From the Shelf
Howard Norman: A Noir Sensibility
Howard Norman, winner of the Lannan Award for fiction and a two-time National Book Award nominee, is the author of The Bird Artist, The Museum Guard, What Is Left the Daughter and the memoir I Hate to Leave This Beautiful Place, among others. His new novel is My Darling Detective (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26), set in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Norman mixes a present mystery (the desecration of a Robert Capa photograph) with one from the past (two murders during a 1945 outbreak of anti-Semitism). While Jacob Rigolet and his police detective fiancée, Martha Crauchet, attempt to unravel both cases, they unwind by listening to episodes of Detective Levy Detects on the radio. The radio serial, set right after World War II, lends a noirish atmosphere to the beguiling story. We asked Norman about the attraction of noir.
I like to write characters who, given the right conditions, inadvertently or willfully cross a palpable moral line. Detective Levy, in the radio program Detective Levy Detects, which weaves through My Darling Detective, uses mobsters from an earlier time to solve certain crimes. This time-travel device has allowed me to fold noir of the past into noir of the present.
In classic noir films, there is a kind of floating anxiety, but it can emotionally register very deeply--as Graham Greene said, "even the soul is shadowed down a street." In this new novel, the noirish atmosphere is an intensifying element to the plot--and to the two parallel love stories at the center.
I didn't want the dialogue between my narrator, Jacob, and his darling detective-fiancée, Martha, to mimic the noir repartee of Detective Levy Detects. However, I did very much want them to be influenced--intellectually and erotically--by the radio. I hope a reader feels that this is true. --Marilyn Dahl, Shelf Awareness
Read more of our interview with Howard Norman here.
In this Issue...
by Emma Donoghue
Bestselling adult author Emma Donoghue (Room) makes her middle-grade debut with this warm, witty story of a multiculti, four-parent family that takes in a grumpy grandfather.
by Diego Zúñiga
A young man tries to confront his family's past on a cross-desert trip with his absentee father.
by Thi Bui
A Vietnam War refugee tells the story of her family, the one she was born into and the one she creates.
Review by Subjects:
03/28/2017 - 7:00PMTough Broads Book Club meets the fourth Tuesday of each month at 7:00 p.m. This month's book will be Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett.
Hilarious Memes for Booklovers
Buzzfeed collected "50 hilarious memes you'll relate to if you love books."
For Brightly, author Edward Viljoen explored the notion of "reading by example: what kids learn about books from watching you."
"Two rolls were left on a china plate." Quirk Books asked: "What if Robert Frost wrote about food?"
Renowned "for her words, both in books and in song," Patti Smith "recently purchased the reconstructed home of the French poet Arthur Rimbaud, Architectural Digest reported.
Bustle suggested "8 easy ways to get more reading done in 2017."
Montreal's Harry Potter theme bar "is finally open and it's freaking magical!!!" MTL Blog noted.
Children's Books for Easter
Nothing says Easter like eggs, lambs and bunnies, and there are eggs, lambs and bunnies galore in these pastel-toned picture books, our top picks for nestling into an Easter basket alongside the jelly beans and chocolate rabbits.
We're Going on an Egg Hunt (Bloomsbury, $17.99, hardcover, 24p., ages 3-6, 9781681193144, February 14, 2017) is British illustrator Laura Hughes's lift-the-flap Easter version of the classic camp song about a bear hunt. In this case, basket-, bucket- and net-carrying bunnies search for colorful eggs, overcoming all obstacles: "Oh, no--LAMBS!/ Can't go over them./ Can't go under them./ Can't go around them./ Got to go through them...." The excitement of Easter egg hunting intensifies when young readers find a big, scary surprise behind a huge, beautiful egg. Retreat! "Back through the ducks. Quack! Quack! Quack! Back through the bees. Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!" Just like the original bear hunt, all's well that ends well in this delightful interactive picture book, destined to become an Easter tradition.
Graceful Flora from Flora and the Peacocks and Flora and the Penguin is back! This time, in Molly Idle's counting book Flora and the Chicks (Chronicle, $9.99, board book, 20p., ages 2-4, 9781452146577, March 7, 2017), she's juggling--almost literally at times--a clutch of hatching chicks while mama hen is away from the nest. One through 10, the chicks emerge from their eggs in shades of lemon yellow, tangerine and chocolate brown. Flora, in red overalls and yellow flowered kerchief, can barely keep up with the ever-more-lively hatchlings as they play in a bowl and wrestle a worm out of the ground. (Sharp-eyed readers will follow the worm's adventure from ground to beak and, sneakily, back into the ground again.) Gatefolds on alternating spreads give this charming board book extra airiness and space.
