Rae's Peppermint Stick
Kevin Henkes
children's fiction, ages 2-5
board book
ALA Notable Children's Book, 2001
CCBC Choices, 2002
Parenting Magazine, Reading Magic Award, 2001

Sheila Rae has candy. Her little sister wants her to share, but Sheila doesn't want to, so she promises her sister she can have some if she can complete some difficult tasks. Fate intervenes and in the end they share.
I recommend this book for families with more than one child to show how siblings should share. Only children who have to share at nursery school or day care would benefit as well.
Henkes has demonstrated in a number of books how he can use a minimal number of pictures and words to create a complete story. Impressive. Timeless.
The font used in this book is good for beginning readers, using the letter "a" that looks like a circle with a line rather than the printer's version with a curled "a".
Henkes won the 2005 Caldecott Medal for "Kitten's First Full Moon" which I have reviewed in an earlier blog. He seems to like to draw mice as his main characters.

Tuck Everlasting

Tuck Everlasting
Natalie Babbitt
read by Peter Thomas
unabridged book on cassettes
children's fantasy fiction

I vaguely remember watching all or part of the movie that came out a few years ago, so I knew the basic plot. From the movie I remember there being a romance, but the original story does not have romance - just a hint of "what if" to it. The main character (Winnie) is only 10 years old, so romance is not appropriate.
Peter Thomas is a veteran narrator, so his voice comes across strong and pleasant. This audio book is unabridged and runs 3:31. I think it could have easily been shortened to 2 hours, however. The description in the book, while rich, picturesque, and thoughtful is a bit dull after about an hour. The entire book takes place in a 3 day time period, so do we really need that much detail? I was especially annoyed when one of the characters pauses to recount what happened to him, in great detail. I just heard what happened to him a half hour ago. I didn't need a reminder!

The plot: They do not say until the very end of the book when the action takes place, but it is about 1880. They never say where, either, but it is in pioneer America. Ten year old Winnie lives a civilized and dull existence as an only child in a prosperous family. She yearns for some kind of excitement to come into her life. She certainly gets it when she discovers in the woods beside her family's home a family of four. She is the first person in many years to figure out the secret to their life. They drank from a Fountain of Youth and now must live until the end of time. There is a great deal of discussion about whether this is a blessing or curse and by the end of the book Winnie must decide for herself if she wants to drink from the spring as well. If you have forever are you obliged to make a positive difference in the world? What would it be like to see your loved ones die - or not die?

The premise of this book is a good one, and it is discussion-worthy, but I would have preferred for it to be shorter. This is on a number of recommended reading lists, but I have read better books. It sold a lot of copies, so I am at least a little surprised that the author did not follow up with a series of books about the Tuck family. They could have had a lot of adventures in their lifetimes. There could be separate books for the father, mother, and the two sons, as well as more than one book apiece for different times of their lives. One could be set in 1840, 1860, 1880, 1900, 1920, 1940, etc. I guess when the book came out in 1975 books in series were not as popular as they are today.

Red Glass

Red Glass
Laura Resau
young adult fiction
James Cook Book Award Honorable Book

Teenager Sophie lives a comfortable life with her mother and stepfather and eccentric great aunt. One day, unexpectedly, a Mexican boy whose mother died in border crossing comes into their family. Can Sophie put her neurotic selfishness aside to help Pablo recover from this tragedy? Aunt Dika, a refugee from Bosnia welcomes Pablo and an extended family, not related by blood but by love and circumstances is born.
This book would make for a good YA book discussion selection.

14 September 2010

Robots Are Coming!

Robots Are Coming!
Andy Rash
children's poetry
ages 7-9

If you are looking for some not-so-scary poems to read for Halloween, or for any time, this book of poetry and cartoons is a good choice. Rash takes a number of poems about werewolves, mummies, robots, etc. and pairs them with over-the-top illustrations.
I read this to 6 and 7 year olds. They didn't understand that it was a parody of late night movies, but they thought it was pretty interesting and funny.

