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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

An Interview with Stephanie Burgis and E.D. Baker (Blog Tour)

The Hiding Spot takes on two authors of fantasy and fairy tales today in a dual interview! Stephanie Burgis and E.D. Baker talk about new novels, which will be devoured by middle grade readers, and writing!

Stephanie, I love the premise of The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart: a fierce, driven dragon is transformed into a human girl! What inspired the idea of this book? How many books will there be in this series? 

Stephanie Burgis: I first had the idea one night as I was lying in bed waiting to fall asleep – I heard Aventurine’s voice in my head, speaking the first two lines of the story. (“I can’t say I ever wondered what it felt like to be human. But then, my grandfather Grenat always said, It’s safer not to talk to your food – and as every dragon knows, humans are the most dangerous kind of meal there is.”) 

I loved it so much that I jerked upright in bed, opened up my laptop, and started typing, frantically trying to keep up! So I didn’t get to sleep for quite a while that night, after all. :) 

There’s a second book in the series coming out from Bloomsbury next year, and there may well be more in the future – we’ll see! Each of them is a standalone magical adventure with a different heroine, and they’ve been so much fun to write. 
This book will be well-loved by chocolate lovers. Was this aspect of the book motivated by a personal interest in chocolate? Did you conduct any chocolate-based research for the novel?
SB: Yes! I adore chocolate, and the research for this book was delicious. Since Aventurine’s world is loosely based on late eighteenth-century Germany, I decided that the chocolate-making process should be accurate for the time period – which means that it was quite different from the way that chocolate is made nowadays. I spent a lot of time reading 18th century cookbooks and researching different recipes and methods, and I loved it. You can find a whole page about it on my website, actually (including recipes that you can use at home): More About the Chocolate  
E.D., this new book comes 15 years after The Frog Princess. Why did you decide to return to this story after so many years?

E.D. Baker: I wrote The Frog Princess Returns to celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of the publication of The Frog Princess. As the first book I'd ever had published, The Frog Princess has always held a special place in my heart. I love the characters in it, too, and thought it would be fun to revisit them.
Do you recommend that readers read The Frog Princess before picking up this new book, or do the stories largely stand alone?
EDB: I tried to write all of the books in the series so they would stand alone, although I think readers new to the series would enjoy learning more about these fun characters. That said, I think that even people who have never read a book from the Tales of the Frog Princess would enjoy The Frog Princess Returns
Tell me a little bit about your writing process: Do you outline? Start at the beginning? The middle? The end? 
SB: I tend to start with a firm idea of the opening conflicts and my heroine’s voice. Then I figure out a (very) vague idea of the ending I’m aiming toward, and set off from there into the unknown! So for most of the book, I’m experiencing the adventure (and finding out what happens next) right along with my heroine. 
EDB: I wrote The Frog Princess without an outline, although I've since learned how much an outline can help. I always use outlines now because they help to organize my thoughts and keep me on track. I start with a broad outline which tells the basic plot of the story. Then I expand it, adding more of the larger plot points. Next I write a chapter outline which can be anywhere from a sentence or two per chapter to a much more detailed description of what will take place. Even this outline isn't set in stone, however, and I often change it as the story progresses and I learn what has to happen next.
Inspiration comes in many forms. Share three people, places, or things that inspire your creativity.
SB: I love visiting my local castle (there are actually two castles within 15 minutes of my house here in Wales, but my “local” one is the 11th-century castle in the center of town); walking around the nearby woods when a carpet of bright bluebells is spread all around me; and telling stories with my two kids, who always have fabulous ideas. (As I was writing the first draft of The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, I told the story of Aventurine’s ongoing adventures to my older son every day! He always had great questions, and the book ended up dedicated to him.) 
EDB: A lot of my scenes come from places I have visited. For instance, I was a girl scout and loved to go camping. On one camping trip, we went on a splash hike where we walked in a stream to a small waterfall. I thought the waterfall was lovely and have used it in the garden belonging to the fairy Sweetness and Light in The Wide Awake Princess series. 