In Bunny's Book Club (Doubleday, $17.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 3-7, 9780553537581, February 7, 2017), Annie Silvestro's debut picture book, adorably illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss, a little brown rabbit is unable to resist the call of literature. Bunny thinks books are "better than a field full of fresh, crunchy carrots." After listening in to summer story time outside the library, Bunny needs to come up with another plan to access his beloved books when story time moves indoors with the start of cooler weather. The library is locked up at night, but that book return slot just might be his ticket in. Soon, Bunny is basking in books again. His friends--porcupine, raccoon, mole, bear--fall for reading, too. What happens when they finally get caught breaking in to the library will make readers of all ages smile.
Themes of tolerance, patience, differences, transformation and the passage of time imbue Caldecott Honor artist Kevin Henkes's 50th published children's book, Egg (Greenwillow/HarperCollins, $17.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 4-8, 9780062408723, January 3, 2017), with lofty meaning given its seemingly simple text and artwork. To start, four pastel-colored eggs sit in four quadrants of a grid, each labeled "egg." On the facing page, something starts to happen to the pink, yellow and blue eggs: "crack/ crack/ crack/"... but the green one is quiet, and still labeled "egg." Next, birds hatch out of the pink, yellow and blue eggs: "surprise!/ surprise!/ surprise!" The green one remains still. But the biggest surprise is still to come when the green egg finally cracks open. As in Waiting, Henkes focuses on the small, significant things in the most unexpected ways, keeping readers happy and rapt.
"How will I know when spring is coming?" a young girl asks her parents in Spring for Sophie (Paula Wiseman/S&S, $17.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 4-8, 9781481451345, February 21, 2017), Yael Werber's debut picture book, illustrated by Jen Hill (Percy and TumTum). Sophie's thoughtful parents tell her to listen for the birds, to feel for the softening of the ground with her feet, to watch for the snow to melt and to smell for the scent of earth and rain. When the rain finally falls, she runs out to catch it on her tongue. "Now I know spring is here!" she says. "Because this is what spring tastes like!" The quiet, almost lyrical exchanges between Sophie and her parents as they sit in front of a crackling fire or don their boots for a walk in the woods are reinforced by Hill's exquisite gouache paintings of a rural New England landscape. Simply lovely.
When Kack Kack the duck lays an egg, her best friend, a frog named Bently, is underwhelmed. "It's just an egg," he thinks. But he reluctantly agrees to egg-sit when Kack Kack goes to visit her sister. He remains indifferent until he gets the notion to paint the plain white egg in splendid designs. "Now, this is an egg a frog could get attached to," Bently says. Unfortunately, at that moment, a boy nabs the lovely egg, believing the Easter Bunny has left it. Thus begins a wild duck egg chase that takes Bently through woods and into a house and up in a balloon. With its slapstick humor and elegant language, Bently & Egg (Atheneum/S&S, $17.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 4-8, 9781481489492, April 4, 2017) is a celebration of loyalty by the inimitable William Joyce (The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore). --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor
by Diego Zúñiga , trans. by Megan McDowell
Chilean journalist Diego Zúñiga, winner of the Chilean National Book Award, has the enviable ability to use a minimalist, fragmented format and still articulate a depth of discomfort and sorrow that might ordinarily take hundreds more pages. In Camanchaca, Zúñiga shares the dysfunctional history of his unnamed narrator, a 20-year-old man-child, during a desert road trip with the father who abandoned him 16 years previously to start a new family in another town.
Left in semi-squalor with his clinging, unemployed mother, the young soccer fan practiced interviews for the sports radio show he dreamt of. One day his mother asked why he didn't interview her. "That was the start of the interviews. That was the start of the stories."
Camanchaca alternates between snippets of tales the narrator's mother told him while lying in their common bed at night and their impact on the present-day journey with his garrulous, oblivious father. The young man struggles with his habitual isolation, yearning to take off his headphones and confront the family's secrets.
