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Boone: An Unfinished Portrait
Daniel Griffith
Daniel Boone lives large in the American folk hero imagination. Though modernity remembers him as a coonskin-cap-wearing pioneer, Griffith skillfully expands readers’ picture of this quasimythological figure to provide a more complete understanding of Boone the politician, businessman, soldier, and frontiersman. Boone: An Unfinished Portrait blends history and biography with elements of an ecological manifesto. Its eight chapters delve into what Griffith calls “white culture’s two Boones,” or the competing popular depictions of Boone as a civilization-expanding pioneer and a nature conservationist.

Readers shouldn’t expect dry historical prose, however. Griffith writes with an ear for style as well as substance, though some of his turns of phrase can distract from, rather than enhance, the reading experience. Where the book shines, however, is as expansionist history. Griffith approaches Boone’s life and legacy through an ecological lens; as part of his biographical project, Griffith continually reminds the reader of the long history of Indigenous life in and cultivation of what is today the United States. Griffith warns that the true story of Boone might be uncomfortable for readers, but details like these bring his audience closer to the political and cultural reality of Boone’s time.

Fans of United States history, folklore, and its tradition of ecological conservation will love Griffith’s reflections on the connection between civilization and the natural world. As its title indicates, this biography is not meant to be the final word on Daniel Boone’s life and legacy. However, Griffith’s careful research and extensive, balanced consideration of Boone’s life and works make this volume an essential read for anyone interested in the folk hero.

Takeaway: Fascinating, balanced, and well-researched, this nature-centered biography is sure to entertain and inform.

Great for fans of: Howard Means's Johnny Appleseed. The Man, the Myth, the American Story; April R. Summit's Sacagawea: A Biography.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: A-
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B+
Marketing copy: A-

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Brothers in Arms: Remembering Brothers Buried Side by Side in American World War II Cemeteries
Kevin M. Callahan
Inspired by author Callahan’s many trips to overseas cemeteries established during WWII for fallen American soldiers, this poignant memorial will warm hearts and inspire readers. When Callahan and his two sons came across a pair of brothers from Iowa buried side-by-side in Italy, he realized he had stumbled on a fascinating, though narrow, unknown bit of WWII history: there was a concerted effort by the U.S. government to bury brothers who fell in battle together in the same cemetery. Brothers in Arms tells the stories of 286 sets of brothers uncovered by Callahan and his research team.

Callahan depicts the profound experiences of American brothers in battle, including the circumstances surrounding their deaths and their detailed personal backgrounds, in an intimate and engaging way. Though its subject matter limits both its audience and the diversity of its stories—as Callahan admits, this is predominantly a history of white American men—this collection of personal histories skillfully blends narrative with archival information. Brothers in Arms combines a wealth of photographic evidence alongside the often-neglected histories of postwar cemeteries.

Callahan organizes its contents according to overseas graveyards, a decision that both highlights the guide’s utility as a reference and calls attention to its lack of exhaustiveness (three cemeteries are excluded, due to “a lack of time, space, and our inability to contact the family members of brothers buried there,” and brothers who died at sea aren’t included). Although readers will not find a complete account of all brothers-in-arms in this single volume, Callahan’s goal is not to provide an encyclopedia of brothers buried overseas, but rather the first entry in an ongoing “living project” that readers themselves can participate in via social media (@brothersinarmsbook). Like the guide itself, which contains a wealth of primary sources ranging from photographs to dance invitations and personal correspondence, the project will continually update with more materials and memories online as the research team receives submissions from family members. Perfect for genealogy enthusiasts and history buffs, Brothers in Arms is an exciting and evolving resource.

Takeaway: Reflective and thought-provoking, this is a worthy entry on any WWII buff’s reading list.

