April 2020


April 2020 Stars & Big Picture

Starred titles are books of special distinction. See the archives for selections from previous months.

Buchet, NellyCat Dog Dog: The Story of a Blended Family; illus. by Andrea Zuill. Schwartz & Wade, 2020 [40p]
Library ed. ISBN 978-1-9848-4900-7 $20.99
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-9848-4899-4 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-9848-4901-4 $10.99
Reviewed from galleys R* Gr. K-2

Cline-Ransome, LesaOverground Railroad; illus. by James Ransome. Holiday House, 2020 [48p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-8234-3873-0 $18.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-8234-4390-1 $11.99
Reviewed from galleys R* Gr. 2-4

Córdova, ZoraidaIncendiary. Hyperion, 2020 [464p] (Hollow Crown)
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-368-02380-1 $18.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-368-02533-1 $10.99
Reviewed from galleys R* Gr. 8-12

Feder, TylerDancing at the Pity Party: A Dead Mom Graphic Memoir; written and illus. by Tyler Feder. Dial, 2020 [208p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-525-55302-1 $18.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-525-55635-0 $10.99
Reviewed from galleys R* Gr. 8-12

Fleischman, PaulAlphamaniacs: Builders of 26 Wonders of the Word; illus. by Melissa Sweet. Candlewick Studio, 2020 [160p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-7636-9066-3 $19.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-5362-0595-4 $19.99
Reviewed from galleys R* Gr. 7-12

See this month’s Big Picture for review.

Hardinge, FrancesDeeplight. Amulet/Abrams, 2020 [432p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-4197-4320-7 $19.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-68335-790-2 $15.54
Reviewed from galleys R* Gr. 6-9

Henkes, KevinSummer Song; illus. by Laura Dronzek. Greenwillow, 2020 [38p]
Library ed. ISBN 978-0-06-286614-1 $19.89
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-06-286613-4 $18.99
Reviewed from galleys R* 3-6 yrs

Hesse, MonicaThey Went Left. Little, 2020 [384p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-316-49057-3 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-316-49058-0 $9.99
Reviewed from galleys R* Gr. 9-12

Ifueko, JordanRaybearer. Amulet/Abrams, 2020 [368p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-4197-3982-8 $18.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-68335-719-3 $15.54
Reviewed from galleys R* Gr. 8-12

Latham, IreneThe Cat Man of Aleppo; written by Irene Latham and Karim Shamsi-Basha; illus. by Yuko Shimizu. Putnam, 2020 [34p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-9848-1378-7 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-9848-1379-4 $10.99
Reviewed from galleys R* 5-8 yrs

Paschkis, JulieWhere Lily Isn’t; illus. by Margaret Chodos-Irvine. Godwin/Holt, 2020 [32p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-250-18425-2 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-250-77314-2 $9.99
Reviewed from galleys R* 3-6 yrs

Shannon, DavidRoy Digs Dirt; written and illus. by David Shannon. Blue Sky/Scholastic, 2020 [40p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-338-25101-2 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-338-60874-8 $10.99
Reviewed from galleys R* 2-5 yrs

Stark-McGinnis, SandyThe Space Between Lost and Found. Bloomsbury, 2020 [272p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-5476-0123-3 $16.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-5476-0125-7 $11.89
Reviewed from galleys R* Gr. 5-7

Stead, RebeccaThe List of Things That Will Not Change. Lamb, 2020 [224p]
Library ed. ISBN 978-1-101-93810-2 $19.99
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-101-93809-6 $16.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-101-93811-9 $9.99
Reviewed from galleys R* Gr. 4-7

Underwood, DeborahOutside In; illus. by Cindy Derby. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020 [40p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-328-86682-0 $17.99
Reviewed from galleys R* 4-8 yrs

Wiles, DeborahKent State. Scholastic, 2020 [288p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-338-35628-1 $18.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-338-35630-4 $10.99
Reviewed from galleys R* Gr. 8-12

Zarr, SaraGoodbye from Nowhere. Balzer + Bray, 2020 [384p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-06-243468-5 $18.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-06-243464-7 $10.99
Reviewed from galleys R* Gr. 9-12

Artwork from Alphamaniacs: Builders of 26 Wonders of the Word by Paul Fleischman.