Each page in this slim volume is mere paragraphs, sometimes sprinkled with lean dialogue, rarely approaching the bottom of the pages. Yet the tidy parcels pack jolts of emotion as Zúñiga discloses the foundation of the burdens the young narrator has carried through his life, every page another piece of the sad, damaged puzzle. As powerful as it is spare, Camanchaca is a raw trip through an emotional wasteland. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review
Discover: A young man tries to confront his family's past on a cross-desert trip with his absentee father.
by Dan Chaon
At one point in Dan Chaon's novel Ill Will, his protagonist, Dustin Tillman, alludes to a phenomenon known as scopaesthesia, "the prickle on the back of your neck when you sense that someone you can't see is looking at you." Whether or not there's a scientific basis for that sensation, you may well experience it as you read this murder mystery that's also a chilling investigation of the fallibility of memory and the damage inflicted by family secrets.
Chaon (You Remind Me of Me) relies on a nonlinear narrative. The story moves from the near present in Cleveland, Ohio, where Dustin works as a psychologist in private practice, back to a terrifying night in June 1983, when his parents, aunt and uncle are murdered in a small Nebraska town on the eve of a family vacation. Thirteen-year-old Dustin's testimony is instrumental in convicting his adopted older brother, Rusty, but after nearly 30 years in prison Rusty is freed by DNA evidence. His release coincides with the appearance in Dustin's office of Aqil Ozorowski, a suspended police officer who's convinced he's tracking a serial killer preying on inebriated male college students in the area.
Employing several narrative voices, Chaon faithfully carries out his responsibility to keep the mystery plots--who killed Dustin's family members and whether the contemporary serial killer is real or a creature conjured out of his patient's imagination--simmering in a pressure cooker of suspense and emotion. Complex and evocative, Ill Will successfully slips over the wall some would erect between literary fiction and the mystery genre. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer
Discover: Dan Chaon's third novel is both a chilling murder mystery and an exploration of the pain inflicted by long-buried family secrets.
The Roanoke Girls
by Amy Engel
Lane Roanoke is only 15 when her mother kills herself, and Lane must go live with relatives she never knew she had, in a small town in Kansas. Cousin Allegra is six months her junior, vibrant and mercurial, with the same dark hair and willowy frame as Lane; grandparents Lillian and Yates welcome her into their home as one of their own. There she sees a wall of pictures of the "Roanoke Girls," aunts and cousins and even Lane's own mother, preserved through time in aging photos hung in the big farmhouse. Allegra is quick to inform Lane about the dark side of the wall: all of the women are gone. "Roanoke girls never last long around here," she tells Lane. "In the end, we either run or we die."
This proves true for Lane, who stays only a short time at Roanoke before fleeing, leaving Allegra behind. Eleven years later, she's drawn back to the farm when her grandfather calls to tell her Allegra has gone missing. From this strange and twisted set-up, The Roanoke Girls shifts backward and forward in time, alternating between tales of Lane's teenage summer in Roanoke and her re-entry into her family's insular and disturbing world as an adult. As the story of the Roanokes unfolds, their many, many secrets are slowly revealed.
Though Amy Engel's novel is dark, it is not overly bleak. Its sense of humanity elevates The Roanoke Girls beyond mere mystery, mere suspense, mere story of dysfunction, morphing into a compelling story of psychological suspense that is relentless. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm
Discover: The Roanoke Girls is the story of a family and its dark history, and the power that history holds.
by Phillip Lewis
Set in the fictional North Carolina mountain town of Old Buckram, The Barrowfields is a stunning debut novel rich in character and place, steeped in literature and music, and fraught with family drama. Raised in an old mountaintop mansion by his eccentric book collector/unpublished writer/lawyer father and supportive but overwhelmed mother, Henry Aster Jr. narrates the story from his perspective as a new lawyer. He left Old Buckram for college in Connecticut and law school in Chapel Hill, but could never quite shake his father's influence.
Impressing his young son, Henry Sr. would glibly quote favorite passages from Poe, Wolfe, Camus, Styron and many others from his 10,000-volume library. So when he walked out on his family and never returned, Henry Jr. was devastated. Comfort comes hard to Henry, who consumes alcohol with abandon as his father did. Spinning his wheels as a lawyer with no particular alternative, he returns to the "moribund town of no earthly consequence in the persistent autumn of its bleak existence," to the abandoned Old Buckram mansion to confront the ghost of his father and seek relief from the "hateful bitterness inside me... from my inability to understand him and his indifference to my inability to understand him."
