Sunday, December 31, 2006

Best Books of 2006

Of the thousands of books January Magazine’s writers and editors reviewed throughout 2006, here are the ones that really stood out in our minds.

To get straight to the heart of the type of books you enjoy most, look here for our choices in fiction, here for crime fiction, here for our selections in art & culture, here for non-fiction and here for our choices in books for children.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

No. 1 Again

What do novelists Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall Smith have in common? Other than that they were both reared in Scotland (though Smith was actually born in what was then Rhodesia), they’ve both now been inducted into the Order of the British Empire. Rankin was awarded the OBE, a British order of chivalry, in Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee Birthday Honors List back in June 2002, while Smith was just been made a CBE (Commander rank, as opposed to Rankin’s Officer grade, if I comprehend these degrees accurately) for his “services to literature.”

According to BBC News, Smith, who writes the best-selling Precious Ramotswe series (including 1998’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency), said after hearing about his award: “This is a tribute to one particular Botswana lady and what she represents. So I might say this award is really for Mma. Ramotswe.”

Friday, December 29, 2006

Harry Potter to Get Royal Welcome

With a new year just around the corner, book lovers have much to anticipate. Not the least of this is the release of the final book in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

Though the actual publication date of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has not yet been announced, Britain’s Royal Mail isn’t taking any chances. According to the Associated Press:

Britain’s mail service is conferring with retailers and renting out hundreds of extra trucks in anticipation of the launch of the seventh -- and final -- installment of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.
Royal Mail spokesman James Eadie told AP that history has taught them to be prepared for a new Rowling novel. For example, on July 16, 2005, Royal Mail delivered more than half a million advance copies of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, a feat that required 150 additional trucks bringing books to 1400 delivery offices around Britain.

While the number represents only a fraction of the 80 million items the Royal Mail delivers daily, the security -- and secrecy -- surrounding the work mean the books have to spend as little time as possible on warehouse floors, complicating their distribution. The 652-page “Half-Blood Prince” weighed in at just under 2.2 pounds, forcing postal workers into vans to avoid overloading their carrier bags.
MSNBC has the AP item here.

Book Fair Relocation Causes Kerfuffle

As exhibitors start looking forward to the 20th annual Tehran International Book Fair, the announcement of a relocation for the event is causing some exhibiting publishers concern.

Traditionally the book fair has been held at Tehran’s permanent fairgrounds, where the event commanded 80,000 square meters. According to Iran News, the new venue, Azadi Stadium, “apparently does not have such an open space to set up pavilions and passageways, he said pointing out that if tents are to be put up there will be more problems.”

Representative offices of foreign publishers in Iran have argued that the international section of the event will face many problems if the location is changed.
The Tehran International Book Fair is held each May.

There’s less concern about the BRAW Book Festival, part of the BBC’s family reading campaign, and being held at Wester Hailes library in Edinburgh, Scotland on January 20:
There will be a mixture of professional storytelling of Scottish Tales, children's crafts, a workshop for adults on how to tell stories, a puppet show, refreshments and the prize-giving for the “daftest place to read a book” painting contest.

Simon Winchester Sits Down With the Bat

January Magazine contributing editor Edward Champion delivers a great episode of his Bat Segundo show. This time his subject is Simon Winchester, as the author flogs his latest, A Crack In the Edge of the World, a book that got Publishers Weekly all misty. PW said Winchester’s “compelling narrative,” was “a magnificent testament to the power of planet Earth and the efforts of humankind to understand her.” Sweet.

According to Champion, subjects discussed in the interview include, “San Francisco’s edgy impermanence, San Francisco vs. Venice and the North Sea cities, humankind’s geological privilege, New Orleans & Katrina, the hubris of California residents, anonymous threatening letters, denial vs. geology, Japan and disaster preparation, West Coast subliminal fear, editorial input into Winchester’s work, San Francisco vs. Daly City reactions to the earthquake centenary, Bruce Bolt, the true epicenter of the 1906 earthquake, Jim Tanner, Loma Prieta, subparallel faults, the Parkfield drilling, operating in the geological dark, responding to Bryan Burrough’s NYTBR review and Sam Tanenhaus, the importance of geology, Kevin Starr as an influence, Katrina federal aid vs. 1906 federal aid, looting after the 1906 earthquake, Winchester’s stance on tracking casualties, and defining historical context.”

If that’s not enough to make your brain sweat, you can hit a link to the Podcast here, or coast through previous Bat Segundo interviews here. Recent entries include interviews with Claire Messud, Kate Atkinson, Francince Prose, Kelly Link and Mark Z. Danielewski.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Gift Guide: Art & Culture

January Magazine’s Holiday Gift Guide 2006 concludes with selections of books focused on various aspects of art & culture. Suggestions in fiction are here. Children’s books are here. Non-fiction is here and cookbooks can be found here. You can see the lead item to this feature here.

24: Behind the Scenes by Jon Cassar (Insight Editions) 168 pages
I’m an addict. I am a 24 junkie. I have fallen prey to the endless loops of plot and switchbacks and snippets of character development that all add up to riveting television. I know I’m not alone. There are zillions of people like me, and that’s why there’s a book like 24: Behind the Scenes. A sort of making-of-behind-the-scenes photo album, this book was created by the show’s primary director, Jon Cassar. It contains scores of photos snapped by the people who make the show. Structured to follow the five seasons, it’s filled with trivia, images of the always-serious actors out of character -- sometimes even smiling, a facial expression that happens rarely, if ever, on the show. Most of the photos are accompanied by a telling caption -- with spoilers galore -- which is my way of telling that if you’ve yet to watch the show (and plan to), then maybe hold off on reading this until you’ve watched all five seasons. This is a book any 24 fan will lose himself in, and be delighted to do so. It’s the perfect gift for someone who’s hopelessly hooked on 24. -- Tony Buchsbaum

Advertising Now. Print edited by Julius Wiedemann (Taschen) 640 pages
Yes, I work in advertising, as my January bio so proudly states. So I sometimes gravitate toward books about marketing and design. This one is a doozy, filled cover to cover with some of the best print advertising created by anyone, anywhere, in recent years. (No, none of my own work is in here.) Rather than just page after page of images, though, this book is really a look at the state of print (that is, magazine) advertising today, with the ads themselves divvied up into logical sections including Business & Retailers, Food & Beverage, Health & Beauty, Home Care & Hygiene, Media (no ampersand!) and others. Slipped between these sections are illuminating essays by the guys driving the industry today (no, there are no women here; I wonder what that means). Simply a superb book for anyone interested in advertising -- and a meaningful slice of contemporary culture that shows us how creatively we talk to ourselves. -- Tony Buchsbaum

The Art of Bond by Laurent Bouzereau (Harry N. Abrams) 240 pages
No one can deny the allure of James Bond. From a purely cultural standpoint, 007 is a major influence, from cars to clothing to gadgets to other action films. There have been dozens of books about the Bond mystique, but The Art of Bond is the first to look at the phenomenon from the point of view of the people who perpetuate it, film after film. Created as a documentary on paper, this book deconstructs the Bond movies into their distinct pieces: script, locations, production, music, marketing and such. Author Bouzereau, a filmmaker who specializes in the documentaries usually found on DVD, has spoken to dozens of the people involved in making the Bond films. What emerges is a kaleidoscopic, wide-ranging conversation about how the films are made, element by element. It covers the older Bond films as well as the newer ones (including the latest, Casino Royale). Above all, what comes through is the dedication of these people as filmmakers. Argue with a particular film’s story or acting or ratio of drama to comedy ratio, but there’s no argument that the series, as a whole, is the most successful of its kind. This book pulls back the curtain, if you will, to reveal not how one film was made, but how Bond on film was created by author Ian Fleming, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, directors Terence Young and Guy Hamilton, composer John Barry and designers Maurice Binder, Robert Brownjohn and Ken Adam -- not using some nefarious plot, but just by the seats of their visionary pants. -- Tony Buchsbaum

Atomic Ranch: Design Ideas for Stylish Ranch Homes by Michelle Gringeri-Brown (Gibbs Smith) 192 pages
Remember the house from The Brady Bunch? Sure the show was hokey and kitschy and the plots were hackneyed and simplistic and the kids’ were overly moral and goody-two-shoes-sacherine-sweet, but the house... it was rocking. Early 60s rancher style, floating staircase, raw rock feature wall, bright cartoony paint coloring the broad flat planes of the kitchen, clerestory windows. Now think of that house as if Mr. Brady had designed it after downing a couple of peyote buttons with a scotch chaser and you’ll have an idea of what’s between the covers of Michelle Gringeri-Brown’s Atomic Ranch. Although strictly speaking it might be difficult to nail down just what quintessentially makes a ranch style home a rancher, if you think floor to ceiling windows, open plans, large slopping expanses of roof and bauhaus simplicity of form then you won’t be far off the mark. Atomic Ranch gives us page after page of glorious examples of the form and a bit of the history of the style thrown in for good measure. Wire frame chairs, velvet paintings, tiki heads, Jetsons-inspired furniture, Rat Pack sensibilities, gleaming vinyl and a load of other stuff that pretty much defined the era of the rancher make all Atomic Ranch not only a architectural history lesson, as America started to define its post-war self, but also a short lesson in pop culture. -- David Middleton

