July-August 2020

Book report

An adventure story for kids, a book on college basketball, and more

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Ellen Oh’s latest adventure book, The Dragon Egg Princess (HarperCollins, March 2020), is about a boy who helps magical forest creatures save the world from evil and in the process finds out that he is magical himself. Aimed at ages 8 and older, the story takes place in a fantastical kingdom that incorporates Asian mythology and culture. “Books should reflect the makeup of the world that we see around us,” says Oh, who co-founded the nonprofit We Need Diverse Books. “I try to make sure that the stories I write do just that. And there is no reason that a fantasy book set in a made-up world shouldn’t be as diverse as the real one.” The Bethesda resident says her three kids influence her writing, from fleshing out plots and dialogue to reading her books before they are published.

You don’t have to be rich and famous to have a story to tell, says John Feinstein, veteran sports writer for The Washington Post and the author of 42 books. Feinstein, 63, who lives in Potomac, spent the winter of 2018-2019 capturing the drama of lesser-known collegiate basketball players and teams for The Back Roads to March: The Unsung, Unheralded, and Unknown Heroes of a College Basketball Season (Doubleday, March 2020). The experience reminded Feinstein of what he loved about being a young sports journalist: “I much prefer walking into a 5,000-seat gym knowing that everybody in the building is going to be emotionally involved in the game than a 20,000-seat arena where you are blasted with corporate ads all night and half the people are there to tell the office the next day they were there.”

Milly Bennett, one of America’s first female war correspondents, has long been a fascination of Silver Spring author Carrie Callaghan. Based on research from an archive of Bennett’s letters, Callaghan wrote Salt the Snow (Amberjack Publishing, February 2020), focusing on the spunky yet vulnerable reporter’s 1930s quest in Moscow to discover why her young Russian husband had been arrested by the secret police. “When we look at something that has happened in the past, we can understand how people were—which is in and of itself a bit of a comfort,” Callaghan, 39, says of her second book of historical fiction. “There are so many different ways to live a life. The more you understand the different paths, the more freeing you feel about your current path.”

Jim Kleiger has written three professional books for mental health practitioners during his 40 years as a clinical psychologist, most of that time in Bethesda. His first novel, The 11th Inkblot (IPBooks), was released in February. The story follows a character who is broken down from the trauma of World War I and journeys to Zurich, falling under the spell of Swiss psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach, who invented the Inkblot Test in 1921. There are 10 standard images used in the test, also known as the Rorschach Test, in which subjects’ perceptions of inkblots are recorded and analyzed. “The idea of an 11th inkblot is sort of a metaphor as something that represents uncertainty—and it’s a concrete theme in the story,” says Kleiger, who lives in Olney.