I live on a small farm. Many of the animals in my stories are based on animals we own. Although Eadric's stallion, Bright Country, was based on an old stallion belonging to a neighbor, the rest of the horses in my stories are based on our horses. I love Newfoundlands. Edda, the troll dog in the Wide Awake Princess series, is based on my Newfies. We have always had cats in the house as well as barn cats outside. The cats in my series are based on our cats. We have goats as well; someday I'll have to have a goat or two in one of my stories!

I'd have to say that I've found some of my inspiration in Wikipedia. The entry about Baba Yaga prompted me to come up with A Question of Magic. Looking up weird wedding customs gave me some great ideas for the goblin wedding in the Fairy Tale Matchmaker story, The Magic Match, which will be out in the fall. (I love the wedding; it was so much fun to write!) 
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Name a notable book that provided you with a hiding spot.
SB: I have vivid memories of reading Jane Eyre with a flashlight while curled up inside a big sea chest when I was a kid! I loved escaping into such a different world, full of intense emotions and adventure.
EDB: When I was young, my favorite book was The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. My aunt gave me the book, and I recall feeling so sorry for Sarah that I stopped reading it. When I told my aunt that I'd had to set it aside, she told me that Sarah's life would get better. I was so relieved when it did.
What can readers look forward to next?
SB: The next book in this series will be about Silke, Aventurine’s best friend, and it will come out from Bloomsbury in 2018. It’s still officially untitled, but I’ve been referring to it as my spies-and-fairies book, which should give some clues! :) I also have a fantasy novella for adults (“Snowspelled”) coming out in September, and I’ll be writing a tie-in short story about Aventurine and her friends sometime this year.

Newsletter subscribers always see those tie-in stories first, so please do consider signing up to my newsletter here.
EDB: So many things! I've written the seventh book in The Wide Awake Princess series, but we don't have a title for it yet. Its due out spring of 2018. I've written four books in the Magic Animal Rescue series for younger readers. The first two books, Maggie and the Flying Horse and Maggie and the Wish Fish, came out this spring. The next two, Maggie and the Flying Pigs and Maggie and the Unicorn, will be out in the fall. The fourth book in The Fairy Tale Matchmaker series, The Perfect Match, will also be out in the fall. I've also written the first book in a new series, More Than A Princess, which is due out in the winter of 2019. I have a lot of other stories that I want to write – some will be about princesses and some will not, but they will all have their own kind of magic. If readers want to receive postcards when a new book comes out, they should go to my website and sign up on my mailing list.

More About the Books

The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart
Aventurine is the fiercest, bravest dragon there is. And she's ready to prove it to her family by leaving the safety of their mountain cave and capturing the most dangerous prey of all: a human. But when the human she finds tricks her into drinking enchanted hot chocolate, Aventurine is transformed into a puny human girl with tiny blunt teeth, no fire, and not one single claw.

But she's still the fiercest creature in the mountains -- and now she's found her true passion: chocolate! All she has to do is get herself an apprenticeship (whatever that is) in a chocolate house (which sounds delicious), and she'll be conquering new territory in no time...won't she?
The Frog Princess Returns
Fans of E. D. Baker's The Frog Princess, rejoice! Fifteen years after the original, Princess Emma, Prince Eadric, and all the beloved characters are back for another magical adventure from popular author E. D. Baker.

Two weeks after Emma's birthday, Prince Eadric -- having been turned from a frog into a human again -- is still in Greater Greensward. One day, a beautiful princess named Adara arrives at the castle in Greater Greensward for a visit, claiming to be Emma's distant cousin. But Adara has other motives that threaten Emma and Eadric's blossoming romance.

Meanwhile, something is very wrong in Greater Greensward. Crops are dying, streams are drying up, and large sections of trees in the enchanted forest are withering -- all because the Fairy Queen has disappeared. Without her, there is no peace in the magical kingdom, and dangerous foes threaten to take advantage of her absence. Only brave, tenacious Emma with her knowledge of the land can restore order . . . but first she must set out on a journey unlike any before.

Follow the Blog Tour!

Monday, May 29, 2017

An Interview with Lisa Fiedler, co-author of Ages of Oz

I'm happy to welcome Lisa Fiedler to The Hiding Spot today. Years ago I read her novel, Romeo's Ex, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Today Lisa talks about her new series, which is based on Gabriel Gale's Oz storylines!

