Video: Chasing Space – Leland Melvin

Former NASA astronaut and NFL wide receiver Melvin shares his personal journey. It’s a story about community, perseverance and grace. In an inspired co-publication, it is also available in an edition for middle grade readers: Chasing Space: Young Readers Edition.

Chasing Space: An Astronaut’s Story of Grit, Grace, and Second Chances (9780062496720) by Leland Melvin. $25.99 hardcover. 5/23/17 on sale.

 

Video: Clayton Bird Goes Underground – Rita Williams-Garcia

A great new novel from Newbery Honor-winning Rita Williams-Garcia. I bet you haven’t seen a book trailer like this. I loved it!

Clayton Byrd Goes Underground (9780062215918) by Rita Williams-Garcia. $16.99 hardcover. 5/9/17 on sale.

 

 

Book of the Week: Another Brooklyn – Jacqueline Woodson

Everyone at Harper is proud to be associated with this project. Woodson is the author of many children’s books including Brown Girl Dreaming which won the National Book Award, a Newbery Honor Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, the NAACP Image Award and the Sibert Honor Award. To say that the book is beloved is an understatement—it spent thirty weeks on the NYT Bestseller List.

So when booksellers heard that Woodson had written her first adult novel in twenty years, demand for early reading copies went through the roof. No surprise that Another Brooklyn is the #1 Indie Next Pick for August as well as being selected for several first edition clubs. And signed copies are available in Indie bookstores.
While Another Brooklyn uses a familiar story structure—the coming of age story—the plot is filtered through the voice of a now-grown narrator who is remembering her friendship with three other girls from the perspective of twenty years later.

If you’re tempted to think you’ve heard that one before, I’ll just say: You haven’t heard Woodson tell it. Her haunting, musical, dream-like prose is completely singular. It led Kirkus to conclude that Another Brooklyn is “[a] stunning achievement from one of the quietly great masters of our time.”

Anticipation for the book has been building since early summer when it was included in the Summer Books Round Up on The Today Show, in People Magazine, Time and the Wall Street Journal. It has received four starred advance reviews including a starred and boxed review in Publishers Weekly.

At on sale, Woodson will appear on NPR’s Fresh Air and the book will be covered in the New York Times Magazine and on NPR’s Weekend Edition. I’m sure there will be much more to come.

Bookseller pal Nicole Yasinsky is on the Indie Next shelf talker for the book. She nailed the appeal so I’ll have her lead the many endorsements…

Jacqueline Woodson has crafted a beautiful, heart-wrenching, novel of a young girl’s coming-of-age in Brooklyn. She effortlessly weaves her poetic prose to tell a story of the relationships young women form, the yearning to belong, and the bonds that are created. As vivid as any of the characters is Brooklyn – a place at once harsh, but that becomes home, and plays its role in everything that goes on in its streets. Jacqueline Woodson is one of the most skilled storytellers of our time, and I continue to love and devour each masterpiece she creates!”
— Nicole Yasinsky, The Booksellers at Laurelwood, Memphis, TN

 “The novel’s richness defies its slim page count. In her poet’s prose, Woodson not only shows us backward-glancing August attempting to stave off growing up and the pains that betray youth, she also wonders how we dream of a life parallel to the one we’re living.”
Booklist (starred review)

‘Sylvia, Angela and Gigi, the four of us sharing the weight of growing up Girl in Brooklyn, as though it was a bag of stones we passed among ourselves.’ With such nuanced moments of metaphor as these, Woodson conveys the sweet beauty that lies within the melancholy of August’s childhood memories. Now, 20 years later, August has returned to Brooklyn to help her brother bury their father. In lyrical bursts of imagistic prose, Woodson gives us the story of lives lived, cutting back and forth between past and present. As August’s older self reckons with her formative childhood experiences and struggles to heal in the present, haunting secrets and past trauma come to light….Here is an exploration of family—both the ones we are born into and the ones we make for ourselves—and all the many ways we try to care for these people we love so much, sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Woodson…combines grit and beauty in a series of stunning vignettes, painting a vivid mural of what it was like to grow up African-American in Brooklyn during the 1970s….August’s memories of her Brooklyn companions—a tightly knit group of neighborhood girls—are memorable and profound….With dreams as varied as their conflicts, the young women confront dangers lurking on the streets, discover first love, and pave paths that will eventually lead them in different directions. Woodson draws on all the senses to trace the milestones in a woman’s life and how her early experiences shaped her identity.”
Publishers Weekly (boxed, starred review)

“Jacqueline Woodson’s Another Brooklyn is a wonder. With a poet’s soul and a poet’s eye for image and ear for lyrical language, Woodson delivers a moving meditation on girlhood, love, loss, hurt, friendship, family, faith, longing, and desire. This novel is a love letter to a place, an era, and a group of young women that we’ve never seen depicted quite this way or this tenderly. Woodson has created an unforgettable, entrancing narrator in August. I’ll go anywhere she leads me.”
— Ann Patchett

Jacqueline Woodson is an artist, just truly an artist.  Her words are a warm, loving hug, a nervous first kiss, a punch in the gut, and the sorrow of heartbreak, all rolled into on beautifully, intense ball of emotion.  Her words have the ability to wash over your soul, settle into spirit and never leave.  I am elated that she has written an adult novel.  It is long overdue.  Adults need to experience the godsend that is Jacqueline Woodson.
—  Kim Brock, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Cincinnati, OH

