March 6, 2014 by Reader's Connection
Reporting in from 9 states around the country, librarians have picked 10 favorites from among the books being published in March. (Illinois picked 2 this month.)
Cheryl Holtsclaw (West Indianapolis Branch) picked an Owen Laukkanen novel last October, so she’ll be glad to see that Laukkanen’s newest has made it onto LibraryReads.
The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh
The Dane family has been keeping secrets in the Ozark town of Henbane for years. An outsider steals the heart of one of the Dane brothers, and the secrets threaten to unravel. When sixteen-year-old Lucy’s friend is found murdered after being missing for a year, Lucy begins to ask questions–the answers to which may destroy her family. Atmospheric and visceral, McHugh’s story is vividly and effectively told. — Jennifer Winberry, Hunterdon County Library, Flemington, NJ
The Accident by Chris Pavone
Kudos to Pavone for coming through with another captivating international suspense novel. How ironic that I couldn’t put down a book about Isabel, a literary agent who stays up all night to finish an unsolicited manuscript that’s so explosive, some will kill to keep it from being published. During the 24 hours that Isabel is on the run, readers will be on the edge of their seats. Be prepared to lose some sleep! — Paulette Brooks, Elm Grove Public Library, Elm Grove, WI
The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger
When Sophie, a loveable 29-year-old lawyer, gets roped into working on a divorce case, her life takes an unexpected turn. Though this gives her a new perspective on life, it also forces her to confront some unresolved childhood issues. Except for a few tearful, poignant moments, I had a smile on my face for the entire book. Engaging and humorous, this debut epistolary novel has become a favorite read. — Jennifer Asimakopoulos, Indian Prairie Public Library, Darien, IL
The Outcast Dead by Elly Griffiths
After the bones of the notorious Mother Hook are possibly uncovered in Norfolk, forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway finds herself on TV. Was Mother Hook truly guilty of child murder? This is just one strand in a mystery that revolves around children and the people who care for them. One of the most addictive mystery series being written today. — Janet Lockhart, Wake County Public Libraries, Cary, NC
Panic by Lauren Oliver
A deadly high-stakes game of Panic takes place in modern-day small town America, and Oliver does a wonderful job making all of it seem real. I loved that the book didn’t take place in a post-apocalyptic future like so many titles do nowadays. Oliver is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next! — Carol Brumfield, Timberland Regional Library, Tumwater, WA
A Circle of Wives by Alice LaPlante
When prominent plastic surgeon Dr. John Taylor is found dead, the police investigation uncovers his secret polygamous life. As the narration alternates between Taylor’s three wives and a young female detective, the story explores the characters’ motivations and relationships. Part psychological thriller and part literary mystery, the end result is wholly captivating reading. — Melissa DeWild, Kent District Library, Comstock Park, MI
Gemini by Carol Cassella
After an unidentified hit-and-run victim is received in ICU, Dr. Charlotte Reese struggles to keep her alive, questioning how far medical technology should go to do so. Meanwhile, in an alternate story, teens Bo and Raney explore their budding friendship and attraction. Book groups will devour this compulsively readable novel with thought-provoking themes. Perfect for readers of Jodi Picoult and Chris Bohjalian. — Robin Beerbower, Salem Public Library, Salem, OR
Precious Thing by Colette McBeth
Clara and Rachel have been friends since high school. Life has intervened and they’ve grown apart, so when Clara invites Rachel for drinks to catch up, it’s a chance to reconnect. But before that can happen, Rachel is called to cover a missing girl story, and the missing girl is Clara. Was she abducted, murdered or did she simply leave on her own? In the vein of Gone Girl and The Husband’s Secret, this is a fast read that is sure to entertain. — Robin Nesbitt, Columbus Metropolitan Library, Columbus, OH
Kill Fee: A Stevens and Windermere Novel by Owen Laukkanen
In the third book in this series, Carla Windermere and Kirk Stevens find themselves reunited when people around the country seem to be dying from contract hits. Young war veterans, under the influence of a mysterious man, are turning into emotionless killers. Stevens and Windermere try piecing together who’s behind the crimes, but keep falling one step behind. Reminiscent of Thomas Perry’s novels, and fast-paced. — Lora Bruggeman, Indian Prairie Public Library, Darien, IL
Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered by Austin Kleon (The title is somewhat different in our catalog, but that may change when the book is received and fully cataloged.)
