cover image The Ambassador of Nowhere Texas

The Ambassador of Nowhere Texas

Kimberly Willis Holt. Holt/Ottaviano, $16.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-23410-0

Following rising seventh grader Rylee, this post–9/11 companion to 1999’s When Zachary Beaver Came to Town revisits familiar characters—including Rylee’s father, Toby, that novel’s protagonist—to poignantly capture a narrative centering both true friendship and national grief. After longtime town librarian and photographer Miss Myrtie Mae dies, she bequeaths Toby a photo of himself; his best friend, Cal; and Zachary Beaver, whose sideshow visited Antler, Tex., in the summer of 1971. Recently shunned by her longtime best friend, Rylee forges a new friendship with Joe, a newcomer from Brooklyn with a painful secret. Determined to locate Beaver, Rylee and Joe comb through the past at the library, piecing together the circus’s timeline after 1971 while contending with their own personal upheavals. Returning readers will appreciate National Book Award winner Holt’s attention to detail as she revisits characters, while newcomers will be drawn to Rylee’s empathy, protectiveness of her community, and curiosity about the world and her place in it. The thoughtfully drawn setting circumvents the ease of contemporary internet access, creating a hearty mystery unraveled with local librarians’ assistance and earnest intergenerational conversations. A quiet celebration of friendship, no matter how brief. Ages 10–14. Agent: Amy Berkower, Writers House. (Jan.)