“It’s been a long time since I’ve read anything as beautiful as the melody of Jacqueline Woodson’s Another Brooklyn. As I walked along the streets of a Brooklyn suffocating in racial tension and poverty with a beautiful, lost, black girl named August growing up without her mother, I was halted, over and over again, by the beauty of Woodson’s prose. This book is filled with words that spread over me like a clear summer’s day. In dealing with race and memory, paired with that quiet, rolling ache we call girlhood, Another Brooklyn manifests the strongest truths: that life powers forward with or without the people we hold dearest; that the present never really exists; and that maybe where we come from has everything to do with where we’re going.”
— Claire Tobin, Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, MI

Another Brooklyn (9780062359988) by Jacqueline Woodson. $22.99 hardcover. 8/9/16 on sale.

Book of the Week: Spectacle – Pamela Newkirk

When I was selling in this book, some store buyers told me that this story had been told before. But every story is new to someone—and this one was shockingly new to me. I’m happy to see that strong reviews have welcomed Newkirk’s new scholarship on this shameful true story of a pygmy man imprisoned with an orangutan as an exhibit at the Bronx Zoo Monkey House.

Newkirk’s new telling also provides a strong narrative about the unexpected twists and turns in Ota Benga’s life, including his final years as a free man—but it’s a damning indictment of scientific and cultural arrogance that sometimes doesn’t seem much improved over 100 years later.

Earlier this week, the NYT covered this book and drew a connection between Ota Benga’s story and a current New York State Supreme Court case about whether two caged chimpanzees at Stony Brook University can be defined as legal persons, and are therefore being unlawfully held against their will. One wonders what Americans 100 years from now will conclude about us from the results of that case.

The Times calls Spectacle “engrossing” and says that Newkirk “fleshes [out the story] with a chilling human dimension and rich anthropological perspective.”

Newkirk centers this meticulously detailed monograph on the life of Ota Benga, a young Congolese man who at the beginning of the 20th century suffered the indignity of being caged with an orangutan at the Bronx Zoo’s Monkey House. Although Benga himself left no written record of his experiences, Newkirk pieces together his story from the texts, photographs, and other records produced by the ‘lettered elite’ whose members were complicit in his capture and display….Benga’s experience was unusual because it took place not in a ‘human zoo’ but in one devoted to animals, thus depicting this African man not simply as exotic, but as a failure of human evolution. Newkirk places Benga’s story in the context of an ever more segregated and aggressively racist United States, a Europe intent on exploitation of Africa’s human and material resources, and a scientific culture that venerated objective inquiry but refused to question established ideas about race.”
— Publishers Weekly

“Newkirk gives us more than the tragic story of one Congolese man. She offers a look into the history of American eugenics and the concepts of racial anthropology that have served as the foundation for racial intolerance for generations. Benga’s story is one part of a bigger problem–a problem that continues to exist–and Newkirk doesn’t allow us to forget him.”
— Library Journal

“[A] young African taken from his home for the purposes of Western science throws into relief the turn-of-the-century’s ill-conceived intentions and prejudice….Newkirk has to fill in many blank spaces in this wrenching story of Ota Benga—his name would be spelled a dozen different ways over the course of his short life—who was eventually ‘rescued’ by the director of an African-American orphanage in Brooklyn, with the aim of educating him to become a missionary to be sent back to Africa. Specifically, Benga never told his own story, so Newkirk has pursued the villain, Samuel Phillips Verner, a South Carolina–born racist who became a minister and went to Africa, only to ingratiate himself with the officials of King Leopold’s Belgium Congo in plundering African artifacts (sold to the Smithsonian and other American institutions) and preying on native tribes. The “diminutive forest people” would be his particular prize, first conveyed for exhibit at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.”
— Kirkus Reviews

Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga (9780062201003) Pamela Newkirk. $25.99 hardcover. 6/2/15 on sale.

Short Take: Balm – Dolen Perkins-Valdez

From the author of the bestselling Wench comes another well researched, well drawn story of African American lives in the 19th century. This story takes place in both post-Civil War Chicago and rural Kentucky, and follows the lives of three people—black and white–trying to start anew during the Reconciliation.

USA Today calls it “[a] deeply moving, beautifully written novel told from the heart” and Perkins-Valdez will be on NPR’s All Things Considered to discuss the book on May 23rd.

“When Madge, a freeborn black woman from Tennessee skilled in the art of making healing ointments, teas, and balms from herbs and bark, takes a maid’s position with Sadie, an unhappy, white widow in Chicago who speaks with the dead, both women are hesitant to reveal their secrets, remembering past hurts. The two main male characters are equally troubled….In their individual ways, they are all walking wounded—in need of spiritual soothing. The author deftly weaves her characters’ longings with the gritty realities of American life after war’s devastations….Readers who were captivated by Perkins-Valdez’s first novel, Wench, will be intrigued by the post-Civil War lives of three Southern transplants to Chicago.”
— Library Journal

Balm (9780062318657) by Dolen Perkins-Valdez. $25.99 hardcover. 5/26/15 on sale.