Why did you decide to put your own spin on the familiar world of Oz? How did you balance staying true to the source material while still finding ways to be fresh and innovative? 
Actually, I wasn’t the one who came up with the idea. The creator of AGES OF OZ, Gabriel Gale, spent literally years researching the Oz canon, and developing artwork and storylines based on the original books. All that was missing was an author to turn those concepts into novels and I was happy to take on the challenge. With regard to that all-important ‘balance,’ the trick was operating within Baum’s boundaries. Gabe and I agreed not to change anything too drastically, or disregard any of the ‘truths’ of the existing material. And because we were going back in time to tell an origin story, we did have a bit of wiggle room to be creative. In our books, we give background stories to things Baum did not provide a history for. For example, in A FIERY FRIENDSHIP we created a backstory to explain how the Wickeds came to power in Oz. So that is totally fresh, but at the same time, it doesn’t ‘undo’ anything Baum did … it just adds to it! 
You’ve written both a YA and MG audience. Do you feel more comfortable writing for a particular age group? Do you find your approach differs depending on your audience? 
I love writing for both teens and young readers, and I’m really happy to zip in and out of those two genres. My approach is always the same—find the character first, decide what he or she needs to say, and then throw them into the plot and see what happens. The big difference is the way I treat the humor in my stories. (I like to think I’m extremely funny when I try to be! I sure hope my readers agree). Teen humor is very different from kid humor, so that’s where I have to stop and really put myself into the reader’s head. What’s funny to a ten-year-old might not fly with a fifteen-year-old and vice versa. I think writing for teens is slightly more challenging (just like parenting them!) because they are straddling two worlds—they’re closer to being adults than being children, but maybe they aren’t quite ready to not be kids anymore. As a writer, you need to respect that multi-faceted element. So I guess for YA fiction, I write in the same voice, just in a different octave. 
Tell me a little bit about your writing process: Do you outline? Start at the beginning? The middle? The end? 
I never used to outline, but I do now! I’m not sure when exactly that changed, but I find that having the outline ready before I write the first words is very comforting. Writing the outline is like a fact-finding mission or an archeological dig. There are things the story wants that I don’t know about yet … and these come out in the outline. When I finally get to the story, I always start at the beginning. Maybe I’ll come up with cool lines of dialogue, or some small event I want to include later on, so I’ll jot that stuff down and use it when I need it. But I think if I bounced around any more than that, I’d just get confused! 
Inspiration comes in many forms. Share three people, places, or things that inspire your creativity. 
My office is where I get my best stuff done. I just love it! I can write other places, but I prefer to be at my desk, overlooking the back yard (where, occasionally, a family of gorgeous black bears wanders through). I have a Shakespeare corner, which includes a Bard Action Figure, and also a collection of antique typewriters (all very dusty!) I write best in the morning, or when it’s raining. No idea why. 

When I write, I always listen to music! Old music, to be precise. I mean, like, really old … 60’s Motown, 70s Disco, Eighties pop and classic rock ‘n roll. And there can never be enough Springsteen, in my opinion. This is the stuff I listened to as a kid, which I guess makes sense because I write for kids. I suppose it ‘inspires’ me back to a more youthful mindset. 

To say that Gabriel Gale inspired me during the writing of A FIERY FRIENDSHIP would be the understatement of the century. In a million years, I would have never had the guts to try my hand at creating something worthy of L. Frank Baum’s legacy, but Gabe’s unbelievable creativity and dedication to the project made me believe we could do it. 
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Name a notable book that provided you with a hiding spot. 
A book called KNIGHT’S CASTLE by Edward Eager (who also wrote HALF MAGIC). The summer between fifth and sixth grade was a tough one for me … growing pains, I guess you’d call it. I was very unsettled. I would climb into my bed with that paperback and just disappear. I’d get to the last line and then turn back and start again from the beginning. Then, after awhile, I’d go outside and play, or go to cheer practice or the pool and I’d feel okay about things. I never thought about it this way before, but that book was absolutely my hiding spot! I still have that same tattered old copy on my bookshelf, right behind me, even as I’m writing this. 
What can readers look forward to next? 
Well, for starters, the second book of our Ages of Oz series, A DARK DESCENT, comes out next Spring, and we’re currently working on the as-yet untitled third installment. After that, Gabe has some awesome ideas for movies, animation, and video games, so we’re really hoping those things will happen. From the start, AGES OF OZ was conceived as a story that would unfold in several different mediums. So that’s what we’re working toward—we want to create a multi-media companion to the already wonderful world of Oz that can be experienced beyond the page, and with all the senses.

