• All Books (59)
  • Critics’ Choice (10)
  • Fiction (12)
  • Non-Fiction (12)
  • Picture Books (10)
  • Regional Books (5)
  • Young Adult (10)
  • List (59)

Barracoon: The Story of the Last ‘Black Cargo’

By Zora Neale Hurston

Nearly 70 years after her death comes Zora Neale Hurston’s exceptional biography of Oluale Kossula, kidnapped in 1860 at age 19 from his West African town and imprisoned in a “barracoon” (barracks) with other slaves awaiting passage on the last slave ship to the United States. In 1927, Hurston began her meticulous interview of 86-year-old Cudjo Lewis (his slave name) at his home in Alabama, where he vividly recalled his 5½ years of enslavement and the founding of Africatown, a settlement in Alabama. (Amistad, $24.99)

Reviewed by Anjali Enjeti, Special to the Star Tribune

Border Districts

By Gerald Murnane

In Gerald Murnane’s ruminative novel, an elderly man is obsessed with stained glass. Although he’s not particularly religious, he seeks out church windows because the refracted sunlight triggers memories that he’s otherwise unable to retrieve: “I have learned to trust the promptings of my mind, which urges me sometimes to study in all seriousness matters that another person might dismiss as unworthy, trivial, childish.” It’s a beautiful, mournful book, by a 79-year-old Australian who’s considered a Nobel Prize contender. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $22)

Reviewed by Kevin Canfield, Special to the Star Tribune

The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives

Edited by Viet Thanh Nguyen

In 17 accessible essays that span the length of the globe, from Zimbabwe to Bosnia to Thailand, this collection, edited by Pulitzer Prize winner Viet Thanh Nguyen, offers more than a poignant glimpse into the lives of refugees. It begs of us a listening ear as well as an open heart and mind. Here, in distinct yet thematically connected narratives (including one by St. Paul writer Kao Kalia Yang), displacement — the heart-rending experience so often grappled with by refugees around the world — is made unimaginably real and personal. (Harry N. Abrams, $25)

Reviewed by Angela Ajayi, Special to the Star Tribune

Flash: The Making of Weegee the Famous

By Christopher Bonanos

In the 1930s and ’40s, Arthur Fellig came to personify the hardworking, hard-as-nails, cop-chasing news photographer. With his Speed Graphic camera and his almost supernatural instincts that put him at the right place at the right time (and might have earned him the nickname Weegee, as in Ouija), Fellig photographed hundreds of murders, accidents, fires and other tragedies. Over time, his work evolved from straight journalism to a kind of moody art. Christopher Bonanos’ lively biography places Fellig squarely in his time and his city, and the reader watches New York and the culture change along with the man. (Henry Holt, $32)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

Florida

By Lauren Groff

In Lauren Groff’s dazzling second story collection, her prose is as rich, dense and glossy as ever. Her characters live under threats of wild weather and total abandonment; more than once, children discover they’ve been left alone in a sinister landscape, or with a parent too compromised to protect them. Bookishness, though often present in these characters, is flimsy salvation at best. “Florida” is an ode to the power and the endangerment of the natural world. (Riverhead, $27)

Reviewed by Jackie Thomas-Kennedy, Special to the Star Tribune

Ghost Of

By Diana Khoi Nguyen

In her debut, Diana Khoi Nguyen enacts grief with visual interventions, thus reminding readers of the power of experimental poetry to take us just beyond the boundaries of what language can express. One page is a photo of her family, her brother — lost to suicide — removed. The next fills his silhouette with words, then a block of text forms around his shape with the obsessive and heartbreakingly ineffective repetition: “It keeps me alive.” (Omnidawn, $17.95)

Reviewed by Elizabeth Hoover, Special to the Star Tribune

The Seabird’s Cry: The Lives and Loves of the Planet’s Ocean Voyagers

By Adam Nicolson

In this wondrous book, Adam Nicolson describes the way of life and strange powers of 10 groups of birds found off the coast of Scotland. He captures glimpses of their avian minds and shows their presence and often mischievous doings in folklore and art. Beautifully written, haunting in imagery and filled with marvels, the book is also a farewell salute to a once teeming dimension of the natural world, now increasingly devastated by human environmental malfeasance. (Henry Holt, $32)

