Hegi, Ursula. Children and Fire. Scribner. May 2011. 288p. ISBN 978-1451608298. $25.
No word on the plot, but the multi-award-winning Hegi’s powerful and affecting books (e.g., Stones from the River) are always popular with smart readers. Watch for this.

Jones, Tayari. The Silver Sparrow. Algonquin. May 2011. 352p. ISBN 9781565129900. $23.95.
Jones got our attention‚ and a few best-of-the-year honors‚ with Leaving Atlanta (2002), a heartbreaking debut that revisits the city’s child murders of 1979‚ 80. Her second book, The Untelling, won strong reviews. All of which suggests the promise of her third work, which starts off with a bang as the narrator declares, My father, James Witherspoon, was a bigamist. What follows is neither comedy nor black tragedy but a graceful and shining work about finding the truth, told from the perspective of a young woman who knows that her new friend is really her half-sister. The publicist even missed his stop while reading this on his commute. Good YA crossover appeal and a promising read.

Kennedy, Douglas. The Moment. Atria. May 2011. 448p. ISBN 9781439180792. $25.
An American-born author with homes in London, Paris, and Maine, Kennedy has made the best sellers lists here but is really hot in Europe; in France, for instance, he’s been called the single most influential foreign writer in a generation and has been given the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. To find out why, try this tale of love and deception in Cold War Berlin. Very intriguing sounding.

Patterson, Richard North. The Devil’s Light. Scribner. May 2011. 352p. ISBN 9781451616804. $26.
On the orders of Osama bin Laden, an al Queda operative steals a nuclear weapon from the Pakistani military, even as bin Laden promises a major terrorist attack on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. A CIA operative whose cover was blown argues that he knows how to stop the mayhem. From a top-selling author; scary and just a little too real for me.

Phillips, Arthur. The Tragedy of Arthur. Random. May 2011. 384p. ISBN 978-1400066476. $26.
Here’s the fiction titles I most want to see, and I don’t even know what it’s about. But Phillips’s books, starting with Prague and culminating, most recently, with The Song Is You‚ set for the big screen‚ are always smart, engrossing, and completely different from what came before. Hmm, is he getting metafictional here?

Russell, Mary Doria. Doc. Random. May 2011. 400p. ISBN 9781400068043. $26. eISBN 9780679604396.
Yep, that’s Doc Holliday, all right, resurrected by the author of The Sparrow. Russell, a multiple award winner (e.g., Arthur C. Clarke Award, ALA Readers Choice Award), reportedly did in-depth research for this book, even relearning her horseback-riding skills and studying the 19th-century piano literature. Her book promises to be a portrait of both the Wild West and the indelible relationship between Doc and girlfriend Kate. With an eight-city tour to Boston, New York, Washington, DC, Chicago/Milwaukee, Kansas City, Denver, Seattle, and San Francisco; should be popular.

See, Lisa. Dreams of Joy. Random. May 2011. 336p. ISBN 9781400067121. $26. eISBN9780679604891. lrg. prnt. CD: Random Audi.
See here offers a continuation of Shanghai Girls, in which carefree and beautiful Chinese sisters May and Pearl are married off to two Chinese men from America to pay their father’s gambling debt. Now, Pearl’s distraught daughter, Joy, has fled to what has become Communist China, ready to make a new life for herself‚ and find her real father. Of course, Pearl follows, determined to bring her home. Shanghai Girls has sold 200,000 copies in hardcover and 350,000 copies in paperback so far, so there will be a big audience for this book, but reportedly it can stand on its own. With a 14-city tour to New York, Boston, Washington, DC, Atlanta, Miami, Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Houston, Denver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles; some libraries will need multiples.

Tanner, Haley. Vaclav & Lena. Dial. May 2011. 304p. ISBN 9781400069316. $25. eISBN 9780679603870.
Vaclav is an aspiring young magician, encouraged by his warm-hearted parents. They’re so warmhearted, in fact, that they adopt desperate orphan Lena. Vaclav dreams that when they grow up, Lena will be his assistant, but then a terrible secret comes to light and they are torn apart. Forever? To find out, you will have to read this fresh-sounding debut novel, which is generating some buzz, with rights sold to 12 countries so far. Tanner has taught English as a second language in Brighton Beach, where much of New York’s Russian community congregates. With a reading group guide.

Winman, Sarah. When God Was a Rabbit. Bloomsbury, dist. by Macmillan. May 2011. 272p. ISBN 9781608195343. $25.
Over the decades, from 1968 to 9/11, Elly watches her illusions crumble even as the bond between her and brother Joe grows stronger and stronger; best friend Jenny Penny is a source of both comfort and concern. This debut by British author Winman has been sold to 11 countries and is certainly worth watching.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.