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Best Books of 2018 According to Me: Young Adult

24 Dec

Here we go…installment number three of the best books of the year…according to me. I read these, I loved these, and I think you should read them too.

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

I read this early in the year because my library was fortunate enough to host Dhonielle Clayton last February (she’s delightful, by the way). OH MY GOODNESS what a story. What a setting. I wanted to be in the palace with Camellia, experiencing all the beauty and opulence. I wanted my mail delivered by tiny dirigible. I wanted a teacup elephant. But then I wanted most definitely NOT to be there because that princess is…creepy and awful. This is the best kind of fantasy – incredible world-building and a story that will keep you glued to the pages. Meanwhile it’s also a commentary on the commerce of beauty. I can’t wait for the sequel!

Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

Darius Kellner struggles with social norms. He doesn’t fit in anywhere. He doesn’t relate to his father, whom he describes as “the ubermensch”, even though they share a diagnosis of depression. He feels he’s not Persian enough to fit in with his mother’s side of the family either. When his parents decide to take a trip to Iran to see his grandparents, Darius feels even more disconnected to his family. Until he meets Sohrab, a neighbor boy, who might just be the first person Darius connects with – and his first real friend.

Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

It’s easy to see why this book was a finalist for the National Book Award – it’s heartbreaking, hopeful, and beautiful. Krosoczka tells the story, through words and pictures, of his own youth. Raised by his grandparents as his mother was in and out of jail dealing with a heroin addiction, he found solace and comfort in art. His tough-but-loving grandparents supported him completely, and this really is a love letter to them – and to his mother, with whom he maintained a written relationship. The story includes artwork and letters from his youth.

Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee

I absolutely adored Lee’s The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue and this, a continuation of Felicity’s story, I think I love even more. Set a year after the first adventure, Felicity has been struggling to make her dream of studying medicine come true. When the opportunity arises to meet her medical idol, she jumps at the chance – albeit under false pretenses. From Zurich to Algiers to a secret island, this story is filled with adventure, drama, badass women, and mythical creatures. Oh – and for those concerned, Percy and Monty make an appearance too.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

This tale told in verse most deservedly won the National Book Award. Xiomara pours her feelings into poetry, which she writes only for herself. But when she struggles with the wishes of her traditional Dominican parents, the Church, and a burgeoning (but secret) love life, she finds an outlet in the school’s poetry club.  If you have the opportunity, listen to Elizabeth Acevedo read her story – it’s infinitely more powerful when read in the slam poetry style Acevedo speaks so well. This book will lodge itself in your heart.

Pride by Ibi Zoboi

This retelling of Pride and Prejudice, set in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, tackles issues of racism, classism and gentrification in one really engaging story. When Darius Darcy and his family move into a renovated brownstone on Zuri Benitez’s block, Zuri is absolutely sure they have nothing in common. Darius is haughty, wealthy, and and doesn’t fit in their close-knit community of families who have lived there for years. When thrown more and more together, however, they just might find some common ground.

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Stevie, a true crime aficionado, gets the chance of a lifetime when she’s accepted into Ellingham Academy, a boarding school where, years ago, one of the greatest unsolved mysteries happened. Stevie is, naturally, determined to solve the crime. And then one of her classmates ends up dead. Told in two time periods, we (and Stevie) must determine – are the two crimes related? This is book one of a trilogy and I absolutely CANNOT WAIT for the next installment.

Well, there you have it. In three posts, my favorite kids’ and YA books of the year. What were your favorites? What are you looking forward to in 2019?

 

Best Books of 2018 According to Me: Middle Grade (Plus One Early Reader)!

21 Dec

It’s part 2 of “books I think are completely awesome that happened to be published in 2018!” Up now: middle grade fiction

For those not as immersed in the book world as I am, “middle grade” means fiction for elementary school-aged kids who are confident readers. So – no controlled vocabulary, just really great stories.

However, I’ve included one early reader because it’s awesome and needs to be recognized. It’s not for brand new readers, but for those gaining confidence who are ready for short chapters and a full story.

Enjoy!