Show Your Work! is a wonderful follow-up to Austin Kleon’s first book, Steal Like an Artist. Utilizing the same fun, graphic novel-ish type of format, Kleon gives practical recommendations about using the Internet and social media to create a community. I particularly appreciate his advice to concentrate on process, not on product, and the rest will follow. A must-read for anyone involved in the creative process. — Rebekka Hanson, Madison Library District, Rexburg, ID
March 3, 2014 by Reader's Connection
I know it may not look like it, but SPRING is at hand! Baseball teams have reported to Arizona and Florida, so Spring Training is underway, at least. And after the winter we’ve had, I’ll take any sign of Spring the universe will throw my way. But, to be honest, this is my favorite sign of Spring. The new season is full of possibilities. There are no wins and, most importantly, there are NO LOSSES. Cactus or Grapefruit refers to which league a team is in for Spring Training. Cactus league is in Arizona, and Grapefruit is in Florida. You can see the history of the leagues (and the stadiums) in the Spring Training Handbook or, for the most up to date information, Spring Training Online.
There are shelves and shelves of baseball books covering everything from the official rules to your favorite teams, players and games. But, the truly beautiful books belong to the stadiums.
America’s Classic Ballparks : A Collection of Images and Memorabilia
This one starts with the (not at all) famous William Cammeyer, who turned his Brooklyn ice rink into a summertime baseball field, and covers a variety of famous parks, ending with the closing of Yankee Stadium in 2008. There are plenty of pictures, trivia, and even some reproductions of programs and tickets from some special games. My favorite factoid from this book (besides the introduction of Mr. Cammeyer) is the fact that the first home run hit in Wrigley field….was by a Cincinnati Reds player Johnny Beall on April 22, 1916. The Cubs would win their first game there on April 26, 1916. Don’t blame the goat.
Fenway Park at 100 (Also known as 100 Years of Fenway Park)
2012 was the 100th anniversary of Boston’s Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox. This book covers the history of the park, of course, but focuses a lot on the modern day history. There are pictures of every aspect of the park, with a variety of famous faces (check out a young looking Ben Affleck on pg. 64) and the park under a variety of conditions (check out the stadium seats covered in ice and snow on pg. 65) If you’re a fan of the Red Sox, or of Boston, this is the book for you.
Pick a ballpark, any ballpark! This book covers the gamut, including our own hometown Victory Field. This is a great book if you’re interested in parks big and small, past and present. In fact, I learned some Indianapolis history from this book. There is a picture of the 1888 Indianapolis Hoosiers (pg. 38) and the index mentions numerous parks where baseball was played around the city. Athletic/Tinker Park (Seventh Street and Tennessee Avenue), Bruce Park (23rd and College Avenue) and many more. Unexpected local history in a book of ballparks old and new.
If you have a thing for pinstripes, New York Yankees Then & Now will give you the pictorial history of the Bronx Bombers. Dozens (Hundreds? Thousands?) of books have been written about the Yankees, but with chapters on Historic coaches, Celebrity fans, wives and girlfriends, female fans and, of course Yankee Stadium, you’ll get a great snapshot of what makes the team so famous. Trivia: the book speculates a lot about why the team, officially, adopted the name ‘Yankees’ in 1913. Was it because the crowd used to see ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’? Because ‘Highlanders’ or ‘New York Americans’ weren’t popular with sportswriters? Because the term ‘Yankees’ was already unofficially used to describe the team in the press and popular with the fans? Whatever the reason, the name was officially changed and the rest is history.
It’s only as complete as it’s copyright date, of course, but if you’re looking for a book that details the history of the parks you know and love, this is that book. Beautiful color pictures of the historic stadiums still hosting baseball (Wrigley Field, Fenway Park) to historic parks that were famously upgraded (Comiskey Park to U.S. Cellular Field, or Tiger Stadium to Comerica Park) to brand new facilities. It gives a little history of each club, and interesting changes either in wardrobe, cap style, and famous games. It has a little bit of everything for the general baseball fan.
I appreciate Spring for the end of snow. I love it for the beginning of baseball!
