Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Best of 2011 Countdown: #25

Gianna, who is going to make fun of me for my relationship with my cat:

Awkward Family Pet Photos
Mike Bender and Doug Chernack
Three Rivers Press
Touch my monkey...

Each holiday season I like to have three or four copies of a really good but inexpensive humor book that I can give away as gifts to, you know, people that I forgot to get a gift for, or a grab bag, or for a crying child. Well there is nothing I don’t love about this book or the first edition, Awkward Family Photos. These pictures will make you cringe, scream, and very possibly barf in your mouth just a little bit (examples below).
Zorro's long lost brother.
I didn't know Gianna's
dad had a snake!

I suspect some of you will recognize a piece of yourself in these photos (you know who you are), and the next time you snap another photo of you and your dog, snake, bird, hedgehog, cat, bunny, or god help us all…your monkey, you will certainly think twice about the appropriateness of your pose (or if your cat is really a willing participant in the photo (looking at you Sullivan)).  [Zorro loves to have his picture taken.]
Zorro. (Not in the book.)


Vaclav & Lena
Haley Tanner
The Dial Press

I love first novels; the good ones feel like a special discovery.  Vaclav & Lena caught me in just that way.  Vaclav and Lena and both Russian immigrant children, learning English and struggling through school.  After school, though, they are best friends, and Vaclav wants to be a great magician and Lena will be his lovely assistant.  Author Haley Tanner absolutely nails the voices of these characters--read the first few pages and you'll be hooked.  Anyway, Vaclav's mother, a terrific character, parents both children until a fateful day when Lena is sent away.  Spring forward to high school aged Vaclav and Lena, teenagers who've acclimated to American culture.  That special bond between them still exists, though.  

Haley Tanner
Book groups and fans of the superb The Night Circus.  Also, in Book Land booksellers are always keeping an eye out for books that will crossover between adult and young adult audiences.  Vaclav & Lena  lands squarely in that sweet spot.  Haley Tanner is a writer to watch.

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