Mapping Our Worlds | What We’re Reading

Library Journal and School Library Journal staffers are doing a lot of looking back, looking inward, and looking at maps this week.

peterMahnaz Dar, Associate Editor, Reviews, School Library Journal
This week, I’m diving back into the world of classic children’s literature. Last week, Liz and I attended a panel at McNally Jackson bookstore, where Lizzie Skurnick (Jezebel’s “Fine Lines” columnist) interviewed authors Rebecca Stead and Elizabeth Winthrop about Louise Fitzhugh’s beloved masterpiece, Harriet the Spy, which turns 50 this year (Happy Birthday, Harriet!). I’m anxiously awaiting the 50th anniversary edition, which includes essays and commentary from various authors. Spy on!
I’m also reading Maria Tatar’s Annotated Peter Pan: The Centennial Edition (Norton). It’s a large, gorgeous tome that includes essays on J.M. Barrie and annotations on just about every aspect of Peter Pan. Between these two books, I’m getting a great grounding in classic kid lit.

dorothyShelley Diaz, Senior Editor, Reviews, SLJ
I just finished debut author Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die (HarperCollins), which is coming out in April. This fun, cinematic YA novel is a perfect crossover for adults. I’ve been calling it Wizard of Oz meets Kill Bill. It’s gory, grim, and fast-paced, and I can’t wait for the sequel (and the movie adaptation I’m sure is on its way).
I don’t want to give too much away, so I’ll just share the back cover copy (which is worthy of an award, it’s so good.) Plus, the protagonist’s name is Amy Gumm (as in Judy Garland’s original last name).

There’s a new girl from Kansas in Oz…
And she has a mission:
The Tin Woodman’s heart.
The Scarecrow’s brain.
The Lion’s courage, and then—

We Are Not OurselvesLiz French, Associate Editor, Reviews, Library Journal
Well thanks a lot, Simon & Schuster, now you’ve done it: made me add another book to the teetering, towering book pile at the office (we aren’t even going to talk about the home version). Last week, my LJ colleagues Barbara Hoffert and Etta Thornton-Verma and I attended the educator and librarian fall preview at Simon & Schuster, where debut author Matthew Thomas was the featured speaker (or should I say reader? Anyway, I digress). Thomas read a short chapter from his Sept. 2014 novel, We Are Not Ourselves, and bingo-bango, just like that, I was hooked—on a scene with sports in it, no less. So now I’m immersed in this sprawling and magnificent novel and loving it. But I really did not need another mondo-mega-sized book to lug around on the commute to and from work! Talk about first-world problems.

We Were Liars Amanda Mastrull, Assistant Editor, Reviews, LJ
This week I started E. Lockhart’s upcoming YA novel We Were Liars (Delacorte, May 2014), which was recommended by someone here in the LJ/SLJ office. There’s a whole campaign around the book to not reveal the major plot elements, so I’ll endeavor to not do that. Especially since I’ve really enjoyed trying to figure out just what’s going on. What I think I can say is that the novel is about four friends (the Liars) who meet up each summer on a private New England island owned by the patriarch of the Sinclair family. It’s all very old money and keeping up appearances. We don’t know much about the protagonist in the beginning, except that she’s almost 18, owns “a well-used library card and not much else” (despite her family’s wealth), and has suffered some trauma that’s had lasting effects on her life. I’m completely engrossed in the suspense and mystery of this one.

Meredith Schwartz, Senior Editor, News & Features, LJ
I have just started Mars 3-D: A Rover’s-Eye View of the Red Planet (Sterling), by Jim Bell, deputy principal investigator of the Mars Science Laboratory. It comes with 3D glasses!

You Are HereEtta Thornton-Verma, Editor, Reviews, LJ
Years ago I bought Katherine Harmon’s wonderful You Are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination (Princeton Architectural Press). It got me hooked on maps that show imaginary places and ones that could be called cartographic selfies—children’s drawings of their neighborhood, for example, that show their homes, schools, and playgrounds as dominating the space, with barely anything else labeled. So I recently picked up a copy of the somewhat similar Maps of Paradise (Univ. of Chicago) by Alessandro Scafi. It’s more academic, and I’m sometimes skimming the background details, but the maps of what various cultures over time have imagined paradise looks like, and where it is located, are fascinating. The book is also, by accident, an interesting source of early maps of the world, as some cultures thought that paradise was here on Earth.

We Need To Talk About KevinAshleigh Williams, Bookroom Assistant, LJ
Well, winter tried to shift toward spring for a while before rapidly changing its mind, so I thought I’d read something light and happy to warm myself up from the inside. I finished Raina Telgemeier’s Smile (Graphix), which was great, by the way, then picked up We Need To Talk About Kevin (HarperCollins). Lionel Shriver’s captivating novel about the mother of a young psychopath depicts unimaginable tragedy with an almost hypnotic lyricism. Eva’s letters to her absent husband serve as a confessional; the vulnerability, honesty, and downright ugliness that emerges as she recounts what led up to that horrifying “Thursday” keeps the reader fascinated, and even slightly disturbed, as her dry wit and unflinching self-awareness prove surprisingly relatable. Not the best way to beat the winter blues, but a definite must read whatever the season!


Liz French About Liz French

Library Journal Senior Editor Liz French edits nonfiction and women's fiction reviews at LJ and also compiles the "What We're Reading" and "Classic Returns" columns for LJ online. She's inordinately interested in what you're reading as well. Email:, Twitter: @lizefrench