This little novel is wonderfully weird and puzzling. Piranesi exists within a labyrinth whose lower floors are flooded with the sea and upper levels are filled with clouds. He is surrounded by an endless number of marble statues and knows of only one other human, The Other. More information reveals itself to Piranesi at the same time it is carefully revealed to the reader. It is a story unlike any other that I have read. The writing was dreamlike and the unraveling of the mystery keeps the reader captivated until the very end.
The enchanted vegetables who live with a witch in this middle grade graphic novel are adorable. The unlikely heroine, Garlic, musters up all her courage to confront a vampire that has moved into their village. Garlic, and her friends, learn a valuable lesson about not judging a book by its cover. I love this debut by Bree Paulsen. The illustrations are beautiful and the story is a delight. It is a great book for fans of spooky but not scary.
Sally Rooney’s latest novel is an intimate look at the lives of four thirty somethings during the present day. While the characters reflect on current affairs, climate change, beauty, art, etc. they also struggle looking within themselves and within their relationships to one another. It is brilliantly written and gives the reader PLENTY to relate to and think about. I am looking forward to revisiting it again someday in the future to see how it stands the test of time.
The award-winning duo of Matt de la Pena and Christian Robinson have created a picture book that is vibrant, complex, and inclusive. This book encourages understanding by letting us see the world through Milo's eyes as he travels on the subway with his sister to visit his incarcerated parent. What I love most about this book is that it will prompt many different conversations on a variety of topics between children and their caregivers. It is a truly exceptional.
If you've grown up reading Lemony Snicket, you'll enjoy Poison for Breakfast. In this story, the reader follows Snicket as he tries to solve the mystery of who slipped a note under his door that read, "You had poison for breakfast" and whether or not he was actually poisoned. His stream of consciousness style is amusing and following him on this journey is both bewildering and a pleasure.
DaVinci's Cat is an exciting historical fiction fantasy for middle graders featuring two unlikely friends, The Big Three of the High Renaissance, and a time-travelling cat. It is well researched and filled with vivid descriptions of the characters and settings. You will feel as if you also stepped back in time to watch Raphael and Michelangelo at work in Rome. This a great choice for fans of fantasy, adventure, and history!
All's Well is a bizarre trip with an erratic narrator and I loved every bit of it. Miranda Fitch is in pain. A pain that has affected every aspect of her life, including her job as a theatre professor and director. One night following rehearsal, she meets three suspicious men in a seedy bar and things begin to take an otherworldly turn. There's a lot to unpack about being a woman in pain that weaves in Shakespearean elements. Awad's writing is dark, unique, and brilliant. It's like a dream, or was it a nightmare?
This memoir about a therapist, her patients, and her own personal crisis took me on an emotional journey. It is truly transformative. Gottlieb explains the process of therapy in an honest and gentle way. The stories she shares about her patients and herself are relatable and enlightening. Sitting in on these sessions inspires the reader to reflect on themselves and what it means to be human. (A companion workbook will be coming out in November 2021!)
This story about a young Japanese American woman, Izumi, who discovers that she is a princess is so much fun! Discovering Japan along with Izumi is a treat for the reader. Of course there are comparisons to Princess Diaries, but I think Tokyo Ever After is a unique princess tale that holds its own by also exploring race and identity.
I absolutely love this picture book. It has adorable illustrations, quirky characters, a valuable lesson, and glitter! What more could you want?
Press Start is my most recommended early chapter series. In the latest installment, Super Rabbit Boy must learn how to work together with Mega Mole Girl to defeat King Viking and Miss Business. This is the perfect series to introduce to video game lovers who are ready to begin chapter books because it is exciting, silly, and has colorful illustrations on every page. My six year old loves it!
In this thoroughly researched book, Dr. Michaeleen Doucleff travels with her three year old daughter to observe and study the parenting practices of Maya, Innuit, and Hadzabe families. The beginning of the book is particularly eye-opening as it examines and sort of blows the lid off of modern Western parenting. Following this, Dr. Doucleff shares the parenting practices she has learned from the families she observed that gave her immediate results. It is filled with advice that parents can use right away for children of any age, and will have many parents (myself included) reevaluating their current methods.
Horse Girl is a charming story about a seventh grade girl, Willa, who begins riding lessons at the prestigious Oakwood Riding Academy. It is like a middle grade Mean Girls but with horses. I especially enjoyed the footnotes that explain horse and riding terms for anyone not familiar with that world. It perfectly captured the awkwardness of middle school and establishing yourself in a friend group. I think Babysitter's Club fans will love this one!
I am a huge fan of Jon Klassen, and he has done it again with The Rock from the Sky! He is able to hit that sweet spot of making both children and parents giggle at his sometimes cranky, sometimes oblivious, but always charming characters. The Rock from the Sky gives us these familiar characters with a little bit more story than we're used to from Klassen. It has the same deadpan humor, simple illustrations, and an ending we never saw coming.
This beautiful novel exploring the past and present of a Colombian family that is seperated by deportation is timely and impactful. The Andean myths sprinkled throughout are significant to the narrative and really make the book special. Engel's writing is magnificent. She says so much in few words.
