Desmond and the Very Mean Word by Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams, illustrated by A.G. Ford; Candlewick Press ($15.99). Ages 6 and up.


Archbishop Desmond Tutu, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, offers a lovely story of the healing power of forgiveness in this charming and illuminating picture book based on an experience from his own childhood growing up under apartheid in South Africa. Young Desmond, the only child in the whole township with a bicycle, is eager to show his new wheels to kindly white Anglican priest Father Trevor but en route is accosted by white boys who shout a mean word at him. He retaliates in kind but a chat with Father Trevor convinces him that forgiveness is the way to go.

The afterword notes that Father Trevor, who did let boys play marbles in his office, later became Archbishop Huddlestone, a leader of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.

Co-author Douglas Carlton Abrams assisted Tutu with his spiritual book, “God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time” and its picture-book adaptation, “God’s Dream.” The colorful paintings by A.G. Ford (who illustrated picture biographies of Barack Obama and Michelle Obama) bring the story, including the South African township, to vivid life.

– Jean Westmoore


Suspect by Robert Crais; Putnam, 320 pages ($27.95)


Taking a break from his perennial characters of Elvis Cole and Joe Pike, Robert Crais delivers a poignant, thrilling story about recovery, trust and how bonding with another living being can make us better people. “Suspect” also is the story of a man and a dog whose tentative attempts to make a connection with each other will save their lives, both emotionally and physically.

The man in this case is LAPD officer Scott James, who was severely wounded and traumatized during a shoot-out in which his partner was killed by unidentified gunmen. Scott’s injuries and his emotional state would have allowed him to take disability retirement. But he is determined to find the criminals responsible for his partner’s death, so he joins the police’s K-9 Platoon. As a K-9 cop, Scott reasons, he will have a partner but also “the freedom to be alone,” to not be responsible for human partner should something go wrong.

As Scott struggles with the training, so does Maggie, a German shepherd that was shot by a sniper, who also killed her human partner in Afghanistan. No one believes Scott and Maggie will make it through the basic drills. Both react badly to loud noises, let alone gunshots.

Although Crais often shows the action from Maggie’s point of view, he never resorts to anthropomorphism, keeping the plot serious while illustrating how dog and human become partners.

“Suspect” offers nonstop action as well as an homage to those people and dogs who serve in the military and police forces.

– McClatchy Newspapers