Great for fans of: Sally Mott Freeman’s The Jersey Brothers; TIME-LIFE World War II in 500 Photographs.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A-
Illustrations: A-
Editing: A
Marketing copy: B+

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The Undergrounds
Geert Heetebrij and Jonathan Lareva
In this appealing graphic novel, the Cooper family goes from mundane move to magical adventure when the children discover a tunnel in the backyard that leads to various magical worlds. Neil, his wife Kristen, and their four children—Elyse, Claire, Lauren, and Rob—are a typical family with typical bickering and strains, and when they and their dog Cash arrive at the semiderelict home they’ve just bought, the children are banished to the yard to keep them out of the way of the movers. There they find a deep and mysterious tunnel lined with doors that seem to open into other realms. When they accidentally lead a group of pirates back to their home, the whole family has to work both independently and together to get home safe and sound.

As the family gets split up and each person or duo face their own perils, they learn to stop taking each other for granted and to work together to save the family. While some try to outmaneuver pirates or escape unfamiliar worlds, bookish Claire ends up in a magical library that may hold the key to steering her family toward a happy ending. The story is supported by clean, clever, evocative art that gives each person (and family pet) a distinct characterization. Personality and mood are expertly conveyed with simple lines and partially colored panels that never distract or detract from the story taking place, but support and enhance it.

Told in a total of eight chapters, the overarching plot takes the family from loving-yet-contentious to a point where they can set squabbles aside and truly appreciate one another, adeptly exploring the themes of teamwork, respect, and the triumph of the family bond. The writing strikes an excellent balance with the graphics, and the story itself is appropriate for younger readers without losing appeal for adults either. Readers of all ages will find this a real gem.

Takeaway: Readers of any age who enjoy portal fantasies will love this expertly crafted adventure.

Great for fans of: Kazu Kibuishi’s Amulet series, FGTeeV’s FGTeev Presents: Into The Game!, Peter Wartman’s The Dragon Prince: Through the Moon.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: N/A

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Between Tads and Toads
Christine May
May’s whimsical illustrated poem is a parable for adults about the emotional price of focusing too much on appearance, told through the experience of Frederic, an anthropomorphic frog who lives in a community that surrounds a pond. As alternating pages of quatrains and illustrations explain, “pondling” society is made up of two groups: Frogs—who are beautiful, elegant, and perfectly proportioned—focus on being charming “living Art,” so they take ballet classes to develop their grace and abstain from treats to keep their figures trim. Toads, on the other hand, are highly educated, eschew too much physical activity, and love good booze, fancy vittles, and custom-tailored tweed suits. The pondlings go on fancy picnics, compete in swimming races, and carouse at nightclubs; Frederic participates, but inside he feels more and more empty, desperate, and self-critical.

May’s verse tends to be more musical than sensical, and includes some forced rhymes: “incomplex” to rhyme with “Sussex,” “aspire” used to mean “aspiration” for a slant rhyme with “bow tie.” (*At a few points, it’s difficult to understand the intended meaning: a swimming race is described with the sentence, “In three lanes, amphibs defile.”) But despite the occasional linguistic idiosyncrasy, the story is charming, and so is the amphibian society depicted: toads in tailcoats and frogs in ascots eating ice cream on park benches, being measured for bespoke ensembles, and skiing. The pen-and-ink illustrations are a highlight, as whimsical and elegant as the characters they portray. Frederic gazing at his reflection in a pond hearkens back to the myth of Narcissus, and the amphibians’ automobiles and swimming costumes evoke the early 20th century. A graceful frog waiter serving wine in arabesque position, Frederic dancing with a handsome toad, and tadpoles in earmuffs warming up after sledding are particular highlights.

The ending is more an implication than a fully realized denouement. Frederic ditches a ski outing and lies down in the snow to die. A pretty girl frog finds and revives him; he confesses misery, she counsels him that being beautiful isn’t enough to make one happy, and he realizes he needs to change his life. The reader doesn’t get to see how that happens, but the last image is of Frederic crossing a bridge with a little smile on his face, suggesting he’s headed for better things. This idiosyncratic will charm and intrigue readers.

