Foreword Reviews

Book of the Day Roundup December 2-6, 2019

Book of the Day Roundup art for Dec. 2-6, 2019

Stand Up!

Be an Upstander and Make a Difference

Book Cover
Wendy L. Moss
Magination Press
Hardcover $14.99 (112pp)
978-1-4338-2963-5
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Psychologist Wendy L. Moss’s Stand Up! is designed to help teach children how to stand up and support fairness and respect with the hope of decreasing bullying and injustice.

Stand Up! is an actionable and practical learning tool. Advice for standing up, being kind to yourself, understanding others and how to help them, dealing with conflict, and creating a plan to make a difference while working together is included. The text includes quizzes, composite examples from Moss’s years of working with children, and real-life strategies to teach compassion, empathy, and about dealing with others. The book’s necessary work is about creating positive change and helping to improve the world, one person at a time.

Each chapter includes an important lesson that is easy to internalize. Chapters are packed with useful information and are short enough to keep the pace moving. The language is approachable for all audiences, even when dealing with complex material. Kindness underlies each page, opening the door to learning by assuming pure intentions and that everyone is capable of growth.

Examples of upstanding behavior come with questions for the audience to help them better integrate the information into self-understanding; this will, in turn, help them to better help others. The book’s variety of stories from multiple perspectives makes it even more accessible.

Varied typography, call-out sections demarking quotes, example stories, workbook material, and takeaway advice make Stand Up! accessible and allow readers to take the initiative and personal responsibility. Every layer increases the book’s clarity. This is a polished, consistent, and ultimately fun text.

Stand Up! is jam-packed with tools and materials that solidify how critical it is to stand up for what is right—useful for young readers and their educators alike.

REBECCA MONTERUSSO (October 27, 2019)

Isolde

Book Cover
Irina Odoevtseva
Brian Karetnyk, translator
Irina Steinberg, translator
Pushkin Press
Softcover $18.00 (192pp)
978-1-78227-477-3
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

In the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution, many Russians fled the country and ensconced themselves in interwar Europe. Irina Odoevtseva’s novel Isolde speaks to the sense of alienation that many young Russians felt as they waited, suspended between their new lives in Europe and the memories and fantasies of their motherland.

Fourteen-year-old Liza and her brother, Nikolai, are left to their own devices in Biarritz by their negligent mother. Here they meet Cromwell, an English boy who fancies that Liza is the Arthurian Isolde. Adolescent romance blooms. When Liza, Nikolai, and Cromwell, along with Liza’s romantic interest, Andrei, find themselves in Paris, Nikolai and Andrei realize they can take advantage of Cromwell’s money to enjoy the finer things of society. Innocence soon gives way to darker urges as Liza is entangled in a dangerous plot to return to Russia.

Odoevtseva eschews the more traditional forms of Russian literature and writes out of her own experience as an expatriate living in Europe. As Russian émigrés occupied a cultural and geographical limbo, so, too, did young teenagers struggle to navigate the waters between childhood and adulthood. This is embodied beautifully in the novel’s heroine.

Liza longs for connection with her mother, a warm, familiar presence who grew distant after her husband’s death, to the point of asking her own children to call her their cousin rather than their mother. The foreignness of Cromwell and his family seems to offer a refuge, yet Liza, despite the rejection of her symbolic motherland, remains unsettled by visions of an idyllic Russia she’s never known. Unable to cope with her rootlessness, Liza wanders from potential haven to potential haven as questions of identity plague her every step.

Unapologetic in its depictions of adolescent sexual and psychological turmoil, Isolde sheds light on an overlooked consequence of the Bolshevik Revolution.

MEAGAN LOGSDON (October 27, 2019)

Echoes of the Fall

Book Cover
Hank Early
Crooked Lane Books
Hardcover $26.99 (352pp)
978-1-64385-181-5
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Hank Early’s Echoes of the Fall is an updated, modern take on noir detective novels with a Southern Gothic edge, trading gritty urban streets for seedy small town life in north Georgia’s Coulee County, where religion and violence are always close bedfellows.

At fifty-three, Earl is a broken man looking for salvation in all the wrong places. Deep down, he doesn’t believe he deserves it. When he wakes up from a blackout night on the suspension bridge over Backslide Gap, he’s ready to let himself fall for good. But life has other plans, as evinced by the dead body he finds planted on his front lawn.

Discovering the identity of this dead man leads Earl to the Harden School, a private boys’ institution for “difficult” students. But the Harden School also has a shady history with dead bodies, and Earl only has to scratch to the surface to see that all isn’t as it seems to be. The Harden School is a front for gay conversion therapy. What ensues is both appalling and thrilling.

Coulee County may be one of the only places “where a man could lose himself and still be within ten miles of everything else,” but the novel doesn’t use that as an excuse to lose sight of the differences large and small. The novel is direct, whether about the white supremacy that goes hand-in-hand with political power or the fact that its hero is flawed but working on it.

Solving the case means addressing some of the most terrible trends in modern history. For Earl, there aren’t easy answers for those the law isn’t willing to help, and “there’s always a fine line between secret knowledge and death.”

LETITIA MONTGOMERY-RODGERS (October 27, 2019)

Silence Is a Scary Sound

And Other Stories on Living through the Terrible Twos and Threes

Book Cover
Clint Edwards
Page Street Publishing
Softcover $16.99 (288pp)
978-1-62414-853-8
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Clint Edwards’s memoir Silence Is a Scary Sound is written from the family trenches, as his toddler navigates the transition between babyhood and childhood, asserting independence and making mistakes. Though it is heavy on humor, many of the book’s short essays end on a sweet note, with Edwards reminding himself that he loves being a father, even when he’s exasperated.

The storytelling style varies between entries. Some are straightforward narratives, including the story of Edwards’s son’s obsession with rubber snakes. Some are list-based entries—about, for instance, all the things Edwards wishes he could say to people who judge his parenting in public. He establishes his wife, Mel, as both an attuned parent and a person at the end of her own rope, striking a delicate balance between idealism and spousal critique.

Edwards’s unhinged humor fits well with the content: problems like being scratched by the dog while holding an angry cat, or needing to help a potty-training child wipe themselves, are mind-boggling. He is elsewhere introspective, acknowledging when his desires are selfish or less-than-noble. The book’s laughs are well earned, and the casual tone ably portrays the frayed nerves of an overworked parent.

The book is gentle as it pokes fun at stereotypes of parents and of parenting-related media. Goofy but intense lists include pro-tips like “a great way to clean the car seat is with the garden hose.” The final essay is fitting, focused on his first sleep-in after his children were old enough to watch cartoons on their own in the morning: toddlers do grow up.

Silence Is a Scary Sound may not reflect every parenting style, but it’s realistic in capturing moments of exhaustion and hilarity during a child’s toddler years.

LAURA LEAVITT (October 27, 2019)

The Boy and the Bear

Book Cover
Tracey Corderoy
Sarah Massini, illustrator
Candlewick Press
Hardcover $16.99 (32pp)
978-1-5362-0814-6
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

A solitary boy with a red knit cap and a knapsack wanders the countryside searching for a playmate—preferably one who likes to seesaw, catch, and hide-and-seek. A shy blue bear does not seem ideal, even if he does have his own knapsack, but—a series of notes and some failed attempts at the seesaw later—a friendship is formed. Lighthearted and with a poignant winter interlude, The Boy and the Bear is a charming tale about unlikely friends.

PALLAS GATES MCCORQUODALE (October 27, 2019)

Barbara Hodge

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