Abe Lincoln’s Dream by Lane Smith; Roaring Brook Press, $16.99. Ages 5 to 9.


Lane Smith is best known for his wacky collaborations with writer Jon Scieszka (“Stinky Cheese Man,” “Math Curse,” etc.) but with last year’s “Grandpa Green” and now “Abe Lincoln’s Dream,” he joins that elite group with a gift for both illustration and storytelling.

This beautiful, evocative picture book was inspired by a dream Lincoln had the morning of his assassination, a dream he had had several times, in which he saw himself “in an indescribable vessel moving rapidly toward an indistinct shore.” In Smith’s story, a little girl, Quincy, is on a school tour of the White House when she meets the troubled ghost of Abraham Lincoln and reassures him about the present state of the commonwealth. Smith weaves the dream with the oft-told tales of Lincoln haunting the Lincoln Bedroom, Lincoln’s kindly manner and love of cornball jokes into a hauntingly lovely tale with layers of meaning, as Quincy and Abe are pictured airborne against the backdrop of the White House, the Washington Monument, farmland with clothes flapping on a line, the Statue of Liberty, the Capitol with cherry blossoms, the flag planted on the moon.

– Jean Westmoore


Heads in Beds: a Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality by Jacob Tomsky; Doubleday, 256 pages ($25.95)


Room upgrades. Free movies. Late checkouts. Jacob Tomsky promises readers the keys to the hotel industry kingdom in his tell-all book, “Heads in Beds.” The one-time philosophy major has spent more than a decade working in the industry and, like room service, he delivers the goods.

Tomsky has packed his book with outrageous anecdotes about guests and hotel staff, too: a valet learning to drive a stick shift using an overnight guest’s car, a bellman who allegedly peed in a guest’s bottle of cologne after he was stiffed on a tip.

Tomsky has only worked at hotels in New Orleans and New York, so readers may wonder if his tips will work anywhere else. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. But his stories are so good, it almost doesn’t matter.

– Associated Press


Hell or High Water by Joy Castro; Thomas Dunne Books, 340 pages ($25.99)


The laborious act of physical rebuilding and personal recovery becomes a scintillating theme for Joy Castro’s compelling mystery fiction debut. The physical rebuilding in “Hell or High Water” is the continued renewal of New Orleans. But equally as important to this engrossing story is the personal growth and rebounding of Nola Cespedes, a young reporter whose chance to prove herself takes her through New Orleans neighborhoods and forces her to take a hard look at her own life.

Nola desperately wants to write news at the Times-Picayune, but this young reporter has no idea about how to compromise or how to show her bosses how capable she can be. She is such a novice that she doesn’t recognize a story that could make a career when it is handed to her – a look at the more than 800 sex offenders who have gone “off the grid” since Katrina and are still living in New Orleans.

Nola’s investigation travels through the poorest neighborhoods and the wealthiest, where a matron frets not that her son raped teenagers but that his arrest dried up their invitations to society events. The story heats up even more when Nola links one of the sex offenders to the disappearance of young tourist.

Set in 2008, “Hell or High Water” vividly illustrates a New Orleans still in chaos from Katrina.

– McClatchy Newspapers