Takeaway: This whimsical verse story for adults about a depressed amphibian playboy will charm and intrigue readers.

Great for fans of: Kenneth’s Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.

Production grades
Cover: A+
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A+
Editing: B--
Marketing copy: C

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Everything That Came Before Grace: A Father-Daughter Story
Bill See
See (33 Days: Touring in a Van, Sleeping On Floors, Chasing a Dream) details the trials and triumphs of a single father struggling with mental illness in this poignant, disarmingly honest novel. Los Angeles native Benjamin Bradford battles daily against depression and anxiety while striving to raise his daughter, Sophia, with the sense of safety and routine missing from his own childhood. Benjamin’s life changes when he receives an invitation to his college friend Keith’s wedding to Anna—Benjamin’s one true love. The invitation triggers a narrative segue to their college days, and in the present readers are immersed in the internal turmoil as Benjamin still pines for Anna and feels lonely as adult friendships wax and wane.

See captures the common struggles of single parenthood in pithy, poignant lines that convey how quickly the little mishaps of day-to-day living can spark a downward spiral of anger and guilt when mental illness is a factor. Benjamin is devoted to his daughter and single-mindedly committed to ensuring she grows up happy, healthy, and sane. Propelled by a determination to be different from his unstable mother or absentee father, Benjamin’s resolve to protect Sophia ultimately drives a painful wedge between them as she matures.

See captures Benjamin’s mental health struggles with unflinching clarity, detailing the creeping in of destructive thoughts and highlighting Benjamin’s use of music and compulsive routines to handle them. Benjamin’s enduring love for Anna and immovable belief that they’re meant to be together smacks of obsession; therapy sessions and advice from a colleague illuminate the underlying toxicity in the relationship when Anna and Keith rekindle their friendship with Benjamin. Readers who stick with Benjamin through these ups and downs will find their way to a satisfying ending. See’s tenderly frank portrayal of single parenthood within the miasma of anxiety and depression will have readers engrossed.

Takeaway: Single parents and anyone who’s had to cope with mental illness will find much they can relate to in See’s poignant and honest tale of parenthood on the rocks.

Great for fans of: Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive, Mira T. Lee’s Everything Here Is Beautiful, Adam Haslett’s Imagine Me Gone.

Production grades
Cover: C+
Design and typography: B+
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B-
Marketing copy: A

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The Seagull: Translated and Adapted by Anton Korenev
Anton Chekhov, Anton Korenev
Thick with writers and actresses striving for love and recognition, Chekhov’s The Seagull has long reigned as one of the theater’s most incisive examinations of the thwarted ambitions of the creative class. This new translation from Korenev, the Russian director, actor, and New York City attorney, emerged from another set of daunting creative challenges. Korenev’s off-Broadway production of the play, performed in Chekhov’s original early modern Russian and featuring English subtitles, had been slated to open in April of 2020.

The long months of shuttered playhouses that ensued could only satisfy a soul like The Seagull’s Treplev, the dutifully radical young writer who insists, in Korenev’s sensitive and musical new translation, that theater is but “a routine, a superstition” staged for crowds hungry for “some minuscule, easily digestible moral that could be useful in a conversation at home.” Korenev notes in a preface that the shutdown offered him the opportunity to dig deeply into the role of the character he’s slated to play in the revival: Trigorin, The Seagull’s other frustrated writer. Korenev took up this translation partially to understand the work that fills Trigorin up and utterly depletes him: writing.

The result is a nuanced, aching Seagull, attentive to the rhythms and melody of Chekhov’s own language, but unfussily direct in its English. “Life is rough!” declares Nina, the young actress, where earlier versions have opted for “It is a rough life” or “Life is crude.” Korenev’s version emphasizes its Russian-ness, right down to Chekhov’s insistence that this study of disappointment and suicide qualifies as comedy. Korenev’s sensitivities prove attuned to the desperate surges of feeling that grip Chekhov’s artists and lovers. In this rendering, the play’s monologues pulse with an aching vulnerability.