Reviewed by Katherine A. Powers, Special to the Star Tribune

The Shakespeare Requirement

By Julie Schumacher

This campus comedy, a follow-up to Julie Schumacher’s hilarious “Dear Committee Members,” is funny enough to qualify as escapism — much needed in these unfunny times — even as, in its squaring off of Economic vs. Humanities and cynical marketing savvy vs. humanism, it subtly and comically encapsulates so much of what makes these times so escapism-worthy. The plot may hinge on whether an English major needs a course in Shakespeare, but what matters in the end is what it means to care. (Doubleday, $25.95)

Reviewed by Ellen Akins, Special to the Star Tribune

The Silence of the Girls

By Pat Barker

In “The Silence of the Girls,” Booker Prize winner Pat Barker swaps the First and Second World Wars for the Trojan War — only her focus is not the warrior men on the battlefields, but their war brides held captive in the encampments. Barker’s timely and masterful reinterpretation of Homer’s “Iliad” takes Achilles’ “prize” Briseis out of the shadows and places her center stage. This unsung heroine is finally given a voice to speak out, and the tale she tells has the power to affect and astound. (Doubleday, $27.95)

Reviewed by Malcom Forbes, Special to the Star Tribune

Your Duck is My Duck

By Deborah Eisenberg

A clique of retired film stars gossips over a tell-all book. A troubled painter seeks solace in a tropical retreat. A young man fixates on a human rights worker. In just six stories, a contemporary master guides us into a looking glass version of our lives, glimpsed through funhouse mirrors and fogged in gloom, an autopsy of the American dream but with a patina of transcendence, “light coursing between our clasped hands and the sun’s warmth … with night idling where it was, half a world away.” (Ecco, $26.99)

Reviewed by Hamilton Cain, Special to the Star Tribune

Clock Dance

By Anne Tyler

Anne Tyler’s 22nd novel sees the much loved author playing to her considerable strengths by atomizing and analyzing the ins and outs and ups and downs of marriage (“a matter of dexterity”) and American family life. It begins with 11-year-old Willa Drake adjusting to her mother’s brief absence and culminates with an older and wiser Willa filling absences in her own life and helping a stranger in need. Astutely observed, charmingly told and fronted by a wonderfully sympathetic heroine. (Knopf, $26.95)

Reviewed by Malcom Forbes, Special to the Star Tribune

Convenience Store Woman

By Suyaka Murata

A slender novel narrated by a 36-year old Japanese woman who has never known love and who has gone through the motions for 18 years working in a branch of Smile Mart might sound bleak and insubstantial. But this international bestseller is a kooky, clever delight about standing out, fitting in and settling down. Keiko makes for a memorable heroine, her unique outlook a source of wonderment and amusement. (Grove Press, $20)

Reviewed by Malcom Forbes, Special to the Star Tribune

Dear Mrs. Bird

By A.J. Pearce

Emmy wants to be a war correspondent but instead lands a job as typist at Woman’s Friend for Henrietta Bird, a fearsome advice columnist who counsels only “Good Sorts.” Unable to ignore cries for help, Emmy secretly writes back to distraught readers while wrestling with her own problems and ducking for cover during German air raids. A.J. Pearce’s delectable debut is a blissful celebration of triumph over adversity. (Scribner, $26)

Reviewed by Malcom Forbes, Special to the Star Tribune

A Ladder to the Sky

By John Boyne

John Boyne’s new novel charts the rise and fall of an antihero cut from the same cloth as Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley. Aspiring writer Maurice Swift goes to murderous lengths to achieve fame but ends up as author of his own misfortune. Darkly comic and deliciously vicious, this mesmerizing portrait of a ruthless psychopath explores artistic endeavor, creative ambition and “whether our stories belong to us at all.” (Hogarth, $27)

Reviewed by Malcom Forbes, Special to the Star Tribune

Last Stories

By William Trevor

A lonely widow seeks a soul mate but ends up with more than she bargained for. A bank clerk is coaxed by her feckless partner into extracting money from a customer. A piano teacher who has had her fair share of disappointment overlooks her pupil’s kleptomania to take joy in his playing. And a stranger on a mission turns up at a woman’s door: “You took my husband from me. I came to get him back.” These perceptive final tales from a literary master craftsman are miniature marvels. (Viking, $26)

