What’s it about: A little boy facing his fears and jumping off the diving board.
What made me pick it up: It looked summery and fun.
My favorite things: I really like the father-son relationship. The dad is supportive of Jabari’s struggle for independence but lets him know he can take his time getting there. I really liked Jabari’s sense of adventure, even when he was afraid. The realistic depiction of fear was also nice. I liked the message that you can do things you are afraid of and that sometimes that takes more time to warm up to than you might think.
Who it’s great for: Littles trying to be brave. Intrepid swimmers. Young adventurers.
What’s it about: A woman working a soul-sucking job as a programming for a robotics company is gifted a mysterious, and possibly magical, sourdough starter.
What made me pick it up: I adored Sloan’s first book, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore, so was delighted to see he had another one coming out. I recommend the audio.
My favorite things: I love how Sloan infuses realistic fiction with tiny fantastical elements that are wonderfully bizarre. I’m so curious where he got the idea for magical sourdough starter. Anyway, this book will have you salivating over the protagonist’s newfound passion for baking delicious bread but also scratching your head while trying to figure out the tiny mysteries. This isn’t as great of a scale as Mr. Penumbra but it is full of zany, enjoyable characters, bits of humor, and low-key high jinks.
Who it’s great for: Readers looking for a bit of magic in their reality. Fans of Sloan. Anyone looking for a tiny adventure.
What it’s about: A little girl named Maple and the namesake tree that is her best friend.
What made me pick it up: I’m a lifelong maple tree and maple syrup fan so when I saw the name of this book I checked it out.
My favorite things: I love the depiction of Maple’s relationship with the tree. How it listens to her and doesn’t mind if she’s too energetic or loud. I really liked how she lays under the tree and watches the leaves rustle. It reminded me of many afternoons spent doing just that when I was little and made me want to go outside and do it again. But most of all I enjoyed the tiny surprise at the end.
Who it’s great for: Tree lovers. Rambunctious little ones and parents of them.
What it’s about: Kolbert talks about how we (humans) may be orchestrating the sixth major mass extinction on Earth and the possible consequences.
What made me pick it up: I tried to read The Ends of the World and while it was good, I didn’t finish it. When I found this book available on audio I remembered it being similar in theme and highly recommended by Jon Stewart a few years ago so picked it up.
My favorite things: I learned so much about past extinction events (the ones before the dinosaurs) as well as the diverse evolutionary backgrounds of humans (I might be 4% Neanderthal). It does a great job of exploring how other extinctions occurred and why our current situation appears to be the same, if happening at a faster clip. It’s horrifying to think that more species than we are aware of are presently dying out without our knowledge, but honestly not all that surprising. Tl;dr – this isn’t good for humans either so let’s get it together.
Who it’s great for: Readers interested in the history of Earth. People concerned for the future of our planet and our species. Animal and plant lovers. Science nerds.
What it’s about: An orphaned boy living in a train station in Paris where he steals food to survive and takes care of the clocks.
What made me pick it up: Abby said it contained a lot illustrations so it was practically a graphic novel.
My favorite things: This book is like reading through a silent film. The illustrations are breathtaking, and rightly so, since this was awarded the Caldecott Medal in 2008 for illustrated work. I don’t think I’ve felt so strongly for a character since Harry Potter. Now this is no HP but there are a lot of similarities. It follows a boy on his own as he makes friends and works to solve a mystery before time runs out all while trying to protect his secrets. Magic might be involved. This was heartfelt and also very fun. Plus it flies by so the 533 pages are done in a blink. Seriously, I started this after work and was so drawn in I finished it in one sitting.
Who it’s great for: Readers of all ages. HP fans. Film buffs, especially from the early days of movies. Those looking for adventure.
What it’s about: Illustrator Satrapi’s childhood in and out of Iran during and just after the revolution.
What made me pick it up: I had read Persepolis and Persepolis 2, graphic novels by Satrapi, and was curious to see how they had been turned into a film.
My favorite parts: This was a very faithful retelling of Satrapi’s graphic novels, with pieces moved around in just the right way to tell it visually without it being dryly chronological. I actually think her illustrations work better as animations so I highly enjoyed the movie. It is in French as well (with English subtitles), so Francophiles can rejoice!
Who it’s great for: Readers of Satrapi’s books. Anyone interested in Iran, especially during the revolution and its aftermath.
What it’s about: A young teen girl dealing with a new school and a new family situation while finding her place on a new track team.
What made me pick it up: I’ve been wanting to read something by this author for a while. When I saw this audio was available I placed a hold.
My favorite parts: As a former track runner I enjoyed the depictions of how important running is for a runner, as well as how much it is a team sport even though it seems so individualistic. Made me want to run a relay again. I also enjoyed how much this was a just a plain every day story about a regular girl and her situation and how she is dealing with it. It was incredibly authentic both in relationships and experiences.
Who it’s great for: Older chapter book readers looking for a good, but realistic, story. Those looking for proof that you can come through any situation. Runners and wannabe runners.
What it’s about: A modern southern gothic story set in a contemporary rural Mississippi Gulf Coast community chronicling a family’s struggles with poverty, addiction, incarceration, and the ghosts of past injustices.
What made me pick it up: I read Ward’s early novel Salvage the Bones last year and was excited to pick up her newest work.
My favorite things: Sing, Unburied, Sing is beautifully written and almost painful to read from the first page. The climax, however inevitable, left me stunned and heartbroken – but I’m here for it. The saddest parts of Ward’s stories don’t feel like cheap shots or emotional manipulation the way writing sometimes comes across. Instead, it feels honest and necessary. I love the way she seamlessly incorporates ghosts and spirits into the fabric of this family’s life.
Who it’s great for: Southern gothic readers; fans of Beloved.