Julie Hale

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Put away the swimsuits and break out the backpacks—the first day of school is right around the corner! Read on for three totally terrific classroom tales that will help students shift gears and focus on fall. Prepare to have a straight-A school season!

BEFRIENDING THE BULLIES
Tammi Sauer’s Ginny Louise and the School Showdown is a rip-roarin’ classroom adventure that readers will love any time of the year. Chaos reigns at Truman Elementary thanks to a bad bunch of bullies. There’s Cap’n Catastrophe, a porcupine pirate; Destructo Dude, a mischievous pig; and Make-My-Day May, an outlaw raccoon. This “scowly, growly crowd” is perpetually disturbing the peace, kicking their classmates out of the sandbox and overturning bookshelves. But things change with the arrival of a new student named Ginny Louise. A happy-go-lucky hedgehog with a personality impervious to bullying, she extends friendship to the threesome and eventually wins them over. A spirit of camaraderie soon rules the school, and that calls for a celebration—a classroom hoedown, for which Ginny Louise breaks out her fiddle. Yee-haw! Lynn Munsinger’s irresistible illustrations of the Truman Elementary menagerie make this tale feel timeless. The takeaway here: Be kind to everyone—even (and especially) bullies.

END-OF-SUMMER ADJUSTMENT
Mike Wohnoutka turns the tables on the traditional back-to-school story with his fun all-ages picture book, Dad’s First Day. The summer weeks skip by for Oliver and his pop. They read books, play ball and generally pal around. On the first day of class, Oliver’s eager to go, but Dad’s dragging. He isn’t feeling well. He hides behind the couch and ducks into the closet. Oliver coaxes him out, and they drive to school at a snail’s pace. Whose first day is it, anyway? When Dad sees the fun that Oliver has in class, his anxiety ends, and he’s able to breathe easy again. As Wohnoutka demonstrates, no one is immune to first-day nerves! Providing loads of appeal, his gouache illustrations are filled with bold lines and bright colors. His playful tale is a reminder that the beginning of school is a period of adjustment for parents and pupils alike.

COURAGE IN THE CLASSROOM
A small student-to-be takes a large leap into the unknown—the classroom, of course—in Birdie’s First Day of School by Sujean Rim. First-day fears keep Birdie awake all night. She’s heard that school is “all work and no play,” with a teacher who’s “half werewolf.” When the big day arrives, she consults her dog, Monster, on important questions (what to pack in her bag, which outfit to wear) and—with encouragement from her mother—joins the other kids. She soon discovers that class is actually awesome, with new friends, fun lessons and a mind-expanding instructor (who, beyond a beard, bears no resemblance to a werewolf). That night, Birdie can’t sleep, but this time it’s because she’s too excited about school! The latest entry in Rim’s irresistible Birdie series is a visual delight, with collage-like illustrations composed of delicate watercolor washes, colored-pencil details and crayon scribblings. Class with Birdie is a blast.

Put away the swimsuits and break out the backpacks—the first day of school is right around the corner! Read on for three totally terrific classroom tales that will help students shift gears and focus on fall. Prepare to have a straight-A school season!

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No doubt about it—there’s a direct connection between dreaming and doing. Three new picture books prove the imagination is a mighty tool, indeed. We may be living in the digital age, but as these books demonstrate, good old-fashioned make-believe never goes out of style.

CHASING DOWN A DREAM
Persistence pays off in Brian Pinkney’s inspiring On the Ball. Owen is having a less-than-stellar day at soccer practice. A fall on the field gets him sent to the bench, and then, to make matters worse, he fails to keep the ball from bouncing away. Owen chases it across a stream and into some bushes, where—imagining himself as a cat—he’s primed to pounce on it. But he can’t stop the ball on its mad journey, and his pursuit turns into an unforgettable adventure. When at last he reclaims the ball and zips back to the soccer field, Owen discovers he has new skills (“It was like his feet had wings”), and he always—always—watches the ball. Featuring minimalist lines amped up with washes of watercolor, Pinkney’s less-is-more illustrations of Owen on the run are wonderfully kinetic. As his story shows, determination and imagination are winning traits for a team player. Goooaaal!

CONCOTING THE PERFECT PLOT
A little make-believe saves the day in Nicola O’Byrne’s clever Use Your Imagination. Rabbit is bored: “I wish something would happen,” he says, and straightaway Wolf appears. Although his big green eyes and sinister grin indicate otherwise, Wolf says he’s a librarian (indeed!) and thus an expert in the art of storytelling. Despite this not-quite-credible claim, Rabbit agrees to Wolf’s plan of making up a fairy tale, complete with the requisite plot elements: a forest, a hero (Rabbit himself) and a villain (guess who). To this traditional scenario Rabbit adds a few surprises, including a huge pink elephant, but his ideas are quickly nixed by Wolf, who has his own plot in mind. An unhappy ending seems imminent until Rabbit outsmarts Wolf—using his imagination, of course! O’Byrne depicts the duo’s test of wits in lively, colorful mixed-media illustrations. Her delightful tale is a testament to the power of pretending.