The main character in this graphic novel for ages 8-12, Maggie, is struggling with some changes in her life. She loves animals and thinks that a new puppy for her birthday is the answer to all her problems. When Maggie discovers she is highly allergic to animal dander she is crushed, will she be able to find the perfect pet?
This book was incredibly heartwarming and informative. As a mother to a child with allergies, I appreciate the way allergies were presented and explained. Maggie's reactions and treatment were presented with care through the dialogue and the illustrations. I highly recommend this book for children with allergies or who want to learn more about allergies. I deeply appreciate this representation for the allergic community.
David Arnold's haunting postapocalyptic novel takes place after a deadly Fly Flu has wreaked havoc on the world. The story follows a few survivors as they navigate the woods of New England to new desinations, avoiding swarms of infected flies and other violent people along the way. The writing is exceptional and the characters are complex and fully rounded. The Electric Kingdom presents many profound questions about humanity and touches your heart. As soon as I finished reading it, I flipped back to the first page.
The Beast and the Bethany is a very clever book about a vain man, a greedy beast, and an extremely disagreeable little girl. The story is equally as hilarious as it is dark. It is getting lots of buzz as a children’s version of The Picture of Dorian Gray and drawing comparisons to Lemony Snicket and Roald Dahl. I felt like it was a middle grade version of Little Shop of Horrors and I wasn’t surprised to find out that the author has a theatrical background. The illustrations were a treat, and there are many important lessons to be learned from this story. This is the first in a series that I can’t wait to continue!
This is a story about idiots (according to the author’s own words) that will restore some of your faith in humanity. Yes, these are fictional characters, but they moved me so deeply that they reminded me of myself and people from my own life. I am in complete awe of Backman’s writing. Most of the time I was either laughing, gasping, crying, or rolling my eyes along with the characters. The transitions between hilarious and tender moments happened so seamlessly that they blew my mind. I think one of the biggest takeaways from this novel is that none of us adults really know what we’re doing, but we should keep on doing the best that we can.
This inspiring and affirming picture book written and illustrated by Christian Robinson is delightful. The simple, bright, and inclusive illustrations are accompanied with the valuable message that no matter what - you matter. I think that this would be an excellent gift for any child age 2-6 that they would cherish for a very long time.
The Guest List is a fast paced mystery that gave me lots of And Then There Were None vibes. It is atmospheric, filled with sketchy characters, and keeps you guessing right until the very end. If you need a juicy beach read, this is it.
I have become a fan of historical fiction fantasy mostly due to the writing of Alix E. Harrow. In her latest work, The Once and Future Witches, the reader is introduced to the three Eastwood sisters during the suffragette movement. The sisters become involved with the suffragists but also delve into the will, the words, and the ways of witchcraft. I appreciated reading about the sisters' sibling dynamic and their emotional journey to repair their relationships with one another. The spells that mark the beginning of each new chapter were a treat. Fans of Erin Morgernstern and Gregory Maguire will enjoy this “witchy as hell” tale.
A funny and fascinating graphic novel for children ages 6-10. Arlo, a crow, has crowned himself the king of the birds. Over the course of the story, Arlo shares crow facts with his new friend Pips to prove that he is one special bird. Fans of Narwhal and Jelly are going to love this book!
A cast of characters including a pipe-smoking female detective, a seven-foot tall maid with a lovely baritone, a dead boxer with living tattoos, a young girl and her one-eyed doll, plus more await you in this Gothic mystery novel by Jess Kidd. Set in Victorian London, Bridie Devine has been tasked with finding a kidnapped young girl who may have supernatural abilities. The tale is told by a gifted storyteller who expertly combines hilarious, heartbreaking, and horrific moments. I didn’t want it to end.
Cozy up with the first book in this new early chapter series by Caldecott Honor winner Lauren Castillo. Recommended for ages 5-9, this sweet book is about making new friends and being a good friend. It is a peaceful story accompanied by lovely illustrations that will make it an instant bedtime favorite.
I'm a big Liz Climo and Jory John fan and this picture book did not disappoint! It is hilarious, adorable, and helpful. I highly recommend it for children feeling a little anxious or nervous about a new beginning.
In this YA dystopian thriller, sixteen year old girls are banished to the wilderness for a year to release their “magic” and return purified and prepared for marriage. Tierney James realizes that her greatest threat may not be the elements or poachers of the wilderness; it may very well be the other girls. This fierce page-turner is a timely examination of women’s relationships with one another and survival in a fragmented society.
The Ten Thousand Doors of January took me on an adventure through generations, continents, and worlds. It is a beautiful mix of genres but ultimately a coming-of-age story about exploration, change, family, and true love. I was lost in January's world and fascinated by the book-within-a-book that had a completely different tone. If you need a magical escape, this is the book for you!
This true crime story about the fall of Silicon Valley startup, Theranos, and its CEO and founder, Elizabeth Holmes, is expertly researched and told. The details are so insane, I couldn't put it down. I'm fascinated by this story and the fact that Holmes was so magnetic she could sell a technology that never worked. Bill Gates also recommends this book!
The exceptional imagery used in this novel sets it apart from other historical fiction placed in Word War II. I felt as if I arrived at the marsh alongside the young orphan Virginia and felt the decay of the home in her later years. The events that haunt the elder Virginia are revealed in an unforgettable way.