Born in the Carolina Appalachians and now a litigator in Charlotte, Phillip Lewis knows the idiosyncrasies of small mountain towns. With clear echoes of Poe and Wolfe, The Barrowfields examines Henry's difficult relationship with his father--a frayed bond that he finally accepts with the understanding that Henry Sr. "was only a man, who... had dreams that exceeded him." Lewis has put Old Buckram firmly on the map. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.
Discover: Phillip Lewis captures the idiosyncrasies of small-town mountain life in an accomplished first novel.
Mystery & Thriller
Never Let You Go
by Chevy Stevens
Lindsey is 19 years old when she falls for charming Andrew Nash. Over the years of their marriage, Andrew becomes controlling, isolating Lindsey from those who love her, convincing her that she is the cause of his problems, making her doubt her own strength and threatening her with violence.
Eleven years later, Lindsey and her daughter, Sophie, are living a quiet and independent life in the small town. Andrew has been in jail, caught driving drunk after he hit--and killed--another woman and publicly threatened to kill Lindsey. She now feels relatively safe and has built a housecleaning business to support her small family.
But now Andrew's been released, and while cleaning a client's house, Lindsey finds a window left open and becomes distinctly aware of another presence in the residence with her. Her mind immediately goes to Andrew: "He's going to make me pay for every year he spent behind bars."
The shock of fear that this first encounter sends through Lindsey radiates off the page and lingers throughout the rest of Never Let You Go, the sixth novel from Chevy Stevens (That Night). Lindsey runs into Andrew in the bank parking lot; she finds her e-mails marked as read before she's seen them. The action is subtle and marks a new direction for Chevy Stevens, whose early works featured a dark and twisted kind of violence. But that's not to suggest that the more reserved terror of Never Let You Go is at all a disappointment; instead, the hooks that sink in from page one and dig ever deeper, through to a thrilling and unanticipated end, are all the more frightening for their invisibility. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm
Discover: The terror of a woman's past comes crashing into her present, with thrills of the unexpected from start to finish.
Science Fiction & Fantasy
by Ada Palmer
Ada Palmer's Terra Ignota series, begun last year with Too Like the Lightning and continued now in Seven Surrenders, explores a future society where gender is assigned by behavior--not biological sex. Humans claim allegiance to one of seven ideological Hives, and no one alive has seen, let alone been a part of, war.
The first installment in the series took great pains to build the future society through the eyes of Mycroft Canner, a reformed serial killer who serves as a genius-level social and cultural attaché to global leaders for the duration of his sentence. Many mysteries posed in Lightning are resolved here, and to good effect.
But conflict is on the horizon, set in motion by a family intent on giving humanity release from political pressures that have been building in these years of peace. Though Canner has assassinated several of its members, he and his betters soon learn how wrong they've been in their work to forestall the devastating global war that looms ahead. The fate of Canner's miraculous young charge from the first novel also ties into the larger picture in a wholly unexpected way.
Palmer, a professor of history at the University of Chicago, fills every plot twist, paragraph and soliloquy with deep knowledge of classical and modern history. With deft skill, she also uses Seven Surrenders to set up the following volume with disastrous (yet fascinating) possibilities, giving readers much to look forward to. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor
Discover: Humanity's baser instincts rise to the surface in this swirling, complex volume in a series about a future utopia.
The Best We Could Do
by Thi Bui
Thi Bui's illustrated memoir begins with the author giving birth to her first child, after which "a wave of empathy for my mother washes over me," for Bui's mother gave birth six times, sometimes in harrowing situations.
One of those births--Bui's younger brother's--occurred in a refugee camp in Malaysia. Bui and her family are Vietnam War refugees, boat people who arrived in the U.S. in 1978, when the author was three years old. The Best We Could Do started as an oral history project for Bui "to understand the forces that caused my family... to flee one country and start over in another." The result is much grander in scope: a moving, visually stimulating account of the author's personal story and an insightful look at the refugee experience, juxtaposed against Vietnam's turbulent history.