Alphamaniacs: Builders of 26 Wonders of the Word

by Paul Fleischman; illustrated by Melissa Sweet

“Think of words as grain. Most people grind it to make bread. But a few figured out how to turn it into whiskey.” Here Paul Fleischman pays tribute to over two dozen men and women who turn a humble ingredient—letters—into heady concoctions. Few of them can rightly be called household names (and then only in select households), but perhaps they should and will be, if the mind-expanding range of their efforts is the criterion.

Mike Gold and the Scribes 8 group project produce hundreds of calligraphic variations for each letter, while Mary Ellen Solt builds floral concrete poems out of letters. Words are the foundational element for Frederic Cassidy, who collects regional usages across the United States, and for Ernst Toch, whose musical composition “Geographical Fugue” comprises place names that function as sound rather than meaning. Adding words up leads readers to record breakers for longest diary (Robert Shields), and most published novels (Corín Tellado). Subtraction, on the other hand, takes them to Georges Perec and his French novel in words that eschew “e,” or Doris Cross’ erasure poetry. There are language builders here (Marc Okrand and his Klingon project), language torturers (Howard Chace and Anguish Languish), and language investigators (Allen Read tracking the etymology of “OK”). Some, like Robert McCormick, tilt futilely at the windmill of spelling reform; some, like Ross Eckler and his Word Ways journal, just want to play; others, such as verbose Thomas Urquhart, just can’t keep words under control.

Fleischman’s carnival barker–style narrative address may momentarily register as reference to human oddities rather than topical ones, but his playful destruction of the fourth wall brings unexpected intimacy to the nonfiction reading experience, and it winkingly establishes a genial league of nerds (author included) who get why all this is so intriguing. After Daniel Nussbaum’s license plate retelling of Genesis in license plates, Fleischman wryly observes, “One gentleman, I see, has already left us. He’ll miss the creation of the universe.” Who would dare close the book at this point? Or, upon delivering an accolade to Bohumil Hrabal’s 128-page long sentence, Fleischman twits, “The woman before me looks unwell. An English teacher, you say?” Can’t you hear a reader’s conspiratorial snort? But Fleischman also respectfully adjusts the tone as needed, such as in quiet awe of Jessie Little Doe Baird’s reclamation of indigenous Wôpanâôt8âôk (“In 2003 Baird’s daughter Mae Alice is born. The first word she hears? Kuweeqahsun, spoken by her mother”), or Jean-Dominique Bauby’s eye-blink dictation following a massive stroke (“At night, when it is a little too dark and the only sign of life is the small red spot in the center of the television screen, vowels and consonants dance for me”).

Sweet’s imaginative and varied collages are worth their own admission ticket. Many directly reference a subject’s own work, such as the Doris Cross erasure project displayed on this month’s cover, which can surely inspire viewers to try this at home, or David Wallace’s computer algorithms to identify word usage patterns of un- or miscredited authors. Others operate as visual shorthand, providing an image that effectively locks a subject’s oeuvre into memory: the “Mity Muzik” record label that illustrates Sven Jacobson’s Unorthodox Spelling in American Trademarks, or the eye-poppingly altered map of Australia that accompanies A. A. Morrison’s study of spoken Australian, which he tagged “Strine.” Thoughtful design elements extend into the back matter, where stylish alphabet blocks set off sources and bibliographic notes. Roaming today’s school hallways are tomorrow’s philologists, and the Alphamaniacs may be just the Dream Team to inspire them. (See p. 347 for publication information.)

Elizabeth Bush, Reviewer

Illustration: ALPHAMANIACS. Text copyright © 2020 by the Brown-Fleischman Family Trust. Illustrations copyright © 2020 by Melissa Sweet. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.