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Best Books of the Month - August

A gorgeous, mysterious, and enchanting introduction to the circle of life.



In this illustrated children’s book, a magical apricot falls to the ground and enchants a group of snails.

In an orchard, an ancient tree bears only a single fruit. This apricot falls to the ground, where no one notices it except some snails out for an excursion. They don’t know what this sphere on the ground is, but it’s so gorgeous that they can’t seem to forget about it. Is it a glass globe? A piece of the sun? A fruit from heaven? The oldest and wisest snail confirms this last guess: “It’s a golden apricot, with a thin and honeyed skin, flesh that’s sweet—a heavenly fruit to eat!” But as the snails gather round, the apricot implores them to leave her untouched. “Ordinary I am not,” she explains. “For I am Cybèle! A glorious apricot!” She tells them about the magic seed at her center and asks them to protect the place where she lies as a sanctuary. Night after night, they gather around her, chanting her praises. But one day, she’s nowhere to be found. The next spring, though, the snails discover a small sapling in the orchard, growing from a kind of stone. It’s Cybèle, minus her skin, and one day she’ll grow into a tree, she explains, and the snails rejoice. First-time author and illustrator Glenn, a former flower arranger at the famous Chez Panisse restaurant in California, paints her images in delicate, lovely washes of color. Cybèle glows in shades of gold and peach, and the snails are equally beautiful, rendered with attention to the details of their shells and spotted bodies. Although actual snails may seem to be inexpressive creatures, Glenn gives hers life and personality. When they search for Cybèle, for instance, their necks and tentacles stretch to look around, and one snail peers inquisitively underneath a mushroom cap; readers can feel their urgency. Overall, the book has a sense of strangeness and mystery, underscored by subtle rhymes in dialogue and the snails’ adoring chants: “Slip and slide; weave a spell. / Shimmer, shimmer, our Cybèle.” Some vocabulary words may challenge young readers, such as “nocturnal,” “perplexed,” “succulent,” and “scruples.”

A gorgeous, mysterious, and enchanting introduction to the circle of life.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-0-692-74821-3

Page Count: -

Publisher: Apologue Press

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

An impressive collection about relationships in a turbulent Iran that offers powerful insights.



Based on her interviews with men who lived through the Iranian Revolution, the author delivers eight short stories that examine the human condition.

Moving freely between past and present, these narratives pit the romantic idealism of youth against the sobering reality of growing up, growing old, and growing apart. In “The Paris of the Middle East,” Nader Moradi and Mahta are young visionaries whose attempt to emulate the bohemian lifestyle of the European luminaries they so admire is thwarted by societal pressures to conform. Five years later, she lies in a hospital bed as he berates her for birthing a child he never wanted. Similarly, “Where Are We? We Are Here.” presents an unhappy marriage between Ali and Mariam, former political prisoners whose union was predicated on love notes and imagined similarities: “They had exchanged only momentary glances....Only short letters written in ink. And ink has its own enemies—air, water, time. It has an evaporating quality, just like love.” In “Errand Boy,” Hamid falls for Raha, a wealthy girl who frequents the yarn shop where he works, pursues her a bit too earnestly, and must settle for an arranged marriage after her family sends her away to escape his advances. These men are casualties of the times they live in, denied happiness for the sake of survival. So, too, is Iran itself. These engrossing tales with strongly drawn characters are also about a country halted in its tracks, an era of budding equality and freedom in the 1970s that gave way to years of shortages, rampant incarceration, paranoia, and morality police during the revolution. Even afterward, there are ex-soldiers broken by war, families torn apart by emigration, and residents challenged by a lingering sense of loyalty to the country that betrayed them. As Kousha (Voices from Iran, 2002) deftly observes: “They carried the unbearable weight of loss—loss of hope.” They also shoulder sacrifice, devotion, passion, shame, and regret. From “Father,” a brief glimpse of a husband tenderly caring for his wife after she miscarries, to “Second Marriage,” in which the protagonist grapples with the loss of his childhood sweetheart in an earthquake, these evocative stories artfully explore every facet of humanity.