EARLY READER

Meet Yasmin by Saadia Faruqi, illustrated by Hatem Aly

Yasmin is a 2nd grader with spirit! At school or at home with her Pakistani-American family, she finds creative solutions for her challenges. Newly independent readers will find much with which they can relate!

MIDDLE GRADE

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

Amal dreams of being a teacher. But when an accidental run-in with the her small Pakistani village’s corrupt landlord occurs, she must become his servant in order to pay off her family’s debt. Life on the landlord’s estate is difficult, but soon Amal becomes aware of dealings that may enable her and others to bring about the landlord’s demise. At once heartbreaking and hopeful, this is a story that will leave you cheering.

Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi

Fans of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series will love meeting Aru! In fact, this book is one of the new “Rick Riordan Presents” imprint titles! When Aru accidentally frees the Sleeper, whose job it is to awaked the God of Destruction, she must find a way to trap him before the world ends. She is joined in her search by a new friend, and the two discover that they are both destined for the task. Filled with quirky characters and Hindu mythology, this story will keep you turning pages!

Breakout by Kate Messner

Life in Wolf Creek centers somewhat around the prison. Many of the town’s inhabitants work there. So when two prisoners escape into the woods around town, everyone’s on edge. Nora Tucker planned to spend her summer working on her journalism, and now she has something to write about she hadn’t planned on. Through her writing and that of Elidee, a new classmate who’s only recently arrived in Wolf Creek, we learn how their lives are upended by the escape – in completely different ways. Contains themes of friendship and injustice that middle grade readers will understand.

The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty

I received an ARC of this at ALA Annual and I couldn’t wait to start reading it. It hit all the right “quirky girl sets off on unexpected adventure” notes for me! Bronte, upon learning her absent parents have died, must set off to fulfill the terms of their will in order to inherit their fortune. She has been tasked with visiting all of her aunts in far-flung parts of the country and delivering gifts left to them by her parents. She soon finds, however, that these gifts, and her travels, might have more meaning than originally though. Contains dragons, evil kings, water sprites, and more!

Front Desk by Kelly Yang

Based on the author’s personal experience, Front Desk tells the story of Mia Tang, who moves to the United States with her parents from China. When her parents take a job managing a motel, Mia becomes the de-facto front desk attendant as her parents are busy cleaning rooms. Secretly her parents are also hiding other immigrants who have no where else to go – and hoping that the mean motel owner, Mr. Yao, won’t find out. Mia faces additional challenges at school, where she wants to be able to write well, but struggles with English. Mia is a fighter and a creative thinker, though, and through her hard work and determination she finds solutions.

Harbor Me by Jaqueline Woodson

When six children of diverse experience are left alone in a classroom for one hour every Friday afternoon, what might happen? In the case of these six, honesty, growth, understanding, and friendship happen. While it takes them time to trust, eventually, they talk about their fears, hopes, and challenges and discover that each one can be a harbor for the others.

Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina

Merci Suarez is having trouble fitting in at her private school. Edna Santos keeps picking on her and as a reluctant member of the Sunshine Buddies she has to help a new boy settle in to the school. She’s also feeling out of control at home, where her grandfather has started acting strangely. In this engaging and real story of family and friends, Merci navigates change and challenges with determination and heart.

Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani

Caught between two newly-separated countries, India and Pakistan, and two religions, Nisha is forced to leave her home with her father and brother and make the long difficult trek to safety. This is a part of history I know little about, and their harrowing journey, as described in letters Nisha writes to her deceased mother, was heart-wrenching. This book, and Nisha, will stick with you for a long time.

The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson

If you love mysteries mixed with some history, this book is for you! Candice’s grandmother once had a tennis court dug up in search of a treasure – and now her granddaughter is following in her footsteps. Candice, staying in her grandmother’s house for the summer, finds a letter that contains information about a family that was long ago run out of the small town of Lambert, South Carolina. A mysterious person has left clues to help Candice and her friend Brandon unravel the truth about what happened to the family, and if they do, they’ll win a fortune! Meanwhile they learn some dark truths about past injustices while facing their own challenges with bullying and racism.

