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Hands Say Love

George Shannon, illus. by Taeeun Yoo. Little, Brown, $17 (32p) ISBN 978-0-316-08479-6

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Shannon's sturdy verse pairs with Yoo's warm, reassuring mixed-media images of family life to create a soothing readaloud. "Hands that do all they can do/ are also saying ‘I love you,' " writes Shannon (A Very Witchy Spelling Bee), a stanza that repeats as he follows a family that lives by the beach and is preparing to celebrate a birthday—which gives Yoo (Here Is the Baby) a chance to draw hands doing all kinds of things. After the birthday cake is made, two daughters help frost it, and then it's time to eat. As the father sits at the table holding the family's baby, the older daughter holds out whipped cream for him to taste, and while the parents string up lights on the porch, the older daughter wraps a stuffed rabbit for her younger sister: "Make a gift./ Help you lift./ Fold a hat./ Pet the cat." Strong rhythms, simple words, and clear pictures make this the kind of picture book that might end up being memorized. Up to age 3. Author's agent: Mary Cummings, Betsy Amster Literary Enterprises. Illustrator's agent: Holly McGhee, Pippin Properties. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 12/19/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Porter Searches for Santa

Jonathan I. Gonzales. N.B. 498 Press (www.porterpenguin.com), $16.95 (36p) ISBN 978-0-9960610-0-1

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In a Christmas story whose modeled clay artwork gives the scenes the feel of stills from a Claymation film, a penguin named Porter receives a letter from a child that was meant for Santa Claus. Porter is determined to discover who Santa is; the "penguin encyclopedia" is no help, but the grumpy yet wise penguin Old Rockhopper might know. Porter and his friend Franklin travel to Snowman Mountain, where Old Rockhopper, who looks rather like a gray tombstone wearing an eye patch, tells boring stories that cause the penguins to sleep through his descriptions of Santa. Finally, Porter's mother tells him about Santa, but as a flightless bird, Porter can't make it to the North Pole on his own. First-time author/illustrator Gonzales accents his images with charming details (such as the pearls Porter's mother wears and the silvery "fishsicles" Porter has for lunch), but the long-winded narrative proceeds slowly, and while much is made of the dangers of Porter's journey to Snowman Mountain and Old Rockhopper's temper, the artwork never gives a sense of significant peril. All ages. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 12/19/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Afterworlds

Scott Westerfeld, read by Heather Lind and Sheetal Seth. Simon & Schuster Audio, unabridged, 12 CDs, 14 hrs., $39.99 ISBN 978-1-4423-7246-7

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This novel is really two books in one, told in alternating chapters. The first is a realistic fiction piece about Darcy, an 18-year-old whose novel is being published. She puts off college, moves to New York, deals with the stress of deadlines and rewrites, feels the excitement of seeing her book in print, and falls in love for the first time, with another YA writer, named Imogen. The other book is Darcy's actual novel, told in full: the paranormal tale of Lizzie, who survives a terrorist attack by pretending to be dead. She can subsequently see ghosts and visit the "afterworld," where she becomes romantically involved with spirit guide Yamaraj. Each book has a different narrator, which is helpful for keeping the two stories separate, and both narrators are excellent. Lind conveys Darcy's youthful excitement, her passion for writing, her insecurity, and her naïveté, as well as voicing jaded and British Imogen, Darcy's Indian-accented parents, and numerous other characters. Seth is equally adept at Lizzie, searching for the truth and trying to do what's right, as well as creating believable voices for Lizzie's anxious mother, her curious best friend, a child ghost, and Indian-accented Yamaraj. This intriguing and creative audiobook will have listeners invested in both stories, rooting for both protagonists and eager to find out what happens to them. Ages 14–up. A Simon Pulse hardcover. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 12/19/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control

Walter Mischel, read by Alan Alda. Brilliance Audio, unabridged, 7 CDs, 8 hrs., $45 ISBN 978-1-46924906-3

