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Book List

The Empire of Night.

Butler, Robert Olen (author).
Oct. 2014. 416p. Mysterious, hardcover, $26 (9780802123237); Mysterious, e-book (9780802191892).
REVIEW. First published October 15, 2014 (Booklist). “When a son replies to his mother with the exclamation, ‘Fuck me,’ she is faced with several interpretations, none of them pleasant.” That sentence may strike one as shocking, obscene, or witty (or possibly all three), but in the context of Butler’s third Christopher (“Kit”) Marlowe Cobb novel, it suggests all that and quite a bit more. Cobb, once a journalist moonlighting as a spy, is now a full-time spy working undercover as a journalist. It’s 1915, and as Woodrow Wilson dithers over U.S. involvement in WWI, Cobb is assigned to track the doings of a British citizen of German heritage, Albert Stockman, also a spy, but for the kaiser. Cobb utters the obscene exclamation above when he learns that he will be joined on his mission by another spy, a woman whose task is to get close to Stockman, to seduce him if necessary, in an effort to learn more about the secret weapon the Germans are devising. That woman, Isabel Cobb, is Kit’s mother. Adding one more level of sexual confusion and mother-son ambiguity, Isabel, a celebrated actress, is in rehearsal for her gender-bending starring role in Hamlet, a production that will be opening in Berlin. As he has in the first two volumes in this series, Butler combines fascinating historical detail about the pre-WWI period with genuine suspense and a tongue-in-cheek wit that gives the whole a uniquely tart flavor. The multilayered, adversarial relationship between Kit and Isabel grows more fascinating with each installment and will leave readers eager to learn more.— Bill Ott

School Library Journal

Meet the Recipients of the “Build Something Bold” Library Design Award
SLJ and LEGO Education recognize four schools in Alabama, Texas, Virginia, and Illinois for their innovative library designs, achieved on a range of budgets.

SLJ and LEGO Education Announce the Winner of the “Build Something Bold” Library Design Award
The winner of the inaugural 2014 SLJ and LEGO Education "Build Something Bold" Library Design Award is Walnut Grove Elementary School library, in Madison County, AL. Led by librarian Holly Whitt, Walnut Grove's library features a “digital diner” with tabletop “jukeboxes” of technology.

Review of the Winner of the 2014 Kirkus Prize in Young Readers’ Literature
Kate Samworth's Aviary Wonders Inc. Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual: Renewing the World's Bird Supply Since 2031 is the winner of the first-ever 2014 Kirkus Prize in Young Readers' Literature. Read SLJ's review of the title—plus our reviews of the finalists.

Library Journal

Horror Short Stories | Wyatt’s World
Readers might need to consider short stories to fit in some frights before the season passes them by; here are five collections that should please fans and intrigue those dipping into the horror genre for the first time.

Read Along with Lonely Planet’s Best Travel in 2015 | Xpress Reviews
Not a book to pack, Lonely Planet's Best Travel 2015 might help readers choose a destination

Audiobooks from Chase, Finder, Hubbard, and McEwen & Koloniar| Xpress Reviews
A dressmaker finds love, a suspenseful thriller for all collections, a solid Hubbard for lovers of war stories, a work for those who enjoy military thrillers

Kirkus Reviews

SABOTAGE, SEDITION AND SUNDRY ACTS OF REBELLION
Book Cover

A dramatic, revealing chronicle of enslaved people resisting their oppressors through acts of defiance, escape, sabotage, organized rebellion and vengeful murder.

This entry in the A Peculiar History series opens dramatically with a description of the German Coast Uprising, a violent, widespread rebellion in French Louisiana in 1811, and proceeds with a mostly chronological account of acts of resistance and rebellion from the beginning of the Atlantic slave trade in the early 15th century. Subjects briefly touched upon include a 1712 New York City rebellion as well as revolts led by Gabriel Prosser, Nat Turner and Denmark Vesey. Aretha discusses the Haitian revolution but curiously fails to mention its leader, Toussaint L’Ouverture. In addition, Aretha covers everyday acts of rebellion by slaves such as burning barns, killing livestock, sabotaging crops, suicide, and infanticide by mothers who wished to keep their children from enslavement. There is good information on the draconian lengths colonies and states went to to discourage slave resistance of any kind. With an attractive design, the text is complemented with photographs, maps and reproductions of archival materials, many in color.

An informative, engaging chronicle of organized and individual acts of resistance to slavery. (timeline, source notes, bibliography, websites, index) (Nonfiction. 12-16)

NO NAME
Book Cover

In a simply but lyrically told tale, a Choctaw boy builds himself a hole in the ground to hide from his alcoholic father.

Bobby’s mother has left, for reasons that go unsaid but are nonetheless clear. When Bobby’s father picks a fight with him one morning and threatens—again—to give him “the whippin’ you deserve,” Bobby falls by accident into a hole in the backyard. Feeling safer there than in the house, he gets an old door from a junkyard and lays it over the hole, covering it with leaves. As the standoff with his dad continues, Bobby finds support from his Cherokee basketball-player friend Johnny, his neighbor Carolina Faye, and his dad’s friend Mr. Robison, who tells him a Choctaw story about a boy called No Name and his fraught relationship with his father. Bobby’s mixed emotions toward his own flawed father, and his father’s toward him, are conveyed in straightforward yet revealing lines of dialogue and first-person narration (“He might be the biggest bully in town, but he was still my dad”). Supporting characters are similarly well-drawn, with the unfortunate exception of two female characters—one in the frame story and one in the No Name tale—who don’t have much personality beyond their interests in their respective male protagonists.

Expressive and many-layered. (Fiction. 12-16)

ABNORMAL
Book Cover

This slim adventure tale is rooted in Cherokee culture.

Billy Buckhorn, 16, is surrounded by his Cherokee heritage—he's a "full-blood" Cherokee, and his grandfather Wesley is a respected medicine man. When Billy is struck by lightning, he gains psychic abilities, which warn him that the new gym teacher, Mr. Ravenwood, isn't who—or even what—he seems. Aided by Cherokee folklore and improbable events, he must stop “the Birdman’s” evil spirit from hurting kids. The snippets of Cherokee lore are interesting, but Robinson's didactic style makes Billy more prop than character. Billy's age is incongruous with his young-feeling dialogue and the book's simple prose, and his Cherokee heritage is mentioned so frequently that it feels forced rather than organic to his identity. Nearly everything happens through exposition. Present-tense explanations of Cherokee customs such as stomp dances and trances interrupt the past-tense narration, and potentially powerful scenes pass in a few declarative sentences. Even the mystery is explained by another character, and awkward dialogue spoils the Birdman's power. Readers will learn a little folklore, but it's unfortunate that the earnest information about Cherokee culture and values doesn't integrate naturally into the story.

For a creepy thriller based on Native American lore, Joseph Bruchac's Skeleton Man (2001) is a much stronger choice. (Paranormal adventure. 10-14)

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