Sanity and Tallulah by Molly Brooks

A graphic novel about best friends, living on a space station, with a pet three-headed kitty named Princess, Sparkle, Destroyer of Worlds. When kitty escapes, can the friends find him again before he destroys there home? WHAT MORE DO YOU NEED IN A STORY? NOTHING.

The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon

Our story begins when Caleb and his brother, Bobby Gene, swap their baby sister for a bag of fireworks. This sets in motion their extraordinary summer spent with Styx Malone, a boy in the foster system whom they happen to meet in the forest behind their house. Styx introduces them to the “elevator trade”, in which the boys make increasingly larger trades. Their ultimate goal? A grasshopper green moped. Styx is older and wiser, and the boys can’t believe their good fortune in finding a friend like him. But what if Styx needs the boys as much as they need him?

Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani DasGupta

A girl growing up in New Jersey has been told by her parents her whole lift that she’s a princess, and she never believes it – until, on her 12th birthday, her parents disappear and two princes come to take her to the Kingdom Beyond Seven Oceans and Thirteen Rivers to fulfill her destiny and rescue them. On their adventure they’ll meet the demon queen, a snarky talking bird, the Serpent King (who has a giant python from whom they must steal a gem), and cross a river made of rubies. Oh, and there are flying horses and baby stars, too. If you’re a fan of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson or Magnus Chase series, you’ll love meeting Kiranmala!

Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier

Nan Sparrow has always been a climber – a child who climbs into and cleans chimneys. It’s a difficult life, especially after her guardian leaves mysteriously when she is very young. When a suspicious accident happens, she’s almost killed but survives thanks to a golem – a “monster” and protector who becomes her friend. Set in Victorian England and filled with historical references, this tale of survival and true friendship will warm your heart like a freshly-stoked fire.

Best Books of 2018 According to Me: Board and Picture Books

18 Dec

One of the things I’ve done for the past few years is offer, on facebook, to make suggestions of books for friends and family to purchase for the younger ones in their lives.* I’ve made suggestions for babies as young as 2 months up through YA, and I absolutely LOVE it. Seriously, sharing and recommending books is one of the absolute perks of being a children’s librarian. Not only do I get to READ these great books but then I get to TELL PEOPLE ABOUT THEM SO THEY CAN READ THEM TOO? Dreamy.

I’ve already made suggestions for those that asked for them, but I thought it might be helpful to make a post listing ALL of my faves for the year. You know, in case anyone still needs ideas. I’m totally not doing this for myself.**

So…drum roll….here are MY favorite board and picture books. Middle grade, graphic novels, and YA coming in separate posts!:

BOARD BOOKS 

(Babies – Toddlers. Not all board books are created equal; ask me if you  need specific age recommendations!)

Here, George by Sandra Boynton, illus. by George Booth (yes, of New Yorker Cartoon fame)

This book is so sweet and simple. George moves hardly at all, but his sentiment comes through. And the ending? Perfection.

Huggy the Python Hugs Too Hard (Wee Beasties) Cover Huggy the Python Hugs Too Hard/Roary the Lion Roars Too Loud (Wee Beasties Series) by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Alex G. Griffiths

A little social/emotional learning for the youngest set, with delightful line drawings. Can you show Huggy how to be gentle?

PICTURE BOOKS

Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse by Marcy Campbell, illustrated by Corinna Luykin

Adrian Simcox is telling everyone he has a horse – but Chloe knows that’s just not possible. She gets angrier and angrier at him for lying, until something changes her mind. The illustrations are the star of this story – filling each page with color and texture.

 

Baby Goes to Market by Atinuke, illustrated by Angela Brooksbank

Early math! As baby rides on mama’s back all around the market, he is given treats by various vendors. He eats one, but puts the rest in the basket on mama’s head. How many are left? The brightly colored illustrations effectively portray the energy and happiness of the market.

 

Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin

Little Star loves baking mooncakes with mama. But she musn’t eat them yet! What happens when Little Star just can’t resist a nibble? This original tale reads like a folktale and explains the phases of the moon.

