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In the small southern China town of Chin-kiang, in the last day of the 19th century, two young girls bump heads and become thick as thieves.

Willow is the only child of a destitute family. Pearl is the headstrong daughter of zealous Christian missionaries. She will grow up to become Pearl S. Buck, the Nobel Prize winning writer and activist, but for now she is just a girl embarrassed by her blonde hair and enchanted by her new Chinese friend.

When a bloody civil war erupts, Pearl is forced to flee the country ahead of angry mobs. Willow remains loyal to her exiled friend. Worlds apart, the women's lives remain entwined.

Anchee Min's stunning novel, "Pearl of China," celebrates an incredible friendship and brings new color to the life of Pearl S. Buck, a woman whose unwavering love for the country of her youth eventually led her to be hailed as a national heroine in China.

"Pearl of China" is on the Reserve Shelf at Walla Walla Public Library.

Featured books will be available for the public today. They can also be placed on hold online at wallawallapubliclibrary,org or call the library for assistance at 527-4550. Other books include:

Fiction

"Except the Queen," by Jane Yolen and Midori Snyder

Sisters Serana and Meteora are proud members of the high court of the Fairy Queen until they discover a secret Her Highness would like to keep hidden.

Cast out from court and stripped of their powers, they are banished to the coarse and brutish mortal realm of Earth. Meteora bonds with a troubled young girl who lives in the apartment below her. But when she sees the ornate tattoo on the girl's neck, Meteora recognizes it as a magic symbol that will surely draw evil to them. Serana, meanwhile, takes in a homeless boy whose mind is plagued by dark visions and nightmarish creatures -- creatures that Serana recognizes as being from the world of her birth.

The sisters know that these signs point to a force whose power is rising -- one that threatens both the fairly and human worlds.

Nonfiction

"The Lost Girls," by Jennifer Baggett, Holly C. Corbett and Amanda Pressner

Jen, Holly, and Amanda are at a crossroads. They're feeling the pressure to hit certain milestones -- scoring a big promotion, finding a soul mate, having 2.2 kids -- before they reach their early 30s.

When personal changes force them to reevaluate their lives, they decide it's now or never to do something daring. Unable to gain perspective in fast-paced Manhattan, the three 20-somethings quit their coveted media jobs and leave behind their friends, boyfriends and everything familiar to travel the globe.

Dubbing themselves the Lost Girls, they embark on an epic yearlong search for inspiration and direction.

"Zoo Story," by Thomas French

This book is an unprecedented account of the secret life of a zoo. Based on six years of research, the book follows a handful of unforgettable characters at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo: an alpha chimp with a weakness for blondes, a ferocious tiger who revels in Obsession perfume and a brilliant but tyrannical CEO known only as El Diablo Blanco.

Thomas French, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, chronicles the action with vivid power. All of it comes to life through the book's four-legged characters. Even animal lovers will be startled by the emotional charge of these creatures' histories, which read as though they were co written by Dickens and Darwin.

Others

"Last Dog on the Hill," by Steve Duno; "Never Tell Our Business to Strangers," by Jennifer Mascia; "The Tale of Halcyon Crane," by Wendy Webb; "One Amazing Thing," by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

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