To Market, To Market by Nikki McClure; Abrams ($17.95).
This ode to locally grown food, with its vivid, paper-cut illustrations, celebrates the hard work of farmers everywhere and hints at the back story that may be lurking in every jar of honey, quart of blueberries or ripe tomato on your local farm stand. McClure, the illustrator of "All in a Day" and author-illustrator of "Mama, Is It Summer Yet?" and "Collect Raindrops," lives in Olympia, Wash., and her book tells the story of behind the wares of several vendors who frequent the Farmers Market there: A beekeeper, a salmon smoker, an apple farmer, a kale harvester, a baker, mother-and-daughter cheesemakers (who make goat cheese), and possibly most interesting, Yukie, a craftsmen who dyes fabric with indigo using traditional Japanese methods (which include feeding the indigo soup rice wine). This is the perfect book to get children thinking about where their food comes from.
-- Jean Westmoore
In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson; Crown, 464 pages ($26)
Erik Larson's eerie and disturbing new book is a nonfiction chronicle based on the lives of an American family who spent a year in Berlin as Hitler rose to absolute power.
Larson has explored evil before, notably in "Devil in the White City," the true-to-life story of a serial killer preying on the margins of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. "Beasts" and "Devil" also share a dreamlike backdrop. Chicago's faux classical "White City" rose up like a mirage on the shores of Lake Michigan. In "Beasts," baroque, decadent Berlin is the theater for love, sex, political skulduggery and terror. And like "Devil," "Beasts" has its victims -- Berlin's Jewish citizens, struggling to breathe as the Nazi noose tightens.
Into this turmoil dropped William E. Dodd, a University of Chicago professor who approached a friend in the Roosevelt administration about an appointment as an American ambassador. Roosevelt gave Dodd the job, and Dodd sailed with his family -- his wife, son and daughter Martha -- to Berlin.
Larson vividly re-creates the dreadful drumbeat of events, as the Nazis consolidated their power. Jews and other "undesirables" were stripped of their livelihoods, property and basic civil rights. In one nightmarish mob scene, Martha and two male traveling companions witnessed the near-lynching of a woman who had a relationship with a Jewish man.
Hitler himself told Dodd that "If they (Jews) continue their activity, we shall make a complete end to all of them in this country."
The narrative of "Beasts" climaxes with the weekend of June 30, 1934, known as "The Night of the Long Knives," when Hitler rounded up most of his political opponents and had them murdered.
As a suspense narrative, "Beast" achieves mixed results: It's hard to warm up to the well-meaning but outmanned Dodd. But as a work of popular history, "Beasts" is gripping, a nightmare narrative of a terrible time.
-- McClatchy Newspapers
Misery Bay by Steve Hamilton; Minotaur, 304 pages ($24.99)
Although Steve Hamilton last published an Alex McKnight novel in 2006, the author hits the ground running in his excellent eighth thriller about his reluctant private investigator from Upper Michigan.
"Misery Bay" works equally well as a private eye tale, a police procedural and a character study. As the engrossing novel develops, Alex learns that sometimes minor incidents have major consequences.
Alex is as Hamilton last left him, getting over a tragedy, tending to those visitors who rent cabins from him in the ironically named Paradise, Mich., and spending his nights drinking at local pub the Glasgow Inn.
Alex is there one cold night when his least favorite person, Sault Ste. Marie police chief Roy Maven, shows up asking him to help a friend. Alex agrees to meet with U.S. Marshal Charles "Raz" Razniewski. Raz wants Alex to find out what drove his only son to recently commit suicide. But Alex uncovers an insidious pattern of crimes that targets former marshals and their grown children.
The reluctantly growing friendship between Alex and Roy becomes a cornerstone of the plot as the two men put aside their differences for a greater good.
-- McClatchy Newspapers