More About the Book
Lions, and tigers, and bears, not quite! Travel down the red brick road with the world’s most iconic Good Witch, Glinda, as she embarks on a brave adventure in Oz in this start to a brand-new series from Gabriel Gale and Lisa Fiedler.

On her Declaration Day, a day meant for celebration and happiness, Glinda’s peaceful life in Oz is shattered when her mother is imprisoned for practicing forbidden Magic. As she is ripped from her home by a fearsome bounty hunter sent by Aphidina, the Witch of the South, Glinda soon uncovers a startling truth: the Oz she’s always know is not good and right—it’s a world governed by the wickedest of the wicked, overrun with tyranny, corruption, and dark power. And Glinda’s mother? She is actually a high-ranking member of a secret society whose mission is to overthrow the four Wicked Witches and set the stage for the return of the rightful ruler of Oz.

With the help of a feisty, purple-haired girl named Locasta, Glinda sets across the unforgiving landscape to rescue her mother. They are soon joined by Ben, a revolutionary New Yorker, and a mysterious girl called Shade. Armed with their individual gifts, these unlikely heroes mount an epic attack on Aphidina to free Glinda’s mother…and save the future of Oz from the Wickeds before it’s too late.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

An Interview with Laurel Snyder, author of Orphan Island

I'm so happy to present the below interview with Laurel Snyder, whose new novel, Orphan Island, is a gorgeous story about growing up and finding your way.

The premise of Orphan Island is incredibly unique, with an interesting blend of cozy and creepy. Can you speak about your inspiration for the island where Jinny and the other orphans live? 
Of course! 

A few years back, I was reading The Little Prince to my kids at night, and I was struck by how different that book is from so much of what we see today. I liked how the allegorical aspects got my boys thinking and talking about big ideas. Shortly after that, we read My Side of the Mountain, and again I noticed how my boys interacted with the text, especially the idea that a kid could be self-sufficient. 

The title, Orphan Island, was already in my head for other reasons (inspired by my grandfather's WWII experience at Okinawa, and the children orphaned by the war). Somehow those three things-- the title itself, the allegory of The Little Prince, and the survival elements of My Side of the Mountain swirled together and became the island. It was a very slow process, figuring out how to bring them all together. 
I was deeply moved by Jinny’s transition from carefree innocence to questioning awareness as the novel progressed. Can you speak about her character and journey? 
Jinny's growth is very much based on my own adolescent experiences. We moved when I was twelve, and it felt like a dramatic shift to me. Suddenly, I was very aware of my teendom. But also uncomfortable with it. 

Maturation is usually pretty gradual, of course, but sometimes there are these moments in life when an event or realization makes you take a leap. I want to write about that--about the leap, and how we struggle with it, even though we also desire it. 
Tell me a little bit about your writing process: Do you outline? Start at the beginning? The middle? The end? 
This book was unusual for me. I was in a funny place when I began. I felt burned out, and like I'd become too much an "author" at the expense of being a "writer." I knew I needed to disconnect from publishing a bit. I needed to get away from agents and editors and contracts and reviewers, and just write like I had when I was a kid. 

So that's what I did. I started the book longhand, on a yellow legal pad, and painted the characters and the island in watercolors. I forced myself to play. I promised myself I wouldn't show anyone anything until I was done. 

As a result, Orphan Island ended up a windier, less organized book than I typically write. Though once I was a few chapters in, the characters and plot became more clear, and I did end up outlining. 
Inspiration comes in many forms. Share three people, places, or things that inspire your creativity.
My kids, most of all. Not that I always write about them, but so often their questions and observations start the wheels spinning. 

My own childhood. Especially the rough bits. I feel like writing for a kids is a chance to revise the hard parts of my own life, and understand them better. 