–Selector Robin Bradford
February 28, 2014 by Reader's Connection
Due to impending horrible weather, Franklin Road’s book discussion, scheduled for Monday, March 3rd, has been postponed. The discussion of No Pulling Back: Tale of a Fighter Dog, with author Ruth Hanley in attendance, will be rescheduled.
“Love” is a late valentine for you. ”The days are getting longer” is an example of what the jacket cover means when it says that in Hicok’s poems “the rules of mourning are broken and salvaged.”
I’m sorry for the crude dry-walling I’ve done with this first poem. Couldn’t get the blogging software to behave poetically.
The days are getting longer
The birds I feed seed every morning
never thank me, and I tell on them
to my mother, who I assume
raised them and everything
from pups. She’s begun to forget
why my voice shows up in her ear
each week, let alone
what the real name of the ruby-
throated-whatsit is, it’s hard
to help the dead be dead
before they are. Mourning
doves, cardinals, chickadees
strip the cupboard bare
in a matter of hours,
as tiny guillotines cut each leaf
from every tree, the leaves
fall orange & brown, a muted rainbow
arting-up the forgiveness
of October air, which smells naked,
new, and accepts the shape
of everything in its mouth. She asked
the other day how my day was,
I told her, she asked again,
as if I hadn’t answered
or slept in the rumpus-room
of her womb. Do you ever look
at a crust of bread and wonder
if that’s God, if the quiet
that lives there is the same hush
we become? I never do too,
but is it, and why are we dragging
these anvils behind us?
February 26, 2014 by Reader's Connection
Of the many things I didn’t know about the War of 1812, this may be the most important: It gave slaves in the Chesapeake Bay area a chance to reunite their families.
In July 1813 a twenty-one-year-old slave named Benjamin escaped from his master in Calvert County. A few days later the runaway guided a British attachment to a different farm, to retrieve his wife, Cecelia, so that they could reunite in freedom. Similarly, Joe Lane fled from his master in Northumberland County, Virginia, and went to the British, who then helped him retrieve his wife, Barbara, and their three children, from another owner in the county. In October 1814 in the same county, Sall escaped with three of her children from the farm of Robert Forester. Then she led a British officer to another farm forcibly to retrieve her two daughters who had been sold to a different owner.
By traveling at night, slaves had maintained ties with spouses and children on other farms in the neighborhood, constituting a community across multiple white-owned properties.
That’s from Alan Taylor’s The Internal Enemy : Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832, which was nominated for the 2013 National Book Award. It covers the American Revolution and runs through Nat Turner’s 1831 rebellion, but focuses for the most part on the War of 1812.
I’ve requested Taylor’s 2010 book The Civil War of 1812 : American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies, and look forward to reading about the invasion of Canada by the not-really-very-United States. But there’s no need to read these books in the order they were written, and I’m glad to have read The Internal Enemy during African-American History Month.
Taylor thinks that at least 5,000 slaves escaped from the United States during the war. 2,400 of them escaped from the Chesapeake area. This was a small number, compared with the total number of slaves in Virginia, but
the importance of the wartime escapes lay primarily in the psychological and political overreactions provoked among the Virginians, who felt shocked by any surge in runaways as a dangerous slippery slope toward slave revolt. Despite their modest numbers, the wartime runaways terrified Virginians who dreaded slaves as their “internal enemy.”
And to give credit where it’s due, some of the runaways were organized into a special British unit called “Colonial Marines,” and they fought bravely. In any case, freedom was of titanic importance to those who escaped, whatever their number. We see this after the war, when, for example, the British don’t keep all the promises they’ve made to the runaways who end up in Nova Scotia.
Although most remained poor, they were still better off free in Nova Scotia than as slaves in America. In their new homes, they had restored the family ties that had been their prime goal in escaping from slavery . . . Despite their mistreatment in Nova Scotia, they could live without fear that a master’s death, debt, or whim would sell someone precious far away never to be seen again.
This is a moving, fascinating book, full of info that was new to me. Check out pages 256-259. I was thinking all backwards about “slave names.” (“No act of submission, taking a master’s surname was instead as defiant as taking his pig at night.”)
February 24, 2014 by Reader's Connection
Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks was going to be discussed in January at Central Library , but snow and arctic cold shut the library down. The event was rescheduled for February, but that date, too, became meteorologically hazardous.
These people are so musical! They have discussed books about Shostakovich and the premiere of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps.
