March: Book Three by Andrew Aydin and John Lewis


Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: This is the third and final volume in the graphic memoir series tracing Representative John Lewis’ participation in the Civil Rights Movement, culminating in the Selma to Montgomery marches of 1967-known as Bloody Sunday.

What made me pick it up: I read the first two installments so was planning on picking it up, but since it’s won roughly one billion awards* I scooted it to the top of my read-ASAP list.

My favorite things: This final volume is reliably great in a number of ways: the black and white art is strongly affecting, the storytelling is compelling, and the content is relevant and important as ever. One of my favorite things, throughout the series, are the brief scenes from the 2009 presidential inauguration. They effectively illustrate the impact of civil rights activists’ relentless efforts and remind us of how much can be accomplished within a single generation.

Who it’s great for: Teens and tweens who want to understand the Civil Rights Movement. Fans of history and memoir. Graphic novel and comic readers interested in real-life human superheroes.

*Awards: National Book Award** for Young People’s Literature; Coretta Scott King Award (Author); Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award; YALSA award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults; Michael L. Printz Award

**See Stamped from the Beginning for my review of another National Book Award Winner.

Abby’s rating: four-and-a-half-shells

Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie


Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: A little boy named after his father wants his own name.

What made me pick it up: I’m a huge fan of Alexie. He’s an excellent writer. Once I saw he had written a children’s book I had to check it out.

My favorite things: This book has such an engaging rhythm. It almost felt like reading a dance, if that makes sense. It also has vivid illustrations, which enhance that effect. And you really feel for the boy who loves his father but wants to be his own person.

Who it’s great for: Boys named after their fathers. Independence seeking children. Alexie admirers. People looking for diverse books for younger readers.

Erica’s rating: four-shells

On Living by Kerry Egan


Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: Hospice chaplain Egan explains her job to those who are unfamiliar and shares stories of her patients. These stories teach us how to live better, and not wait til the end of our lives to do or say anything of importance.

What made me pick it up: I don’t remember. I feel like I read a review of it, or a tweet about it, and that was it. Hospice, nonfiction, life lessons, clean simple cover. It had a lot of the things I usually pick up.

My favorite things: This was such a candid, humorous book full of anecdotes and inspiring quotes about living that Egan has witnessed, learned from, and been told by dying patients. I like how she balanced her own experiences and beliefs with theirs and encouraged open mindedness while explaining them.

Who it’s great for: Anyone who has or ever had a loved one in hospice. Those who feel like they have something they need to change/accept/say to someone.

Erica’s rating: four-shells

Polar Bear’s Underwear by Tupera Tupera


Originally published in: 2015

What it’s about: Polar Bear can’t find his underwear, and also can’t remember what it looks like. So he and a friend set out to find it.

What made me pick it up: It came up as a “people also liked” when I was looking up Strictly No Elephants and it sounded funny.

My favorite things: This book was great! You get to follow Polar Bear and his friend as they survey the underpants from various animals trying to find his lost ones. And these animals wear some interesting briefs. I was so entertained by the illustrations and the final reveal of just where his underwear had gone. It’s quick and funny.

Who it’s great for: Kids who like the absurd. Children who are obsessed with underwear. Parents who want to be entertained while reading to their littles.

Erica’s rating: four-shells

Tribe by Sebastian Junger


Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: Junger examines tribal societies and ponders if that closeness of community might be missing from our new industrialized lives.

What made me pick it up: Someone I follow posted it on Instagram. I checked out the audio and then realized it was only three hours long. Win!

My favorite things: This book is brief, which makes it to the point from the beginning. The opening anecdote made me tear up it is so powerful. Junger makes the great point that we need to belong, so much so that the lack of it in our lives is definitely harming us.

Who it’s great for: Adults who are looking for a quick, but deep read. Fans of Junger’s work. Anyone who feels like they don’t belong and wonders why. Those who have left a place where they did belong and miss it entirely and wish it back.

Erica’s rating: four-shells

Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi


Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: This book traces racist ideas and their impact on African American and other Black lives in the US from the earliest arrival of European settlers through today. Okay, so I have one problem with this book: the subtitle. Not a lot of time is given to other people of color in the US and, realistically, one book couldn’t do that and probably shouldn’t try. I definitely don’t want to diminish the impact of the book-I think it’s very well done and important. To me the subtitle is a little misleading, but maybe it’s just me.