California Country Style by Diane Dorrans Saeks, photographs by David Duncan Livingston (Chronicle Books) 216 pages
Like a lot of books featuring the results of high end interior design, California Country Style is a pretext of connection. OK, sure: the houses are all in the country and they're all in California but, for the most part, the connection ends there. That is, if you thought there was a style evocative of the California country before you read California Country Style, you won't afterwards. It's all here. All of it good. All of it breathtakingly photographed. From starkly beautiful contemporary homes, to cozy but elegant cottages, historic mansions, you name it. What connects them all is near perfection, at least as styled for the book. “In the country,” Saeks writes in her introduction, “self-expression is in the air.” And while this may be true, a bankroll and the skills of a really great decorator don’t hurt much, either. This is a book for those that like to drool and savor and those that like to plan for flavor. The houses included may all be in California, but they’ll inspire your own designs wherever you live. -- Linda L. Richards

Cartoon Modern: Style and Design in Fifties Animation by Amid Amidi (Chronicle Books) 200 pages
In the 1950s, American cartoons went though a kind of Renaissance. “Animation artists conceived of a bold visual style that was derived from the modern arts, assimilating and adapting the principles of Cubism, Surrealism, and Expressionism into the realm of animation and in the process expanding and redefining the notion of the art form.” Cited are such influences as Picasso, Matisse and Miro and these influences and this new style is evident thoughout Cartoon Modern. Just take a look at Hanna-Barbera’s Fred Flintstone and try not to think of a Picasso. The wonky nose, the hair splattered atop his head, the round body... Hey, come to think of it, Fred even looks a bit like Picasso. There is something about the simple line forms, the flat bold colors and the raw, energetic expression of form that made 50s animation feel so new and different than anything seen before. But unlike the Italian Renaissance, where there was a movement in art from the simplistic to the realistic, animation in the 1950s went the other way. Gone, for the most part, was the lush realism that Disney had come to popularise, only to be replaced by a simpler, more abstract form. Cartoon Modern quickly goes through 19 of the major animation studios of the 1950s, profiling their style, storyboards, characters and artists. Many of them not only working to produce animated shows or features but also working in the lucrative field of advertising -- Walt Disney Studios being a prime example. Through such characters as Lippy the Lion, Mr. Magoo, Yogi Bear, Puss ‘N Boots and classic features like Warner Bros. What’s Opera, Doc?, Terrytoons’ Flebus and Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, Cartoon Modern shows how animation from the 1950s has continued to entertain and inspire us right into the 21st century. -- David Middleton

The Complete Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy introduction by Max Allan Collins (IDW Publishing) 2006
In the introduction to The Complete Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy, novelist and pop culture commentator Max Allan Collins writes, “The Dick Tracy strip was one of the most popular, influential comics of the 20th Century. Young boys in particular were attracted to Chester Gould’s crafty mix of violence, humor and melodrama. I know because I was one of them.” This personal touch sets the tone for this beautiful collection of the original strip that ran between 1931 and 1933. Labelled as Volume One -- later volumes will carry still more strips and more Gould ephemera. Also included is an interview with Gould by Collins and Matt Masterson. “Matt is undoubtedly the foremost Dick Tracy fan of all,” writes Collins, “and it was his idea to put a tape recorder in front of Chet and get a record of some of the anecdotes, reflections, and opinions that Tracy's creator had so often shared with us, the two luckiest Tracy fans who ever lived.” This affection contributes a great deal to this fabulous volume but, of course, the strip would stand alone. This is an absolute must-have volume for anyone who considers themselves a fan of the seminal detective. -- Lincoln Cho

Field Guide to Dreams by Kelly Regan (Quirk) 282 pages
You’ve dreamt of mud (Or monsters. Or your mother.) What does it mean? What would Freud say? Not happy with that? How about Jung? What does the dream mean in a cultural context? What images are related to that of the mud? (Or monsters? Or your mother?) Field Guide to Dreams is both deeply complex and strikingly simple. All of these images and interpretations of common dream themes, boiled down into a book that will fit easily in one hand. The book’s small size should make it simple to demystify the dreams you can’t wait until morning to interpret. Best of all this time of year: Field Guide to Dreams would fit nicely in a generous stocking. -- Linda L. Richards

The Golden Section: Nature’s Greatest Secret by Scott Olsen (Walker and Company) 2006
It is in everything that surrounds us, from the art we create to the DNA that acts as blueprint for all living matter, to the structure of the universe itself. It is all at once mathematical, scientific and mystical. It is a principle which nature follows and art imitates. Known as the golden section, the golden mean, the golden cut, the divine ratio or simply phi, it not only builds the world we live in, but acts as a basis for symmetry, proportion and beauty. Small, simple, concise and extremely informative The Golden Section unveils what philosophers, scientists and artists had kept secret for centuries for fear that it would be seen as quackery. Illustrated throughout are examples of the golden section as it relates to just about everything. Beijing's Forbidden City, credit cards, the bicycle, the soda can, a pack of cigarettes, music, the violin, the human body, the arrangement of seeds in the head of a sunflower, ladybugs: all based on the principle of phi. After reading The Golden Section you’ll never look at the world in the same way again. -- David Middleton

An Incomplete Education by Judy Jones and William Wilson (Ballantine) 720 pages
They say you don't know what you don't know, and this book was written to answer "they." The third edition of a book originally published in 1987, An Incomplete Education assumes there's a whole lot of stuff we just don't know, and the authors have set about to answer those questions -- even though we don't know what they are. Their thought, apparently, is that the world has changed in the last few years, and there's a lot to catch up on, or refresh, or relearn. For example, what's the difference between the Balkans and Caucasus? Between fission and fusion? Is postmodernism dead? Truly, this book is just too much fun, and not nearly as esoteric as I've made it seem. The indispensable facts, provided in short essays, are divvied up into a broad range of categories such as American Studies, Economics, Science, Religion, World History, Film, Literature, Music and others. A casual flip-through reveals bios of Andy Warhol and Frank Stella on one page, an article on Citizen Kane on another, a breakdown of Homer's Iliad and The Odyssey, an examination of Italy's geopolitics, an essay about the life and influence of Louis XV ... It goes on and on, pretty much challenging you on every page not to learn something new. I don't know if this book will turn an incomplete education into a complete one, but it'll help. -- Tony Buchsbaum

Individuals: Portraits from the Gap Collection (DK Adult) 256 pages
The Gap has joined the companies pushing for a cure for HIV/AIDS through the Product(red) program. The profits from Individuals: Portraits from the Gap Collection will go directly to that organization. The book is a look at the superb celebrity photography The Gap has used in its advertising. As much as it's a look at these unforgettable faces, it’s also a glimpse at how the world’s best photographers work. We’re talking about actors, musicians, authors, designers, even the photographers themselves. Each image is a stunning work. Equally intriguing are short pieces on the nature of individuality by Tama Janowitz, Willie Nelson, Missy Elliot, Sharon Stone and Veronica Webb. There’s also a revealing foreword by Gap founder Don Fisher. Superb photographs. Insightful essays. Oh, and an exclusive CD of 15 songs used in The Gap’s television ads, performed by the likes of Madonna, the O'Jays, Louis Prima, Bill Withers, Seals & Crofts and John Legend. This holiday season, it’s a great buy -- and it's a great cause. -- Tony Buchsbaum

In Praise of the Needlewoman: Embroiderers, Knitters, Lacemakers, and Weavers in Art by Gail Carolyn Sirna (Merrell) 2006
Art books compiled around a central theme are either terrific or terrible. The deciding factors tend to be based on two things: who is doing the compiling and who is doing the publishing. In Praise of the Needlewoman wins on both counts. Publisher Merrell is no slouch in the art book publishing department. In fact, they are almost certainly one of the world’s leading art publishers. Author Gail Carolyn Sirna is a herself a needleworker of some repute and her CV includes a lifetime achievement award from America’s National Academy of Needlearts. In her introduction to the book, Sirna writes that it was her passion for needlework that led her to art that portrayed it. This twinned passion -- needlework and art -- compelled Sirna to enrol in the honors program at the National Academy of Needlearts. Sirna writes that In Praise of the Needlewoman evolved from her honors research for this program. The collection is wonderful. A tribute, in a way, not just to needleworkers, but to women in general. As Sirna says, “For peasant and princess, cave dweller, and career woman, needlework has been a most gratifying endeavor for the human being, especially women.” What I enjoyed most about this collection were the little known works by well known artists: paintings I would likely have never had occasion otherwise to see. Renoir, for instance, seems to have been fascinated by women sewing and, as we see, he approached the subject often and from many angles. Vermeer, Cassatt, even Dali in a lucid mood. The works by little known artists are equally enjoyable and all are tied together by the author’s expert comments. -- Monica Stark

Inside Ferrari by Maurice Hamilton, photography by Jon Nicholson (Firefly) 2006
Inside Ferrari is a book that seems made for gift giving. An impressive profile -- it’s big and heavy -- filled with pictures of what is arguably the sexiest car ever built (an inordinate amount of them red). There are words in Inside Ferrari, but the focus here is on Jon Nicholson's graphic images. Nicholson is one of the top Formula One photographers in the world, and it shows. These are insider photos: photos taken by someone who not only understands the sport, he has access to all the right places, carte blanche at all the right races. The title is a little misleading: one would expect to see the inside of the Ferrari plant or design HQ, where the cars are dreamed up and then created. Inside Ferrari makes a fast trip there, but mostly concerns itself entirely with the Ferrari racing team. Hamilton writes: “Ferrari’s symbol is a prancing horse; the racers are the rampant stallions, and the showroom stock, the progeny.” -- Lincoln Cho

