Falling Boy, Rising Star

Three-time Minnesota Book Award winner Alison McGhee continues her literary ascension with Falling Boy: A Novel, published this month as a paperback original (Picador, $13). The author of Shadow Baby (a Today Show Book Club selection) here tells the story of a 16-year-old who, after a mysterious accident, moves to Minneapolis to live with his Liquor Lyle’s–loving father. It becomes increasingly clear that Joseph’s problems both precede and supersede his recent paralysis, but, prodded by a coterie of similarly damaged kids, he ultimately learns (as we all must) to “work what you’ve got left.” McGhee, whose equal achievement in children’s fiction is evident in the authentic voice of her “superhero,” has more to work with than most. —CAROL RATELLE LEACH

More McGhee: Someday, a poignant picture book for all ages with illustrations by Peter Reynolds, also will be released this month (Atheneum, $14.99).

“You have to have an accident to gain a superpower. It’s part of the superhero contract.”
—Alison McGhee, Falling Boy



Seven Steps to Havana    Charanga Tropical      Douglas Little        

self-titled                          Live!                              Cuban Voyage         

After a decade as one of the area’s top bebop leaders, the saxophonist, flautist, and composer Douglas Little has dived headfirst into Cuban jazz. His extensive studies in Havana have fostered two new ensembles and three stellar discs in the past year. Cuban Voyage is a career retrospective of sorts, spanning six years of Little’s musical evolution, as exemplified by the doubly delightful “Monk’s Dream About Cuba.” Sax quartet pieces and local guests stars galore make Voyage a Minne-music essential. Charanga Tropical, Little’s nine-member orchestra, runs a close second with its live disc, an exploration of the rarely heard charanga style: salsa with strings, no brass, plenty of percussion, male vocal chants, and, in this case, Little on flute. Little wonder, you might say, that this group has gained a loyal following for its regular salsa nights at the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis. Seven Steps to Havana, meanwhile, features Little and musicians from three continents bringing their own flavor to classic Cuban forms. Little is currently wintering in Paris, but watch for both groups (now featuring pianist/vocalist Viviana Pintado) to resurface about the time that short skirts and béisbol return. —JIM MEYER