Now (I feel really good about this) on Tuesday, March 4th at 6:00 p.m., Musicophilia will be discussed at Central.
Here, I’ve come up with a different review than the one I’ve been using:
Avid readers of Sacks’s other work will delight in this treatment of the neurology of music. Those in the fields of psychology and physiology have written books about music’s effect on the brain, but none of those works is as readable, and few are as insightful, as this one. Sacks argues that human neurology is designed for music in the same way it is designed for language. Until quite recently, scientists learned about the normal human brain primarily by studying brains gone awry. Sacks acknowledges that technological innovations will reveal much about the brain, but he believes that case histories are equally legitimate sources of information. The case histories included here include a man who could remember nothing but music for more than seconds, a man struck by lightning who took up the piano, and a woman plagued by musical hallucinations. Sacks also includes general examinations of intriguing topics–absolute pitch, synaesthesia, amusia, music “stuck” in one’s head. But the book’s best quality is Sacks’s clear, probing, yet compassionate writing. He demonstrates how understanding human engagement with music can help one understand the meaning of being human. — Choice
In my excitement, I’ve gotten ahead of myself. There’s a book discussion before Central’s.
Candice Millard’s Destiny of the Republic : A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President will be discussed at the Wayne Library on Monday, March 3rd at 6:30 p.m.
James Abram Garfield was one of the most extraordinary men ever elected president. Born into abject poverty, he rose to become a wunderkind scholar, a Civil War hero, a renowned congressman, and a reluctant presidential candidate who took on the nation’s corrupt political establishment. But four months after Garfield’s inauguration in 1881, he was shot in the back by a deranged office-seeker named Charles Guiteau. Garfield survived the attack, but become the object of bitter, behind-the-scenes struggles for power–over his administration, over the nation’s future, and, hauntingly, over his medical care. Meticulously researched, epic in scope, and pulsating with an intimate human focus and high-velocity narrative drive, The Destiny of the Republic brings alive a forgotten chapter of U.S. history. — Publisher’s note
Rod Dreher’s The Little Way of Ruthie Leming: A Southern Girl, a Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life will be discussed at the Warren Library on Thursday, March 6th, at 10:30 a.m.
Dreher and his sister, Ruthie, had always been different. While he chafed at their small town of St. Francisville, Louisiana, she was deeply at home and settled. His journalism career took him to New York and Washington, D.C., while she taught school and raised a family with her childhood sweetheart, staying close to the homestead their parents had made. She also stayed close to the rituals, traditions, and spirituality that knit family and community, a closeness and spirituality that fortified Ruthie when she was diagnosed with a virulent cancer. Watching his sister’s grace and the kindness of family, friends, and neighbors, Dreher pondered what he’d been missing in his own life and how he might achieve the sense of peace and connection at the center of Ruthie’s life. He goes deeper, in search of the reason for the abiding tension in their otherwise loving relationship and for the balance in his own family life that ultimately leads him back to the hometown he once fled. Dreher offers a hard-eyed self-examination and a loving, but complex, portrait of filial love. — Booklist
The Shared Reading Group at Spades Park Library is reading short stories at the moment. Drop in any Friday–March 7th, 14th, 21st or 28th–from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m., and read aloud. Or, if you prefer, listen to others do so.
Facilitator Anja Saak has chosen the following stories for March or late February:
Bernard Malamud: “The Jewbird”
Samuel Beckett: “First Love”
Frank 0′Connor: “First Confession”
Nathaniel Hawthorne: “The Gray Champion”
Refreshments are served.
The Shared Reading Group is not to be confused with the Spades Park Book Discussion. (See below, March 26th.)
Oh, no! The Duncans are returning to Flanner House! Carl Weber’s The Family Business was discussed at the Flanner House Library in 2012, and now The Family Business 2, by Weber with Treasure Hernandez, will be discussed on Monday, March 10th at 6:00 p.m.
Check out the reviews at Goodreads.