Reviewed by Malcom Forbes, Special to the Star Tribune

Love

By Hanne Ørstavik, translated by Martin Aitken

The title suggests a heartwarming romance, but this short and perfectly formed novel is in fact a chilly, suspenseful tale about a single mother and her young son and their separate experiences and imminent ordeals one wintry night. Published to acclaim in Orstavik’s native Norway and sitting pretty on the shortlist for the National Book Award for translated literature, this is a book to savor and a writer to watch. (Archipelago, $17)

Reviewed by Malcom Forbes, Special to the Star Tribune

A Lucky Man

By Jamel Brinkley

A well-deserved finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction, these sharply focused and elegantly written stories grapple with race, relationships and the many facets of that complex beast, masculinity. Whether tracking two college boys scouting for romance on a night out, estranged siblings reconnecting at a capoeira conference, or that titular lonely man coming unstuck after losing “a good woman,” Jamel Brinkley hits the mark and leaves a profound impression. (Graywolf Press, $26)

Reviewed by Malcom Forbes, Special to the Star Tribune

The Only Story

By Julian Barnes

As with his previous novel “The Sense of an Ending,” Julian Barnes’ latest features a man looking back on, and taking stock of, his long and eventful life. Paul recalls his younger, adolescent self falling for Susan, a woman nearly 30 years his senior; he then replays their illicit affair and turbulent relationship, which proves rewarding and destructive. An exquisite and compassionate tale of love, first in full bloom and later withering on the vine. (Knopf, $25.95)

Reviewed by Malcom Forbes, Special to the Star Tribune

There There

By Tommy Orange

This bold and supremely accomplished debut signals the arrival of an important new voice. Twelve people with varying degrees of American Indian heritage outline reasons for heading to the Big Oakland Powwow. Some hope to get their lives back on track after years of pain. Most are keen to celebrate. One plans to unleash havoc. “We should never not tell our stories,” says one. Thankfully, all do share their stories and each is charged with electrifying intensity. (Knopf, $25.95)

Reviewed by Malcom Forbes, Special to the Star Tribune

Transcription

By Kate Atkinson

Once again Kate Atkinson shows how skilled she is at re-creating the past. On this outing she returns to World War II and its aftermath to stage a riveting drama rich in intrigue and thrills. We follow Juliet Armstrong on a jagged trajectory, first as an MI5 spy on the hunt for British fascist sympathizers and later as a producer at the BBC. Sacrifices are made and loyalties are tested, with compelling results. (Little, Brown, $28)

Reviewed by Malcom Forbes, Special to the Star Tribune

Warlight

By Michael Ondaatje

Michael Ondaatje’s first novel in seven years lives up to its mysterious title. As a teenager at the end of World War II, Nathaniel is brought up by two shadowy proxy parents and introduced to a world of unlawful exploits. Years later, when working for British intelligence, he investigates his mother’s top-secret war work, her loves and her death. Seductive and evocative, this study of memory and the effects of upheaval brims with excitement, drama and romance. (Knopf, $26.95)

Reviewed by Malcom Forbes, Special to the Star Tribune

Washington Black

By Esi Edugyan

The eponymous hero of Esi Edugyan’s Man Booker Prize-shortlisted novel starts out as a slave on a Barbados sugar plantation. After a miraculous twist of fate, he is rescued and propelled into “a strange second life” as a scientist’s illustrator. Far-flung travels and outlandish adventures ensue. Brutal, magical, urgent and exuberant, Edugyan’s rollicking ride brilliantly examines the quest for, and cost of, absolute freedom. (Knopf, $26.95)

Reviewed by Malcom Forbes, Special to the Star Tribune

Author

By Beowulf Sheehan

Beowulf Sheehan’s “Author” is a collection of 200 mesmerizing portraits, ranging from close studies (James McBride, Patti Smith) to arty cropped images (half of Jonathan Ames, Noam Chomsky with a backlit nose). Some are smiling (Louise Erdrich, Roddy Doyle), some look disapproving (Chad Harbach), some are laughing (Claudia Rankine). I look and look and feel that by studying these portraits I can better understand the work. (Black Dog and Leventhal, $40)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

