In 1971, 10-year-old Allen Kurzweil arrived at a Swiss boarding school called Aiglon. He was a Jewish boy from New York; his father had died, and his mother was “test-driving her third husband.” Kurzweil was happy to be back in the Alps—his Viennese father had brought him there for winter holidays and imbued him with a love of alpine hiking and skiing.
One day Claude Knobler and his wife read a newspaper article that would change their lives. Written by award-winning journalist Melissa Fay Greene, it chronicled the plight of Ethiopian children orphaned by the AIDS epidemic.
Twelve-year-old Mel isn’t expecting Christmas to be exciting. His family life has recently come apart, so he and two other classmates are spending the holidays at their posh boarding school, where they’re known as “the Left Behinds.” When a history teacher escorts the trio to a Christmas Day re-enactment of Washington’s crossing of the Delaware, things go strangely haywire, and Mel, Bev and Brandon inexplicably find themselves thrust back in time to December 25, 1776.
Val Wang, the daughter of Chinese immigrants, grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., wondering about her place in the world. "I didn't feel as though I belonged there," she wrote, "or anywhere yet, and I itched to travel to exotic places far away to look for what was missing in my life."
Is There a Dog in This Book? had me hooked right from the start, when three adorable, hip cats (Andre, Moonpie and Tiny) welcome readers with a warm greeting on the title page. The trio continues to chat with readers as they notice with alarm that someone has drunk their milk and played with their toy.
Let me confess: I’m a medical book junkie. That said, Terrence Holt’s Internal Medicine: A Doctor’s Stories is my new favorite, both in terms of literary merit and intriguing medical details and drama.
It’s one thing to learn your ABCs. It’s quite another when Oliver Jeffers is in charge. His new picture book, Once Upon an Alphabet, contains 26 very short stories, beginning with “An Astronaut” and ending with “Zeppelin.” Preschoolers and beginning readers will delight in these vignettes featuring everything from a lumberjack who repeatedly gets struck by lightning to, of all things, a puzzled parsnip.
Rebecca Alexander started having vision problems when she was about 10 years old. Eventually, doctors realized she was suffering from Usher syndrome, a condition that would cause her to become both deaf and blind. Not Fade Away: A Memoir of Senses Lost and Found is a compelling account of her journey, starting with childhood and ending with her fairly recent acquisition of a cochlear implant.
Quite appropriately, The Memory of an Elephant is a large picture book, measuring 11 by 14 inches. It’s a big, unusual book in every way, featuring not only a story about an old, distinguished elephant named Marcel, but a compendium of assorted facts about everything from musical instruments and classic modern furniture to a variety of gourmet desserts.
The young dinosaur heroes of Gigantosaurus could hardly be cuter. They look like characters right out of an animated feature film―which is no surprise, as creator Jonny Duddle was a concept artist for the Hugh Grant film The Pirates! Band of Misfits. (He’s also the creator of books such as The Pirates Next Door.)