 

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López

Beautifully illustrated story about how we all begin feeling alone and different, but sharing our stories may bring us together. A perfect book to share with someone starting a new school.

 

Drawn Together by Minh Le, illustrated by Dan Santat

A boy and his grandfather, who speak different languages, find a common language: drawing. The illustrations start in two distinct styles that eventually merge!

 

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

Morales tells the story of her own arrival in the United States with her young son. They faced much uncertainty but brought their dreams and strength with them. Soon, the library and the many wonderful stories it contained helped them feel at home. Gorgeously illustrated with found objects which tell as much of a story as the words, this book will find a place in your heart.

 

Giraffe Problems by Jory John, illustrated by Lane Smith

Beginning with the sentence “I feel bad about my neck” (a nod to Nora Ephron?) giraffe laments the many challenges he faces. A turtle tries to convince him of the benefits of having a giraffe neck. This companion to Penguin Problems is laugh-out-loud funny and must be read aloud.

 

Fox and Chick: The party and other stories by Sergio Ruzzier

Fox and chick are different, but they are friends. New readers will enjoy their (well, mostly chick’s) silly antics, told in a series of short vignettes. Sure to make you smile!

 

How to Be a Lion by Ed Vere

This British import features the ‘King of the Jungle’ musing on what it means to be a lion. MUST he be fierce? MUST he roar? His friend Marianne, a duck, helps him figure it all out. Vere’s thick-lined illustrations and limited palette set the right tone.

 

I’m Sad by Michael Ian Black, illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

What if, sometimes, we’re sad for no reason? In this story, a girl and her friend potato (yes, I said potato) try to cheer up their friend flamingo (yes, I said flamingo). While flamingo is grateful for his friends’ efforts, he still feels sad. And that’s okay. This silly yet sweet story validates a child’s feelings.

 

Mad, Mad Bear by Kimberly Gee

Perfectly representing and acknowledging a toddler’s anger at having to leave the park when he’s not ready. Bear is SO mad, but after a bit of time being mad, he feels better. As Mr. Roger’s said, it’s good for kids to learn that feelings don’t last forever. You won’t ALWAYS be mad.

 

Niblet and Ralph by Zachariah O’Hora

Niblet and Ralph are two cats who look very much alike and are friends, but also are, in fact, quite different. When, on an attempt to visit each other, they get mixed up, their people know right away that something isn’t right. Will this mix-up get fixed? O’Hora’s retro art style fills me with happiness. Also, the next cat I get will be named Niblet BECAUSE.

 

Penguin and Tiny Shrimp Don’t Do Bedtime by Cate Berry illustrated by Charles Santoso

I’ve already shared this in storytime a couple of times and it’s a winner. Penguin and Tiny Shrimp (see? It’s already funny) try a number of stall tactics to convince the reader it’s not time for bed. The illustrations are filled with silly details that will demand multiple readings.

 

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld

When Taylor’s blocks are knocked over, they are sad and mad. Lots of animals suggest ways to feel better, but none of them suit. The rabbit? The rabbit just…listens. And this turns out to be just what Taylor needs. A beautiful sweet validation of feelings.

 

Thank You, Omu by Oge Mora

The scent of Omu’s stew draws everyone in the neighborhood to her home, and she gives them all a taste. But soon there’s nothing left! The cut-paper illustrations add to the story’s warmth. This tale of generosity and friendship will make your heart smile. And want to eat stew.

 

We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins

Starting school is HARD – especially if you are a little dinosaur in a class full of humans! This little dino is learning how to make friends, and that includes NOT snacking on her classmates. How would she feel if someone wanted to eat her? This is easily one of the funniest, and best, early-elementary-appropriate first-day-of-school picture books out there.

Stay tuned for my middle grade, graphic novel, and YA faves!

*I absolutely can’t take credit for this idea; I stole it from one of my many genius children’s librarian friends.