An impressive collection about relationships in a turbulent Iran that offers powerful insights.

Pub Date: April 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5450-8037-5

Page Count: 254

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

An original and stimulating memoir that takes readers into the mind and heart of an artist.



In this debut chronicle, an abstract painter offers a vivid look into a working studio and the development of his own artistic vision.

To many nonartists, abstract art may seem to be the most inaccessible of all forms, as it often lacks familiar images to cling to. To Rutenberg, however, abstraction represents a way of bringing the world up-close, so that one not only sees, but feels its integral parts. “Art happens,” Rutenberg states, “when the intellectual and the visceral collide so violently that they fuse into a third thing.” His love of art is palpable in this book, which serves as a companion piece to his YouTube series, “Brian Rutenberg Studio Visits.” He only sparsely describes the events of his own life, but he lavishly and lovingly dissects his growth as an artist, from his childhood compositions, created out of marsh mud and colored paper on hot summer days on the South Carolina coast, to later canvases that he stabbed with an ice pick in his loft studio in Manhattan. Alongside this deeply personal story, Rutenberg also offers a down-to-earth course on the transcendent power of art, presenting a wide range of examples, including works by Pablo Picasso and pianist Glenn Gould. The text is peppered with memorable passages, such as “All artists live in the gap between what they imagine and produce,” “When the effortless appears difficult, it’s entertainment. When the difficult appears effortless, it’s art,” and “An artist’s job is to monkey with stuff. We don’t seek solutions but problems. We play because we can.” Rutenberg’s love of his work is infectious, and his analyses of artistic issues are engaging and appealing, never indulging in the elitism that some may associate with the world of fine art. His delight in his chosen craft also counters the myth of the tortured artist, although a slightly less rosy perspective and a few more details about life’s challenges might have added a welcome touch of realism. All in all, however, it’s an exhilarating treatise on how to really “see” the world.

An original and stimulating memoir that takes readers into the mind and heart of an artist.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9974423-0-4

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Permanent Green

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

Originally funded by a Kickstarter, this reinvention of Shakespeare’s verse into a new format is sure to be a hit with...



Shakespeare’s words reach a new—very young—audience in this gorgeously illustrated board book offering a new story by debut adapter Parekh and veteran illustrator Amini (Chicken in the Kitchen, 2015, etc.) of fairies and animals to accompany lines from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Beginning with familiar visuals for young lap readers, the book opens with a roaring lion and a howling wolf. The animals, along with some fairy friends, free a tired donkey from his yoke while a ploughman sleeps. Joined by a mouse, a screech owl, and a growing population of fairies, the group hikes to the ruins of an old church, finding the three-faced Hecate, whose cloak contains the night. With the fervor of Maurice Sendak’s Wild Things on their rumpus, the characters frolic before they hush, assuring listeners if this has seemed too strange, it is “but a dream.” Soon, all the animals and their fairy friends drowse off as well, making for a lulling bedtime tale. Shakespeare’s lines are sure to challenge young independent readers, but for the youngest listeners, whose minds hear sounds and rhythms as much as the words they’re still learning to decode, the patterns here are as lovely on the ear as they are when spoken by Puck at the end of the famous play. Amini’s textured illustrations of the fearsome wolf and lion might intimidate youngsters if not for the playful fairies on every page, smiling, with wings blurred so that they actually appear to be moving out of the corner of a viewer’s eye. Hecate’s black-and-white, almost transparent form contrasts with the luxuriously rendered creatures, such as the brightly pigmented snake and fairies, some of whom have a three-dimensional appearance in their dress, like petals or scales. Parents who love Shakespeare will find this a perfect introduction to the works of the Bard—it’s at once sophisticated and approachable, with a whimsy that youngsters will enjoy.

