Jenna joins us as our new Albus Dumbledore who will do for us what Hogwarts' principal did for Harry Potter and his pals. She comes to our rock from Florida, of all places, which at least has giant mouse ears, princesses’ castles and a magical park that opens its doors to muggles and turns them into wizards. Even though she's developing a Wizarding World museum at home, she actually reads adult books. And in 2020, she plans on voting for the presidential candidate who both gets the majority of the votes and actually becomes the President.
Call it premature, but Tornado Brain is guaranteed to be my favorite pick of 2020. This middle grade book about neurodiverse Frankie in the aftermath of her ex-best friend's disappearance is one of the most well-written fiction stories I have ever read about a differently-minded character. The mystery is smart, the relationships and interactions are believable, and the research for this book is palpable. I have not read a more emotionally impactful book for young-readers in years. On a personal note: As someone whose spouse has suffered from a severe brain injury to his frontal lobe, I thank you, Cat, for getting it right
Our shelves may overflow with words of verse and soulful reflection, but few offer the gentle reminder that time is fluid, fleeting, beautiful, and here in the present. I have read even less contemporary poems more profound than those in Call This Room a Station. There are so many passages that cater to the senses, including "Epithalamium," "Grace Below the Pass," "The Son We Had," "Slow Starter" (Seattleites will appreciate this one) and many more. These personal reflections from the life of talented wordsmith John Willson should be placed alongside the best; amongst Mary Oliver, Frank O'Hara or Robert Frost... You really must experience this book.
Go ahead and get this unusual graphic novel for the kids. But first, you have to read it for yourself. This deceptively intelligent tale of two beetle friends and their bug buddies will have you laughing on one page, then thinking deep, philosophical thoughts the next. The lessons learned will delight you and warm your heart. Get ready to fall in love. Ages 7-10.
In this short story collection for middle readers, a princess finds herself going on grand adventures as the result of (sometimes unintentionally) running away. In addition to the drawings, silly situations and quirky characters, I especially love the interactive elements of this delightful graphic novel. The reader is occasionally asked to help our intrepid adventurers, leading to book flipping or shaking, completing mazes or connecting the dots. It’s a joyful experience! Containing three short and colorful adventures in one volume—with stories tailored to the interests of both boys and girls—this book has something all readers, old and young, will enjoy. Ages 8-12.
Elevation is perhaps the most touching and relevant novel of King’s career. Stephen is "king" of the short story, and Elevation excels in part due to its length, and also its characters. The voice of the people has never been truer in any of the works by the Master of the Written Word. I’ve always had a soft spot for Stephen King’s shorter fiction, but Elevation takes the genre to new heights and tops them all.
Poignant, alarming, important, remarkable: all these words can be used to describe how President Obama made us feel about our sense of mortality, purpose, and security in this world when he sang "Amazing Grace" after the South Carolina church shooting in 2015. It was the most touching thing any President could do to respect and honor those who were the victims of, or affected by, the tragedy. Although it hurts (and some parents may elect not) to read this beautiful book, I urge as many as possible to share it with their loved ones, young and old. Ages 4 & up.
With its incredible illustrations and simple, yet endearingly delightful prose, Maybe is an instant classic. It will inspire both young and old to go out an do something stupendous. (So what are you waiting for?)
A fantasy adventure inspired by ancient Arabia, this Young Adult novel overflows with elegant prose, complicated characters, intricate detail and a world bursting at the seams with entrapped magic, darkness and love. So many twists and turns will have your heart aching and soaring with the flip of a page. Witty dialogue helps to soften the blow to our favorite characters on their journey. A killer ending will have you itching for more. Ages 14-18.
This is a scary good story that teaches young readers about having compassion and facing our fears. It helps us realize that what we fear is never actually what it seems, and that we should always look at things from another angle. While the book may seem a bit long, and may require a greater attention span to reach the end, the adorable illustrations provide plenty of eye popping surprises for kids to explore and admire on every page. The characters show an abundance of diversity, both monster and human alike. A bonafide hit for ages 3 and up.
