As the Crow Flies by Sheila Keenan; illustrated by Kevin Duggan; Feiwel and Friends ($16.99)


The piercing gaze of the crow on the cover beckons us into this marvelous, imaginative exploration of the world from a crow’s point of view based on this husband-wife’s team observation of a crow roost in Troy. It’s a lyrical, soaring, carefully observed, often very funny picture book about the relationship between humans and Corvus brachyrynchos, which is among the smartest animals in the world. (“We’re here ... and here ... and there. We poke our beaks in everywhere.”) The humor will appeal to children and invite them to look for evidence of the birds and their adaptation to different environments: “You never noticed us before but now we’re many hundreds more.” The evocative text includes a marvelous play on words: “We were the birds you didn’t see – now hear this cawcophony!” and wondrous lyricism: “The bare-branched trees have sprouted crows in place of leaves.” That line is accompanied by a gorgeous illustration of pink sky, bare branches, and flecks that appear to be leaves but are in fact crows.

– Jean Westmoore


Kinsey and Me by Sue Grafton; Marian Wood/Putnam, 304 pages ($27.95)


Sue Grafton’s new collection of short stories is a mixed bag.

There are gems that fans of Grafton’s “alphabet series” of Kinsey Millhone detective novels are sure to enjoy while waiting for the “W" title in the series to come out.

Grafton fans may not be aware that she wrote eight mystery shorts featuring Millhone.

Published in the late 1980s and early ’90s in Redbook and in various anthology collections, these detective shorts haven’t been easy to track down. That makes “Kinsey and Me” a desert oasis for die-hard fans.

But accompanying these solid mini-mysteries is a collection of head-scratchers that simply don’t belong in the same volume: 13 quasi-autobiographical stories about a girl named Kit Blue and her painful early life with an alcoholic mother.

It’s as if Grafton and her publisher worried that 200 pages of Kinsey Millhone stories weren’t enough, that they needed to fatten up the book with something more and wound up with two tastes that don’t go great together.

“Kinsey and Me” is actually a reprint of a story collection Grafton privately published in 1991 for friends and family members.

Grafton explains: “Kinsey Millhone is an invented version of me. Kit Blue is the ‘self’ I was 50 years ago.” Maybe some readers will think it’s interesting. But most will probably yearn for more of what attracted them to Grafton’s writing in the first place.

There’s only one “new” Millhone tale. It’s a goofy five-page reprint from a 2003 Lands’ End catalog in which the heroine persistently plugs the company’s Squall Parka with Thermolite Micro insulation. It’s like something Elaine would write for the J. Peterman catalog in a “Seinfeld” episode.

– McClatchy Newspapers