Belonging

By Nora Krug

Nora Krug was born long after World War II ended, but the specter of Nazism and its connection with her family haunts her. Born in Germany and now living in the United States, Krug has written a thoughtful, engrossing graphic novel that is part scrapbook, part memoir, delving deep into her family’s history and trying to find blame or exoneration. In the process, she tells the story of an entire generation. (Scribner, $30)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

Beneath a Ruthless Sun

By Gilbert King

In 1957, a wealthy Florida woman reported that she had been raped in her home by a black man, but a white developmentally disabled man was arrested for the crime and sent away for the next 20 years. Local journalist Mabel Norris Reese became intrigued by a story that didn’t add up and set out to investigate. This narrative nonfiction account by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Gilbert King is a harrowing dive into Southern racism and thwarted justice. (Riverhead, $28)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

The Big Fella

By Jane Leavy

Former Washington Post sportswriter Jane Leavy has written an entertaining, fast-paced biography of the great and versatile Babe Ruth. (He could pitch just about as well as he could whack the cover off the ball.) She corrects some old myths (no, he was not an orphan) and places the ballplayer at the forefront of all kinds of cultural change — especially the rise of the athlete as celebrity. This anecdote-packed book is lively and great fun to read. (Harper, $32.50)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

Calypso

By David Sedaris

David Sedaris is best known for his screamingly funny, life-is-a-carnival-of-the-absurd essays, based (sometimes very loosely) on his own experiences. This new collection, “Calypso,” has plenty of those pieces. But it also has longer essays that are more moving than humorous, pieces that explore his relationship with his sister Tiffany, who died by suicide, and pieces that ponder his own mortality. There’s a lot to laugh at in this book, but there is also a lot of wisdom. (Little, Brown, $28)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

Dopesick

By Beth Macy

Beth Macy turns her prodigious reporting and writing skills to the opioid crisis, tracing its origin to 1996 and the rise of OxyContin, which was prescribed widely and billed as nonaddictive. Macy shows how the pharmaceutical company pushed this powerful drug, giving million-dollar bonuses to sales reps and rewarding doctors with gifts and trips. Patients became addicted, crime rose dramatically, addicts lost their jobs, their homes, their families, their lives. A harrowing, infuriating, eye-opening book. (Little, Brown, $28)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

Educated

By Tara Westover

Tara Westover grew up on a mountainside in Idaho, the daughter of survivalists. She never attended school, but worked in her father’s junkyard and helped her mother make herbal remedies to sell. How she clawed her way out of this dangerous, stultifying life and into the world of academe (she graduated from Brigham Young University and then went on to study at Harvard and Cambridge) is a fascinating study in fierce determination. (Random House, $28)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

The New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons

Edited by Bob Mankoff

This is just what we need for the deep dark of winter: Fifteen pounds of cartoons, organized by topic (baseball, laziness, quarrels, shopping) and nicely packaged in two volumes housed in a bright red slipcase. All the greats are here: James Thurber, George Booth, William Steig, Roz Chast. Go to the gym, get buff, buy this book. It’s hard to pick up, but it’s equally hard to put down. (Black Dog and Leventhal, $100)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

Ninety-nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret

By Craig Brown

This highly entertaining book breaks the rules of biography, telling the life of Queen Elizabeth’s younger, wild sister in a series of “glimpses,” or anecdotes — sometimes reporting two and three versions of the same event. Craig Brown writes with warmth, voice and humor. You don’t have to be the least bit interested in the royals to find this book a great read. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $28)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

Prince Before the Rain

By Photographs by Allen Beaulieu

Other readers might fixate on the coy looks, the lingerie, those sultry brown eyes. But I keep looking at the boots: If not for the pain caused by those high-heeled boots, Prince might still be alive. In this collection of photos by Minneapolis photographer Allen Beaulieu — who was there from the very beginning — Prince is vibrantly alive again, pouting, flirting, dancing, posturing. With essays by rock critic Jim Walsh and musician Dez Dickerson. (Minnesota Historical Society Press, $29.95)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

Sharp

By Michelle Dean

From Dorothy Parker and Mary McCarthy to Susan Sontag and Pauline Kael, journalist and critic Michelle Dean takes on 10 brilliant female writers of the 20th century and shows in what ways they were the same, in what ways they were different, and how all of them contributed mightily to the world of letters. “They came up in a world that was not eager to hear women’s opinions about anything,” Dean writes. A fascinating book, just right for these times. (Grove Press, $26)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