Bui's decision to render her life story in comics is inspired, making this attractive for a range of readers: young ones who might not be interested otherwise in events that happened long ago in a country far, far away, as well as those who witnessed those times and will recognize the truth in Bui's work. Though her research is meticulous, Bui makes complex historical events easy to understand. The artwork is simple and haunting, stripped down yet evocative while depicting the burdens of war the Bui family carried. Bui's restraint in illustrating horrific scenes gives them emotional heft, leaving readers to fill in what she doesn't have to show. Bui's sad story ends on an optimistic note--the best outcome we can hope for. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, blogger at Pop Culture Nerd
Discover: A Vietnam War refugee tells the story of her family, the one she was born into and the one she creates.
Biography & Memoir
Shoot Like a Girl: One Woman's Dramatic Fight in Afghanistan and on the Home Front
by Mary Jennings Hegar
In 2012, former Air National Guard pilot and Purple Heart recipient Mary Jennings Hegar joined forces with the ACLU to challenge successfully the ban that kept American women out of ground combat units. In her memoir, Shoot Like a Girl: One Woman's Dramatic Fight in Afghanistan and on the Home Front, Hegar tells the story of the career that led her to that point.
Hegar's love for flying, her commitment to her job and her bonds with other servicepeople are vivid on every page. The incident for which she received the Purple Heart--when her helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan with wounded men aboard--is a gripping story, told with skill. But Hegar's focus is the institutional and individual sexism that she had to overcome at every stage of her career.
Writing in a matter-of-fact, conversational style, Hegar details acts of casual prejudice that will feel familiar to any woman who has worked in a male-dominated field. She also recounts more harrowing experiences that include hazing and one horrifying instance of sexual assault by an army doctor during an exam--made worse by fact that his superiors took immediate action to protect him from punishment. Hegar shares feelings of betrayal, isolation and anger. She admits to tears on more than one occasion. But her strongest response is a desire to prove that everyone who told her women shouldn't be military pilots was wrong.
Shoot Like a Girl will appeal to anyone who was ever told, "Girls can't do that." --Pamela Toler, blogging at History in the Margins
Discover: Retired Major Mary Jennings Hagar explains why "you shoot like a girl" is a compliment.
Essays & Criticism
South and West: From a Notebook
by Joan Didion
In 1970, Joan Didion traveled through the Deep South for a piece she was writing. "I had only some dim and unformed sense... which I could not explain coherently, that for some years the South and particularly the Gulf Coast had been for America what people were still saying California was."
South and West is culled from the notebooks she kept on that trip. Also included are 14 pages from a 1974 journal, when Didion returned to California to cover the Patty Hearst trial with the ulterior motive of writing about the state. Neither piece was ever completed.
Didion's style always seems effortless. In South and West, we see the effort. This is a study in the process of writing. Her prose, even in draft form, is remarkable. She constructs paragraphs with the precision of a journalist and the ear of a poet. Known for her restraint, Didion works into her prose a filigree that can be breathtaking, as in the first sentence: "In New Orleans in June the air is heavy with sex and death, not violent death but death by decay, overripeness, rotting, death by drowning, suffocation, fever of unknown etiology."
Didion offers her shrewd, deadpan observations of a decayed South (in a Biloxi motel, "the swimming pool is large and unkempt, and the water smells of fish"). It is not a kind portrayal, and indeed is an outsider's view of the South. This is writing by antithesis; it paints the West in negative. --Zak Nelson, writer and bookseller
Discover: Joan Didion's notebooks offer a rare glimpse at a famed writer struggling with her subject, luminous and instructive even when she fails.
To Be a Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problems of Death
by Mark O'Connell
Columnist Mark O'Connell takes a critical look at transhumanism, the belief that the human race can evolve beyond its current physical and mental limitations with the help of science and technology. Using futurist Ray Kurzweil's theories on the technological singularity--the merger of man with machine--as a launching point, O'Connell crisscrosses the United States in search of the philosophers, scientists, researchers, venture capitalists and opportunists attempting to arrest aging and create a "more efficient, more powerful, more useful" version of humanity.
In Scottsdale, Ariz., he investigates the feasibility of reanimating cryogenically frozen brains in new bodies, equating such efforts to a "Hail Mary pass into the end zone of the future." He questions Randal Koene's attempts to code human consciousness into machines, and finds hilarity in the awkward creations of cyborg technologists in Pomona, Calif., who hope to impress upon the Department of Defense the benefits of employing automatons in war. O'Connell even hits the campaign trail--in a Wanderlodge painted to look like an oversized coffin--with Zoltan Istvan, the transhumanist presidential candidate who wants to draw attention to the cause.
