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Book List

Avenue of Mysteries.

Irving, John (author).
Nov. 2015. 448p. Simon & Schuster, hardcover, $28 (9781451664164).
REVIEW. First published October 1, 2015 (Booklist). The giant dump in Oaxaca, Mexico, hardly seems like fertile ground for a future novelist, yet Juan Diego, the only one who can understand his sister’s extraordinary pronouncements as a mind reader and clairvoyant, teaches himself to read Spanish and English, burning his hands as he pulls books from dump fires. Those wounds heal, but an accident leaves him with a smashed foot and severe limp. Now a famous writer living in the U.S. with alarmingly high blood pressure, Juan Diego tells his fantastic story in trancelike flashbacks. We meet his and his sisterLupe’s mother, Esperanza, a cleaning woman and prostitute; Flor, a resilient transvestite; two unusual Jesuits, Brother Pepe (“the epitome of goodness”) and self-flagellating, Hawaiian-shirt-wearing Edward from Iowa; and members of the local circus. In the present, Juan Diego is visiting the Philippines, where he is bewitched by a strangely assertive, sexy mother-daughter duo. Irving (In One Person, 2012) is spectacularly hilarious and incisive in this tender, mystical, yet caustic tale, which features a wrathful statue of the Virgin Mary and impassioned castigations of the church’s tragic failings. Irving often portrays writers in his novels, but Juan Diego is a special case, bringing particularly enchanting radiance to this empathically imagined, masterfully told, and utterly transporting tale of transcendent sacrifice and perseverance, unlikely love, and profound mysteries.

HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Irving has phenomenal literary star power, and this magical novel will be heavily promoted and urgently requested.

— Donna Seaman

School Library Journal

Using littleBits in Your Library Makerspace
Thursday, October 29th, 2015, 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM ET / 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM PT
In this webinar, you'll get up close with littleBits staff and Teacher Librarian Colleen Graves from Denton ISD, TX about the many ways you can use littleBits in your library makerspace. We'll discuss how to guide students through design challenges, fixed stations versus workshops, building a maker community, organizing your Bits, and share tips and tricks from other savvy maker librarians.
Register Now!

Kickstarter Launch for “The Read Quarterly,” Children’s Literature Magazine
The magazine will contain an original four-part Eoin Colfer story, "Holy Mary," publishing over the course of its first year. Author Neil Gaiman appears in a video for the Kickstarter campaign.

Lumberjanes, Vol. 2: Friendship to the Max by Shannon Watters, Noelle Stevenson, & Grace Ellis | SLJ Review

WATTERS, Shannon, Noelle Stevenson, & Grace Ellis. Lumberjanes, Vol. 2: Friendship to the Max. illus. by Brooke Allen. 112p. (Lumberjanes). Boom! Studios. Oct. 2015. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781608867370. Gr 5 Up–Jo, April, Mal, Molly, and Ripley, aka. the Lumberjanes, continue their adventures at Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types with as much verve and panache as in the first volume. Collecting issues five to eight, this work follows the five friends as they confront crazed dinosaurs, [...]

Library Journal

Penguin Random House Forms New Adult Library Marketing Group
In a not unexpected move following the July 2013 merger of Random House and the Penguin Group, Penguin Random House has announced the creation of a unified, cross-company Penguin Random House Adult Library Marketing Group. Company officials said that this move is aimed at further strengthening its presence in the adult library market. “We will […]

Reading in Translation | Wyatt’s World
Different rhythms, fresh stories, and landscapes unfamiliar fill the pages of translated novels. Here are five of fall’s buzziest, or simply most startling, picks, offering a diversity of sounds, approaches, and characters.

What’s in Santa’s Book Bag? Twenty-six Christmas Titles To Get Readers in a Festive Mood
This Yuletide season brings a sleigh full of Christmas cozies, from Elizabethan England to present-day Nantucket, MA, tempered by a few darker mysteries courtesy of Ann Cleeves and L.J. Oliver.

Kirkus Reviews

Inflection Point
Book Cover

A timely, insightful exploration of the transformational change occurring in information technology.