The Museum of Lost Wonder by Jeff Hoke (Weiser Books) 2006
Flipping through Jeff Hoke’s The Museum of Lost Wonder you are at first confronted by an incongruous series of thoughts, ideas and imagery. Metaphysics, alchemy, science, religion and mysticism all vie for equal attention. But start to read and the picture soon comes -- if not entirely clear -- then at least into focus. A sort of repository for questions and a celebration of human ingenuity, turning the world you know inside-out with some well-outside-the-box thinking, The Museum of Lost Wonder practically sucks you into its vortex of fascinating ideas and bold visuals. Laid out like the a cross between a graphic novel and an alchemist’s notebook and full of interesting art and projects that you can actually cut out of the book and make, The Museum of Lost Wonder is filled to bursting with thought-provoking musings -- Who are we? Why do we do the things we do? -- and activities designed to guide you toward challenging the status quo and independent thinking. Nicely produced, well written and as essential as any book on philosophy, Museum is the perfect book for someone with more questions than they may currently have answers for, and may just answer some of those questions they had long been searching for the answers to. -- David Middleton

An Orgy of Playboy’s Eldon Dedini introduction by Dennis Renault (Fantagraphics) 239 pages
You might not know his name but you know his work, especially if you're a male who ever spent any time at all over the last 45 years in the company of a Playboy magazine. Though he was capable of a wide variety of illustrative styles, the one we were most familiar with was joyous, loose and delicately ribald. In the introduction to An Orgy of Playboy's Eldon Dedini, Dennis Renault shares this quote: "In 2005, in describing Dedini's art, [Playboy cartoon editor Michelle Urry] is quoted as saying, 'The image is basically who Eldon himself is; a font of originality, a cornucopia of fun and probably, overall, the finest cartoon watercolorist in the world. His grasp of mythology, classical art, pop culture and comics in nonpareil." All of these things are apparent in the 100s of reproductions of Dedini's work for Playboy collected in this book. Fans will be delighted: each cartoon is given a full page of this coffee table book, resulting in larger and better reproductions than their original Playboy printing. A bonus DVD, Dedini: A Life of Cartoons a documentary by Anson Musselman, is also included, making this package a real tribute to Dedini, who died in January 2006 at 85. -- Lincoln Cho

Stylepedia: A Guide to Graphic Design Mannerisms, Quirks, and Conceits by Steven Heller and Louise Fili (Chronicle Books) 2006
The title is not perfectly explanatory, describing as it does a book that’s not quite as good as the one under discussion. Let me rephrase that: Stylepedia is an amazing compendium -- encyclopaedic in nature -- on all things to do with graphic design, through history and into the present. It is not exhaustive -- if it were, it would not fit between these two very attractive covers. However, if it were exhaustive, it would not be nearly so engaging a read. And the book is engaging; a sort of rapid-fire tour through the history, development and evolution of contemporary graphic design. A must for the initiated. Everyone with even the remotest interest in the discipline or claim on the title needs a copy of Stylepedia within easy reach on their desk. -- Linda L. Richards


Gift Guide: Cookbooks

January Magazine’s Holiday Gift Guide 2006 continues with selections of cookbooks. Suggestions in fiction are here. Children’s books are here. Non-fiction is here. And check back for further gift book selections over the next few days.

Another Cup of Sugar by Anna Olson (Whitecap Books) 197 pages
As a rule, I’m more cautious of sequels when it comes to cookbooks than I am with movies. With movies, there’s always the chance that the filmmakers will catch a new energy, perhaps release some previously untapped creative well. With a cookbook, the included recipes are -- theoretically -- coming from the same source as the original. Won’t all the good recipes already have been used up? These were my concerns when I approached Another Cup of Sugar by the Canadian Food Network’s Anna Olson. However, if anything, Another Cup of Sugar is even better than its predecessor, Sugar, named for the show Olson hosts. Like the show, many of the recipes include a “switched-up” version where you start with a simple recipe -- an every day sort of lovely dessert. Then, for the switch-up, you add a little Olson magic and -- presto! -- something elegant enough to serve to good company. The book follows Olson’s television show in feel and format. That’s a good thing, because it’s a great show. -- Aaron Blanton

As Fresh As It Gets: Everyday Recipes From the Tomato Fresh Food Café by Christian Gaudreault and Star Spilos (Arsenal Pulp Press) 184 pages
The Tomato Cafe has been a Vancouver foodie landmark since it was opened in 1991 by local legend Diane Clement. That landmark status has been enhanced since it was purchased and expanded by Christian Gaudreault and Star Spilos. Under Clement, Tomato was a sort of fresh funky chic neighborhood lunch counter with truly amazing food. Everyone talked about it and everyone went, but it wasn’t the sort of place most people would think of for a celebratory meal. The fresh funky chic is still in place -- especially the fresh -- and the restaurant has grown to 100 seats from its original 45. But more than the physical growth, an elegance has slid in along with Tomato’s maturation. But pre-Clement or post, the backbone of Tomato is the food. The last line of co-author and -owner Spilos’ foreword lets you know the sort of journey you can expect: she writes that she hopes the book gets your “culinary juices flowing, and introduces you to the importance of fresh, local, socially responsible food, from the farmer’s fields to your dinner table.” The recipes included in the book reflect this ethos of freshness, excellence and social responsibility. Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho, Wild Mushroom Risotto, Spinach & Swiss Chard Cannelloni, Corn Cakes with Smokey Tomato Sauce and I was very happy to see one of my long-time Tomato favorites, the Westcoaster Salad, had been included in the book. The recipes are simply stated and, for the most part, easy to prepare. Like the restaurant that inspired it, As Fresh As It Gets is fresh, elegant, modern and just right. -- David Middleton

The Canadian Cookbook by Jennifer Ogle (Lone Pine Publishing) 160 pages
Jennifer Ogle’s The Canadian Cookbook blends the best of about three cookbook forms for a melange that is unexpected and that works surprisingly well. It’s a bright, glossy cookbook -- the photos here put one in mind of a good food magazine -- themed on the food of a single country -- in this case Canada -- and interspersed with bits of folklore and trivia. Don’t look for a lot of Canadian history, but most of the country culinary classics are here, well and easy to follow including Tourtiére (the one included is a deep dish version), Bannock, Poutine, Nanaimo Bars, Quebec Sugar Pie and many different types of dishes featuring fish and shellfish. Those looking for the essential Canadian cuisine won’t find it here, but it’s a good starting point for the beginning to intermediate home chef. -- Linda L. Richards

Coffee Cakes: Simple, Sweet, and Savory by Lou Seibert Pappas (Chronicle) 132 pages
There’s something really lovely about a good coffee cake. For one thing, it can take so many forms. It can be the casual slice in the construction worker’s lunch box. It can be the bran and fruit-laden breakfast. It can be dressed up and taken out, too, an appropriate finish for the poshest dinner party. It can even be savory and form the heart of a beautiful mid-day meal. In Coffee Cakes veteran cookbook author Lou Seibert Pappas (Fondue, Ice Creams, The Christmas Cookie Book and others) takes on the simple coffee cake with astonishing results. If you thought you knew a lot about coffee cakes, think again: quick-leavened and yeast-leavened, all dressed up or beautifully simple and plain, Siebert Pappas has done a thoroughly delicious job here. I can’t imagine a more complete collection. -- Linda L. Richards

Everyone Can Cook Appetizers by Eric Akis (Whitecap) 198 pages
Author Eric Akis is not shy about letting potential readers know that his book is the right one for timid chefs. “Equipping home cooks with an abundance of tantalizing recipes they can actually prepare is my mission as a cookbook author. If your desire is to dazzle friends, family and acquaintances with great-tasting appetizers, then with this book, fulfilment awaits.” Everyone Can Cook Appetizers delivers. This is a no-nonsense back to basics kind of book. Few out of focus food photos here. No fancy typography, experimental ink colors or anything else that might detract from the serious business of making food that’s fun. The recipes here -- over 100 in all -- run the whole range of appetizers, from astonishingly simple to vastly complex; from light and easy to what Akis calls “sporting snacks” and from familiar favorites to the all out exotic, if it can be called an appetizer, some version of it is probably here. -- Aaron Blanton

How I Learned to Cook edited by Kimberly Witherspoon and Peter Meehan (Bloomsbury) 310 pages
The title is not completely accurate but the book is super anyway. It's called How I Learned to Cook. It probably should be called, How I Learned to Find My Way and Feel Confident in the Kitchen. or something very like that. We have here a collection of essays from “forty of the World's greatest chefs.” But the thing I've noticed about great chefs is, most of them had an interest in food from a very young age and were in the kitchen creating edible concoctions when most of us were still jamming Play-Doh into inedible and unappetizing forms. That is to say, they mostly learned to cook when they were pretty young. Here we find them discovering their stride as chefs and finding their passion. Mario Batali at his first cooking job in the old country, Mark Bittman on how he learned to entertain simply when at home; Jonathan Eismann talks about dealing with drug problems in a commercial kitchen in New York City in the 1980s, Susan Feniger tells us about the challenges of being a professional chef and a woman in Chicago in the same time period. When writing about how he learned to best prepare a dish for three-minute segments on television when promoting a book, Anthony Bourdain's essay seems that farthest off target, but who cares? Bourdain writes the way I imagine he cooks: with energy, passion and an unmistakable virtuosity. He could write about any old thing he pleased and I'd pay attention. How I Learned to Cook will satisfy the cravings of any foodie on your list. -- Linda L. Richards