Takeaway: A new translation of Chekhov’s The Seagull pulses with an artist’s sensitivity.

Great for fans of: Sofia Khvoshchinskaya's City Folk and Country Folk, Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky’s translation of Chekhov's Fifty-Two Stories.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A

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The Rage Colony
Shanon Hunt
Hunt’s gripping second series installment (after 2019’s The Pain Colony) follows two intertwining narratives: a utopian colony’s experiments with genetic alteration turn deadly, while a reporter investigates a secretive organization. Eight months pregnant, carrying the colony’s first genetically modified infant, Layla longs for more transparency from her partner, James, the colony leader. She remembers nothing of her “poisoned” life in the outside world, until a new recruit identifies her as Allison Stevens, a wanted murderer. Grappling with her sanity, and experiencing bizarre hallucinations and predatory cravings, she realizes that something is seriously wrong with her child. Meanwhile, reporter Nick Slater is looking for Allison as a mysterious virus ravages the earth. Nick teams up with a group of scientists, exploring the colony’s hazardous genetic engineering, and discovers evidence of human trafficking and a government coverup.

The book strikes a perfect balance between science fiction and scientific realism. As a former pharmaceutical executive, the author’s knowledge of gene editing and the medical field comes in handy. Hunt has written a chilling dystopia, one where gene alteration is used not only to build a strong future, but to destroy those who are considered weak.

Although this is the second book in the series, it works well as a standalone novel. The plot never lags, moving quickly from one shocking discovery to the next, and the two storylines are equally engaging. There are also some bloodcurdling depictions of death and elements of horror throughout, and Hunt does not shy away from the brutality of medical testing. This is a realistic book of ethical quandaries; even the most villainous characters have a streak of morality in them. As with most great science fiction, the questions the novel poses—Should people who make mistakes be given the chance to clean them up? Is justice more important than progress?—will leave readers thinking for days.

Takeaway: This well-written medical mystery, combining the best elements of thriller and sci-fi, is perfect for fans of twist endings and moral quandaries.

Great for fans of: Blake Crouch’s Recursion, Danielle Singleton’s Do No Harm.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: B-

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Morning Star: A collection of short science-fiction and fantasy stories
Dorian Keys
Keys (Imprint Legacy) delivers 12 science-fiction stories evoking a hopeful future in space in this thoughtful collection. Captain Irene Deris is trapped on the derelict colony ship Morning Star, which is carrying 23 crew and 8,000 human embryos intended to begin a new life for humanity on the other side of the universe. With reserves of food, water, and oxygen, she settles down to wait for the rescue team led by her partner, pilot Adam Kacey, by reading a book of short stories he left behind. This connecting story sets the tone for what’s at stake in Keys’s detailed and engrossing stories.

Despite some less-polished writing and clunky language, the author has a knack for action-packed adventures that employ heroic achievers. In an inventive take on the cause of the Big Bang, “A Universe of Our Own” follows a pair of renegades in mecha suits escaping an oppressive society who steal an energy orb and throw it into a dimension breach. In the emotional “I.R.I.S.,” engineer David Friend must convince the artificial intelligence It Runs ItSelf (IRIS) to help Earth defeat an alien invasion.

Sympathetic characters in harrowing situations draw readers into game-changing decisions with the fate of Earth and humanity in the balance. In “Hansel,” after a young woman finds a human fossil on a terraformed planet far from Earth, she has visions of her ancestors letting their planet die due to carelessness about the climate. Readers will enjoy Keys’s range of stories. The steampunk thriller “The Fuse” sports cybernetic hearts and floating war platforms. In the story, the disgruntled daughter of a military commander challenges his desire to start a war with the subjugated outer colonies and refutes her arranged marriage to an abusive man. In the fantasy “This Is Not a Bedtime Story,” the king’s mage enchants a stuffed cloth bear to defeat Ommin, trapper of souls, and save the young prince. Readers will find themselves engrossed in this variety pack of sci-fi adventures.