Simply look at the ways we consume media, buy things online, and maintain always-on connectivity to see the impact information technology is having on contemporary life. IT is having an equally dramatic effect on business, suggests debut author Stawski, through an “inflection point” that is based on “the convergence of cloud, mobility, software as a service (SaaS), and data.” Stawski, an executive and global area sales leader for Hewlett Packard Enterprise, is eminently qualified to write about this convergence, and he relies on his experience with large clients as well as other pertinent examples to add texture and context to his visionary treatise. Perhaps Stawski’s most forward-thinking notion is his belief that IT in a typical business needs to undergo significant reformation. “I estimate that enterprises are overspending on IT by as much as 40 percent,” he writes, proposing rather boldly “that a company should never purchase IT hardware or software licenses again.” He chides companies mired in the past for generally being behind the consumer curve when it comes to technology adoption, and he makes a strong case for abandoning traditional IT infrastructure in favor of cloud-based services. “Companies need to think of computing as a utility, which requires cloud or cloud-like infrastructure and payment mechanisms,” the author says. Along the way, Stawski provides an excellent overview of cloud computing, an often cited but frequently misunderstood concept. Despite the occasional sales pitch for Hewlett Packard, he offers equally cogent discussions of mobile computing and big data. Informative as these sections are, though, it is Stawski’s future-think perspective on “the era of the IT department as a service broker” that is the compact treatise’s most compelling and intriguing concept. Not surprisingly, Stawski says it will take “transformative CIOs” to fully understand and embrace the new IT reality as he sees it.

A smartly observed, important work by an IT expert with a keen eye on the future.

Book Cover

The adventures of a tiny girl amid flora and fauna in an imaginary land are again presented for young readers.

The text is acceptably adapted and accessible, but the illustrations, thickly textured and deeply colored, are leaden and rely on fashion rather than magic for their distinctiveness. The illustrator veers back and forth distractingly in her depiction of clothing, from the traditional 19th-century peasant dress with apron and kerchief of the field mouse to the 1920s look of the three female June bugs (cockchafers in some versions) who declare Thumbelina’s utter unsuitability as a mate for the big June bug who tries to capture her. The ugly toad who first steals her from her walnut-shell bed for her own son (shown in denim overalls) wears a frumpy pink polka-dot dress of no particular vintage. The haughty mole who wants to marry the girl wears a red fez and a fur-trimmed jacket to portray his wealth. Thumbelina wears simple white dresses, symbolizing her purity, but there is a lack of the magical lightness necessary to the tale. Even the double-page spread of the wedding scene when Thumbelina, with her large, Margaret Keane–like eyes, finally finds a suitable mate of just the right height, seems heavy and contrived.

While Andersen’s imaginative story, first published in 1835, keeps children listening or reading, this edition adds nothing new or special to a long literary history. (Picture book. 5-8)

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The history of a Brooklyn neighborhood and its fetid canal.

The Gowanus Canal was created in the mid-1800s by enlarging an existing creek, creating a passageway nearly 2 miles long from the Upper Bay into Brooklyn for commercial shipping. Because the city has always tried to handle drainage of the surrounding marshy areas and local sewage disposal on the cheap, it has also been an open sewer for more than 150 years. In this debut history, Time Out New York associate editor Alexiou claims, "the Gowanus is a microcosm—a lens through which to view the passage of history, and in particular the growth of Brooklyn and its unique identity in relation to its environs." He accordingly recounts the entire history of the creek, canal, and neighborhood from its earliest settlement by the Dutch to the present day, including the development of the canal and industrial Brooklyn in the 19th century and the neighborhood's decline in the postindustrial second half of the 20th century. The canal was designated a Superfund site in 2010, and the neighborhood is enjoying a renaissance of small-scale development and gentrification. Alexiou's narrative is well-researched and moves along in a confident and lively manner, but it suffers from a lack of focus. The author presents an unusually well-defined case history of the interaction of the private and public sectors generating growth and prosperity through a unique piece of urban infrastructure at a terrible environmental cost that still has not been fully addressed. However, Alexiou makes room for extensive sections on the Battle of Brooklyn in the Revolutionary War, the personal struggles of developer Edwin Litchfield with the city, amateur baseball, and organized crime wars in Brooklyn, all colorful and legitimate topics for a local history but distractions from a central theme that the author leaves largely implicit.

This thorough, overdue, rambling history reaches for special significance but fails to grasp it.

<October 2015>