CREATIVITY REALLY COUNTS
Faye Hanson’s The Wonder features a small boy with a big imagination. Fascinated by the world around him, the young lad is easily distracted. At the park, he wanders onto the grass and gets scolded by the groundskeeper. At school, he’s warned about daydreaming. But when art period rolls around and he’s urged by the teacher to use his imagination, the boy is in his element. On paper, he creates a fantastical realm where anything is possible (and walking on the grass is encouraged). There’s a flying car piloted by a pair of rabbits and a marching band composed of polar bears. What will this artist-in-the-making dream up next? His artwork earns the teacher’s praise and makes his parents proud. Hanson renders the everyday world in browns, tans and beiges, the better to play up the energy and sparkle of the boy’s imaginings, which brim with color. Her marvelous mixed-media spreads make this a book that lives up to its title.

No doubt about it—there’s a direct connection between dreaming and doing. Three new picture books prove the imagination is a mighty tool, indeed. We may be living in the digital age, but as these books demonstrate, good old-fashioned make-believe never goes out of style.

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The phrase “scared silly” takes on new meaning in these madcap tales of witches and monsters. Filled with mischievous fun, these thrilling Halloween reads will leave little readers shrieking—with laughter. Happy haunting!

WITCH VS. WEATHER
Halloween magic gets out of hand in Rebecca Colby’s It’s Raining Bats & Frogs. Delia, an adorable little sorceress, is excited about the annual Witch Parade until signs of rain dampen her spirits. When a full-on downpour soaks her broom-riding sisters, she takes matters into her own hands. Chanting an incantation, she transforms the raindrops into dogs and cats—a switch that goes hilariously haywire. Next, she summons a shower of hats and clogs, followed by bats and frogs, but her spells go awry every time. In the end, Delia realizes that rain is fine—even fitting—for parade day. Illustrator Steven Henry enlivens the witches’ wacky story with detail-filled drawings of marching scarecrows, juggling skeletons and horn-tooting ghosts, all of whom take part in the parade. As Delia learns the hard way, Halloween weather—like her magic spells—brings both tricks and treats!

THERE’S NOTHING TO FEAR
Sam Garton continues the adventures of Otter and her grown-up guardian, Otter Keeper, with the sweet seasonal treat, Otter Loves Halloween. Yes, Otter is excited about October 31, and it’s easy to see why! Preparations for the ghostly evening include a pumpkin-buying excursion (followed by Otter Keeper’s puzzlement over the carving process) and the hanging of decorations (glow-in-the-dark spider webs get stuck where they shouldn’t). Finally, it’s dress-up time. Otter dons a witch’s hat and cloak, and her stuffed pals Teddy and Giraffe get special costumes of their own. But when the trick-or-treaters arrive, Otter is terrified. She hides under the bed until Otter Keeper coaxes her out with an ingenious idea that sets her fears to rest. There’s lots to love about this delightful look at Halloween through Otter’s eyes. Her gentle personality shines through on every page, thanks to Garton’s genius digital illustrations. This is a great way to introduce young readers to the holiday.

READY, SET, SCARE!
A cute—and creepy—group of mischief-makers plans hijinks for Halloween in Ethan Long’s Fright Club. Vladimir the Vampire, Fran K. Stein, Sandy Witch and the rest of the Fright Club gang convene in their clubhouse to prepare for Operation Kiddie Scare. They review the traits of successful monsters (“ghoulish faces, scary moves, chilling sounds”), but their collective shock factor is a little low (to these guys, “scary moves” means ’70s disco steps). When their meeting is crashed by a timid-looking contingent of forest creatures who want to join the club, Vladimir scoffs and denies them entry. But the animals soon prove they’re skilled at being scary, and the two groups join forces for the spookiest Halloween the block has ever seen. Long depicts these eerie antics in black-and-white pencil drawings overlaid with classic monster-movie hues—sepia browns, sickly greens, macabre blues and purples. There’s plenty of fright-night fun to be had with his batty tale.

The phrase “scared silly” takes on new meaning in these madcap tales of witches and monsters. Filled with mischievous fun, these thrilling Halloween reads will leave little readers shrieking—with laughter. Happy haunting!

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Merry and bright: that’s the forecast for bibliophiles this holiday season. Inspired gift ideas for lovers of literature are as plentiful as snowflakes in December. Our top recommendations are featured here.

OUR BELOVED DETECTIVE
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle introduced Sherlock Holmes to the world in 1887 in A Study in Scarlet, a novel for which he earned £25—not even peanuts compared to the bucks being generated by the lucrative sleuth today. Somehow, a century and a quarter after his debut, the detective has become an entertainment-industry titan as the star of a successful movie franchise and two popular TV series. Doyle’s detective is undoubtedly having a moment, so the timing couldn’t be better for The Sherlock Holmes Book, a handsomely illustrated volume that provides background on every case Holmes ever faced, starting with A Study in Scarlet and ending with The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place. Each case is accompanied by an easy-to-follow flowchart, which breaks down the deductive process Holmes used to crack it. In-depth character profiles, a Doyle biography and fascinating chapters on forensic science make this the ultimate Sherlock scrapbook. It’s a must-have for devotees of the great detective.

BIBLIOPHILES TRAVEL GUIDE
Perfect for the armchair traveler or the reader who enjoys hitting the road, Shelley Fisher Fishkin’s Writing America: Literary Landmarks from Walden Pond to Wounded Knee is a meticulously researched, beautifully written survey of the nation’s most beloved literary sites. From the Walt Whitman Birthplace in Huntington Station, New York, to the Sinclair Lewis Boyhood Home in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, the dream destinations of every book lover are included in this fascinating tour. Along with stops at familiar spots like Hannibal, Missouri, and Walden Pond, the narrative includes visits to South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation and sites in South Texas. Fishkin considers the storytelling traditions of these and other parts of the country, highlighting the great writers native to each, and the result is a vivid mosaic of the cultures, voices and geographies that inform America’s literary inheritance. Packed with photographs, this book features more than 150 National Register historic sites. It’s the ultimate trip advisor for lovers of literature and history. 