A wonderfully weird book about the uniqueness of being you and learning to love and embrace your "imperfections." Written and illustrated to appeal to readers both young and old, this unique, three-chapter picture book is a must-read. Delightful and desperately in need of more discussion! Ages 6-8.
A perfect preschool read! Ideal for learning the affect that light has on life, land and sea, and about how we view various colors on Earth. I read You Are Light during story time, and the book and accompanying discussions were such a big hit with the kids! Ages 4-8.
Imagine being the very last of your kind, trying to find purpose after the total annihilation of everyone you have ever loved. With a fair number of battles between sword, claw and fire, this Middle Reader story is not for the faint of heart, though it is absolutely perfect for fantasy lovers of all ages. I am specifically enamored with the diverse cast of characters, the expansive world, and the sharp dialogue. The book is beautifully illustrated throughout, and is also a superbly narrated audiobook! Endling will leave you craving more once you've reached the last page. Luckily, it is the first in a trilogy. Ages 10 & up.
This YA novel is a winner that easily lives up to, and occasionally surpasses, its predecessor, The Hate U Give. Set some time after the events in that book, within the same community, it tells the story of Bri, a high school student who wants to allow her words and her musical talent to take her and her family places. Of course, there are many real-world struggles along the way, as Bri's community is still reeling from the recent police violence, protests and riots. Bri struggles to balance her talent and financial success with justice for her community. Thomas's talent with verse is immense, and I only wish we could one day have an album of all the songs featured in these pages. Ages 14-17
What a wonderful Middle Reader story about a clever deaf girl and the lonely whale she desperately wants to tell, "You are not alone." Iris's "voice" is realistic and endearing, and her long-distance journey to reach the whale provides many opportunities for growth. Sure, parts of the story require suspension of disbelief, but ultimately this is a tale that successfully emphasizes the need to be heard -- and understood -- by others. Ages 8-12.
The Unteachables comes across as Mr Holland's Opus meets The Breakfast Club, for young readers. The story is hilariously written and as sweet as the sound of a 500 horse-power engine. Korman is one of my favorite contemporary writers of middle school-based stories, and this rates right up there with his previous book, Restart. He knows how to pull at the heartstrings and make you laugh. His misfit characters have distinctive personalities that are unusual enough to keep them from feeling cliché. You'll be cheering for them, guaranteed. Ages 9-12.
Take a trip back to the fall of 2001, and view the aftermath of 9/11 from the eyes of a Muslim teen. The story that A Very Large Expanse of Sea depicts is important and real and emotional. Woven among the typical teenage experiences of the main character are the hardships faced by all Muslim people immediately after the twin towers fell - hardships that are still experienced to this day. Those experiences need to be read and felt by everyone who still cannot see beyond the hijab or the stereotypes.
Girls go missing all the time, but not many go on a cross-country trip to seek out a person who did them (and those they love) very, very wrong. I was on the edge of my seat while listening to this as an audio book; horrified by the revelations, haunted by the echoes of recent news headlines, and sighing long and hard at the very end. It may not be an easy read, but the book does a darn good job making it an experience one won't soon forget. And you will not forget it, because the ending will have you thinking about the numerous questions and insights it raises well beyond the final page. Ages 13-18.
This series starter is a mix of The Sixth Sense meets Ghostbusters, where near death experiences give one the ability to see - and hunt - ghosts. City of Ghosts is an original ghost story for young fans of horror. More plot heavy than it is character driven, and only slightly scary. This quick read is an ideal first ghost story for the 8-12 age bracket.
This was recommended to me by Alison, our Children's Buyer, and boy, am I glad she told me to read it. This perfectly illustrated, character-driven picture book puts the reader in the mind of a young girl who instantly judges one of her classmates. Through her, we see how a child who is not innately empathetic to others learns empathy. We learn not to judge by appearances and to gain an understanding about the hardships that our peers may face. It is a beautiful, thought provoking read that gave me chills by the end. Highly recommended!
