Flo & Wendell by William Wegman; Dial, $16.99 (Ages 3 to 5) Publishes Sept. 26.
In his first book in a decade, photographer and artist William Wegman offers an irresistible story of sibling rivalry through the charming medium of Weimaraner dogs as big sister Flo and little brother Wendell. Wegman superimposes photographs of his Weimaraners’ expressive faces on painted figures and backdrops to tell a droll tale of family life that will appeal both to little ones and the parents reading to them. (“Flo’s mother is wild about knitting. She knit a sweater for Flo and one for their car. Now Flo and their car match.”) The knitting scene, of Flo’s mother in a chair with a cascade of pink yarn cleverly mirrors the image of Whistler’s Mother in the backdrop. In a scene where the siblings are playing hide and seek with Wendell stuck in a garbage can, the backdrop includes George Bellows’ “Ephemeral New York,” of the Ash Can School. Flo and Wendell both like to dress up.; there’s a hilarious illustration of the two as superheroes with W and F on their chests.
– Jean Westmoore
Archangel by Andrea Barrett; Norton, 224 pages ($24.95)
In science and in life, we are all seekers. Or so Andrea Barrett suggests in her fine new book of stories. We search for clarity amid confusion and for truths obscured by tradition or emotion, and when we find what we’re looking for, we are dazzled.
“It changes everything, doesn’t it?” marvels a previously skeptical young teacher in “The Island,” upon reading Darwin’s theory of evolution for the first time. Barrett provides that same thrilling thunderbolt of discovery: When you read her elegant, thought-provoking work, you travel back to a time of wonder that you never want to leave.
Author of the story collections “Servants of the Map,” a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and “Ship Fever,” a National Book Award winner, Barrett has a degree in biology and infuses her works with her fascination with the natural world – from botany to physics to genetics and beyond. She’s also author of the novels “The Voyage of the Narwhal,” about Arctic exploration, and “The Air We Breathe,” set at a sanitorium for TB patients.
In the five absorbing, loosely connected stories in “Archangel,” she again draws on historical figures and events to provide depth to stories of scientific revelation and disillusionment. But she doesn’t neglect more personal investigations, tapping into the fears, hopes and contradictions of the human mind and heart.
“The Investigators” revels in the joy of discovery. Constantine Boyd is 12 in 1908, heading east from Detroit and his abusive father to spend a summer at his uncle’s farm. But his tasks in Hammondsport, aren’t the milk-the-cows and feed-the-chickens routine he expects. “Constantine was to weigh each pail of milk and note the result. Also to weigh the amount fed to each calf, and to measure the calves themselves daily. All this mysterious but intriguing activity awakens a desire to learn in the boy. He’s as infected as the entire town, which is humming with excitement over a plan to get an airplane off the ground and into history.
– Connie Ogle, Miami Herald