Linden and the Oak

Linden and the Oak
Mark Wansa
historical fiction

I don't know much about Rusyns, so I thought I would read this historical fiction book and find out some more. Rusyns are an ethnic group found around the Carpathian mountains. They are definitely Slavic, but their language and customs are not exactly Russian, not exactly Ukrainian, not exactly Polish or Slovak. This epic novel follows a family of Rusyns through the harsh time of World War I. Many Eastern Europeans have fled to America for a better life. Some of them have come back with the money they made in America. The names and the native words thrown in to this novel make it seem very foreign. It is a hefty 550 pages long, but the writing is not complicated and the main characters are simple peasants used to simple country ways, church rites, and superstitions. It is the world around them that is crazy! The author does a good job re-creating the setting of yesteryear and showing how the people feel and act.
If you are looking for something different to read, this is certainly not like anything on the 2010 New York Times best seller list and it is not widely held in libraries, but some public libraries and college libraries who serve large populations of Eastern European immigrants and descendants have added this to their collections.

Girl Who Loved Wild Horses

Girl Who Loved Wild Horses
Paul Goble
Caldecott Medal Winner, 1979
children's fiction, folklore/mythology
ages 3-7

The author uses thin, precise, vivid lines to draw this mystical story set in the American plains and desert. He captures the movement of the wind, the water, and the horses.
The story is of a girl who loves horses so much (and whom horses love), that when the horses of a Native American village stampede, they take her with them and protect her as one of their own.
This book begs to be read out loud around a campfire in the summer or in front of a hearth in the winter.
This is a treat for readers who are into horses, but still a good read for those who are not into horses.

Firefighter Ted

Firefighter Ted
Andrea Beaty and Pascal Lemaitre
children's fiction, ages 2-6

Cartoony drawings show a little school aged bear who is pretending to be a firefighter. His imagination soars as he acts out what a real fireman would do. Unfortunately, his teacher and principal do not appreciate his creative thoughts and actions. No need to fear, however, in the end, this clueless cub triumphs and is ready for a new adventure.
This is goofy cartoon humor. This book might be used before career day or a trip to a fire station.
This is one in a series of books where Ted is an artist, a doctor, and more.
Some parents and teachers might not like that Ted appears to be disrespectful to his elders, but Ted does not do it intentionally.

Clifford's Busy Week

Clifford's Busy Week
Norman Bridwell
children's fiction
ages 2-6

We love those good old educational Clifford The Big Red Dog books! Today's children watch Clifford on PBS as well. He is also the star of some educational CD-ROM products and featured on the great PBS kids website.
In this book Clifford and Emily Elizabeth help children learn the days of the week and practice sequencing as they do different activities on different days. Repetition, humor, and bold colors (especially RED) make this a winner. I am glad that Clifford books are widely available in hardback and in affordable paperback from Scholastic.

Swan Kingdom

Swan Kingdom
Zoe Marriott
Young adult fantasy

In a medieval-type kingdom Princess Alexandra lives with her parents. Her mother, beloved by the people, shares with her herbal lore and animal husbandry skills. Alexandra is on the verge of womanhood and her mother must teach her about the magic which protects and sustains the land. At this crucial point in Alexandra's development her mother is killed by a wild beast. Alexandra's brothers are enchanted and her father falls under the spell of the beast who has taken the form of a beautiful woman. Alexandra is banished to another land. Can she save her brothers, father, and her kingdom from evil? The story is at once familiar and original. It seems like we have heard this fairy tale before, and the author notes that it is based on a Hans Christian Andersen tale. There is a Celtic feel to the book as well.
The cover: The cover makes it look like this is a dark tale. Sure, there is the villainess, but this is not a particularly gory or violent book.


Steve Augarde
Young adult science fiction

The world has been flooded. A few people survive. A boy and his father are barely surviving. There is a rumor that there is an island where boys can work to earn their keep. The father manages to get his son on a boat to the island. On island the boys have to work very hard in a salvage operation led by a minister and his scuba diving sons. This is no pleasant mission field, though. It is more like "Lord of the Flies". It is survival of the fittest on the island. The boys make alliances and plot to overthrow the despot. This was a tense, stay-up-to-read-it book.
This is a British book and there were a number of words that I didn't know, but I didn't want to take a break in the action to look them up.

Playful Kitten

Playful Kitten
Rachel Baines
board book
ages 0-3

This book is slightly puffy and has some sparkly and fuzzy and shiny areas to attract a toddler's attention. There isn't much of a plot. Mostly it is cutesy pictures like one would find on greeting cards or in a baby book. That's about all there is to the book. I would recommend the illustrator as an illustrator, but not as an author.