Two Sisters

By Åsne Seierstad, translated from the Norwegian by Seán Kinsella

In pure, clean prose, Norwegian journalist Åsne Seierstad tells the true story of two Somali sisters, refugees in Norway, who run off to Syria to join the jihad. Their distraught father heads after them, straight into the civil war, determined to bring them home. But who radicalized them? Where did they get the money? And what happened to them? This powerful, detailed nonfiction narrative is as gripping as any mystery. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $28)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

Double Exposure: Images of Black Minnesota in the 1940s

By John Glanton

Photographer John Glanton, whose postwar photos appeared on the pages of the Minneapolis Spokesman, died in 2004. While cleaning the family’s Minneapolis garage recently, Glanton’s niece discovered shopping bags filled with negatives of his work. From Phyllis Wheatley House-sponsored basketball teams to Bethesda Baptist Church choirs to scenes from Cassius’ Bar and Cafe to prom poses, these photographs of black life in the Twin Cities in the 1940s and ’50s provide a riveting portrait of an underrepresented demographic. (Minnesota Historical Society Press, $29.95)

Reviewed by Christine Brunkhorst, Special to the Star Tribune

The Great Minnesota Cookie Book

By By Lee Svitak Dean and Rick Nelson, photographs by Tom Wallace

When I was a child, it wasn’t Christmas until Mrs. Berquist crossed our Linden Hills driveway with her annual box of cookies — an act of generosity and artistry that still fills me with awe. Krumkake. Caramels. Spritzes. It was like a box of edible jewels. With this book of the best recipes from the Star Tribune’s cookie contests, you can be the Mrs. Berquist on your block. From Acorn cookies to Zazvorniky — every delicious cookie recipe is here. All. In. One. Place. And with full-color photos to inspire. (University of Minnesota Press, $24.95)

Reviewed by Christine Brunkhorst, Special to the Star Tribune

Metropolitan Dreams: The Scandalous Rise and Stunning Fall of a Minneapolis Masterpiece

By Larry Millett

In 1890, the 12-story Northwestern Guaranty Loan Building (later the Metropolitan Building) was the tallest skyscraper in Minneapolis. With walls of green granite and red sandstone, this Richardsonian Romanesque edifice was synonymous with its founder, Louis Menage, a real estate developer whose questionable tactics Twin Cities architecture critic Larry Millett explores, lifting what might otherwise be the simple story of a building into a tale of architectural derring-do and financial skulduggery. (University of Minnesota Press, $29.95)

Reviewed by Christine Brunkhorst, Special to the Star Tribune

Rug Money: How a Group of Maya Women Changed Their Lives through Art and Innovation

By Mary Anne Wise and Cheryl Conway-Daly

Moved by the poverty she witnessed in Guatemala, Wisconsin textile artist Mary Anne Wise set out to teach Maya weavers how to hook rugs to generate income. What resulted is Multicolores, a nonprofit co-op where Maya women blend weaving skills, cultural designs and business acumen to create internationally acclaimed rugs. The book explains how to organize a nonprofit, but its strength lies in the stunning photos and the personal narratives of 10 women who find self-worth, camaraderie and joy in a sisterhood of artisans. (Thrums Books, $29.95)

Reviewed by Christine Brunkhorst, Special to the Star Tribune

Thank you for Shopping: The Golden Age of Minnesota Department Stores

By Kristal Leebrick

Shop for a washing machine. Select a couch. Visit Santa. Book a flight. Eat lunch. Buy a hat. Once do-it-all cultural hubs, downtown department stores such as Dayton’s, Donaldsons and Powers took a hit when shopping malls were built in the suburbs. Part scrapbook, part historical record, part yearbook, this collection of photos and paraphernalia (gift boxes, ads, catalogs, window displays, flower shows, menus, recipes) is a fascinating stroll through an era that doesn’t seem so far gone and yet, sadly, is. (Minnesota Historical Society Press, $29.95)