Mama Now Cooks Like This by Susan Mendelson (Whitecap Books) 256 pages
The chorus of Susan Mendelson's latest cookbook might be “mama’s got a brand new bag” and the fact that “just like mama used to make” has a whole new meaning in the 21st century. Twenty-six years after the publication of her first cookbook, Mama Never Cooked Like This, caterer, restaurateur and food personality Susan Mendelson is herself a mother, one who has realized that a new generation of moms are reaching for the far edges of culinary experience when they put food on their family’s table. Mama Now Cooks Like This reflects this sensibility while it collects the best of Mendelson’s rich authorial history. In that way, this latest book is kind of a best of Susan Mendelson, with recipe entries from all of the books Mendelson has written and co-written since the publication of that first book in 1980. It’s a great collection, one that will go far to enriching the culinary experience of every type of home cook, from the inexperienced to the culinarily gifted. From simple basics like Gazpacho and Homemade Pizza to feast day extravaganzas like Roast Rack of Lamb with Mushroom Crust or Mocha Mousse Meringue Cake, Mama Now Cooks Like This reflects how we live and eat now. -- Linda L. Richards

Meatloaf by Maryana Vollstedt (Chronicle Books) 108 pages
Oh. My. Goodness. I've always been a meatloaf fan. I love its simplicity, its wholesome goodness, how it transforms from a hot meal at night to a cold sandwich the next day. When I spotted Meatloaf, I knew I just had to try it out. I've tried two recipes so far, and both have received outstanding reviews. The first, a pretty basic loaf topped with a crown of mashed potatoes, was nearly devoured by my young son -- who likes new things only when they're sprinkled with sugar or chocolate. That's a rave in my book. The second, a more inventive one -- with a layer of cheeses between layers of meat -- I brought to a holiday party. On a table covered with goodies, mine was the first pan to hit the empty pile. Not only that, when word got 'round that I was the chef, several people asked for the recipe. That's another rave. This slim volume, which contains tips, tricks and lists of stuff you'll need, gives you recipes for around 20 meatloaves and the toppings and sides that accompany them. If you're smart, you'll give this book to someone before the holidays -- then get yourself invited over for dinner. -- Tony Buchsbaum

The South Beach Diet Parties and Holiday Cookbook by Arthur Agatston (Rodale) 242 pages

For many dieters, the holidays are the time to fall off the good-for-you food wagon. Even people who are normally careful about what they eat can find themselves overindulging in foods that might not normally even tempt them. In The South Beach Diet Parties and Holiday Cookbook Arthur Agatston takes in the problem with his usual rational glance and helps us all realize that not only is it in our power to do something about these holiday indulgences, but that the answers to our questions about food choices aren’t as confusing as they can sometimes seem. “Thankfully, the confusion that has characterized diet advice for so many years is over. We have moved beyond the low-fat versus low-carb debates to a broad consensus of expert opinion regarding the principles of healthy eating.” These principles, Agatston writes, are simple: unsaturated fats, nutrition rich carbs, lean sources of protein and low-fat dairy. He’s also woven in some South Beach advice any type of dieter would likely benefit from Agatston’s recipes from this collection. The food in The South Beach Diet Parties and Holiday Cookbook is simple, easy to prepare and, perhaps most important of all, will fill your holiday table so beautifully, most guests will never suspect how you’ve tricked them into healthy eating! -- Monica Stark

Superfoods for Babies and Children by Annabel Karmel (Atria) 192 pages
For many parents, of all of the skills involved in bringing a child to adulthood, feeding them has come to be one of the most confounding. “As parents we start out with the best of intentions,” writes Annabel author Karmel, “but all too soon we find that our two-year-old wants only Thomas the Tank Engine pasta shapes ... and our six-year-old eats only Coco Pops.” However, Karmel doesn’t waste a lot of time examining the problems -- we all know what those look like anyway. Rather, she devotes most of this fairly substantial work to coming up with solutions, first helping parents to recognize the foods that are best for their youngsters, then in helping you to prepare nutritious food that your children will like and that won’t leave you panting at the stove after hours of cooking. Karmel has written 13 bestselling books on cooking for children, including the international bestseller The Healthy Baby Meal Planner. -- Monica Stark

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Gift Guide: Non-Fiction

January Magazine’s Holiday Gift Guide 2006 continues with non-fiction books. Selections in fiction are here. Children’s books are here. And check back for further gift book selections over the next few days.

A Mermaid’s Tale by Amanda Adams (Greystone Books) 180 pages
“Crimson-tailed mermaid in a celadon sea -- this is how I see her. Blood-red scales that glint in clear green water. Long hair that trails past scaled hips, unfurling in waves of dark brown and black, hair that swims alongside and against the mermaid as a second living thing.” As this first paragraph from Amanda Adams’ new book suggests, A Mermaid’s Tale is more than a pop culture peek at the beautiful, sometimes deadly creatures from myth and legend. Adams holds a master’s degree in anthropology and it shows in the thoroughness of her research here, and the lucid way she shares her material. If you don’t know much about mermaids, you will by the time you’ve finished Adams’ book. If you know a lot, I hazard you’ll learn more. But learning isn’t the only issue in A Mermaid’s Tale. Adams writes beautifully and seems to care deeply about her subject and, as she tells us, “people do want to believe in something. A life without some magic is tedious, and we live in a society that increasingly eschews belief and ritual. We are the poorer for it.” Adams, through her lovely book, would enrich us. -- Linda L. Richards

Canadian Wings edited by Stephen Payne (Douglas & McIntyre) 246 pages
On the anniversary of a century of aviation in Canada, Stephen Payne, curator of the Canadian Aviation Museum, has put together a stunning book that records a century of record breaking. Beginning with the history of aviation in general, then moving to its evolution in Canada, Canadian Wings documents this development with historic photographs, illustrations and fine art. It’s a rich and fabulous journey that tracks commercial aviation and manufacturing, as well as Canada's contributions to the international knowledge bank on flight. (Even those with some knowledge of the field will be surprised to discover how extensive these are.) Enthusiasts of aviation and Canadiana alike will find much to enjoy in this beautiful, well-produced and gorgeously illustrated coffee table book. -- Lincoln Cho

Cool Creatures, Hot Planet: Exploring the Seven Continents by Marty Essen (Encante Press) 455 pages
If the tone here is occasionally a little too breathless, perhaps author Essen can be forgiven. He’s arrived at this place not as a writer but as a citizen of the world with a story to tell: a story of travel, adventure and lessons learned on the road. Approaching mid-life, Essen and his wife shook themselves free of professional responsibility and travelled to just about every compass point they could reach. Reading Cool Creatures, Hot Planet is not like reading your average travel memoir. (And as enjoyable as that can be, it isn’t what this is.) It’s more like sitting across from a well-travelled friend and listening to his stories. Or a bit, even, like a worthwhile blog. There’s a real casualness here and a refreshingly sweet -- occasionally almost naive -- sincerity. Those who enjoy armchair eco-tourism will dig on Cool Creatures, Hot Planet. -- Linda L. Richards

Crazy About Quilting: Confessions of an Average Quilter by Ada K. Moyles (Whitecap) 192 pages
Quilting is consuming, though it might not look like it from the outside. It’s a madness, a hunger or, as author Ada K. Moyles claims, a life changing addiction. “I’m a quilt addict,” writes Moyles. “Of course I knew that long ago, but, like many other addicts, refused to admit to my addiction. It wasn’t until recently that it came out into the open.” Moyles writes charmingly about her passion and the ways it’s altered her life: the trips cut short, the short-circuited housework in order to make time for quilting, the life that needed to be reorganized to make room for her burgeoning passion. Crazy About Quilting reads like a series of newspaper columns: if newspapers syndicated columns about quilting. The book would make the ideal gift for the quilter on your list. After all, if a quilt addict finds herself in a place or position where she can’t be quilting, what better thing to do than read about it? -- Monica Stark

England in Particular Sue Clifford and Angela King (Hodder & Stoughton) 512 pages
Anglophiles rejoice! Your ship has come in. “This book is a counterblast against loss and uniformity, and a celebration of just some of the distinctive details that cumulatively make England.” England in Particular is a book about English things written for English people. A sort of revisitation of the whole Arts & Crafts movement idea that the world is moving so quickly, good things are in danger of being left behind. What sort of good things? You name it: chert and cobnuts; dudley locusts and drove roads; gaps and ganseys... it’s a fat book so it’s a long list. The tone is at once affectionate and informative, making the book a potential treasure for ex-pats as well as those who would remember the fond details of their history. Both authors are involved in Common Ground, “a charity that plays a unique role in linking nature and culture. It believes that popular involvement and local celebration is the best starting point for action to improve the quality of ordinary places and everyday lives.” Which, in essence, is what England in Particular is all about. -- Aaron Blanton

Human Body: A Visual Guide by Beverly McMillan (Firefly Books) 304 pages
While books on the mysteries of the human body are in no short supply, it’s rare to find one as frankly inviting as Beverly McMillan’s Human Body. With carefully chosen illustrations and color photographs -- hundreds of both -- adding clarity to McMillan’s already lucid prose, Human Body would be a perfect book for a family to sit down together with to learn and discuss every aspect of the one thing all of us share: our perfectly designed human form. McMillan is not, as far as I know, a doctor and for a text like this -- meant to be understandable by the widest cross-section of the population -- that’s probably a good thing. Her bio says she is a science writer and book developer and the author of several books, as well as the co-author of a bestselling college text on human biology. Whatever her background, it all works here. Human Body is both beautiful and deeply informative. -- Linda L. Richards