CHARTING THE CLASSICS
In Plotted: A Literary Atlas, Andrew DeGraff interprets classic narratives as maps. Not the Google kind, mind you. DeGraff isn’t a conventional cartographer, he’s an artist, and his maps—subjective, frequently surreal topographic renderings of narratives both epic (Moby-Dick) and miniature (“A Good Man Is Hard to Find”)—rather than orienting the viewer, often have the opposite effect. DeGraff’s depictions defamiliarize well-known works, uncovering facets the reader never imagined. In his treatment of Hamlet, he tracks the path of the prince’s madness as it contaminates the palace of Elsinore. Inspired by the social factors at play in Pride and Prejudice, he maps the novel as a series of precarious catwalks between family estates. In all, DeGraff charts 30 narratives. He’s a genius at identifying and connecting a work’s key coordinates, then using them as the basis for remarkable visualizations. Each of his colorful, ingenious maps is accompanied by an introductory essay. With Plotted, he guides literature lovers off the beaten path and into newly charted territory.

THE MARCH CLAN REVISITED
There’s comfort to be found in the pages of a classic. A tried-and-true title holds out the promise of pleasure to a reader and never fails to keep the contract. Case in point: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott—surely one of the most reread works in all of American literature. The story of the March sisters, first published in 1868-69, receives the royal treatment in The Annotated Little Women, a deluxe edition of the novel filled with rare photographs, illustrations and other Alcott-related memorabilia. This lavish volume features notes and an introduction by John Matteson, who won a Pulitzer Prize for Eden’s Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father. Matteson offers insights into the author’s creative life and provides context for the novel, finding new dimensions in the familiar classic. Arriving in time for Christmas—the same holiday the Marches celebrate so memorably in the opening chapters of Little Women—this treasure trove of a book is the perfect gift for bibliophiles who fancy old favorites. 

VINTAGE KEYS
We may be living in an age of featherweight laptops and magic tablets, but the typewriter—that clunky classic—remains the most literary device of all. It’s an icon of the writing life, the truest emblem of an author (nothing says “vagabond novelist” like an Olivetti or Underwood). Journalist Tony Allan honors the PC’s stately precursor in Typewriter: The History, The Machines, The Writers. Providing a compact overview of the instrument’s evolution, Allan’s quirky volume is filled with typewriter trivia, retro posters and ads, vintage photos of classic machines and quotes—now golden—from those who pecked their way to fame (including, of course, Ernest Hemingway: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”). With a foreword by Paul Schweitzer, owner of the Gramercy Typewriter Company, this uncommon little stocking stuffer is the sort of thing literary types live for.

 

This article was originally published in the December 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Merry and bright: that’s the forecast for bibliophiles this holiday season. Inspired gift ideas for lovers of literature are as plentiful as snowflakes in December. Our top recommendations are featured here.
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It’s a story that never goes out of style: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll’s chronicle of an inquisitive girl lost in a parallel world of talking animals and pompous royals, is a tale unlike any other—one that celebrates the complexities of language, the singular genius of children and the absurdity that lurks just beneath the surface of reality.

In honor of the novel’s 150th anniversary, we’ve rounded up a trio of new Alice-related titles, all of which prove that Wonderland still has mysteries well worth exploring. 

DECONSTRUCTING 'ALICE'
David Day combines the expertise of an academic with the fervor of a true Alice enthusiast in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Decoded. In a remarkable act of literary excavation, Day exposes the historical references, classical allusions and subtly disguised symbols that he thinks Carroll embedded in the tale of Wonderland as lessons for his protégé, Alice Liddell. Day believes Carroll included these elements to round out the narrow education Alice would’ve received as a female in the Victorian age. It’s an intriguing theory, and he supports it impressively throughout Decoded. The volume includes Carroll’s novel in full, supplemented by Day’s observations as he painstakingly traces the various themes—music and philosophy, mathematics and poetry—that run through Carroll’s narrative, proving along the way that Alice, even as it celebrates the absurd, exhibits airtight logic. Richly illustrated, this is a book Alice addicts will find irresistible. 

A WONDERLAND HANDBOOK
No reader should plunge into Wonderland without taking Martin Gardner along as guide. The celebrated Carroll expert published The Annotated Alice in 1960 to great acclaim and popularity—more than a million copies are currently in print. In the intervening decades, Gardner, who died in 2010, continued to pick at the riddles of Wonderland—the numerical enigmas and verbal brainteasers that make the text so perplexing—and his findings are shared in The Annotated Alice: 150th Anniversary Deluxe Edition. This comprehensive volume collects all of Gardner’s notes, his correspondence with Carroll critics and his introductions to previous Alice-related works. Filled with breathtaking illustrations by a wide range of artists, including Beatrix Potter and Salvador Dalí, the book offers invaluable insights into the Victorian mores, literary movements and real-life elements that inform Alice’s adventure, including all manner of Carroll arcana (it seems the writer, like the White Rabbit, had a fixation on gloves). For the latest in Alice analysis, Gardner’s your man. 


The Nursery Alice (1890) from The Annotated Alice: 150th Anniversary Deluxe Edition.
 

DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE
As he proved in Wicked and Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Gregory Maguire is a wiz when it comes to taking a fresh angle on a classic tale and spinning it into a fully formed story—one that lives up to its distinguished lineage. In his new book, After Alice, he works his customary magic, using Carroll’s story as a springboard for his own inventive novel. Maguire casts Alice’s friend Ada (who is mentioned briefly in Carroll’s narrative) as a leading character. When Alice disappears down the rabbit hole, Ada pursues her. In Wonderland, she encounters the usual suspects (including the pipe-smoking Caterpillar and unsettling Cheshire Cat), as well as a number of new—and equally eccentric—inhabitants. Meanwhile, back in the rational world, Charles Darwin, Walter Pater and other Victorian-era personages provide a rich contrast to Ada’s surreal adventures. The blend of fact and fiction results in a magical addition to the literature of Wonderland. Maguire and Alice: It’s a pairing Carroll himself would’ve consecrated.

 

This article was originally published in the December 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

It’s a story that never goes out of style: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll’s chronicle of an inquisitive girl lost in a parallel world of talking animals and pompous royals. In honor of the novel’s 150th anniversary, we’ve rounded up a trio of new Alice-related titles, all of which prove that Wonderland still has mysteries well worth exploring.
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There’s no topping the sense of excitement that comes with the countdown to Christmas. And there’s no better way to celebrate the season than snuggling up with a holiday story. Surprise the little reader in your life with one of the delightful books featured below, and let the countdown begin!

SANTA AT THE FARM
Duck and the rest of the barnyard rascals get caught in a Christmas jam in Doreen Cronin’s hilarious Click, Clack, Ho! Ho! Ho!. Spruced up for Christmas Eve with a sprig of holly in his hat, Farmer Brown is hanging stockings by the fire. All is merry, bright and quiet, until he hears noises on the roof. Must be Santa, right? Wrong! It’s Duck, stirring up Christmas mischief. He’s hoping to deliver a gift to Farmer Brown in the style of Saint Nick. But upon seeing Santa in the sky, Duck dives into the chimney and gets stuck. Sheep, goats, cat and cows come to the rescue, but they get trapped, too. Luckily, Santa’s on hand to set them free, and soon they’re making merry around Farmer Brown’s tree. Betsy Lewin brings the Christmas revelry to life in spirited watercolor illustrations. As usual, Duck and friends deliver big fun. 

REUNITED FOR THE HOLIDAYS
With Over the River & Through the Wood, Linda Ashman offers an inspired update of Lydia Maria Child’s beloved 1844 poem. In this contemporary take on the classic, a group of widespread relatives—all very different—reunite for a seasonal celebration. Summoned by Grandma and Grandpa (“Come to our house for the holidays—and bring your favorite pie!”), the family members make the journey from various corners of the country by train, car, plane and ferry. When unexpected obstacles delay the travelers, a surprise sleigh ride saves the day. Brimming with holiday cheer, Ashman’s festive tale pays tribute to the modern family in all its varied configurations, and Kim Smith’s dynamic digital illustrations make this a holiday journey worth taking. 

GIFT-GIVING AT ITS BEST
In David Biedrzycki’s Me and My Dragon: Christmas Spirit, the boy-and-beast team are preparing for the holidays. Lacking the funds to buy Christmas gifts, they take on odd (very, very odd) jobs for cash. Dragon’s fire-breathing abilities prove lucrative: He broils up menu items at the Burger Barn and toasts marshmallows, which his enterprising little partner sells for 50 cents. But when it’s time to go shopping, the boy has a change of heart, and he donates his money to a worthy cause. As for Dragon, he contributes homemade cookies (although his baking skills are questionable). Biedrzycki’s clever digital illustrations are crammed with Christmas goodness—snowy sidewalks, costumed carolers and two happy friends. 

MEDIEVAL MERRIMENT
Filled with holiday witticisms, The Knights Before Christmas is a clever send-up of Clement Clarke Moore’s classic poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” Joan Holub’s playful adaptation features three bumbling noblemen—Brave Knight, Silent Knight and Polite Knight—who are guarding the king’s castle on Christmas Eve. Peace reigns, but not for long: A clatter on the drawbridge signals the arrival of Santa. Mistaking the jolly old elf for an invader, the knights set out to repel him, swords drawn and flourished. But Santa has gifts that he’s determined to deliver, and he launches a special attack on the castle—with sugarplums and chewing gum. Packed with Christmas wisecracks and colorful digital illustrations by Scott Magoon, this is a very merry olde Yuletide tale.

NEIGHBORHOOD CHEER
“Sesame Street” alum Sonia Manzano tells a big-city Christmas story in Miracle on 133rd Street. In their cramped apartment, José and his parents celebrate the holidays, although they pine for their native Puerto Rico. When Mami discovers the stove’s too small for her roast, José has a solution: cook the roast at the neighborhood pizzeria. As José and Papi embark on this tasty mission, they encounter cranky grownups and quarreling kids, none of whom seem happy about the holidays. But on their return trip, a bit of Christmas enchantment occurs, and the tempting aroma of the cooked roast works like magic. Marjorie Priceman’s whimsical illustrations, with swirling eddies of color, are perfect for this tale that will make readers believe in the power of Christmas.