O’Reilly and Dugard team up again with a comprehensive account of the John F. Kennedy administration and its untimely end. As with their previous work, this is quick, gossipy and sure to please Kennedy buffs . . . The authors cover the events of the three short years of the administration from the president’s dalliances to the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban missile crisis and the star power of the family. It’s a noteworthy picture of Kennedy’s transformation into a world leader and the outside influences that were used and discarded. O’Reilly and Dugard also expose Kennedy as a man who avoided unpleasant confrontations, using his brother to deal with contentious issues and express opinions that countered the general consensus of the cabinet. By paralleling the period with loner Lee Harvey Oswald’s desperate attempts at recognition and his fixation on communism, it’s easy to see how the assassin slipped under the radar . . . A quick-fire, easy-to-read account of the Kennedy years, with some salacious details to spice it up. — Kirkus Reviews
Sandy Tolan’s The Lemon Tree: An Arab, A Jew and the Heart of the Middle East will be discussed at the Fountain Square Library on Thursday, March 13th at 1:30 p.m.
Tolan focuses on one small stone house in Ramla–once an Arab community but now Jewish. Built in 1936 by an Arab family but acquired by a Jewish family after the Israelis captured the city in 1948, this simple stone house has anchored for decades the hopes of both its displaced former owners and its new Jewish occupants. With remarkable sensitivity to both families’ grievances, Tolan chronicles the unlikely chain of events that in 1967 brought a long-dispossessed Palestinian son to the threshold of his former home, where he unexpectedly finds himself being welcomed by the daughter of Bulgarian Jewish immigrants. Though that visit exposes bitterly opposed interpretations of the past, it opens a real–albeit painful–dialogue about possibilities for the future. As he establishes the context for that dialogue, Tolan frankly details the interethnic hostilities that have scarred both families. Yet he also allows readers to see the courage of families sincerely trying to understand their enemy. Only such courage has made possible the surprising conversion of the contested stone house into a kindergarten for Arab children and a center for Jewish-Arab coexistence. — Booklist
The Franklin Road Library discussion of Ruth Ann Hanley’s No Pulling Back: Tale of a Fighter Dog, scheduled for Monday, March 3rd, was postponed due to worries about the weather. The discussion, with the author in attendance, will take place on Monday, March 17th at 6:30 p.m.
Daemon is a trained fighter dog and is a favorite of the crowds who come to the Roman amphitheater to witness the bloody fights. He puts fear into every creature he meets until one day he turns against his handlers. After escaping his own upcoming execution, Daemon lives free and trails a man called “Jesus” until he finally meets him alone. – Publisher’s note
On Monday, March 17th at 6:30 p.m., readers from the Jordan YMCA will join with readers at the Nora Library to discuss Cheryl Strayed’s Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail.
Unsentimental memoir of the author’s three-month solo hike from California to Washington along the Pacific Crest Trail. Following the death of her mother, Strayed’s life quickly disintegrated. Family ties melted away; she divorced her husband and slipped into drug use. For the next four years life was a series of disappointments . . . While waiting in line at an outdoors store, Strayed read the back cover of a book about the Pacific Crest Trail. Initially, the idea of hiking the trail became a vague apparition, then a goal. Woefully underprepared for the wilderness, out of shape and carrying a ridiculously overweight pack, the author set out from the small California town of Mojave, toward a bridge (“the Bridge of the Gods”) crossing the Columbia River at the Oregon-Washington border. Strayed’s writing admirably conveys the rigors and rewards of long-distance hiking. Along the way she suffered aches, pains, loneliness, blistered, bloody feet and persistent hunger. Yet the author also discovered a newfound sense of awe; for her, hiking the PCT was “powerful and fundamental” and “truly hard and glorious.” Strayed was stunned by how the trail both shattered and sheltered her. Most of the hikers she met along the way were helpful, and she also encountered instances of trail magic, “the unexpected and sweet happenings that stand out in stark relief to the challenges of the trail.” A candid, inspiring narrative of the author’s brutal physical and psychological journey through a wilderness of despair to a renewed sense of self. — Kirkus Reviews