Strangers. I like to people-watch, and strangers feel like big mysteries to me. We all make assumptions about people, default to stereotypes, when we encounter a new person, but I love to stare (sometimes it's probably a little creepy, honestly) at folks from a distance, and try to imagine their stories. 
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Name a notable book that provided you with a hiding spot. 
Oh, The Egypt Game! That book became deeply real in my life. I moved into it. 
What can readers look forward to next? 
I actually have 3 books coming out this spring. Most immediately, Orphan Island, but also a picture book called The Forever Garden, and the first in an early chapter book series about my own kids, called Charlie & Mouse

Looking forward, I'm not exactly sure what comes next. I'm fiddling with two ideas right now. One is a sort of companion to Orphan Island, a diary. And the other is a middle grade book set in my Atlanta neighborhood, about two very lonely girls who find each other at just the right moment! I don't usually do this-- work on two things at once-- but that's where I am. So we'll see...

More About the Book
From acclaimed author Laurel Snyder comes a deep, compelling, heartbreaking, and completely one-of-a-kind novel about nine children who live on a mysterious island.

On the island, everything is perfect. The sun rises in a sky filled with dancing shapes; the wind, water, and trees shelter and protect those who live there; when the nine children go to sleep in their cabins, it is with full stomachs and joy in their hearts. And only one thing ever changes: on that day, each year, when a boat appears from the mist upon the ocean carrying one young child to join them—and taking the eldest one away, never to be seen again.

Today’s Changing is no different. The boat arrives, taking away Jinny’s best friend, Deen, replacing him with a new little girl named Ess, and leaving Jinny as the new Elder. Jinny knows her responsibility now—to teach Ess everything she needs to know about the island, to keep things as they’ve always been. But will she be ready for the inevitable day when the boat will come back—and take her away forever from the only home she’s known?
 Purchase a copy of Orphan Island via the links below:

Thursday, May 25, 2017

An Interview with M.E. Castle, author of the Fakespeare series

Today M.E. Castle is at The Hiding Spot to chat about Fakespeare, his new series for young readers! We talk about writing for reluctant readers, sources of inspiration, and more!

Your new middle school series, Fakespeare, offers a fun spin on the Shakespeare plays. What about Shakespeare appealed to you as source material for this series? 
I think an underappreciated aspect of Shakespeare’s work is his humor, even in the non-comedies. The degree of seriousness and reverence given to his work can sometimes hide the fact that Shakespeare was pretty silly, bawdy and lighthearted in much of his writing. I don’t think his heaviest, most dramatic and most powerful words would do as well without such a counterbalance. I wanted to bring that goofy side out and showcase it, because it serves well as an entry point to Shakespeare for people who might have trepidations. 
These books are excellent picks for reluctant readers. Was reaching this audience a goal for you? Do you feel that certain tactics can be helpful in reaching an audience that is reluctant in general or simply finds writing like Shakespeare unappealing? 
It was a goal, yes! There’s plenty in common between people who are hesitant about Shakespeare and those who are reluctant about reading in general. I think the frequent approach to tackling those issues is a bit skewed and unhelpful. Too often, literature is something proffered like a spoonful of acrid medicine. We’re told it’s good for us, it’s important that we read such and such, it doesn’t matter if we enjoy it because the benefits are worth it. 

This can breed resentful readers. If you want someone to read more, or to read Shakespeare or Homer or Cervantes, precluding the possibility that they might actually like it will only kneecap your efforts. I don’t just love Macbeth because it’s a work of stunning wordcraft that digs deep into the philosophical guts of loyalty, ambition, and marriage. I also love it because it’s a gothic bloody tale of royal intrigue full of double crosses, murder and sword fights. If somebody who’d never read Shakespeare asked for a recommendation, which of those descriptions would you lead with? 