CLASSIC COME TO LIFE
No Christmas would be complete without a few rounds of “Jingle Bells,” the timeless sleigh-ride tune composed by James Lord Pierpont in 1857. In Jingle Bells: A Magical Cut-Paper Edition, artist Niroot Putta-pipat brings the holiday gem to vivid life through precise cut- paper montages. A pair of sweethearts—shown in dramatic, dark silhouette against a snow-filled backdrop—takes off on a sleigh ride through a 19th-century winter wonderland. Song lyrics run along the bottom of each spread, and at the end of the ride, there’s a pop-up surprise the little ones will love. A sing-along is definitely in order!

 

This article was originally published in the December 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

There’s no topping the sense of excitement that comes with the countdown to Christmas. And there’s no better way to celebrate the season than snuggling up with a holiday story. Surprise the little reader in your life with one of the delightful books featured below, and let the countdown begin!
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It’s never too early—or too late—to start planning for retirement, and the inspiring books below can show you how. These practical reads will help you manage your money and make a successful shift to the next stage of the game if your career is coming to a close. Get ready to face the future with confidence.

Both the high-level exec and the bottom-rung recruit will benefit from Dr. Teresa Ghilarducci’s How to Retire with Enough Money and How to Know What Enough Is. Ghilarducci, a retirement-security expert who teaches at the New School for Social Research, starts by laying out the cold, hard facts about Americans and retirement: Most of us have less than $30,000 squirrelled away for our post-working lives, while a third of us have no savings at all. About half of the middle class will hit poverty level upon retirement. “This isn’t just a personal problem,” Ghilarducci says, “it’s a national problem.” 

Moving beyond the bleak statistics, Ghilarducci shows readers how to improve their long-term prospects. A critical first step is determining the amount of money you’ll require come retirement time—about 70 or 80 percent of your current income. For readers who need to get on sound financial ground before they can start strategizing for retirement, Ghilarducci supplies “a road map to change.” She addresses the here-and-now problems (credit card debt, car loans) that often prevent us from thinking about the future and reveals smart ways to trim everyday expenses. A yes-you-can spirit prevails throughout this brief, handy guide. Ghilarducci’s concise, cut-to-the-chase advice makes planning for the future seem (dare we say it?) easy. 

MOTIVATION FROM A MASTER
Financial advisor Chris Hogan is a sought-after speaker on matters related to retirement and life planning, and the energy he brings to these topics in person is palpable on the pages of Retire Inspired. Both a pep talk aimed at those who feel unprepared for retirement and a practical guide to money management, Hogan’s book addresses the concerns we all harbor in a tone that’s refreshingly positive. Throughout, Hogan shares family and sports anecdotes (he was once an all-American football player), as well as stories about his clients. The result is a spirited, engaging read filled with smart suggestions on how to get serious about saving.

Hogan takes a decade-by-decade approach to retirement strategy. Beginning with readers who are in their 20s and working up to those in their 60s and beyond, he lays out detailed plans for each age group, with tips on how to get out from under the burden of debt, how to set and live by a budget, and how to find the daily momentum that’s required for long-term saving. Best of all, he encourages readers to stop thinking of retirement as a terrible finality and start viewing it as an adventure. “Retirement is not just the rest of the story,” he says, “it can be the best of your story.” Inspiring, indeed. 

MINDSET IS EVERYTHING
Whether you’re toying with the idea of retirement or have already taken the big step, you’ll want to pick up a copy of Happy Retirement: The Psychology of Reinvention, a thorough, accessible volume that’s packed with tips on how to prepare for and savor the years that lie ahead. Created with input from Dr. Kenneth S. Shultz, an expert on the psychology of retirement, the book considers the practicalities of leaving the workforce, providing information on issues like financial planning and healthcare, but it also goes in-depth on the mental and emotional repercussions that come with the conclusion of a career.

Constructed on a foundation of solid research, the book offers guidelines on preparing for life away from the office (start by asking yourself “The Big Four” questions: What will I do? How will I afford it? Where will I live? Who will I share it with?) and provides advice on making a smooth transition. The volume is chock-full of ways to stay happy and purposeful (how about mentoring an up-and-comer at your old company?). Featuring bold colors and nifty graphics, this engaging book covers all the bases, from choosing the right retirement date to saying goodbye to colleagues. It’s a must-have manual for anyone contemplating a departure from the working world. 

 

This article was originally published in the January 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

It’s never too early—or too late—to start planning for retirement, and the inspiring books below can show you how. These practical reads will help you manage your money and make a successful shift to the next stage of the game if your career is coming to a close. Get ready to face the future with confidence.
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March is a lucky month for readers who love Ireland—a country with a rich narrative tradition, where stories and poems are considered everyday currency. Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, we’re spotlighting three new titles that prove the country’s memorable characters and storytelling legacy live on.

AN ENDURING LEGACY
Timothy Egan, meticulous historian and crackerjack story-teller, offers a rousing biography of renegade leader Thomas Francis Meagher in The Immortal Irishman: The Irish Revolutionary Who Became an American Hero

Meagher, a native of Waterford, Ireland, who fought for the Union in the American Civil War, has a personal history of mythical proportions. At the age of 25, he spearheaded an unsuccessful revolt against the British and was exiled to a penal colony in Tasmania. Less than a year later, he resurfaced in New York, where he was celebrated as a hero, and he went on to command the Irish Brigade—a rag-tag crew of immigrants and outlaws—in some of the Civil War’s most cutthroat conflicts. He later served as territorial governor of Montana. Egan sheds new light on the indomitable Irishman’s final days in this fascinating and far-flung yarn. 

