Photo courtesy Jana Ašenbrennerová
Rare is the book about which one can say, in earnest, “I’ve never read anything like this before,” yet with A Twenty Minute Silence Followed by Applause, Shawn Wen has written such a book. From its idiosyncratic area of interest to its chameleonic formal modalities, Applause resists easy categorization at every turn, and this is one of its many strengths. What begins as an inviting and imaginative gesture toward a biography of the mime Marcel Marceau branches out ...
Robin Smith photographed by Dean Schneider.
As it inevitably must on occasion, the children’s literature world shrank a little bit recently, on June 23, when Robin Smith passed away far too young. Correction: it shrank a lot.
A second-grade teacher at Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee, she was also: a longtime, savvy reviewer for Kirkus, BookPage, and the Horn Book; the original convener of the Calling Caldecott blog, which engages in smart, vigorous discussion of Caldecott-eligible books each fall, leading up to a mock Caldecott vote ...
New globe-trotting nonfiction
Summer means travel, and travel means discovery. Here are 10 July books that offer stimulating (but not always pleasant) explorations of various locales around the globe.
To the New Owners, Madeleine Blais
An “unfailingly charming reminiscence of summers spent on [Martha’s Vineyard].”
We Are Syrians, Adam Braver
“Three Syrians who have faced down their country’s police state tell their respective first-person stories.”
A Paris All Your Own, Eleanor Brown
“A quick and fun read that should delight seasoned ...
Photo courtesy Nina Subin
It didn’t occur to Zinzi Clemmons while writing her debut novel that it would eventually be about her mother, the “inescapable” woman who, growing up, eluded her.
“The novel that I originally started writing was completely fictional, about made-up characters that didn’t really resemble anyone I knew,” Clemmons recalls over the phone from L.A., where she lives with her husband, a translator of Italian. “And I think that was one of the big problems with it.”
Photo courtesy Magne Sandnes
Stylistic knottiness (and human naughtiness) abound in the intricacies of Norwegian writer Gunnhild Øyehaug’s debut English-language collection of stories, Knots. Øyehaug has written a collection of fabulous fable-like missives from our current age of human anxieties. The style mirrors, in many ways, the behavior of human beings: as Øyehaug remarks, “I’m interested in the intertwining of language at the sentence level and with the mess humans create. It’s impossible, at times, to disentangle the knots of man and woman, mother ...
Surveying the great new children's books from north of the border
July 1 is, as everyone knows, Independence Day—in Canada. And as has become my custom, I’d like to honor the occasion with a brief survey of some of the great recent books that have come our way from north of the border, where government subsidies have fostered a robust industry.
From Annick Press, whose nonfiction frequently takes a playful turn, comes What a Waste!, by Claire Eamer and illustrated by Bambi Edlund, a gleefully stomach-turning history of garbage that’s also ...
Journalists are the stars of these self-published novels
Evelyn Waugh created one of the literary world’s most improbable journalistic heroes in his 1938 satirical novel Scoop. A Fleet Street newspaper mistakenly sends nature columnist William Boot to Africa to cover a conflict as a foreign correspondent. Will Boot make it back to Britain (and his garden) alive?
Even with the newspaper industry in crisis and shouts of “Stop the presses!” waning, reporters and editors still appear in many fictional works today. Of course, some of them now ...
When 13-year-old Sophie LeClerq puts together a look, people notice: she’s the prettiest girl in her Park Slope class. Her African-American mother is a fashion journalist, her French father sends designer clothes, and she incorporates their influences into an eclectic style that shines.
In Chapter 1 of Justin Sayre’s middle-grade novel Pretty, Sophie rocks an Old Navy V-neck with a skirt from Milan, low tops with low socks, and a green rock necklace with white-lace Madonna gloves.
“I know ...