10 September 2010

Where Do I Go?

Where Do I Go?
A Yada Yada House of Hope Novel
Neta Jackson

Adult Christian Fiction

Gabrielle is middle aged with two boys and an ambitious husband. He decides to move himself and his wife to Chicago, leaving their sons with their Grandparents in Virginia. She is feeling displaced and doesn't really want to be the hostess to dinner parties and such that will help her husband's firm get off the ground. Through a turn of events she finds herself at a women's shelter and thinks that maybe this is where she can volunteer or get a job and a renewed sense of purpose. Maybe she even can have a talk with God about her life and her future.
This light fiction work does not go for simple answers and tidy happy endings. The cover says it is book 1 in the Yada Yada House of Hope series. A number of minor characters are probably featured in other books in this series. This is a warm book that invites the reader in to Neta Jackson's world. Like the "At Home in Mitford" books we have a series to recommend to Christian readers. This book seems to be written for women, but in an unusual twist, her husband, Dave Jackson, is also writing books set in the same universe. I assume that these are supposed to have male main characters and appeal to men.
This was a fairly easy read and may appeal to people who do not read many fiction books as well as more experienced readers who want a quick book fix. Teens and their mothers could probably both read this book and series.

http://daveneta.com/ For more about the series and free short story downloads.

08 September 2010

Night Bookmobile

Night Bookmobile
Audrey Niffenegger
graphic novel?

This is not yet available in the U. S., but I look forward to reading it soon. The cover and title show promise...

07 September 2010

Her Fearful Symmetry

Her Fearful Symmetry
Audrey Niffenegger
adult fantasy/romance contemporary fiction

Many people (including myself) were waiting for another book from this author of "The Time Traveler's Wife". It starts off innocently enough with an aunt dying and leaving her flat in London to her twin nieces whom she has never met. From there the plot takes some twists as we find out more about the mother (who was a twin to the aunt) and about the goings on at the flat and the cemetery next door. There is a housebound neighbor and a cemetery volunteer neighbor. Add to the mixture The Kitten of Death (who is not at all terrifying).
This book is one part Gothic novel, one part stodgy British literature, one part Victoria Holt romance, one part Charlotte Bronte angst-riddled tale, and one part Phyllis Whitney mystery (except that it is set in modern times). Now I realize that I have dated myself with references to 1970's authors. So be it.
I wasn't sure what to expect in this book. I'll give away a major plot point - it is a ghost novel. It is a cozy, familiar read with a standard mystery setting, best enjoyed in front of a fireplace while wearing a smoking jacket and sipping Earl Grey tea.
As to the title - it is a clever play on words about twins being mirrors of each other and also using a word that sounds like "cemet'ry".
In a completely unrelated note, I will put this book on my list of books for genealogists to enjoy. Cemeteries are an essential part of any genealogist's research and Highgate Cemetery has some mighty fine tales to tell.

25 Essential Books for the Well-Read Explorer


For some reason I only found 16-25 on this website and had to look at another website for the rest of the list. Thank you to the Bangor Public Library for reposting the list.


Outside Magazine January 2003
I haven't read very many of these, but I do like an occasional adventure story, so I'll have to make room in my reading schedule for some of these.

25. OLD GLORY Jonathan Raban (1981)
24. A WALK IN THE WOODS Bill Bryson (1998) I have read this one. This is great for the not-so-fit explorer.
23. ALIVE Piers Paul Read (1974) I remember many of my classmates reading this one and I could not bring myself to read it. It sounded (and sounds) too creepy.
23. THE PERFECT STORM Sebastian Junger (1997). This is an excellent book and movie. My library co-worker, Shelley, would recommend this to every patron who asked for a good book.
22. MY JOURNEY TO LHASA Alexandra David-Neel (1927).
21. KON-TIKI Thor Heyerdahl (1950).
20. GREAT PLAINS Ian Frazier (1989)
19. YOUNG MEN AND FIRE Norman Maclean (1992)
18. RUNNING THE AMAZON Joe Kane (1989)
17. THE LONG WAY Bernard Moitessier (1971)
16. TRACKS Robyn Davidson (1980)
14. ARCTIC DREAMS Barry Lopez
13. IN PATAGONIA Bruce Chatwin
12. MOUNTAINS OF MY LIFE Walter Bonatti
10. ARABIAN SANDS Wilfred Thesiger
8. INTO THE WILD. Jon Krakauer. I think I have read this 3 times now. I should probably re-read it once a decade.
6. ENDURANCE F. A. Worsely
4. SNOW LEOPARD Peter Matthiessen
3. WEST WITH THE NIGHT Beryl Markham
2. WORST JOURNEY IN THE WORLD Ashley Cherry-Garrard
1. WIND, SAND, AND STARS Antoine de Saint-Exupery