A self-described “lapsed” Irish American, Egan—winner of the National Book Award for his 2007 chronicle of the Dust Bowl, The Worst Hard Time—writes in a spirited style that’s perfectly matched to Meagher’s remarkable life. 

A NEW VOICE
Already a literary sensation overseas, Sara Baume, winner of the 2015 Hennessy New Irish Writer Award, delivers a remarkably accomplished debut in Spill Simmer Falter Wither, a captivating novel that features a man-redeemed-by-dog plotline. The book is narrated by an outsider named Ray, who, at the age of 57—“too old for starting over, too young for giving up”—is spurned by his neighbors after his father dies. Ray is something of a curmudgeon, and when he befriends a scruffy one-eyed terrier, he finds unexpected fulfillment in the relationship. But an unfortunate incident forces Ray to pull up roots and drift—canine by his side, of course. The novel chronicles a year in the life of the improbable pair, four seasons spent on the road that are rich with incident and gorgeously depicted through Baume’s precise, lapidary prose. 

The 31-year-old author, who lives in Cork with two dogs of her own, displays wisdom beyond her years in this compassionate tale.

IRRESISTABLE IRISH YARNS
A native of County Dublin and a longtime columnist for The Irish Times, Maeve Binchy was the author of more than 20 bestsellers, including the classic novel Circle of Friends (1990). Binchy, who died in 2012, had a heartfelt, unaffected storytelling style that made her a favorite at home and abroad. Her many fans will cheer the appearance of A Few of the Girls, a collection of 36 stories never published before in the United States. Exploring the complex nature of relationships in the melodic prose that became her trademark, Binchy charts the dynamics of romance, the politics of family and the stipulations of friendship. When it comes to capturing the caprices of the human heart, she’s unbeatable. Readers will recognize themselves in her nuanced portrayals of women and men whose goals and regrets, dreams and disappointments never feel less than true-to-life. There’s no better antidote to a raw March evening than a dose of vintage Binchy.

 

This article was originally published in the March 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

March is a lucky month for readers who love Ireland—a country with a rich narrative tradition, where stories and poems are considered everyday currency. Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, we’re spotlighting three new titles that prove the country’s memorable characters and storytelling legacy live on.
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Big adventures are in store for rising readers, as these three picture books celebrate the imagination and its limitless potential. These inspiring tales are all about discovery, exploration and letting your imagination take the lead. Anything is possible!

An independent little girl gets lost in an adventure of her own imagining in R.W. Alley’s Gretchen Over the Beach. With her spiffy new sunhat and toys, Gretchen is ready to spend a day at the seashore with her siblings. But she’s disappointed when they race to the ocean, leaving her alone on the beach. Gretchen plays in the sand until her hat is caught by a gust of wind. She snags it by the tail—a length of red ribbon—and is soon airborne. Flying along with her toys for company, Gretchen zips over the ocean. A ride on the back of a seagull makes her beach day complete. Alley uses ink, pencil and acrylics to create a swirling dreamscape of ocean and sky—the perfect backdrop for the story of Gretchen and her out-of-this-world imagination. 

FACING UP TO FEAR
Danny Parker’s Parachute is the uplifting story of a small boy who confronts a big challenge. Toby is never without his parachute. Folded away in an orange pack, it makes him feel less uneasy about descending from his bunk bed or swinging in the park. It becomes very necessary when Toby is forced to climb up to his treehouse to retrieve Henry, his cat. Using the parachute, Toby sends Henry safely to the ground. But now Toby is stranded. How will he get down? With the help of his imagination, of course! Artist Matt Ottley plays with perspective in ingenious pictures that deliver a sense of Toby’s vertiginous experience. His paint, pastel and pencil illustrations are filled with brilliant details (like the stuffed rabbit that’s strapped to Toby’s pack). This is a triumphant tale about defeating fear that readers of all ages will appreciate.

THE SKY’S THE LIMIT
Flying bovines and a friendly dragon—there’s plenty to love about Gemma Merino’s The Cow Who Climbed a Tree. Tina the cow is often teased about her inquisitive mind by her sisters, a complacent trio whose thoughts rarely stray beyond their stomachs. In the woods one day, on a whim, Tina climbs a tree, where a surprise awaits her: a winged dragon! The two trade stories and become fast friends. At home, Tina tells her sisters about the dragon, but they don’t believe her. When she disappears the next day, they make their very first venture into the forest in hopes of finding her. The sisters soon learn that the woods are full of wonder, a place where their wildest dreams can take flight. Merino’s delightful illustrations feature simple lines and bold washes of color. Her story is sure to ignite the spirit of discovery in young readers.

 

This article was originally published in the March 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Big adventures are in store for rising readers, as these three picture books celebrate the imagination and its limitless potential. These inspiring tales are all about discovery, exploration and letting your imagination take the lead. Anything is possible!
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This year marks an important literary milestone: the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month. Established by the Academy of American Poets, the annual event has blossomed into a worldwide celebration. We’re joining in the festivities by highlighting three terrific new collections. 