In Search of the Knights Templar: A Guide to the Sites of Britain by Simon Brighton (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) 255 pages
In the year everyone went mad for The Da Vinci Code, In Search of the Knights Templar seems a good bet for a gift book. A few years ago, few would have cared about a book that is very close to a field guide of templar sites in the United Kingdom. In that regard, it’s a good thing that Templar aficionado author Simon Brighton didn’t create this book prior to the widespread templarmania brought on by Dan Brown’s book and the subsequent film based on same. One can’t imagine that a publisher would have allowed so many color photos on so many glossy pages on what would have been a book with a fairly narrow potential readership. As things are, Brighton’s loving and informative text is enhanced by lavish photos and illustrations. If there’s a templarmaniac on your list, In Search of the Knights Templar should be the one. -- Aaron Blanton

The Intellectual Devotional by David S. Kidder and Noah D. Oppenheim (Rodale) 377 pages
January Magazine’s readers have recently seen an excerpt from this wonderful book, but in case you need more, here it is. As you probably know, a devotional is a book that offers a year of religious readings, one day at a time. Here, the readings are greatly expanded on any number of subjects, including history, literature, visual arts, science, music, philosophy and religion. Seven broad topics, one for each day of the week. The idea is that you start at the beginning, and read a single day’s essay every day. After 365 such days, you’ll be wiser, smarter, and much better at games like Trivial Pursuit and, perhaps, Scrabble. Seriously, this is fantastic stuff, not quite an overview of our culture, but a 10,000-foot view of it, with deep dives into 365 important bits and pieces. One day you’ll read about Renaissance Art, another Anton Chekhov and the next Otto von Bismarck or D-Day or the Quran. Each bite-size chunk is readable in about five or ten minutes, in true devotional style. Here, the assumption is that the reader is devoted, as it were, to learning. And who, reading this, has a problem with that? -- Tony Buchsbaum

Judi Dench: Scenes From My Life by Judi Dench edited by Juanita Lieberman-Plimpton and Bill Morgan (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) 224 pages
What strikes one first when looking through the photographs in Dame Judi Dench's wonderful biography is that the lady does not change. Oh, sure: an extra line here, a different hair color there, but the essential and signature clear blue sparkle that means Judi Dench seem to skim through the years unaltered. And where sometimes you can look at a photo of a film star from 10 or 20 or 30 years ago and not recognize them at all, this can not be said of Dame Judi. There is, for instance, a photo taken on her wedding day in 1971. She is beautiful, she is radiant, she looks exactly the same. And except when a role she is photographed in called for a serious expression, she is always -- always -- smiling. This is not the sort of down and dirty tell all biography we've gotten used to seeing. It is instead more of a biography in photographs punctuated with rich comments from the actress. Her family, her friends, even her pets are here. Most of all, though, we see her in her roles. One of the final photographs in the book show Dench leaning against a BMW sports car. “This is a very flash photo of me and my very flash car,” writes Dench. “I don't drive it. I just lean against it. It makes me feel about twenty-nine.” The book is as charming as Dench herself. -- Linda L. Richards

Portraits of Canada by Jonathan Hanna, Robert C. Kennell and Carol Lacourte (Fifth House) 211 pages
Portraits of Canada serves two functions, both equally important. On the one hand we find a collection of photographic images -- many of them extraordinarily good -- from Canada’s first century (though most were taken prior to 1950). On the other, a celebration of Canadian photographers previously unknown outside their own, select ranks: that of the Canadian Pacific Railway's photographic corps. “Almost from the beginning,” a foreword to the book tells us, “CPR hired noted photographers, first on contract, then later in its own in-house photography and publicity department.” The same foreword tells us that the CPR today “maintains a heritage image bank of some eight hundred thousand” photographs. Of that 800,000, 158 have been selected for inclusion by the authors of Portraits of Canada. More than anything, what we see is the growth of a young country. Native villages, visiting royalty, historic street scenes from key cities; travelers by trail, rail and the company’s sumptuous ocean liner. Portraits of Canada offers an amazing glimpse into a world seldom seen and barely remembered: Canada, young, naive and on the move. You won’t soon forget what you see here. -- Linda L. Richards

Sex Secrets of an American Geisha: How to Attract, Satisfy and Keep Your Man by Py Kim Conant (Hunter House) 224 pages
A burst on the back cover makes an amazing claim: “Go from single and alone to married and adored in 12-18 months!” With a shout out like that it’s a wonder the book hasn’t made every bestseller list in the country and that the author hasn’t been fielding claims that she’s set the woman’s movement back several decades. “I can’t cover my little ass,” Conant writes in her introduction, “saying politically correct things so that no one gets upset.” No worries, then. She doesn’t. Conant claims she was inspired to write Sex Secrets of an American Geisha by her own earlier experiences unlucky at life and love. “I wrote this book because I wanted to save other women from the mistakes I made and the lost time I suffered.” It should be noted that Conant doesn’t claim to be an actual geisha. Rather, she created her own approach, “what I now call my Geisha Consciousness -- to find the best man for me, including eventually losing forty pounds.” Sex Secrets of an American Geisha is one part self-esteem manual, one part weight loss handbook and about 30 parts sex manual: sex -- attitudes and actuality -- plays a fairly significant role here. Readers that don’t find the book offensive might like it quite a lot. -- Monica Stark

So We Sold Our House and Ran Away to the South Pacific by Gordon Cope (Fifth House) 214 pages
One day Gordon Cope, a reporter, and his wife, Linda, who worked in high tech realized that they’d reached a place in their lives where they both hated their jobs, had a big ol’ house that was driving them to bankruptcy and maxed out credit cards. They had become deeply unhappy with their lives and had no idea of what to do about it. One night while watching a television program about the South Pacific and thinking about their credit cards, Linda said, “Why don't we just quit our jobs, sell the house, and run away to the South Pacific?” They both laughed, but something had been set in motion inside them. Within six months, they’d left snowy Calgary behind and were living in Rarotonga. In the year they lived there, they couple learned things that would change their lives. Elements of their story will touch a nerve with many readers. -- Lincoln Cho

Sports Illustrated: The Baseball Book (Sports Illustrated) 292 pages
If you’re going to give a book, give big, I always say. Coffee table editions are especially welcome and if the topic happens to be baseball, so much the better. It sometimes seems unfair that publications like Sports Illustrated can simply reach into 50 years-worth of archives at any time and pull a gem out of their metaphorical hat. Such is the case with their new tome on baseball. The text is supplied by some of the best sportswriters around, including several from SI’s own masthead, like Tom Verducci, Robert Creamer, Frank Deford, and Rick Reilly, as well as other noteworthy scribes including Roger Kahn, Leigh Montville and George Plimpton. At less than 300 pages, words and pictures (after all the name of the magazine is Sports Illustrated), The Baseball Book is a compact but thorough rendition of the game at its best. The highlights of the edition -- which features essays on Mickey Mantle, Roberto Clemente, Reggie Jackson, Stan Musial, Ted Williams and Vladimir Guerrero, among others -- are the decade-by-decade breakdowns and SI’s All Time All-Stars. A book like this isn’t simply read; it’s meant to be savored. And the winter, with several dark and cold weeks remaining until the new season kicks off, is the perfect time to start enjoying it. -- Ron Kaplan

The Strange Case of Hellish Nell by Nina Shandler (Da Capo) 289 pages
In England, in 1944, Helen Duncan became the last person to be tried under the Witchcraft act of 1735. As interesting as the story of Duncan -- nicknamed Hellish Nell in her home village of Callender -- the 44-year-old Scottish mother of six who was England's last official witch, the author's story of discovery is almost as good. Duncan’s file had been ordered closed for 100 years. But a clerical error at the Home Records Office in London put the closed file in the hands of Shandler, an American psychologist, family therapist and author, leading her to stare in dismay at a note in Winston Churchill’s own hand at the top of the file, alluding to the “obsolete tomfoolery” that investigators were indulging in. In The Strange Case of Hellish Nell, and with the help of that closed file plus a lot of footwork, Shandler recreates Duncan's remarkable life. A fascinating work that reads like an interesting but offbeat piece of fiction. -- Monica Stark

Ultimate Outdoor Kitchens by Michelle Kodis (Gibbs Smith) 160 pages
In some places -- many parts of the American South, for example -- building some sort of summer kitchen is a matter of course. In hot climates, being able to prepare the family meal outdoors isn't a luxury or entertainment, it's a necessity. It's just too hot to even contemplate the use of heat to prepare food indoors. Those summer kitchens of necessity are not the focus of Ultimate Outdoor Kitchens, but those building one would be well-advised to pay attention. Kodis has included 26 kitchens representing “the greatest diversity in terms of style and functionality as well as a broad geographic range.” She then organized her chosen 26 into broad and self-explanatory chapters: Just the Basics; Creative Functionality and, finally, Going All Out. These breakdowns make it easy for the would-be summer kitchen designer to find ideas for their own project... or the project they’d most like to dream about. A beautiful and potentially useful book. -- Aaron Blanton

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Gift Guide: Books for Children

January Magazine’s Holiday Gift Guide 2006 continues here with books for children. Selections in fiction are here. And check back for further gift book selections over the next few days.