In Moyes’s disarmingly moving love story, Louisa Clark leads a routine existence: at 26, she’s dully content with her job at the cafe in her small English town and with Patrick, her boyfriend of six years. But when the cafe closes, a job caring for a recently paralyzed man offers Lou better pay and, despite her lack of experience, she’s hired. Lou’s charge, Will Traynor, suffered a spinal cord injury when hit by a motorcycle and his raw frustration with quadriplegia makes the job almost unbearable for Lou. Will is quick-witted and sardonic, a powerhouse of a man in his former life (motorcycles; sky diving; important career in global business). While the two engage in occasional banter, Lou at first stays on only for the sake of her family, who desperately needs the money. But when she discovers that Will intends to end his own life, Lou makes it her mission to persuade him that life is still worth living. In the process of planning “adventures” like trips to the horse track–some of which illuminate Lou’s own minor failings–Lou begins to understand the extent of Will’s isolation; meanwhile, Will introduces Lou to ideas outside of her small existence. The end result is a lovely novel, both nontraditional and enthralling. — Publishers Weekly
Former Elle editor Lee delivers a standout debut dealing with the rigors of love and survival during a time of war, and the consequences of choices made under duress. Claire Pendleton, newly married and arrived in Hong Kong in 1952, finds work giving piano lessons to the daughter of Melody and Victor Chen, a wealthy Chinese couple. While the girl is less than interested in music, the Chens’ flinty British expat driver, Will Truesdale, is certainly interested in Claire, and vice versa. Their fast-blossoming affair is juxtaposed against a plot line beginning in 1941 when Will gets swept up by the beautiful and tempestuous Trudy Liang, and then follows through his life during the Japanese occupation. As Claire and Will’s affair becomes common knowledge, so do the specifics of Will’s murky past, Trudy’s motivations and Victor’s role in past events. The rippling of past actions through to the present lends the narrative layers of intrigue and more than a few unexpected twists. Lee covers a little-known time in Chinese history without melodrama, and deconstructs without judgment the choices people make in order to live one more day under torturous circumstances. — Publishers Weekly
Bestseller Picoult takes on another contemporary hot-button issue in her brilliantly told new thriller, about a high school shooting. Peter Houghton, an alienated teen who has been bullied for years by the popular crowd, brings weapons to his high school in Sterling, N.H., one day and opens fire, killing 10 people. Flashbacks reveal how bullying caused Peter to retreat into a world of violent computer games. Alex Cormier, the judge assigned to Peter’s case, tries to maintain her objectivity as she struggles to understand her daughter, Josie, one of the surviving witnesses of the shooting. The author’s insights into her characters’ deep-seated emotions brings this ripped-from-the-headlines read chillingly alive. — Publishers Weekly
The Eastside Readers Youth Book Club is meeting at the East 38th Street Library to discuss Sharon Draper’s Hazelwood High Trilogy. They’ll discuss the trilogy’s second novel, Forged by Fire, on Tuesday, March 25th from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m.
Gerald Nickelby, a minor character in Tears of a Tiger, emerges full-fledged and courageous in this companion story. His stable life with a firm but loving aunt (who is caring for him while his mother serves a prison sentence for child neglect) is shattered when his mother returns to claim him on his ninth birthday. With her is a young daughter, Angel, to whom Gerald is drawn, and her husband, Jordan, whom Gerald instinctively dislikes. When Gerald learns that Jordan is sexually abusing Angel, he risks physical assault and public embarrassment to rescue her. Although written in a more conventional form than the earlier novel, the dialogue is still convincing, and the affection between Angel and Gerald rings true . . . Draper faces some big issues (abuse, death, drugs) and provides concrete options and a positive African American role model in Gerald. — Booklist
Death itself narrates this deeply affecting tale of “a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist fighter, and quite a lot of thievery.” It is 1939 when nine-year-old Liesel, on her way to a foster home in Molching, Germany, steals a book — the first she’s ever owned — from a graveyard. From then through 1943, her life is chronicled in books stolen (from Nazi book burnings; from the mayor’s wife), books given (by her foster parents, irascible Rosa and kindly Hans Hubermann; by Max Vandenburg, the Jew hiding in their basement), and books written (her own story, finished in that basement during a devastating air raid). As her relationships and beliefs deepen, Liesel grows into a tough, earnest heroine, convincingly ordinary yet with an extraordinary capacity for caring. The small, poor town of Molching proves an effective microcosm for exploring the double-edged dangers faced by everyday Germans, and Zusak’s gift for detail brings its streets and citizens richly to life. As a narrator, Death is startlingly, wrenchingly compassionate, struggling to turn away from the survivors left behind to live with “punctured hearts” and “beaten lungs” yet immeasurably moved by the tenderness they wring from despair . . . Exquisitely written and memorably populated, Zusak’s poignant tribute to words, survival, and their curiously inevitable entwinement is a tour de force to be not just read but inhabited. — Horn Book