> YOUNG ADULT
There Is No Dog by Meg Rosoff; G.P. Putnam's Sons; 272 pages, $17.99. Ages 12 and up.
What if God were a teenage boy named Bob, a lad of raging hormones and mercurial moods? And what if Bob fell madly in love with a gorgeous teenage zookeeper named Lucy? And what if Bob one night turned on the bath and fell asleep, flooding the earth a la the Noah story? The award-winning author of "How I Live Now" (Michael Printz Award) and "Just in Case" (Carnegie Medal) offers a hilarious, provocative tale of gods and mortals, combining a brilliant accounting for the sorry state of planet Earth with an amusing take on adolescent sensibility. It's set against the backdrop of a universe run by an indifferent, corporate-style board, where the random luck of a poker game might promote an unworthy being to Lord of Creation. Rosoff peoples her book with a vivid assortment of mortals and immortals. There is middle-aged vicar Bernard struggling to assist flooded-out parishioners who have taken refuge in his church; Bob's interfering, alcoholic mother Mona; and Mr. B., the stodgy counterweight to teen Bob's instability, who offers such indispensable nuggets as "God's unique inability to learn from his mistakes, yet another wonderful trait he's passed on to his creations," or "On the one hand there was slavery, war, inquisition and ethnic cleansing; on the other, Shakespeare, chocolate, the Taj Mahal." Then there's Bob looking back on his many triumphs: "Getting that old guy to drag his son up a mountain? Cool! Smiting of the firstborn? Yes! Turning the errant into pillars of salt? Fun!" This is a bracing, riotous fable; Rosoff's subversive humor is nicely balanced by her clear affection for her flawed characters.
-- Jean Westmoore
Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government For A Strong Economy by Bill Clinton; Knopf, 196 pages, ($23.95)
Bill Clinton may no longer be president, but he's still the nation's policy wonk in chief.
"Back to Work" reads as part history lesson and part solution manual as Clinton rebuts the Republican position that government is the problem, and then precribes dozens of programs and policies to get the country "back in the future business."
Among the former president's ideas are a 50-state green energy retrofit program, with full tax credits for green-technology jobs; a concerted effort to rebuild the country's infrastructure, including the creation of a public-private infrastructure bank; and measures to end the mortgage mess.
As usual, Clinton's arguments are chock full of facts and anecdotes. It's obvious that -- while burnishing a legacy as one of the country's greatest ex-presidents -- Clinton still can't, in the words of his favorite Fleetwood Mac song, "stop thinking about tomorrow."
-- Mark Sommer
Ben-Gurion: A Political Life by Shimon Peres with David Landau; Schocken Books, 240 pages ($25.95)
Shimon Peres, the president of Israel and former two-time prime minister, shares memories of political mentor David Ben-Gurion in a biography that recalls the life and personality of Israel's founding father.
Peres traces the steely, pragmatic leader's laserlike focus on establishing a Jewish state, after emerging from his Polish origins to build a political party for the Labor Zionist movement. Among the topics Peres delves into are Ben-Gurion's confrontations with major Jewish leaders, including Chaim Weizmann and Menachem Begin; his ultimate decision to accept the United Nations Partition Plan and two-state solution for Palestine, an unsettled issue even today for many Israelis; and criticism that the "Old Man" was insufficiently concerned about the Holocaust in pursuing the creation of the Jewish state.
The book comes most alive in the insights and anecdotes Peres shares at the end of some chapters, in a question-and-answer format with David Landau, the former editor of Haaretz who teamed with Peres on his memoir, "Battling for Peace."
Peres, a Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1994, and himself one of the giant figures on the Israeli stage, was 24 when he met Ben-Gurion, and 29 when appointed by him to be director-general of Israel's defense ministry. That long-standing relationship provided Peres with a perspective few others had, but his reluctance to express misgivings he may have had with Ben-Gurion's leadership is the book's biggest shortcoming.
-- Mark Sommer
Pineapple Grenade by Tim Dorsey; Morrow ($24.99)
At this point in this comic series about a serial killer who wreaks havoc on those who don't respect Florida or its history, the Tampa author could easily give up any pretense of a plot. The plots are just window dressing for what readers really come to the Serge Storms series for -- to see how Dorsey will skewer Florida, its residents and tourists while, at the same time, showing enormous affection for all three. And he achieves this with the literary equivalent of a Three Stooges episode, using broad, slapstick humor that is never sophisticated or, heaven forbid, politically correct.
In the 15th Storm novel, Dorsey weaves Serge's wish to be a spy with gunrunners, politics, corrupt and good federal agents, oil spills, a grenade launcher and shopping for a topsy-turvy, slap-happy romp through Florida.
-- Sun Sentinel