That’s where you start. Try and convince someone they could, in fact, like what you’re offering to them. 
Tell me a little bit about your writing process: Do you outline? Start at the beginning? The middle? The end? 
It varies from work to work. I’ll start out by jotting very slightly organized thoughts in a notebook for a while, and coming back to the notes later after I’ve let it stew in my head. I also tend to come up with ideas for scenes and characters first, and built the bigger plot around that. With Fakespeare, of course, I already had plots to work (mess) with, so it was more a case of figuring out how these people would function within an approximation of Hamlet and Romeo & Juliet, and how a version of those plays would be different with these special guest stars. 
Inspiration comes in many forms. Share three people, places, or things that inspire your creativity. 
In a very “tips and tricks” oriented society, I think it’s important to take time while working on an idea to just think about it. No books, no paper, no internet, no music. A lot of the time, key new pieces fall into place in my head when I’m doing literally nothing but sitting(or walking) and thinking. Something else I like to do that inspires is walk through a bookstore and glance at lots and lots of books. Just looking at the spine or the cover, reading the title, maybe the blurb on the back if I’m especially drawn to it. You collect all these little bits and pieces of the ideas and stories out in the world, and it can really help with your own. Finally, I love playing games of all kinds. Video games, tabletop roleplaying, board and card games. The practice of becoming a character in a story with a specific challenge or set of circumstances to overcome really gets my mind going about how to approach issues I’m having with what my own characters should or could do in their circumstances.
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Name a notable book that provided you with a hiding spot. 
Isaac Asimov’s Foundation, and the whole subsequent series. When I first picked it up I was in my middle school years, doing my best to dodge all of the angsty, petty, squabbly nonsense that comes with adolescence. Diving into a story thousands of years in the future, spanning a civilized galaxy, with the fate of human civilization and knowledge at stake, was a perfect way to escape from the absurdity of growing up when I most needed to. 
What can readers look forward to next? 
There’s plenty of ground to cover when it comes to Shakespeare, but there are other great works of the past that the Narrator might have eyes on. Difficult to predict, that crafty Narrator. Keep your eyes open, there’s plenty of classic lit to trample through - I mean, approach with proper dignity and reverence.

More About the Books
Three kids get lost inside Shakespeare’s book and must help Romeo and Juliet finish their story in order to return home in this silly middle school series!

Dear Reader,

You are reading this because you expressed interest in the Get Lost Book Club.

Are you ready to embark on a journey to Italy, where you’ll find yourself right in the middle of a major feud between two rival pizza-making families: the Montagues and the Capulets? A swordsman and perfumer will hunt you. There will be disguises, fake pizza, and tomato fights (make sure to duck!). You must help Becca, her stepbrother Sam, and her dog Rufus convince Romeo Montague to ask Juliet Capulet on a date, or you will all be stuck in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet forever!

Intrigued? Worried? Downright terrified? You should be. But if you’re ready for an adventure, step right up and follow me. It’s time to get lost.


The Narrator

Follow the blog tour!

Monday - Novel Novice 
Tuesday - The Winged Pen
Wednesday - Middle Grade Mafia
Thursday - The Hiding Spot

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Smell of Dirt: 5 Picture Books About Gardening & Nature

Though we're still having some cold days here in Michigan, green is suddenly everywhere and flowers are starting to bloom. Farmer's Market has started, which means vegetables like asparagus and radishes are available right from the ground. Celebrate the turn of the season with 5 picture books that highlight the magic of gardens and nature!

Green Green
Marie Lamba / Baldev Lamba & Sonia Sanchez

When concrete and steel begin to clutter the landscape, a community comes together to plant a garden everyone can enjoy. An important reminder that nature and community can flourish with a bit of care.

The Forever Garden
Laurel Snyder / Samantha Cotterill

Snyder and Cotterill introduce readers to a young girl who loves her neighbor Honey and her garden. When Honey must move away, young Laurel learns that friendship is a lot like a garden.

Diana's White House Garden
Elisa Carbone / Jen Hill

Based on a true story, Carbone and Hill tell the story of a young girl named Diane Hopkins, who, with Eleanor Roosevelt, planted the White House victory garden in 1943!

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt
Kate Messner / Christopher Silas Neal

The ecosystem is a wondrous thing, as readers will discover as they explore this picture book from Messner and Neal. Taking readers both above and below the ground, both the plants and animals that are essential to a balanced environment are included here.

Bee: A Peek-Through Picture Book
Britta Teckentrup

Teckentrup's picture books are beautifully designed, interactive pieces of art. This newest book, Bee, features die-cuts that allows readers to follow a bee as it pollinates flowers and buzzes around colorful meadows. The inside of a bee hive is also explored. This book begs to be read again and again.