Originally funded by a Kickstarter, this reinvention of Shakespeare’s verse into a new format is sure to be a hit with parents and their littlest listeners, too.

Pub Date: March 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9984397-1-6

Page Count: 22

Publisher: Drivel and Drool

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

Thought-provoking statements on almost every page; unmissable for women’s studies and religion students.



This collection of interview transcripts brings 24 experts, mostly psychologists and social scientists, together in a scholarly examination of the feminine.

Debut author Salum used Kickstarter to fund her 2014 documentary, also entitled Ensoulment. This women’s studies project relied on interviews with experts but created an animated protagonist who was, like the author and director herself, on a journey to understand the feminine. “What I was really after was not the female gender, but a matter of the soul, the impalpable,” Salum recalls. Her direct inspiration was a BodySoul Rhythms women’s retreat run by the Marion Woodman Foundation, which explores the Jungian idea of the feminine. Indeed, a number of the analysts and academics Salum interviews work within the Jungian framework. Many emphasize that feminine and masculine are not strict categories but interrelated principles, akin to the Eastern notion of yin and yang. “The whole business of opposites does not exist anywhere in the world. Everything is complementary,” one psychologist insists. Attempts to define the feminine abound—“the rhythmic…and the intuitive,” “both strength and delicacy, both firmness and love,” and “the great round…the encircling embrace”—but, crucially, Salum’s interlocutors always retain a sense of mystery and lived experience. They explain that the feminine is an archetypal quality to tap into rather than a distinct set of stereotyped behaviors and characteristics. The discussions in this original work center on six themes—the media, the body, men, relationships, work, and religion—but stray widely within those parameters to take in everything from eating disorders and fertility symbols to the goddess role that pop stars play in today’s culture. The interviews exhibit impressive depth as well as range, and the fact that one-third of Salum’s subjects are male prevents this from turning into a triumphalist, girl-power narrative. Instead, these are nuanced arguments that divorce gender from spirit. Each interview is headed by a photograph or cartoon avatar of the subject, a few biographical paragraphs, and Salum’s intriguing reflections on how she knew of and decided to include them.

Thought-provoking statements on almost every page; unmissable for women’s studies and religion students.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63051-390-0

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Chiron Publications

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

A delightful novel that could comfortably sit on a shelf beside beloved works of children’s literature.


A young boy takes part in a magical adventure involving fairies, goblins, banshees, mermaids, and other creatures in Dunne’s middle-grade fantasy debut.

This modern-day fairy tale instantly conjures up a feeling of enchantment and warmth with its beautifully evocative opening sentence, “On Ludlow Osgoode’s eleventh birthday, he was kidnapped by a fairy.” Soon, he finds himself trapped in a crate with that same female fairy named Adhair, aka Harry. It’s clear that the abduction isn’t going exactly according to Harry’s plans, because Raghnall and Berneas, the goblins who she’d thought were her henchmen, have locked her into the crate as well. Upon arrival at their destination, the goblin ship Anathema, Harry learns that its banshee captain, Morag, had ordered the goblins to betray her. It seems that Morag hadn’t trusted Harry to grab Ludlow on her own; this was prescient on Morag’s part, as the fairy has no interest in kidnapping children—she only follows Morag’s commands in order to stay alive. This leaves Ludlow, a resourceful young bookworm, to come up with an escape plan that involves not only Harry, but also Raghnall. In this engrossing tale, Dunne consistently intersperses “facts” throughout the narrative about the numerous magical creatures that populate her fictional universe, most of which offer unique, funny spins on classic fantasy figures. For example, at one point, she explains that all mermaids “hate to be called ‘fishface.’ ” There’s a charming matter-of-factness to the humor throughout, which readers may find to be reminiscent of the late Douglas Adams and other British fantasists. Throughout, Ludlow is a smart, winning protagonist that bookish young readers will identify with and root for.

A delightful novel that could comfortably sit on a shelf beside beloved works of children’s literature.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9918161-8-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Two Pigeons Press

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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