THE POLITICAL AND THE WHIMSICAL
Last year, Ohio appointed its first Poet Laureate, Amit Majmudar, who, despite his literary success, hasn’t quit his day job as a diagnostic nuclear radiologist. The son of Indian immigrants, Majmudar grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and in the innovative yet accessible poems collected in his superb new book, Dothead: Poems, he explores the experience of growing up as a cultural outsider among mostly white classmates and how his heritage shapes his everyday adult life. “It happens every trip, / at LaGuardia, Logan, and Washington Dulles, / the customary strip / is never enough for a young brown male,” he writes in “T.S.A.” This painful prejudice rears its head again in “The Star-Spangled Turban”: “Any towel, / any shawl will . . . mark me off as / not quite level- / headed. . . .” Along with his pointed cultural critique are stark, electrifying pieces like “Ode to a Drone” and inventive, playful poems like his celebratory ode to grammar in the sly “His Love of Semicolons” (“The comma is comely, the period, peerless, / but stack them one atop / the other, and I am in love”). Majmudar finds poetry in the modern world where we least expect it. 

A CAREER-CLOSING VOLUME
Larry Levis was only 49 when he died of a heart attack two decades ago, but his reputation as a rare and compassionate poet was already well established. The award-winning author of five collections of verse, Levis casts a long shadow over the poetry world, which makes the appearance of The Darkening Trapeze: Last Poems a cause for celebration. Edited by poet David St. John, this never-before-published volume features expansive works constructed from long, Whitmanesque lines and a cast of marginal characters that were a recurring thread in Levis’ verse. In “Elegy for the Infinite Wrapped in Tinfoil,” a drug-addled boy sets his girlfriend’s house on fire and goes walking “past eaves & lawns that flowed / Beside him then as if he’d loosened them / From every mooring but brimming moonlight.” A sense of the poet as a vulnerable figure searching for meaning in a tumultuous world permeates these works, including “The Space,” in which “The Self sounds like a guy raking leaves / Off his walk. It sounds like the scrape of the rake. / The soul is just a story the scraping tells.” This collection moves between poetic modes to reveal Levis’ breadth of vision. The Darkening Trapeze serves as a poignant final statement from a poet whose voice remains vital. 

NEWLY DISCOVERED NERUDA
Then Come Back: The Lost Neruda is a true treasure: a new group of poems by Nobel Prize-winning Chilean author and statesman Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), thoughtfully translated by American poet Forrest Gander. Discovered by the Pablo Neruda Foundation, these previously unseen works were written between the 1950s and the early 1970s. The 21 pieces—image-saturated, sensuous, earthy yet elegant—highlight Neruda’s unselfconscious ease as he explores themes that loomed large in his life: home, nature, exile, art. Ardency for nature enlivens “Poem 2,” which conjures “the corollas / of giant sunflowers, defeated / by their very fullness.” “Poem 10,” with its celebratory opening lines—“Marvelous ear, / double / butterfly, / hear / your praise”—brings to mind Neruda’s famous odes to other body parts (eye, liver, skull). Of poetry itself, Neruda writes, “All my life it’s coursed through my body / like my own blood.” Indeed, these beautifully unaffected poems serve as yet another testament to the fluency of Neruda’s genius. Photographs of his handwritten drafts are included throughout, lending an archival air to this essential collection.

 

This article was originally published in the April 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

This year marks an important literary milestone: the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month. Established by the Academy of American Poets, the annual event has blossomed into a worldwide celebration. We’re joining in the festivities by highlighting three terrific new collections.
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This year, forget the flowers! Celebrate Mom with a story instead. Filled with humor, poetry and plenty of love, these fresh picture books pay tribute to mothers and their special magic.

PREPARING FOR MOTHERHOOD
Laura Krauss Melmed delivers a beautiful salute to the bond that exists between mother and child in Before We Met. Jing Jing Tsong’s breathtaking digital collage illustrations feature an evocative palette of violets, purples and blues—the deep hues of a night sky—to create a magical backdrop for a mother’s musings. The phrase “before we met” serves as a refrain in the book’s rhymed lines, turning the text into a lullaby: “Before we met, I dreamt I felt the beating of your heart. Before we met, I promised you I’d love you from the start,” the mother tells her newborn. Soon night gives way to day and a sun-drenched gardenscape filled with flitting birds and blooming flowers. This celebratory scene, signifying birth, is the perfect endnote for Melmed’s gorgeous, impressionistic story-poem. 

MOM ON A MISSION
Emma Levey’s delightful Hattie Peck features a one-of-a-kind mom—a broody chicken who longs for a family all her own. The only egg Hattie ever laid failed to hatch! She dreams of having eggs—lots and lots of them—and so she sets out on a quest. Her goal: round up all the abandoned eggs she can find and hatch them, “every last one!” Beginning this madcap mission in a rowboat, Hattie plumbs oceans, braves caves and climbs mountains, collecting a “colossal clutch” along the way. Back at home, she sits atop a pile of eggs and waits for the cracking to commence. Soon Hattie has hatched a veritable zoo that includes alligators, snakes, a penguin and a peacock. With so many critters to care for, Hattie is happy at last. Featuring colors that pop, Levey’s bold illustrations make this an extra-special story for families of every breed.

TWO OF A KIND
You Made Me a Mother captures the sense of nervous anticipation that precedes a baby’s arrival. Laurenne Sala’s buoyant story follows an excited mom-to-be as she prepares for her big day, studying baby guides and puzzling over new furniture for the nursery. When the tot finally arrives, the young mom naturally adjusts to her new role, making lovely discoveries about herself along the way: “I realized that I would spend my life doing things to make you happy. And that would make me happy,” she tells her little one. Over time, through trips to the playground and walks in the rain, mother and child learn from each other and grow together. Robin Preiss Glasser’s detailed ink-and-watercolor drawings are just right for this moving tribute to a mother’s unique capacity for love.