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In addition to his many stage and screen accomplishments, veteran actor Alda—aka Hawkeye from M*A*S*H—has often undertaken broadcast media projects exploring and advocating scientific research. So Alda is a natural fit as narrator for the new title from noted Columbia University psychologist Mischel, whose groundbreaking research into children's ability to resist marshmallows and other temptations paved the way for new approaches to delaying gratification. Alda's smooth and conversational delivery accentuates his natural likability. He delivers Mischel's behavioral terminology in a relaxed manner that renders the material approachable for a broad audience. It is worth noting that most of the content is straight-on exposition of results and analyses related to Mischel's theories, so Alda's opportunities to demonstrate his acting chops are relatively rare. One notable example is his turn as Sesame Street's beloved Cookie Monster character, who in recent years—thanks to a creative overhaul based on Mischel's school of thought—has begun to practice moderation in his on-air snacking. A Little, Brown hardcover. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 12/19/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos

Bobby Derie. Hippocampus (www.hippocampuspress.com), $20 (314p) ISBN 978-1-61498-088-9

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Gahan Wilson's cover illustration of a Cthulhuoid flasher possibly says it all, but Derie boldly probes every wrinkle of his subject, from such classic H.P. Lovecraft tales as "The Call of Cthulhu" to their interface with Japanese tentacle porn, and onward even into the trivia of fan fiction. A slow start on HPL's own sex life—he didn't really have one of interest, even to himself—gets hotter when psychosexual aspects surface in the fiction. Influenced by the great Arthur Machen, Lovecraft and fellow scribes such as Robert E. Howard and August Derleth—Derleth, now he had a sex life—created the Mythos. This book is at its best covering those works, or such obvious Derie favorites as Brian McNaughton. Too bad some later figures, like the often brilliant gay Mythos writer Stanley C. Sargent, receive scant mention. Putting the topic to bed, Derie—perhaps seeking a veneer of objectivity—concludes that, sometimes, a tentacle is just a tentacle. Really? After 300 pages citing endless Cthulhu erotica? (Sept.)

Reviewed on 11/21/2014 | Details & Permalink

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There Was and There Was Not: A Journey Through Hate and Possibility in Turkey, Armenia, and Beyond

Meline Toumani. Metropolitan, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-0-8050-9762-7

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Born in Iran and raised in the United States, Toumani always knew that she was first, an Armenian. Her childhood was punctuated by commemorations of the 1915 killing of Armenians by the Turkish government and resentment at Turkey's refusal to admit that this was an act of genocide. As Toumani enters adulthood, she begins to wonder if "there was a way to honor history without being suffocated by it." This leads to a two-year odyssey across Turkey in search of, not truth, but explanations. She learns that rather than acknowledging slaughter, Turkish history classes brand Armenians as traitors who had fought against Turkey in WWI and had been deported as a result. She makes Turkish friends who are eager to help her search but when she tells her aunt how kind they are to her, the woman is horrified. In the end, Toumani concludes that, if hate is all that holds a group together, there is no reason for it to exist. This book doesn't take sides but it does show what these old grudges do to people living. This is a powerful memoir with a message for all who were raised to see only one side of a story. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 11/21/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Knit It! Learn the Basics and Knit 22 Beautiful Projects

Melissa Leapman. Chronicle, $22.95 paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-4521-2451-3

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Unlike many newbie knitting guides, Leapman's teaches and inspires in equal measure. No more suffering through dull projects until reaching the good stuff—this is the good stuff! The introductory material in "The Basics" section contains clear illustrations of each stitch and elementary stitch combinations, along with easy to follow directions on shaping garments; casting on and binding off; using double-pointed or circular needles; fixing mistakes; and blocking finished projects. Color photographs by Alexandra Grablewski of swatch samples further inspire beginners to pick up their needles and continue right on to the second half, which includes covetable projects from the drapey "Let it Flow" jacket knit in stockinette stitch from side to side, to the quick, striped tie "Tie One On" done entirely in garter stitch. Nothing is dumbed down, not "Color Me Mine," a baby blanket knit on the diagonal, nor the simple and adorable decorative stuffed hearts of "Home is Where the Heart Is." Luckily, the more involved projects aren't too difficult to tackle using just the author's clear instructions and her helpful advice. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 11/21/2014 | Details & Permalink