Takeaway: Science fiction readers will be immersed in Keys’s space adventures filled with valiant characters on missions to save the Earth and all humanity.

Great for fans of: Rich Larson’s Tomorrow Factory, Samuel Best’s Another World.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A
Editing: B-
Marketing copy: A

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Embaixador
Marcus John Beltran
Beltran’s adult debut is an unconventional work of Christian inspirational fiction. It begins as a classic cautionary tale about a young man, Caleb John McCray, who trades his blessed life—complete with a good job, beautiful wife Tiana, and delightful daughter Taylor—for an affair and some bad gambling bets. After a near tragedy pushes him to the edge, Caleb makes a rash decision that propels him straight to rock bottom. However, at his lowest hour, two strangers approach Caleb, each offering the answers and help Caleb seeks to put his life back on track. And the choice of whose help to accept will have implications not only for him but for the greater balance of good and evil.

Beltran’s novel boasts strong pacing, with short chapters that often end on a cliffhanger or ominous note, enticing readers to keep turning the pages. Surprises and plot twists abound. But in this battle for Caleb’s soul, the otherworldly war between heaven and hell and the more grounded depiction of Caleb’s downfall do not fully mesh. The first half of the narrative reads like a horror story, focused more on Caleb’s moral descent; the fantastical elements aren’t really introduced until the epic concluding battles. For his part, Caleb doesn’t seem interested in determining his own place in the mystery that presents itself during the second half of his journey. He focuses entirely on regaining his family. Consequently, it can feel as though two separate stories are being told.

Far from keeping things prim and proper, Beltran’s book includes strip clubs, gang members, and murder, and his protagonist is apt to exclaim profanities, party, and take drugs. Another distinctive element is the use of Portuguese; many of the characters are from Portugal, and much of the religious terminology is in Portuguese (including “embaixador,” which means “ambassador”). Caleb’s narration is conversational, allowing readers to envision someone relatable sitting across from them, spinning this yarn. Readers of Christian fantasy who are looking for something action-packed and outside the box will find it here.

Takeaway: This unconventional work of Christian fantasy offers a distinctive twist on the genre.

Great for fans of: Frank E. Peretti’s This Present Darkness, William P. Young’s The Shack.

Production grades
Cover: C
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B+
Marketing copy: C

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K3+
Erasmo Acosta
Acosta’s science fiction dystopia is a love letter to space exploration. Federico “Fedrix” Tarifa is on a mission to save humanity. As a member of the Space Initiative, a nonprofit organization with a mission to expand civilization into space, Fedrix lives on a spacecraft traveling the universe in search of perfect locations to build Dyson swarms, which are self-sufficient rotating habitats constructed around stars. Humans developed this advanced technology in hopes the rotating habitats would provide safe homes for humanity, which is on the brink of overpopulation and chaos resulting from climate change.

The meticulous details carefully interwoven into this fascinating future allow for a fully immersive experience. The existence described is in many ways utopian: technological advancements allow people not to grow old, injury is extremely rare, and people communicate through thoughts and levitate objects with their fingertips. No detail is forgotten; it’s even mentioned that the clothing is engineered to repel dirt. Several beautiful images help build the setting and give readers crisp illustrations of the Dyson swarm concept.

While at times this book’s extensive definitions of technology can read more like a textbook, hyperlinks are provided to allow readers a quick definition of key words. The need to step out of the story to read these definitions will put off some readers, but the desire to continue following Fedrix on his adventures pulls attention back to the plot. Acosta has clearly done his research on space exploration and Dyson swarms, bringing a high level of expertise to a fascinating subject. His authority reigns on the pages and creates a believable futuristic reality. Readers looking for a dense, technology-driven sci-fi will enjoy immersing themselves in this future in which humanity sets its sights on inhabiting the universe.

Takeaway: Science fiction fans will enjoy this technology-rich space exploration book with a meticulously crafted setting.