 

This article was originally published in the May 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

This year, forget the flowers! Celebrate Mom with a story instead. Filled with humor, poetry and plenty of love, these fresh picture books pay tribute to mothers and their special magic.
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If the little readers in your household are stuck in summer mode, then you’ve come to the right place. Prep those kiddos for class with one of these inspiring books, and get set for a sensational school year.

COURAGE IN THE CLASSROOM
A grade-A story from start to finish, Jennifer P. Goldfinger’s Hello, My Name Is Tiger features Toby, a shy boy who likes to pretend he’s a cat. Toby even wears a kitty costume, complete with whiskers and tail. He’s a fearless feline—except when it comes to starting school. Adjusting to life in the classroom when you’re a cat can be tough! At first, Toby resists. He plays by himself in the sandbox and climbs trees during recess rather than joining the other kids. But with the help of kindred spirits—including Pete, who loves to pretend he’s a monkey—Toby finds his comfort zone. Goldfinger’s buoyant mixed-media illustrations—a blend of chalk doodles, pencil sketches and vivid washes of color—give this appealing story extra charm. Just the thing for nervous newbies who aren’t sure what to expect from school.

FROM A SCHOOL’S PERSPECTIVE
The main character in Adam Rex’s ingenious School’s First Day of School is Frederick Douglass Elementary, a spiffy new building with a bad case of the first-day nerves. The idea of incoming students makes the school creak! The building befriends a kindly janitor, who readies him for the big morning, and then the children arrive—“more of them than the school could possibly have imagined.” In class, the kids learn the definition of a square (“Wow,” the school says to himself. “I did not know that.”), and one girl makes a picture of Frederick Douglass Elementary (“It looks just like me,” the school thinks.). Not bad for a first day! Artist Christian Robinson depicts the building as a place with personality—the main door, with its window eyes, seems to be smiling—and his colorful illustrations give the book a timeless feel. It’s sure to become an end-of-summer classic.

EDUCATION AGAINST THE ODDS
Based on true events, Deborah Hopkinson’s inspiring, accessible Steamboat School tells the story of the remarkable school established by St. Louis teacher and preacher John Berry Meachum. In 1847, when a state law is passed denying education to African Americans of all ages, free or enslaved, Meachum has a daring idea: construct a steamboat on the Mississippi River, beyond the reach of the Missouri government, and use it as a school. Two young students, James and his sister, Tassie, help him build the boat and get pupils on board. “I felt like a pot about to boil over,” an excited James says when their work is done. Ron Husband’s detailed, realistic pen-and-ink illustrations have an old-fashioned sepia feel and perfectly complement Hopkinson’s lyrical lines. Young readers are sure to be intrigued by this chronicle of a classroom on the water. 

If the little readers in your household are stuck in summer mode, then you’ve come to the right place. Prep those kiddos for class with one of these inspiring books, and get set for a sensational school year.

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From real haunted spaces to magic spells you can cast at home, these three new books offer plenty of spine-tingling spookiness.

THROUGH THE GLASS
It’s a given in many a fairy tale and myth: There’s more to a mirror than meets the eye. Mickie Mueller explores the legends and the lore the glass has inspired over the centuries in The Witch’s Mirror. An expert on natural and fairy magic, Mueller delivers a crash course in wizardry via this little volume, providing background on what makes a magic mirror tick while urging readers to tap into the power that lies behind its silvered facade. Would-be witches will find instructions on how to prepare their own magic mirrors, along with a wide range of incantations involving the glass (who can pass up the “You Are Beautiful Spell”?). Mueller also provides advice on using mirrors for meditation and astral travel. Filled with insights from practicing witches, this handbook of enchantment is an October treat.

SERIOUSLY SCARY
It’s hard to imagine a better-qualified chronicler of America’s paranormal past than historian Colin Dickey, who came of age not far from our nation’s most haunted abode, the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California. A longtime connoisseur of the macabre—he was once director of Brooklyn’s Morbid Anatomy Museum—Dickey takes readers on a spine-tingling tour of supernatural sites in Ghostland. From Portland, Oregon’s Cathedral Park, where a young woman was brutally murdered in 1949, to Shiloh, Tennessee’s infamous Civil War battleground, Dickey explores the hotels and homes, bars and brothels, asylums and—yes—cemeteries that have hosted all manner of eerie activity over the centuries. Along the way, he addresses larger questions about how the living deal with the possible presence of the dead. Pursuing ghosts from coast to coast, Dickey delivers a truly creepy travelogue that’s a must-have for Halloween.

HEAD TRIP
Marc Hartzman resurrects a disquieting bit of British history in The Embalmed Head of Oliver Cromwell. A political heavyweight who helped orchestrate the downfall of King Charles I, Cromwell was interred in Westminster Abbey in 1658. King Charles II, seeking revenge for his father, dug the statesman up, cut off his head and placed it on a post at Westminster Hall, where it remained for two decades, until—liberated by the forces of nature—it began a protracted postmortem journey, passing through the hands of curio collectors and museum owners. In his deliciously twisted book, Hartzman tracks the unhappy fate of Cromwell’s pate over the course of 300 years, and in a ghoulish turn of ventriloquism, he lets the head do the talking. From beginning to end, this startling yarn is recounted by Cromwell’s long-suffering skull, and it has quite a story to share. Unsettling, yes, but also irresistible.

 

This article was originally published in the October 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

From real haunted spaces to magic spells you can cast at home, these three new books offer plenty of spine-tingling spookiness.

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