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New York School Painters & Poets: Neon in Daylight

Jenni Quilter. Rizzoli, $75 (320p) ISBN 978-0-8478-3786-1

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Assembling text, visual art, and their interstices, this sumptuous volume documents the collaborative playfield where the New York School poets and painters thrived. With occasional critical text to guide readers along, the majority of this image-heavy treat goes to ephemera and rarely seen work. Frank O'Hara's poem "Why I am Not a Painter," for instance, mirrors Mike Goldberg's painting Sardines, which is referenced in the verse. Elsewhere, poet Ted Berrigan interviews artist John Cage, abstract expressionist painter Joan Mitchell creates a drawing with a James Schuyler poem on it, and Jasper Johns's In Memory of My Feelings—Frank O'Hara is paired with a letter in which the poet recommends new books to the painter. The art and poems are kept company by photographs of their creators, collaborating and partying, as well as literary magazine covers, notebook entries, postcards, and similar miscellanea. The New York School, although nebulously defined, is characterized by this collaborative spirit across art forms. Quilter renders this tendency as a lively practice rather than a historical fact, while loosening the edges enough to track the scene into the 1980s. Although often studied, the school is rarely given such intimate, collective attention, and even figures as familiar as Willem de Kooning and John Ashbery become dynamic and surprising once more in this volume's smart handling. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 11/21/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn't Work and How We Can Do Better

Maya Schenwar. Berrett-Koehler, $18.95 trade paper (264p) ISBN 978-1-62656-269-1

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The American prison system, with by far the largest number of incarcerated men and women in the world (fully 25% of the world's prison population), also impacts millions of Americans with loved ones behind bars. Schenwar, editor-in-chief of social justice–oriented news site Truthout, is one of these, having a sister whose drug dependency finally led to her incarceration in a central Illinois prison. Schenwar's thoughtful analysis of a deeply flawed system centers on this personal experience, augmented by dozens of interviews with inmates and their family members across the country. Arguing that mass incarceration only serves to mask deep-seated issues like homelessness, unemployment, inequality, and insufficient social services, Schenwar first describes how families are fractured by incarceration, with communities of color and little affluence disproportionately affected. In the book's second part, she visits various community-based social justice projects, such as a Chicago high school's "peace room," aimed at interrupting the "school-to-prison pipeline." Especially timely in the wake of California's passage of Proposition 47, which rolls back the draconian "three strikes" policy, this thoughtful discussion offers alternatives to incarceration rooted precisely in the familial and social ties otherwise undermined when loved ones disappear behind bars. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 11/21/2014 | Details & Permalink

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American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism

Matthew Avery Sutton. Belknap, $35 (456p) ISBN 978-0-674-04836-2

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Drawing deeply on letters, newspaper articles, and other archival materials, Sutton, a history professor at Washington State University, challenges the now-accepted accounts of Christian fundamentalism that attribute its rise to conflicts with evolution and modernist theories of biblical interpretation. Rather, he argues in this elegant, judicious, and thoughtful new history, apocalypticism—or the belief in an imminent end of the world—shaped the development of fundamentalism and sustained it through generations, from the late nineteenth-century to the present day. Thus, he contends, the anticipated end-of-the-world provided an interpretation of natural disasters, geopolitical changes, and war. "Fundamentalism, therefore, is best defined as radical apocalyptic evangelicalism," Sutton writes. He deftly weaves this idea through political events from the New Deal through the Cold War and into fundamentalist response to 9/11, and he illustrates the singular power of individuals ranging from Charles Fuller and Billy Sunday to Billy Graham and Hal Lindsey to influence fundamentalist Christians to political action. Sutton's engaging book belongs next to classic texts on the subject, among them Ernest Sandeen's The Roots of Fundamentalism: British and American Millenarianism, 1800–1930, and Joel Carpenter's Revive Us Again. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 11/21/2014 | Details & Permalink

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