Great for fans of: Dennis Taylor We Are Legion (We Are Bob), Stephen Baxter.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: B+
Illustrations: A+
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A+

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APEX
Tyler Michael
In Michael’s debut novel, a camping trip goes horribly wrong, and the three campers find themselves being hunted. Recent college grad Chris Arians, an experienced camper, is leading his friend Kate Alan and acquaintance Kevin Wu on a camping trip in the Northeast; Kevin’s paying Chris to teach him survival skills. After encountering Mr. Ranger, a fellow hiker, while on the trail, the three wake up in entirely new surroundings, each wearing a watchlike device they cannot remove. Chris, Kate, and Kevin soon discover that they have been transported to an island where they are the prey for hunters Mr. Black, Mr. White, and Mr. Blue, men who have paid a large sum of money to hunt humans. Chris, Kate, and Kevin must use all their survival skills to elude their pursuers and figure out how to escape the island alive.

The reader only learns brief biographical details about each character, but gets to spend some time in all their heads (including those of the hunters), experiencing how they think, what about the environment or other people jumps out at them, and how they respond to challenges. Readers won’t get deeply attached to them, but that’s not the point; the point is the puzzle Michael has masterfully crafted. In this deadly game of strategy and luck, which accidental discovery, unexpected misfortune, or moment of canny thinking will make the difference between life and death?

Michael’s narrative is intensely suspenseful from the very first page, with surprises, challenges, and suspicions popping up at a clip. True to his intention to bring the pace and excitement of video games to the page, this book moves fast and breaks things. This gripping novel will keep adventure fans on the edge of their seats.

Takeaway: This survival adventure will keep readers on the edge of their seats with their mental wheels turning.

Great for fans of: Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, Pamela Fagan Hutchins’s Switchback.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A-
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B
Marketing copy: A

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Messages About Me, Sydney's Story: A Girl's Journey to Healthy Body Image
Dina Alexander, Kyle Roberts, and Jenny Webb, illus. by Jera Mehrdad
Authors Alexander (Chloe Has a Question, A Very Important Question), Roberts, and Webb draw attention to the power of hidden messages and their transformative impact on young women. Sydney, a girl who “loves running track” and spending time with family, starts to doubt her physical appearance after being bombarded with messages on commercials and social media. She learns from TV that her natural hair is not shiny enough and swaps it for tresses “like the lady in the commercial,” taking up too much time in the morning and interfering with her performance on the track. She desperately tries to keep up with the fads her friends are following, from “big, red lips” to losing weight, but can’t seem to do enough to feel good about herself when hanging out with them. It takes a heartfelt chat over ice cream with her mom and inspiration from a self-assured classmate for Sydney to finally realize her intrinsic worth and ditch the efforts to fit in.

Alexander skillfully interlaces gentle warnings on the dangers of assimilation with stark examples of how today’s kids are bombarded with constant pressure surrounding their outward appearances. Sydney’s mom asks valuable questions (“Am I a better person because of this change?” is one of them), and Mehrdad’s detailed, energetic illustrations—in which elements cut from photographs (billboards, magazine ads, shiny straight hair), representing these pressures, are collaged onto line drawings depicting normal life—have a flair that will appeal to tweens.

But the book is useful for guardians and other adults, too. Guided workbook topics integrated at the end will help parents and teachers promote healthy body image, spark awareness of these dynamics, and shut down susceptibility to unhealthy messages. Adults wondering how to support the girls in their lives through the gauntlet of adolescent appearance pressure will find this a helpful place to start together.

Takeaway: This book models resistance to and sparks dialogue about appearance-related pressures for young girls and the adults in their lives.