Joe Biden and Barack Obama super sleuthing crime mysteries - what more could you want? Hope Never Dies is a perfectly nostalgic read to help get you through the current political woes. Sure, it has its eye-rolling oddball moments, but it is brilliant, from the concept to the execution. The book is pure Obama-Biden bromantic fun! I also appreciate how respectful the author is with regard to some of the most hard-hitting topics in Biden's personal life, as well as when it refers to the current state of the nation. For a satirical novel, the author really takes great care where it matters most. I'd read more like this. Absolutely.
Everyone - and especially every white person - should read this book. It details the nature of white fragility, particularly as it applies to American culture. Since every white person benefits from the historically imbalanced position of whites in our society, we can do better by reading this hard-hitting book, acknowledging our privilege, and learning about the various ways that racism can be called out and addressed properly. I could say more, but will let the book speak for itself.
This story turns on its head everything you think you know about what it means to be a hero - forcing us to think about the "man behind the mask" in more realistic, more humanizing, ways than ever before. Between the lines, Vicious asks: is it the good deed that makes a man a hero, or is it the motives behind the good deed (the morals and the mindset of the man committing the supposed "act of heroism") that makes him a man to be admired, a man apart from the rest of society? Not even the creative minds of Stan Lee or Christopher Nolan have touched upon these questions of a hero's "humanity" as vividly or as successfully as Victoria does with Vicious.
Beautifully written, thought-provoking, honest and heartbreaking yet ultimately full of hope, this Young Adult novel is one of the best-no, strike that, the absolute best-teen contemporary I have ever read. I relate to these characters in so many ways, from the weight issues, to having a loved one with a brain injury and dealing with its after-effects, to feeling burdened by the weight of the world. As I read, I had to repeatedly stop because I never wanted the book to end. I saw Libby. I saw Jack. I smiled, I laughed, I cried, because this is me. This is us. This book is my heart and my life, and I am in love.
Difficult to read, impossible to put down. It is easy to allow cruelty and ignorance go unchecked when you grow up in a family that validates them with their “religion.” Here is a look at just how far that type of upbringing can go. Tara Westover is a compelling writer with an academic—yet poetically pleasing—voice. It’s a wonder that she came from such an uneducated background, but Tara makes it very easy to imagine, thanks to her memoir. You’ll feel equal parts impressed and infuriated while reading this book.
A perfectly wonderful and beautifully drawn story, ideal for starting conversations with young people about gender fluidity, taking chances and accepting yourself. The characters are all admirable and, though the story is simple, they will surely resonate with readers of all ages. Superb! ~ Jenna
If you've read The Hate You Give (or even if you haven't) and you're looking for the next big book to push your comfort zones, look no further. Dear Martin is a thoroughly engaging read for ALL PEOPLE who want a more contemporary understanding of the matters of race in the United States. Expand your horizons. Lessons from this book will stick with you for years to come. ~ Jenna
So good. So, so, so, so, so, so good. I am so glad I read this book. I want all the fat bottomed people to read this...Or the people with big, crooked teeth, funny feet or any other "imperfections" (all of which I possess above). Or even if you have no obvious imperfections, but think you do... Read it!
This historical novel about the protection of London children during WWII is at once heartbreaking, insightful, and yet like a hot cup of tea on a cool autumn evening. Bradley does not hold back on brutal honesty in depicting what it's like to be young, unwanted, and uneducated, all while living near "ground zero" during a time of war. The psychology explored in this novel is just as important as the incredible growth of the main character. Additional topics include mental and physical abuse, self-esteem, PTSD, depression, a LGBTQ+ relationship, and so much more. Highly, highly recommended to readers aged 10 and up.
This is undoubtedly the most unusual book I have read in at least a decade (or more). The story does for bees and religion, class and "group think" what Animal Farm did for barnyard animals and government. The Bees has transformed this reader. I have a deeper curiosity and respect for an animal that I once looked at with nothing more than revulsion and fear. I'm not saying I'll be going out and making friends with my neighborhood bees anytime soon, but at least now I can understand their position. ~ Jenna