Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Some Great New Books

Book Expo and the ALA Conference both came to LA this year. What a treat for a book junkie! The multitudinous stacks of new books on the floor create both an enticing and daunting prospect for the coming months. Among the many novels are nonfiction stunners as well, a few noted below. The fact that most of the authors and illustrators are INK bloggers is purely coincidental. (If there is such a thing!)

APOLOGY: I’m sorry not to show the gorgeous covers of all these books, but I’m still working out how to upload, format, etc etc.

First, I must mention VULTURE VIEW by April Pulley Sayre, illustrated by Steve Jenkins. This is a 2007 book, as evidenced by its shiny Giesel Honor Book sticker, awarded at the aforementioned ALA Conference. This book is exquisite in every way. Word perfect, picture perfect. Who knew vultures could be so poetical and beautiful?

ELIZABETH LEADS THE WAY by Tanya Lee Stone, illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon is a gem – highly polished and dazzling – with a skillful mix of the personal and historical portrayed in words and pictures. Best of all is the author’s voice filled with exuberant passion that perfectly matches the subject and theme of the book.

Don Brown has two forthcoming books, each recounting one memorable day. ALL SYSTEMS DISTRESS! relates the grim horror of the sinking of the Titanic. LET IT BEGIN HERE! sends us back to April 19. 1775: The Day the Revolution Began. Brown gives us an hour by hour, mile by mile account of the Battle of Lexington and Concord filled with dozens of personal details. (I’d never heard the name of Paul Revere’s horse before.) We all know that the Patriots were the good guys, the Brits the baddies. But in this account of a traditionally “heroic” event, we see the brutality of war that infects both sides. A British soldier bayonets an American. An American splits the skull of an injured Englishman. One small ray of light: in the middle of the battle, as the Concord courthouse burns, both sides worked the bucket brigade to put out the flames.

CHRISTO AND JEANNE-CLAUDE: THROUGH THE GATES AND BEYOND by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan presents some of my favorite artworks and their irresistible creators. The photos, text, and book design are beautifully integrated to tell the story of these artists who make some of the most democratic, joyful, gorgeous art you’ll ever see.

1968 by Michael T. Kaufman travels around the world and into space to tell the exhilarating and sobering story of that tumultuous year. Vietnam, Paris, Prague, Chicago, Mexico City, and Apollo 8 all get chapters. As a New York Times reporter, Kaufman was on the scene for some of it. Photos, headlines, and NYT articles intensify the drama. I was over 21 that year, and even marched in Paris in May 1968. But it takes a book like this to begin to understand what it – we – all meant.

I know, I’m going on a bit, but I can’t stop without mentioning THE NEGRO SPEAKS OF RIVERS, E.B. Lewis’s pictorial homage to Langston Hughes’s poem. [I claim poetry for the nonfiction camp!] I don’t think I’ll ever read the poem again without seeing Lewis’s sublime watercolor close-ups, long shots, landscape, and portraits.

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