Great for fans of: Hena Khan’s Amina’s Voice, Svetlana Chmakova’s Brave, R. J. Palacio’s We’re All Wonders.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A-
Illustrations: A-
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A

Click here for more about Messages About Me, Sydney's Story
Conversations with My Kids: 30 Essential Family Discussions for the Digital Age
Dina Alexander and Melody Bergman
Alexander (How to Talk to Your Kids about Pornography), Bergman, and Webb offer an informative resource for parents looking for positive ways to discuss important and often difficult topics with kids of all ages. This helpful guide is broken into five main topics: technology, “the world around us,” relationships, self-improvement, and “deeper topics” (integrity, spirituality, and death, to name a few). Alexander and Bergman address more difficult subjects, like online pornography and racism, as well as easier but no less important themes such as standing up for others, healthy sexuality, and money management. Each focus area is broken down into a portion suitable for adults seeking advice, followed by discussion questions to help broach the subject with youth. Suggestions range from projects that can be done at home, such as role-playing various situations, to those involving the larger world, including volunteering or picking up trash.

The authors take into consideration how issues should be discussed for varying ages and include discussion points to use with younger children, in addition to separate conversation notes for older kids and teens. With sound and easy-to-follow advice, along with well-written activities that are not too challenging for kids and adults to do together, families can individualize concepts according to need. Innovative activities—for example, creating “a petition on Change.org to create a crosswalk for a busy street, add a playground to a park... or any other project you feel will create positive change in your local community”—stimulate learners of all ages to put the handbook’s ideas into practice. The authors incorporate citations and additional resources at the end of each section and a detailed glossary to answer any questions that arise after reading the material.

Jera Mehrdad’s illustrations are colorful and well-laid-out, breaking up text effectively for easy reading and holding both kids’ and adults’ attention. Creative elements highlight the topics at hand, such as the crowns used as bullet points and decorated, framed quotes that appear in relevant sections. The solid base of educational recommendations, combined with thought-provoking concepts and artistic design features, will keep readers engaged with this enjoyable and informative handbook.

Takeaway: Parents looking for advice on how to discuss tough topics with children and teens will appreciate this engaging, educational guide.

Great for fans of: Elizabeth A. Sautter’s Make Social and Emotional Learning Stick!, Richard Heyman’s We Need to Talk.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A

The Prophetess: A Woman's View of The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
Be Be
Be gender-swaps the main speaker of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, which entered the public domain in 2019, in this modest feminist intervention “to present [the book’s] truths from the feminine point of view.” Ramla, a prophetess, plans to leave the city of Orphalese. At the urging of a seeress named Almitra, she addresses the questions of a crowd before departing and offers brief, poetic responses on topics such as love, giving, work, pain, and friendship that offer moral lessons through simple concepts. Readers familiar with the original will recognize potent aphorisms like “Work is love made visible” and “Consider your judgement and your appetite even as you would two loved guests in your house.”

In the preface, Be explains, “For eons, women have had to translate meanings and truths found in books written by men in order to see how they apply to women. Women relate better to life and the personalities involved when those relationships are presented from a woman’s point of view.” Be replaces masculine pronouns with feminine pronouns and substitutes inclusive terms like “humans” for gendered terms like “man” (for humankind). Other than these changes, helpfully italicized, the work is faithful to the original text.

Be Be’s 12 illustrations are the highlight of the book. The black-and-white portrait drawings, reminiscent of the portrait on the cover of the first edition of Gibran’s original, lovingly depict individual women and girls, each wearing a headscarf and looking at the viewer with various expressions. Readers who don’t share Be’s view of relatability and gender may find this version difficult to distinguish from the original, aside from the drawings. But woman readers who agree with Be will find this project does exactly as it promises.

Takeaway: Be’s project gender-swaps the references in Kahlil Gibran’s original and includes new illustrations.

