Subversive historian Sarah Vowell offers another idiosyncratic chronicle of our nation’s coming-of-age with Lafayette in the Somewhat United States. This lively account of the Marquis de Lafayette and the American Revolution is of a piece with Vowell’s previous books, which include Assassination Vacation (2005), a tour of sites dedicated to murdered American presidents, and The Wordy Shipmates (2008), a raucous look at the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. These seem like sober subjects, but Vowell enlivens the proceedings with her prickly persona, her thing for slang and her taste for recondite factoids of Americana.
In 2010, musician Patti Smith published Just Kids, a radiant memoir about her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and their lives as bohemian babes-in-the-woods in New York City. Set in the 1960s and ’70s, the story of their coming-of-age as artists—Smith’s first full-length work of prose—won the National Book Award. In her new memoir, M Train, Smith trades the circus atmosphere of the psychedelic era for the here and now, offering readers a remarkably intimate look at her life in New York City.
Parents and children alike will cherish Carolyn Beck’s That Squeak, a sensitively rendered, accessible story about grief and friendship.
August 29 marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history and the storm that delivered a near-mortal blow to the city of New Orleans. An estimated 250 billion gallons of water inundated the Big Easy when its levee system failed, damaging four out of every five homes in the city.
It’s a match made in heaven: Aziz Ansari, one of America’s top comics, and the subject of love. In Modern Romance, Ansari delivers dispatches from the front lines of dating in the digital age and proves to be as befuddled by love as the rest of us.
Welcome to the Neighborwood by master paper craftsman Shawn Sheehy is at once a breathtaking work of interactive art and a fact-filled exploration of the great outdoors. Young readers learn about the habits and survival skills of seven different creatures through pop-up models of the places they call home. Each burrow and nest bursts from the page in 3-D form, and Sheehy complements these visual astonishments with information about each animal. In easy-to-absorb prose, he explains the ways in which they adapt to the wild, construct homes and flourish.
As host of “The Thistle & Shamrock” on National Public Radio (NPR), Fiona Ritchie has bewitched many a listener with carefully curated playlists of traditional Celtic tunes, stories of her native Scotland, and, of course, that accent—mellifluous with a bit of a burr. No one is better qualified to take stock of Scots-Irish music than the NPR host, and in Wayfaring Strangers: The Musical Voyage from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia, she does just that.
Budding young naturalists will learn from—and love—Winter Is Coming by Tony Johnston. A quietly powerful picture book that explores the changing of the seasons and life in the woods, it’s also a story about the rewards that come from taking time to look closely at the world. The narrator is a resourceful young girl who visits her tree house each day, watching in solitude as the forest around her transitions from fall to winter. Armed with binoculars, sketchbook and pencils, she spies on animals as they hunt for food and prepare for the snowy season to come.
Ah, the metric system—the logical way of meting out the world that confounds most Americans. Readers who have failed to crack its code will find comfort in John Bemelmans Marciano’s Whatever Happened to the Metric System? How America Kept Its Feet, an intriguing look at why the system failed to take hold here.
For many parents, getting the little ones to consent to sleep is a contest of wills requiring the skills of a diplomat. Fortunately, a terrific new picture book has arrived that can help families keep the peace. Sleep Tight, Anna Banana!, by mother-and-son team Dominique Roques and Alexis Dormal, shows that bedtime can be a blast, especially when the company includes a group of irresistible critters intent on making mischief.