This reliance on technology to correct human limitations fails to impress naysayers like Elon Musk, who worries about the risks and ethics regarding superhuman-level artificial intelligence, and sees AI as "our greatest existential threat." O'Connell acknowledges and addresses their concerns, while also highlighting the similarities between transhumanism and Gnosticism--both believe in the redemption of humanity through the liberation of the body. The irony of transhumanism as a replacement for religion is not lost on O'Connell, whose insights are profound and introspective, but told with humor and healthy doses of skepticism and wonder. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant
Discover: Mark O'Connell offers insight into transhumanism and its efforts to create a new version of humanity using science and technology.
Children's & Young Adult
The Lotterys Plus One
by Emma Donoghue , illust. by Caroline Hadilaksono
Sixteen years ago, a pregnant woman walking the hospital halls serendipitously found a winning lottery ticket, enabling her--and her three co-parents--to "buy a big house to fill with lots more kids." Six children later, the self-named Lotterys enjoy an idyllic life in the 32-room Victorian home in Toronto they call Camelottery.
The two moms-in-love are Jamaican MaxiMum and CardaMom, a Mohawk woman. The two devoted-to-each-other dads are Delhi-born PapaDum and PopCorn, who hails from far-north Yukon. Into the mélange of 11 humans and their furred-and-feathered companions arrives PopCorn's estranged octogenarian father, whose progressing dementia no longer allows him to live alone. The kids call him "Grumps," as he grumbles about their "weirdy commune," making clear that he doesn't like the family's food, the family's rules, maybe even the family itself.
Nine-year-old Sumac, the family's storyteller, tries hard to live up to her reputation as a "mature, helpful, rational being," but wonders if she's actually "the miner's canary--the first to notice how this old man's wrecking everything?" Somehow, Sumac must figure out how to prevent the fall of Camelottery--and quickly!
Irish-born, Canadian-domiciled writer Emma Donoghue (Room; The Wonder) makes her middle-grade debut with this first installment of a series-in-the-works. Beyond the initially fairytale-perfect premise, Donoghue mixes realistic challenges and convincing solutions into the Lotterys' lives. Indonesian-born, New York-residing illustrator Caroline Hadilaksono adds further multiculti whimsy throughout. In words and in pictures, author and artist capture a family learning to accommodate growing pains, as "plus one" develops into a well-balanced, full dozen. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon
Discover: Bestselling adult author Emma Donoghue (Room) makes her middle-grade debut with this warm, witty story of a multiculti, four-parent family that takes in a grumpy grandfather.
Short Stories for Little Monsters
by Marie-Louise Gay
In 19 laugh-out-loud stories, Marie-Louise Gay (Princess Pistachio; Stella and Sam series) takes a look at what goes through the incredible minds of children (and worms and cats...). The perfect first "chapter" (each chapter is a single two-page spread, often with panels and speech bubbles, à la graphic novels) sets the stage for the glorious stories to come. A girl begs to tell her impatient older brother what she sees when she closes her eyes. When he finally sighs and tells her to go ahead, she lets loose with a fantastical wordless scene of pink polka-dotted elephants, giant birds and trees made out of clocks. "Hurry up! We're late," says her brother, but the girl is blissfully oblivious. Subsequent chapters reveal the inside of a snail's shell when one snail comes calling on another: a cozy home with armchairs, pots of tea, throw rugs, bookshelves and pleasant conversation. In Zombie Mom, a pair of siblings discover the terrible truth: that mothers can see through ceilings when mischief is happening. And in What Do Trees Talk About?, readers are treated to a forest full of griping ("Yuck! My skin is so dry and white. It feels like paper!"), giggling ("[The bunnies are] tickling me again!"), gossiping ("Orange hair!! What next?") trees.
Gay is masterful in her ability to climb into the imaginary worlds of children. Part Calvin and Hobbes, part Far Side, Short Stories for Little Monsters is elevated to a higher plane by her lovely watercolor and collage cartoon-style illustrations. Every story is quirky, beautiful, funny and true. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor
Discover: A collection of 19 unlinked cartoon-style stories by Marie-Louise Gay celebrates childhood imagination in all its hilarious, wacky, exquisite glory.