Great for fans of: Paulo Coelho, Marianne Williamson.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A-

Click here for more about The Prophetess
How My Brain Works : A Guide to Understanding it Better and Keeping it Healthy
Barbara Koltuska-Haskin
Neuropsychologist Koltuska-Haskin's illuminating debut can be characterized as two self-help guides in one, delineating the elements of neuropsychology and laying out a practical model for bettering brain health. The first section of this thorough guide touches on the history of clinical neuropsychology, effective evaluation methods, and the importance of reliable medical examinations, particularly for attention deficit disorders and traumatic brain injuries. Koltuska-Haskin clearly explains the stages of a neuropsychological evaluation for clients, taking into account differing circumstances. Outlining technical procedures in unobtrusive detail, she delves into trickier aspects of medical care, such as insurance and the privacy of medical records under HIPAA. The second half of the book offers a variety of suggestions for boosting one’s own brain health by attending to sleep, exercise, meditation, and other practices.

In unembellished prose, Koltuska-Haskin shines a light on the common hurdles accompanying a neuropsychology diagnosis. She avoids recondite jargon and patiently breaks down terms and procedures for the uninitiated. Readers will appreciate the enlightening case studies from Koltuska-Haskin’s experience as a neuropsychologist and the emphasis on how patients, their caregivers, and their medical teams can benefit from an all-encompassing neurological investigation. In the second half, her take on nutrition is ably bolstered by easy-to-prepare recipes, and she offers tips on gardening, mindfulness, and other ways to maintain a sound supply of "emotional vitamins." For readers who have trouble meditating, she suggests a helpful roadmap to achieving a calmer state of mind and alleviating emotional and physical pains.

While the prose can become repetitive at times, it only drives the points across more clearly, and Koltuska-Haskin sustains a confident and calm voice throughout while enthusiastically guiding her audience toward realizing their cerebral potential. Offering a readable interpretation of a complicated topic, this informative guide gives an engaging, digestible account of the human brain’s workings and ways to improve mental and physical health.

Takeaway: This easy-to-follow, informative guide will help readers understand the discipline of neuropsychology and how to improve brain functioning.

Great for fans of: Catherine M. Pittman and Elizabeth M. Karle’s Rewire Your Anxious Brain, V.S. Ramachandran and Sandra Blakeslee’s Phantoms in the Brain, Thomas Armstrong’s The Power of Neurodiversity.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: B-

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A Generous Spirit: Exploring New Directions for the Arts
Sarah Zoutewelle-Morris
The posthumous second book from painter and writer Zoutewelle-Morris (100 Ideas for a Creative Approach to Activities in Dementia Care) brings together her singular essays and artwork to create “a beautiful journey through the landscape of an artist questioning her role and contribution to society.” Both a biographical narrative and collection of her paintings interspersed with photography, the project explores ideas about craft, creativity, craft, and the role of the artist in society. “ln our present world, the idea of intangible value is completely bypassed,” Zoutewelle-Morris notes.

Zoutewelle-Morris devoted much of her life working as an art health practitioner. A Generous Spirit finds her exploring how, over the course of their lives, artists often move away from the work that they love only to return to it later with a different focus— emerging “into a new landscape with a broader, more service-oriented purpose.” She addresses society’s focus on “industrial production and consumption” and also her own desire to find more social context for her creations, which is showcased throughout the collection. Zoutewelle-Morris’s radiant paintings and her watercolor calligraphy illustrate the essays, with many of these vivid pieces featuring botanical, animal, and architectural elements. They stir a vibrant sense of motion and energy.

A Generous Spirit celebrates growth as a person and artist while taking an honest look at the journey of a woman who always believed that art serves a transformative function in society but that achieving that takes a lot of effort. Zoutewelle-Morris thrived at the place where artistic creation and healing come together, a place where making someone smile stands as the most rewarding of goals. A treat for artists and art lovers, this remarkable book will appeal to readers who cherish the importance of making a difference and taking care of others.

Takeaway: This notable mixture of essays and paintings offers a heartfelt glimpse into an artist’s belief in art’s healing power

Great for fans of: Bernie S. Siegel’s The Art of Healing, Anne Truitt’s Daybook: The Journal of an Artist

Production grades
Cover: B-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: B

Click here for more about A Generous Spirit

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