Baby Grizzly by Aubrey Lang, Photographs by Wayne Lynch (Fitzhenry & Whiteside) 36 pages
What I’ve liked best about Fitzhenry & Whiteside’s Nature Babies series is the gently National Geographic tone and content the books consistently deliver. Packaged for children aged five to eight, Baby Grizzly never condescends, but manages to bring youngsters a beautiful, informative book that won’t intimidate even the most reluctant reader. The photographs are first rate and the numerous grizzly facts simply but succinctly shared. Husband and wife team Lang and Lynch have produced nearly 40 books for both children and adults. As well, their work has appeared in Owl, National Wildlife and Canadian Geographic. Other books in the Nature Babies series include Baby Ground Squirrel, Baby Koala, Baby Sloth and several others. -- Sienna Powers

Carew by J.C. Mills (Key Porter Books) 248 pages
“In Northern Nepal, not far from the fabled city of Kathmandu, lie the deep, lush forests of the Langtang valley. Nestled in the shadow of Mount everest -- the earth’s highest peak -- is a place rich in legend.” It is in this region that Sir Jeffrey Parnell hopes to fulfil the ambition of a lifetime: to find a new species, unlike any that has been seen before and, when he does, there are repercussions beyond any that he could have imagined. It falls to two youngsters in the expedition to put things right in an adventure that is beyond what either had bargained for. Mills weaves a mystical strand through what is in many ways an entirely earthbound story. Readers 12 and up should enjoy having the boundaries of their world stretched in this way. -- Linda L. Richards

Duck & Goose text and illustrations by Tad Hills (Schwartz & Wade Books) 40 pages
What makes a perfect children's picture book? In my opinion, it’s a strong story, wonderful illustrations and superior execution. Duck & Goose by painter, actor and “obsessive Halloween costume maker” Tad Hills wins on all three counts. This one is intended for quite young children (the publisher says ages three to seven). The story is simple and almost every page features charming illustrations of our fowl heroes as they compete for a mysterious egg that even the youngest reader will recognize as a brightly colored soccer ball. A beautiful book that should captivate your young reader. -- Sienna Powers

Everything You Need to Know About the World by Simon Eliot (Raincoast Books) 192 pages
“England invented toffee, which breaks your teeth. Canada invented Smarties, which melt in your mouth and are good for your soul. Canadians also invented Crispy Crunch, Coffee Crisp and apple pie.” This is just the teensiest bit of the information crammed into Everything You Need to Know About the World by Simon Eliot, intended for readers age eight and up. And I don’t use the term “crammed” here lightly. “A normal breath travels at 4 miles per hour,” the book says in one section. “Shrews are like tiny mice with long noses. Many of them die of old age when they reach one year old,” it says in another. Who invented the slingshot? What is vomit made of? Who invented chocolate? And all of it put together in a seemingly willy-nilly fashion that is somehow also absolutely compelling. The book was originally published in New Zealand in 2004 where it was a finalist in the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards. Apparently, we can look forward to other books in the Simon Eliot series. -- Linda L. Richards

The Ice Dragon by George R.R. Martin, illustrated by Yvonne Gilbert (Starscape/Tor Teen) 106 pages
George R.R. Martin is a legendary name in the world of modern fantasy fiction. In 2005, Time magazine called him “the American Tolkien.” Martin is the author of the internationally bestselling series A Song of Fire and Ice and has won just about every award open to him. Clearly, when an author of Martin’s stature decides to write a novel for young adults -- especially one in the genre for which he is known -- the world pays attention. Readers of The Ice Dragon will discover that paying attention here was a worthwhile undertaking. The Ice Dragon was originally published in 1980, when Martin was nowhere near as well known an author. It was also long before writing books for children got to be such a fashionable thing for successful authors to do. And that’s a good thing here. Martin’s charming tale is filled with passion and power, yet is somehow delicately told. The story of a child and the fierce dragon she befriends is a touching adventure with all the taut storytelling skill one would expect from this award-winning author. -- Linda L. Richards

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, illustrated by Robert Ingpen (Blue Heron Books) 191 pages
The Jungle Book is one of the most enduring tales for young people. Since it was first published in 1894, there is not a generation of western children who have not been captivated by the story of the abandoned human boy, Mowgli, who is found in the jungle and raised by wolves. What delights here is the fullness of the text. So many abridged versions have been illustrated and published. So many cartoons and films and children's picture books have been based on this classic tale. If you’ve not read Kipling’s Jungle Book as he wrote it -- or if it’s been a long while since you have -- be prepared for an animal magic that other authors have seldom duplicated. The prose is lovely, as well. Kipling’s timeless cadences and his eye for detail enhance what could otherwise be a cumbersome story. If more enhancement is required, this edition is illustrated by the incomparable Robert Ingpen, who likewise illustrated a century anniversary edition of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan and Wendy for the same publisher in 2004. Like that book, this version of Rudyard Kipling’s best known work invites a family group to read together, admiring Ingpen’s vivid illustrations and Kipling’s timeless prose. -- Monica Stark

The Keeper’s Shadow by Dennis Foon (Annick Press) 412 pages
Dennis Foon’s Longlight Legacy series has been picking up momentum -- and lots of young fans -- since the publication of the first book in the series, The Dirt Eaters. The Keeper’s Shadow concludes the trilogy. Though definitely appropriate and published for children, like J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, Foon’s series has grown in both complexity and weight since the publication of that first book. The comparison to Rowling must end there, however. Foon’s books are less light-hearted, slightly -- and pleasantly -- more dark and, though these are fantasy novels, their themes are important ones, perhaps especially to young people: the effects of war and the results of carelessness for the environment. Clearly, these are not books for reluctant readers. But children ages 11 and up who love to lose themselves in carefully created worlds will relish every mile that Roan travels as he struggles with his warring dreams of peace and revenge. -- Linda L. Richards

London Calling by Edward Bloor (Knopf) 289 pages
Though London Calling begins and ends in England in 2019, there’s an awful lot of stuff -- and periods of history -- in between. For instance, a lot of London Calling takes place amid the confusion of the Blitz in 1940. This is a book that includes adventure, history, time travel, mystery and ghosts. None of it should work -- at least not together -- but it does, and on every level. It’s difficult not to get caught up in the story of young Martin Conway whose life is transformed when a boy appears in his basement from another time. Edward Bloor is also the author of Tangerine, which was named an ALA Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults. -- Aaron Blanton

McGonigle Scores! by Leslie McFarlane (Key Porter Books) 256 pages
While I’m not totally convinced that today's electronics-reared youngsters will find much to enthuse about in a 40 year old book about hockey, I’m pretty sure many of their parents will. This is a style of writing many of us were reared on and if some of the cadences in McGonigle Scores! strike a familiar note, there’s a good reason: author Leslie McFarlane was more famously known as Franklin W. Dixon, author of 21 novels featuring the Hardy Boys, as well as a huge body of work in fiction, television and film. If you missed McGonigle Scores! when you were growing up, you might enjoy it even now. In fact, though the book is marketed here to children 12 and up, I'm guessing it will more likely find its market in hockey fans of any age. The pace here is as fast as the game that forms the core of the story. McGonigle Scores! is a solid and satisfying read that can’t help but put you in mind of a time -- and a game -- that was much simpler. -- Lincoln Cho

The Quirky Girls’ Guide to Rest Stops and Road Trips by Karen Rivers (Polestar) 289 pages
Though the title seems derivative, the story and the way it’s told are not. Karen Rivers’ Haley Andromeda series has been rightfully gaining a following since the publication of The Healing Time of Hickeys (2003). Like a vibrant and youthful Bridget Jones’ Diary or a north of the border Princess Diaries, sans princess, Rivers’ heroine tells her first person story in the form of a journal. This time out, Haley is 17 and hard on the heels of adulthood. She leaves high school behind and hits the road in her travel worn Volkswagen van. While it seems needless to say that adventure ensues, it’s worth adding that Haley-via-Rivers brings growth and insight while still leaving room for yet another book in this delightful young series. -- Linda L. Richards

Santa Claws by Laura Leuck, illustrated by Chris Grimly (Chronicle Books) 40 pages
Striking just the right balance between classic Christmas tale and post-1990s insouciance, the work of author Leuck (Jeepers Creepers, My Monster Mama Loves Me So) and illustrator Grimly (Boris and Bella, Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Madness) form the perfect marriage of cheerily grim elements for this monstrous take on a Christmas story. Check this: “O Santa Claws, that fat old sprite with pointy horns and teeth that bite, who rides his dragon through the air, bringing presents sure to scare.” See? Santa Claws will not be everyone’s cup of egg nog, but those with this particular bent are sure to adore it. Santa Claws is wonderful. -- Linda L. Richards

Stanley’s Wild Ride by Linda Bailey, illustrated by Bill Slavin (KidsCan Press) 64 pages
We met Stanley in Stanley’s Party, written and illustrated by this same talented team. It’s lovely to encounter Stanley again, though it’s a toss up to decide which is better: Bailey’s engaging stories or Slavin’s charming illustrations. Both are flatly wonderful. This time out, laconic but curious Stanley finds a little hole in the corner of his yard and sets out to make it bigger. Much bigger. Big enough for him to wriggle out of and into the wider world beyond. Clearly, dogs running loose are not a good a idea and, eventually, trouble will ensue. At first, though, Stanley really enjoys himself and he even spends some energy trekking around his neighbourhood and helping his best friends get free of their yards, as well. There are some small adventures, as well as a few lessons that don’t mar the story at all. Overall, though, Stanley’s Wild Ride is fun, enjoyable and beautiful. In all ways, just as good as a picture book can be. -- Monica Stark