Reviewed by Christine Brunkhorst, Special to the Star Tribune

Hush Hush, Forest

By Mary Casanova, woodcuts by Nick Wroblewski

How do the woodland creatures get ready for winter? The beaver “builds a cozy lodge.” Raccoons grow “fat and pelt grows thick.” This lovely collaboration between Mary Casanova of Rainy Lake and Nick Wroblewski of Duluth takes the reader from early fall, when the hummingbirds head south, to early winter, when the bears den up. Casanova’s evocative words have poetic cadence; Wroblewski’s realistic woodcuts show the northern forest changing from gold to brown to white. (University of Minnesota Press, $16.95)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

Being You

By Alexs Pate, illustrated by Soud

Twin Cities writer Alexs Pate teams up with Brazilian illustrator Soud to create a colorful, uplifting book for children that celebrates the possibilities of life. “Watch a bird soar and think, me too,” he writes. Pate’s words are honest and poetic. “They might say you are tough/Don’t take no stuff/But how far can you go on tough/before that’s it/nothing else?” Soud uses bright primary colors to depict strong emotions — children playing, sulking, worrying, laughing. (Capstone, $17.95)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

Best Friends in the Universe

By Stephanie Watson, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Ostensibly written by best friends Hector and Louie (but actually by Minneapolis writer Stephanie Watson), “Best Friends in the Universe” is an exuberant tale about the highs and lows of friendship. LeUyen Pham’s illustrations are happily messy, with all dialogue in cartoon-style balloons — just the way Hector and Louie might have done it. (Scholastic, $17.99)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

The Stuff of Stars

By Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by Ekua Holmes

Venerable St. Paul writer Marion Dane Bauer takes on the origins of the Earth in this gorgeous, poetic book. Her words convey a feeling of awe as she connects the reader to all living creatures and all of the universe. Ekua Holmes’ marbleized illustrations pop, explode and tremble on the page. (Candlewick, $17.99)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

Good Dog

By Cori Doerrfeld

With just two words per page — and one of the words always being “dog” — this is a fine book for the very earliest of readers. Minneapolis writer/illustrator Cori Doerrfeld follows the adventures of a little spotted dog as it trots through town, lost, hungry, bad and finally happy and home. (Harper, $17.99)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

The Mukluk Ball

By Katharine Johnson, illustrated by Alicia Schwab

A young bear sells blueberries to make money for mukluks — and then worries that he’ll be hibernating during the midwinter mukluk ball. An entertaining tale of cooperation and fun, with illustrations that place the bear and the dance in a place that looks a whole lot like Ely. (Minnesota Historical Society Press, $16.95)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

Small Walt and Mo the Tow

By Elizabeth Verdick, illustrated by Marc Rosenthal

The second Small Walt book by Woodbury’s Elizabeth Verdick has the little snowplow teaming up with Mo the tow truck to help a man who slid into a ditch. The snowy illustrations by Marc Rosenthal are delightful — and diverse. It’s fun to see an African-American woman capably backing her tow truck into place (“with a shrill beep-beep-beep!”) and hauling out the errant car. Lively sound effects make this book fun to read aloud. (Simon & Schuster, $17.99)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

Meet My Family

By Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman

Raccoon babies are raised by single mothers. South American titi monkey babies spend most of their time with their fathers. Meerkats have lots of siblings. Ladybug babies look nothing like their parents. In Minnesota writer Laura Purdie Salas’ straightforward book, all families are different and all families make sense. (Millbrook, $19.99)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

The Vast Wonder of the World

By Mélina Mangal, illustrated by Luisa Uribe

This lovely, color-saturated book by Minnesota writer Mélina Mangal tells the true story of Ernest Everett Just, an African-American biologist in the early 1900s who succeeded against terrible odds. Just “was not like other scientists,” Mangal writes. “He saw the whole, where others saw only parts. … On the dock at dawn, he wrote poetry.” Just’s groundbreaking discoveries changed the way scientists viewed the origins of life. (Millbrook, $19.99)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year

By Selected by Fiona Waters, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon

The first thing you must do, of course, is look up your birthday to see what poem was selected for your special day. And then go back to the beginning and start with Jan. 1, reading a poem every day. They’re short, they’re strong, they’re eminently memorizable. And at the end of the year, you have made a wonderful habit of poetry. (Nosy Crow/Candlewick, $40)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