What made me pick it up: It won the 2016 National Book Award for Nonfiction, and I’m trying to make sure that I read all of the winners.

My favorite things: This book is meticulously researched and incredibly thorough. Kendi breaks down racist belief systems into a variety of often conflicting ideas. He identifies assimilationist and segregationist thoughts that have sometimes been used to promote civil rights, and contrasts them with truly antiracist ideas. Kendi does a great job of illustrating the ways these ideas have been built upon over time and how we have arrived in the current moment with some voices declaring a “post-racial” society while others point out clear racial tensions and divisions.

Who it’s great for: People who want to understand where the Black Lives Matter movement came from and why it seems so divisive. History buffs interested in a different focus than they may be used to reading. Readers interested in racial justice and civil rights.

Abby’s rating: four-and-a-half-shells

Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev


Originally published in: 2015

What it’s about: A little boy with a pet elephant searches for a group that will accept him and his pet.

What made me pick it up: I saw it reviewed on another blog and the cover captured my eye. Also, I have a strong and ongoing desire to have a pet elephant so this was right up my alley.

My favorite things: This picture book was sweet story about friendship and belonging. It has lovely illustrations and a positive message.

Who it’s great for: Elephant lovers. Parents looking for stories of friendship and inclusion to read to their children. Fans of excellent illustrations.

Erica’s rating: four-shells

Get a copy of this book on Amazon (affiliate link) or at your local library.


Night School by Lee Child


Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: Jack Reacher, in this book still a decorated Army Major, and his pursuit of bad guys before time runs out.

What made me pick it up: I devour this series so I’m on the holds list for each new book the second I hear about it. It may take a few months to come in, but it’s always worth the wait.

My favorite things: This character is so classic it is always entertaining to follow along as he puzzles it out with the help of his new coworkers and old friends including my favorite character in these books – Frances Neagley. Child never fails to provide plenty of action. I recommend these books to everyone.

Who it’s great for: Adults who are looking for an action movie in a book. Jack Reacher fans who can’t wait to read the next in the series. People who have seen either movie and wonder what all the fuss is about.

Erica’s rating: four-shells

I Am Yoga by Susan Verde


Originally published in: 2015

What it’s about: A young girl explains why she does yoga while demonstrating basic poses.

What made me pick it up: It was recommended to me by OverDrive after something I wanted wasn’t available. It’s a weird service that is not nearly close to the mark but does sometimes suggest things that are also of interest. It was a picture book, which I knew I’d go through quickly. It has a very engaging cover and font.

My favorite things: As a yoga fan more than practitioner, I enjoyed the welcoming colors and design of this book. It also offers easy to understand explanations for how yoga can help with stress and health. In the back is a simple guide to basic poses that made me want to stretch for the first time in a while. Or maybe just lay on the ground in corpse pose. That counts too!

Who it’s great for: Parents who want to introduce yoga to their child. Anyone who enjoys bright colors and engaging illustration. Adults who want a brief guide to basic yoga.

Erica’s rating: four-shells

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple


Originally published in: 2012

What it’s about: Bee Fox, daughter of the titular Bernadette, looking for her mother after a string of dramatic incidents occur and she disappears.

What made me pick it up: I’ve had this book recommended to me repeatedly in the past few years. It’s been touted as “fun”. I’ve also participated in recommending it to people for our library’s reader’s advisory service, and I was finally curious to see what it’s all about. And I had it on audio, which makes reading that much more enticing.

My favorite things: The narrator of this audiobook is excellent. I highly recommend listening to it. I also really liked the characters of Bee and Bernadette. I thought the author incorporated that snide, upper crust, private school stereotype well. I also enjoyed the bit of unreliable narration and the mostly-plausible missed connections and misunderstandings that drove everything haywire.

Who it’s great for: Adults. Older teens. Anyone looking to suspend disbelief. Those who like things too neatly tied up at the end. Readers in pursuit of a short, entertaining read.

Erica’s rating: three-shells