Stuff to Hold Your Stuff by Ellen Warwick, illustrated by Bernice Lum (Kids Can Press) 80 pages
You take a small tarp, some elastic ribbon and a bit of velcro and -- without much further fuss -- voila! -- a toiletry case. How about a dozen old neckties (or new ones, if you prefer), some thread and scissors and pins and -- whammo, presto -- a tote bag. Or maybe a map, some laminating sheets and still more velcro and -- ta da! -- a new wallet. Warwick’s projects for kids aged 10 and up are simple, smart and cool. This title compliments another also published this year, Injeanuity, which is the same idea as Stuff to Hold Your Stuff, only different. As you might guess, Injeanuity helps kids turn old jeans into other stuff: slippers, a halter top, skirts, a footstool and still more bags. I’ve said “kids” here a couple of times, but the nature of the projects makes it pretty clear both titles are aimed at girls. Both books are great jumping off points to creativity, and that's always a good thing. -- Monica Stark

Vanishing Act by John Feinstein (Knopf) 279 pages
John Feinstein knows sports. He’s written for Sports Illustrated, Golf Digest, The Washington Post and National Sports Daily. He’s also an Edgar award winning mystery author, as well as the author of several bestselling books for kids. With a resume like that, it’s not surprising to find that his latest mystery for kids, Vanishing Act, is compelling, engaging and mysterious. The place is New York City. The event is the U.S. Open. The crime is kidnapping. The pace is intense. Two young wannabe sports writers are sitting in the press box when the hottest star in tennis simply vanishes and the youngster’s press credentials end up buying them more than they bargained for. A worthwhile book from end to end. -- Lincoln Cho

Wake Up, Henry Rooster! by Margriet Ruurs, illustrated by Sean Cassidy (Fitzhenry & Whiteside) 32 pages
It seems that children’s book author Margriet Ruurs has a thing for fowl. Ruurs’ books featuring Emma the chicken have gained the author a wide following. But where Emma is loveable and full of fun, Ruurs’ latest character, Henry the rooster, is just plain irresponsible. When his father goes to the Rooster’s Union Convention and leaves him in charge of waking everyone up for one week, Henry just doesn’t take the responsibility seriously. He stays up late, playing cards with the goats and popping corn with the pigs and in the morning when his mother wakes him, he can barely crow for all the yawning he’s doing. That night, he’s at it again: playing with sheep and dancing with cows. Of course, it doesn’t take long for his behaviour to catch up with him and soon everyone’s mad at Henry because, if he sleeps in, no one gets up and none of their important farm animal appointments are being kept. By the end of the book, of course, Henry has reached a solution and some conclusions and mended his ways, but the journey is an engaging one. How can you not love a 32-page book with a story this strong? -- Linda L. Richards

Why Do Dogs Have Wet Noses? by Stanley Coren (KidsCan Press) 64 pages
Stanley Coren knows dogs. The author of several bestselling books on the care, feeding and training of dogs, he’s the host of Good Dog on Canada’s Life Network and has been a visiting dog expert on several national television shows, including Good Morning America, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Larry King Live and many others. So when I heard Coren had a children’s book about dogs coming out, I sat up and paid attention. It was a good call. Why Do Dogs Have Wet Noses? As the title implies, the book deals with dog information. Everyone knows what a dog is, but where did they come from? How did they get to be man’s best friend? More importantly for young dog owners, Coren approaches how better to understand dog language and why dogs do the things they do. Add in a lot of interesting doggie facts -- dog dreams, tastes, biggest dog, smallest dog and so on -- and you have a doggone interesting book. -- India Wilson

You can see the introduction to January’s 2006 Holiday Gift Guide here.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Page 69 Test Applied by 100th Author

The Campaign for the American Reader blog has been conducting an interesting experiment over the last few months. Marshal Zeringue, executive director of the project, has been asking authors from various fields to apply the page 69 test to their most recent book. Today’s entry, from William Easterly, author of The White Man’s Burden, was the 100th of these tests thus applied for the blog. Authors who’ve tested their books have included Danielle Trussoni (Falling Through the Earth), Anne Perry (A Christmas Secret), Nicholas Lemann (Redemption), Anne Frasier (Pale Immortal), Robert Vitalis (America's Kingdom), Bill Crider (A Mammoth Murder), Adam Langer (The Washington Story), Duane Swierczynski (The Wheelman) and even me (for Calculated Loss).

Predictably, when dealing with this many authors of such varied books, the results have sometimes been surprising, sometimes astonishing and sometimes just plain fun. All, however, have been interesting and have shed light on the process of writing and creating.

It’s been no surprise that the Campaign for the American Reader blog should hatch such an entertaining and enlightening project. In the blog’s introduction, Zeringue writes, “The goal of this blog is to inspire more people to spend more time reading books. I’ll try to do that by shining a little light on books that I like and think others might find worthy of their time and attention.”

Zeringue has only recently started having authors apply the page 69 test to their own books and sharing the results on the blog. My biggest concern at this point is that the results be archived together somewhere. (A Web site developing from a blog, perhaps. Or maybe -- what a thought! -- how about a book?)

At present, to my knowledge there is presently no such archive available. However, you can see the growing list at the end of the posting for William Easterly’s page 69 test.

The Campaign for the American Reader blog is here.

Carter Book Stirs Controversy

Though former U.S. president Jimmy Carter has written 23 books, none has stirred interest and ire as sharply as his latest, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid (Simon & Schuster).

In the latest issue of Newsweek, Eleanor Clift spoke with Carter about the firestorm the book has ignited.

Clift writes that Carter’s book “has drawn fire for its use of the word ‘apartheid,’ and a former associate, Kenneth Stein, a professor of Middle Eastern studies at Emory University, is raising questions about the book's accuracy.”

The Newsweek exchange between Clift and Carter is brief but to the point. “You’ve created quite a stir,” Clift says at one point. “I suspect it was partly intentional.”

Well, it was. But one of the purposes of the book was to provoke discussion, which is very rarely heard in this country, and to open up some possibility that we could rejuvenate or restart the peace talks in Israel that have been absent for six years.

You can read the whole exchange here.

Holiday Gift Guide 2006

Watching television this holiday season has been mildly frightening. Maybe I’ve never noticed it before -- maybe you’ll tell me this isn’t new -- but the message I saw pushed in my face over the holidays this year and the one that has been picking up in tempo as the key gift days approach is this: if you want to make someone happy, you need to buy the right present. More: to make them really happy, you’ll need to spend quite a lot. In fact, these messages seem to say, the more you spend, the happier your loved ones will be. Case closed and end of story.

If this is the message that's being conveyed, it’s really time to stop and take stock of the whole holiday gift giving thing. Now, I like gifts. I like to get them and I really love to give them. I approve of the whole gift exchange idea. Having a designated gift exchange day seems sensible to me, but only if the gifts are carefully chosen and reflect a need or desire or a hole in the life of the receiver that they maybe weren’t even aware of. Over the years, the gifts I’ve given that have given me the greatest joy were the ones I knew filled an unexpected void. The perfect candle for the niche in the corner. The perfect pepper mill, because I know the one you have isn’t great. The perfect dish in which to serve your famous paté. The perfect book. The perfect book. The perfect book.

The book gets three mentions above because, in my own gift shopping, the answer that seems to come up most often is “book.” Everything is right about books as gifts. There are no drawbacks of which I am aware. Books (as I seem to mention every year so it is apparently important to me) are easy to wrap. They’re easy to ship to loved ones who don’t live close by. They are relatively inexpensive (and sales at this time of year are easy to find). Even the most expensive books are comparatively reasonable. Most importantly: books are for everyone. For Everyone. And though beautiful books in a largish format can be splendid gifts (and are available on many, many topics), other books make for the perfect gift, as well.

Over the next few days, we’ll be offering up suggestions for gift giving. Stay tuned and -- most of all -- enjoy the season!

Gift guide selections in fiction are here. Children’s books are here. Non-fiction is here.

Gift Guide Part One: Fiction

Over the next few days, we’ll be offering up our selections for the 2006 holiday season. We begin here with a few selections of works of fiction. Have a great holiday! And don’t forget to take some time to read.

