Endearingly hilarious and devastatingly human, Rick Moody’s new novel, Hotels of North America (Little, Brown, $25), will touch your heart as often as it will make you laugh. Reginald Edward Morse is a motivational speaker whose life is coming unglued when he takes on the pittance-paying role of online hotel reviewer. The novel is a compilation of those reviews, which not only take the reader from Iowa to Italy, but slowly reveal the man behind the incisive observations. Morse reflects on themes of love and loneliness—both in his own and in the lives of people he encounters on his prosaic journeys. He laments not only vermin-infested hotel rooms with inadequate ventilation; he ponders the plight of truck-stop prostitutes, night watchmen, and various surly managers. He also recalls the many accommodations where momentous occasions in his own life have occurred—the gothic campground where he stays with his first girlfriend; the opulent Vermont hotel where he meets a mistress; the flop house where he goes simply because it’s the cheapest, most convenient place near his estranged daughter; the Italian villa where he realizes that his marriage is collapsing, and the irritatingly quaint bed-and-breakfast where he first spends the night with the mysterious woman who becomes the love of his life.
Peter tells his father that he thinks it is a terrible idea to move to the deep, dark, scary woods. Unfortunately, only his dog, Harold, can hear him. Upon their arrival, Peter and Harold make Lenny, a stuffed blanket statue who will guard them from whatever lies in the forest. But they don’t want Lenny to be as lonely as they are, so they make him a companion. In Lenny & Lucy (Roaring Brook, $17.99), life changes with the guardians’ creation, and then again when a new neighbor shows up to join the motley quartet. In their distinctive style, author Philip C. Stead and illustrator Erin E. Stead (A Sick Day for Amos McGee) show that the woods can still hold potential—if you have friends by your side. Ages 3-8
The title Counting Lions (Candlewick, $22) and the deceptively simple nature of Katie Cotton’s prose may make this seem like just another counting book; Cotton’s poetic text, however, draws attention not only to the ascending numbers and the animals themselves, but to the precariousness of their survival due to human activity. Stephen Walton pays homage to these creatures’ unique beauty with dazzling charcoal illustrations whose level of detail is almost unbelievable. It is easy to get lost in the magnificent mane of the lion, the beautiful feathers of the macaws, or the silvery fur of the Ethiopian wolves. Together, Cotton and Walton highlight the irreplaceability of some of Earth’s most extraordinary beings. Ages 4 and up