Damsel

By Elana K. Arnold

Prince Emory knows it is his destiny to slay a dragon, rescue a damsel and become king. He returns from his mission with Ama, who remembers nothing of her past. As Ama probes the walls of her new world, her questions threaten the kingdom’s rigid hierarchy and everyone around her. This flipped fairy tale will sear a path through your synapses. (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins, $17.99)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, copy editor at the Star Tribune

Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens

Edited by Marieke Nijkamp

“How can permanent suffering be a survival trait?” a character asks in this anthology of stories touching on disability of the physical, mental and neurodiverse kind. In “Found Objects,” William Alexander shapes chronic pain into a ghostly, ironic answer. Other stories take unexpected directions in this much needed collection. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $17.99)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, copy editor at the Star Tribune

A Very Large Expanse of Sea

By Tahereh Mafi

In the year after the Sept. 11 attacks, Muslim teenager Shirin is harassed and physically attacked by classmates for wearing a hijab. She builds a bristling defense against a hostile world. But when she joins her brother’s break-dancing crew and meets an unconventional classmate, Ocean, her efforts to wall off the world begin to crumble. (HarperCollins, $18.99)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, copy editor at the Star Tribune

Dactyl Hill Squad

By Daniel José Older

It’s 1863, and New York is seething with unrest as dinosaur-mounted armies clash in the South. When the city’s Colored Orphan Asylum burns down, Magdalys Roca and her fellow orphans must rely on their wits — and the help of two black Shakespearean actors — to outwit an evil magistrate. The city’s rich past is the heart of this fast-paced fantasy. (Levine/Scholastic, $16.99)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, copy editor at the Star Tribune

Harbor Me

By Jacqueline Woodson

Six sixth-graders in the “special” class come together each week for an unsupervised hour of conversation. At first tentative, they begin to let down their guard and find connection, opening difficult conversations about family, race, injustice and loss. Jacqueline Woodson’s story loops and folds back on itself, weaving in poetry, fragments of memory and bursts of new understanding. (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin, $17.99)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, copy editor at the Star Tribune

Sea Prayer

By Khaled Hosseini

Several recent books for young readers give voice to the experience of Syrian refugees, but few cut as deeply as this slender story by the author of “The Kite Runner.” Inspired by 3-year-old Alan Kurdi, who drowned while fleeing to Europe with his family, the story’s spare, poetic words and lush watercolors tell a powerful tale of a father and son escaping war to an uncertain future. (Riverhead Books, $15)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, copy editor at the Star Tribune

What the Night Sings

By Vesper Stamper

This novel of loss and survival is a rare window into the period just after the Holocaust. Gerta, a German teen, has lost her musician father and her ability to sing. In a displaced-persons camp she meets Lev, who wants to build a new life in Israel. Stamper’s lush ink-wash illustrations underscore Gerta’s awakening as she grapples with betrayal and loss and seeks a reason to move on. (Knopf, $19.99)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, copy editor at the Star Tribune

Tales from the Inner City

By Written and illustrated by Shaun Tan

Shaun Tan’s surreal illustrations — and his short stories and poems — skirt the edges of the unconscious, raising unsettling questions about what’s human and what’s monstrous. Here, he imagines an urban landscape gone feral, where amphibians inhabit boardrooms, giant snails mate over subway tunnels and moonfish sail the skies. His images linger long after the covers close. (Levine/Scholastic, $24.99)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, copy editor at the Star Tribune

The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge

By M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin

Brangwain Spurge has one job: to deliver a deadly gift from the elves to the goblin overlord. His mission goes awry and puts him and his goblin host in danger as the two try to read each other’s culture while both sides assemble for war. A story of ferocious velocity and deep tenderness, underscored by Eugene Yelchin’s snarky woodcut illustrations. (Candlewick Press, $24.99)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, copy editor at the Star Tribune

Summer Bird Blue

By Akemi Dawn Bowman

After her sister dies, Rumi is shipped off to Hawaii to stay with an aunt she barely knows. Grieving, angry and blocked from the music that was her solace, she struggles to move forward. But a crusty widower and a teen surfer help her find a sense of belonging in a multiracial, music-rich community. Few YA novels capture Hawaii’s blend of Asian and Pacific Islander culture as well as this one. (Simon & Schuster, $18.99)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, copy editor at the Star Tribune