That reminds me, I would like to read the book by the Cleveland doctor who got breast cancer while in Antarctica.
ICEBOUND by Dr. Jerri Nielson Fitzgerald

04 September 2010

Honey Helps

Happy Honey: Honey Helps
Laura Godwin and Jane Chapman
beginning reader - ages 4-6

This book has a simple story, large type, and minimal words. It is sort of like a "Dick and Jane" book". The pictures are cute and simple as well. Happy is a dog. Honey is a cat. They do typical cat and dog behaviors. (They are not acting like humans, but real animals). That's it. This book is good for beginner readers and I have found it on a number of recommended book lists for 4-6 year olds. There are probably a lot of real dogs and cats out there with the names "Happy" and "Honey", due in part to this book.

Dayton Peace Prize

Dayton Peace Prize

Congratulations to Geraldine Brooks, winner of the 2010 Dayton Peace Prize Lifetime Achievement Award

Here is a full list of 2010 finalists:

2010 Dayton Literary
Peace Prize Finalists


* A Postcard from the Volcano by Lucy Beckett (Ignatius Press):

Beginning in 1914 and ending on the eve of World War II, this epic coming-of-age story follows a Prussian aristocrat as he confronts the ideologies that threaten the annihilation of millions of people.

* A Good Fall by Ha Jin (Pantheon Books):

In this stark and insightful collection, acclaimed writer Ha Jin depicts the struggle of Chinese immigrants in America to remain loyal to their traditions as they explore the freedom that life in a new country offers.

* Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (Knopf):

A young Ethiopian doctor is forced to flee revolution in his homeland for New York City in this enthralling family saga of Africa and America, doctors and patients, exile and home.

* The Book of Night Women by Marlon James (Penguin Group; G. P. Putham's Sons/Riverhead Books):

Born into slavery on a Jamaican sugar plantation at the end of the eighteenth century, a woman with dark, mysterious powers finds herself at the heart of a slave revolt plotted by the women around her.

* The Calligrapher's Daughter by Eugenia Kim (Henry Holt and Company):

In early-twentieth-century Korea, the privileged daughter of a calligrapher struggles to choose her own destiny while her country crumbles under Japanese occupation.

* The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Adiche (Knopf):

Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie turns her penetrating eye on both her native country and America in twelve dazzling stories that explore the collision of two cultures and the deeply human struggle to reconcile them.


* Enough: Why the Worlds Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty by Roger Thurow and Scott Kilman (Public Affairs):

This powerful investigative narrative shows exactly how, in the past few decades, American, British, and European policies have conspired to keep Africa hungry and unable to feed itself.

* In the Valley of the Mist by Justine Hardy (Free Press):

A personal, moving, and vibrant picture of the Kashmir Valley, one of the most beautiful and troubled places in the world -- described through the experiences of one family, whose fortunes have changed dramatically with those of the region.

* Stones Into Schools by Greg Mortenson (Penguin Group, USA):

From the author of the #1 bestseller Three Cups of Tea, the continuing story of this determined humanitarian’s efforts to promote peace in Afghanistan through education.

* Tears in the Darkness by Michael and Elizabeth Norman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux):

Using the perspective of a young American soldier, this account of World War II’s Bataan death march exposes the myths of war and shows the extent of suffering and loss on both sides.

* The Education of a British-Protected Child by Chinua Achebe (Knopf):

From the celebrated author of Things Fall Apart, a new collection of autobiographical essays—his first new book in more than twenty years.

* Zeitoun by Dave Eggers (McSweeney's):

The meticulously researched story of a prosperous Syrian-American and father of four who chose to stay in New Orleans through Hurricane Katrina and protect his house and business—but then abruptly disappeared.