A Strange Commonplace by Gilbert Sorrentino (Coffee House Press) 154 pages
If Jack Kerouac had lived, if he’d gotten sober enough to tell a whole and coherent story, if he’d gotten more life -- but sane life -- under his belt he might have written a book like A Strange Commonplace, a work that is intricate yet feels spontaneous. Sorrentino once said that he doesn't “like to take a subject and break it down into parts,” rather, he prefers to “take disparate parts and put them all together and see what happens.” While this gives his work a rollicking realism, it also makes him very tough to review in such a small space: a lot is going on in A Strange Commonplace and all those disparate parts create a sort of fictional melting pot that can be difficult to keep up with. It’s worth the effort. Infidelity is at the book’s core, and everything that can result from it, but there’s so much more here, as well. Sorrentino is the author of over 30 books and has twice received Guggenheim Fellowships. In 2005 he was given the Lannan Lifetime Achievement Award. His first novel, The Sky Changes, was published in 1966. Forty years on, A Strange Commonplace seems to be the work of a writer at the height of his powers. -- Monica Stark

The Book of Dave by Will Self (Bloomsbury) 496 pages
While it’s seldom possible to not have an opinion about Will Self once you’ve read him, this is even more true with The Book of Dave. You won't like The Book of Dave. You'll either love it so much you won’t be able to stop talking about it, or you’ll toss it across the room halfway through. Either way -- and like always -- this is a writer who demands a reaction. This time out, Self catapults into the future, to London 500 years hence where a primitive people find the writings of Dave, a London cabbie from our time and opt to use these wise words as a blueprint for the religion of their emerging culture. (Can you spell Davinity?) Laid down like that, the premise sounds silly. It’s actually anything but. In its own weird way, The Book of Dave asks you to question everything about our culture, our traditions and the way things are moving now. A couple of cautions: if you find yourself bogging in the language Self has created for his future world, a glossary at the back of the book might help clarify some things. Also, maps for the worlds Self writes about here can be found on his Web site. (And can make the going a bit easier.) Love it or hate it, The Book of Dave is unforgettable. -- Lincoln Cho

The Collectors by David Baldacci (Warner Books) 438 pages
It’s tough to believe that David Baldacci’s first novel, Absolute Power, was published just a decade ago, his has so quickly became a household name. In his latest thriller, Baldacci reintroduces us to the Camel Club, the quirky group of conspiracy theorists last seen in his book by that name last year. Power brokers and scholars are dropping dead in Washington, D.C. The deaths seem unrelated, but the Camel Club sees the connection. Readers who enjoyed The Da Vinci Code will be thrilled by The Collectors and wonder which chicken came before what egg. The answer is easy: when it comes to straightforward thrillers with little besides forward motion to slow things down, Baldacci got there first. -- Lincoln Cho

The Journey Prize: Stories edited by Steven Galloway, Zsuzsi Gartner, and Annabel Lyon (McClelland & Stewart) 263 pages
For 18 years, the Journey Prize anthology has provided a sort of literary prize between covers. The contenders are published in the anthology, the winner is selected the following spring as part of The Writer’s Trust Award and given $10,000 and a lot of attention. Created out of James Michener’s donation of the Canadian portion of his royalties from his 1988 novel Journey, the finalists are selected from stories submitted by Canadian literary magazines and published by them throughout the year. Unsurprisingly, Journey Prize alumnae include some of Canada’s top emerging writers from the last couple of decades, including André Alexis, Elizabeth Hay, Annabel Lyon, Yann Martel, Eden Robinson, Timothy Taylor and M.G. Vassanji. The year's crop of “new and emerging” Canadian writers is no less disappointing. You probably won’t know their names -- yet -- but, as a body, their work represents the direction Canadian fiction is moving now. The Journey Prize anthology never disappoints. -- Linda L. Richards

Knights of the Black and White by Jack Whyte (Viking Canada) 548 pages
This holiday season, publishers are banking on a residual effect from the immense success of The Da Vinci Code, both book and film. You can see it across the boards, in fiction, non-fiction and art & culture. Naturally, the quality of these sort of tie-in works varies greatly, from obviously derivative rush-through-to-market rip-offs, through to deeply creative works that would stand on their own, even if the The Da Vinci Code had never been. Jack Whyte’s Knights of the Black and White definitely falls into the latter category. For perfectly wrought historical detail and sheer pleasure of storytelling, you can’t beat Jack Whyte who has been enthralling us through the Arthurian age in nine big novels and in more detail than anyone ever imagined the round table sagas could be told. Knights of the Black and White is a departure for Whyte but, when you think about it, not a huge one. Here he begins his fictionalized version of the story of the Knights Templar in what will be his Templar Trilogy. I can’t wait for the next two installments. -- Lincoln Cho

The Mathematics of Love by Emma Darwin (Headline Review) 405 pages
In rural England in 1819, Waterloo veteran Stephen Fairhurst has been deeply touched by the horrors of war. He wants to rest for a time at Kersey Hall, his family home. He wants to contemplate peace, not war. Again at Kersey Hall, but now 1976. Anna, a teenager, has been sent to her Uncle’s failed school for the summer. She finds herself curiously enmeshed in the lives of two men, one of them that of the same Stephen Fairhurst who owned the house so many years before. The Mathematics of Love is an ambitious debut. The story is complex and complicated, yet Darwin pulls it all off beautifully. Emma Darwin’s debut novel is unforgettable. -- Monica Stark

Melancholy by Jon Fosse, translated by Grethe Kvernes and Damion Searls (Dalkey Archive Press) 284 pages
In the parts of Europe where Norwegian author Jon Fosse is well known, he is being hailed as the new Ibsen and is the author of 30 books and the recipient of a lifetime stipend from the Norwegian government for future literary efforts. First published in Norway in 2000, Melancholy won the Melsom Prize. Here Fosse artfully crams more melancholy than imaginable into a single day. Artfully, but with a subtle, sometimes almost sinister humor, Fosse introduces us to Lars Hertervig, a young Norwegian studying art in Germany. Like many artists, Lars is haunted by a houseful of insecurities, but his burden is added to by hallucinations and sexual obsessions. And, as we watch Lars spin through a single eventful day, it’s impossible not to ask ourselves about the view of the artist and the madness that spurs his soul. -- India Wilson

The Moneypenny Diaries: Secret Servant by Kate Westbrook (John Murray) 311 pages
In a Bond year, can anyone resist a diary penned by Jane Moneypenny, the spy’s boss’ personal secretary? Of course, since Moneypenny is as fictional as Bond himself, we know that the object here is to entertain and beguile and Samantha Weinberg, writing here as Kate Westbrook, manages both. I mention Westbrook’s better known name because it was as Weinberg that she wrote Pointing From the Grave, for which she was awarded the CWA Gold Dagger for non-fiction. Secret Servant is the second of her Moneypenny books and it’s everything it should be: a little romance, a lot of adventure, a dollop of mystery and all against the backdrop of the cold war. In Secret Servant, matters get very personal when Moneypenny discovers that her father may been murdered and, for a while, the danger seems very close to home when she finds herself in danger as, well. -- Linda L. Richards

The Peruvian Notebooks by Braulio Mañoz (University of Arizona Press) 273 pages
Antonio Alday Gutiérrez is living a double life. Maybe triple, depending on how you count such things. Though he had high hopes when he arrived in the United States from Peru, he’s only able to get work as nightwatchmen at a mall in Lima, Pennsylvania (which is, of course, ironic all by itself). And, of course, with a nightwatchman’s wages, it means his shelter must be modest, as well. Since those he left in Peru had high hopes for him, Antonio invents a beautiful new life in America, complete with a lovely home and a growing business. And, in the hope of making his new American friends think better of him, Antonio invents a glamourous past in Peru. As the novel opens Antonio is in a dire situation, holed up in his apartment waiting for the police to arrive. In a mad attempt to conceal his double life, he has committed a desperate act. Through old letters, notes in a diary and even his own ragged thoughts, Antonio contemplates his path to this point. Mañoz skilfully weaves the disparate elements of the narrative into a cohesive and quite wonderful whole. -- Linda L. Richards

Salon Fantastique: Fifteen Original Tales of Fantasy edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling (Thunder's Mouth Press) 396 pages
Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling are, arguably, among the best known contemporary editors of anthologies in the world of fantasy fiction. The team gained part of this reputation during the editing of 11 volumes of The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. With Salon Fantastique they’ve set themselves quite a different task, but it really works here. In their introduction, Datlow and Windling let us know that their “aim was to evoke the liberating, creative spirit of a literary salon by inviting a number of writers to gather together in these pages exchanging ideas in literary form.” I don't know about the exchange of ideas in this forum -- there is, after all, not much room for an exchange -- but the stories included are as pleasantly varied as would be expected and, considering the authors included in this gathering, the quality of the stories is high, and they pull our minds and imaginations in all possible directions. Fifteen authors contributed to Salon Fantastique, among them some of the very top writers in the field, among them Christopher Barzak, Jeffrey Ford, Gregory Maguire, Lucious Shepard and Marly Youmans. -- Lincoln Cho

Windflower by Nick Bantock and Edoardo Ponti (Chronicle Books) 224 pages
Readers who fell in love with Nick Bantock’s Griffin and Sabine more than 10 years ago will find little to remind them of those characters in Bantock’s latest outing. Windflower is good. It’s charming. But it’s a very different sort of book. First, although the book is illustrated, there are more words in wildflower than what we’re used to seeing from this author. A lot more. Interestingly, though, since Bantock is known as an illustrator-turned-writer, rather than the other way around, his writing is very visual. “She sees her mother comb and braid the bride’s hair. The bride has very dark brown eyes, a high-bridged nose, and a jaw that is a little wide at its hinge.” Bantock is clearly very concerned with the way things look and he wants you to see what he sees. In Windflower, a young dancer named Ana is promised in a loveless match. Everyone in her family is in favor of that match, except for Ana’s grandfather, who agrees that the marriage must not happen, at any cost. As the wedding approaches, Ana flees, setting her on a journey beyond her wildest imaginings. Edoardo Ponti -- yes that Ponti -- is listed as co-author, but his name appears much smaller than Bantock’s, I'm not sure what that means, though maybe the co-authorship is incidental, although Ponti is adapting the novel for the screen. Certainly the style here seems all Bantock, all the time. Fans will adore Windflower and the beautiful frieze printed in full color along the bottom of every page in the book helps make this an ideal book for gift-giving.