**I am 1000% doing this for myself. I. LOVE. BOOKS!

Book Review: The Monsters’ Monster by Patrick McDonnell

14 Oct

It’s been QUITE A WHILE since I posted a book review. Perhaps that’s because I’ve not felt inspired to do so in a while? Maybe, maybe not. At any rate, I felt VERY inspired to write about Patrick McDonnell’s (he’s the creator of the Mutts comic and several other lovely picture books) new story, The Monsters’ Monster.

Grump, Groan and Gloom ‘n Doom are monsters. At least, they THINK so. The like to SMASH, BASH and CRASH, and they live in a gloomy castle on a hill above a monster-fearing town. However, they can’t decide which of them is the MOST monsterly. All of their debates on the subject end in a brawl (these are two of the glorious vocabulary words used in the book: debate and brawl). So, Grump, Groan and Gloom ‘n Doom decide to solve the problem by making the BIGGEST, BADDEST monster EVER. They gather supplies (like gunk, glue, and a smelly old shoe) and, in true Frankenstein fashion, raise their monster up to the heavens for a jolt of lightning. When their monster is lowered to the ground and begins to tear off his bandages, they cheer “It’s alive!”

And then the monster utters his first words: “DANK YOU.”

Wait, what? Who is this BIG, BAD monster saying thank you? Monsters don’t say  that! But Monster finally plows through a wall and heads toward the village to the bakery. Grump, Groan and Gloom ‘n Doom  cheer and follow closely behind, hoping to hear the “howls and yowls” of the bakery’s inhabitants. But when Monster emerges, having NOT smashed up the bakery, with a small white paper bag, what will they do?

This is JUST the right kind of not-so-scary story that’s right for young kids. It’s a bit long for toddlers, and introduces lots of great new words to add to a preschooler’s vocabulary. And the message of happiness at simply being alive? LOVELY. McDonnell’s illustrations are silly and filled with detail, but the muted shades of green, orange and grey are just right for the slightly-eerie tone. Add this to your Halloween or Monster storytime ASAP. You WON’T regret it – and neither will the kids who get to enjoy it!

DANK YOU! 

Caldecott Challenge Book Review: Nothing At All by Wanda Gág

3 Jan

“He was not very tall
Nor yet very small;
He looked like nothing,
Like nothing at all.”

Nothing-at-all is perfectly contented to be invisible as long as he can do all of the same things his visible brothers can do. Until, one day, the brothers are adopted by a boy and a girl, who don’t take Nothing-at-all because they cannot see him. Nothing-at-all follows but soon loses them. A friendly Jackdaw, whose task it is to “carry home everything I see,” has helpfully found a Book of Magic which contains a spell to make something that is Nothingy into Somethingy. Needless to say, it works, and Nothing-at-all is able to rejoin his brothers.

Wanda Gag’s illustrations have an undulating quality. The soft pastels (?) seem to move. I loved this book – and if it weren’t so long I would surely share it with the preschoolers! They’d have such fun with the “I’m busy/Getting dizzy” part!

Nothing At All won the Caldecott Honor in 1942.

The Caldecott Challenge 2012: Nerdcott!

2 Jan

The end of last week I saw some kids’ librarian folks on twitter talking about “#nerdcott” and decided to check it out. I followed the twitter trail to this post by LibLaura5, describing a challenge she was setting to read ALL of the Caldecott winners (not just the medalists, but honors too!). Well, I love a good (do-able) challenge, so I decided that I’m in! I’m pretty knowledgeable about winners and honors from the last 15-or-so years (or at least the last 12 years that I’ve been working as a librarian), but the early years? Not so much. Did you know that the Caldecott Medal was first awarded in 1938? And that there are over 300 Caldecott medalists and honor books?

I’d better get crackin’. The best thing about Laura’s challenge is that THERE ARE NO RULES. You don’t have to read the books in any particular order (which is good because some of them we have in the library, and some I will have to request from other libraries or ILL). You don’t have to set a time limit, if you don’t want to. So, my personal goal is to simply READ THEM ALL. Preferrably this year.

I’ve already started from the bottom up; again, not in order, but that’s how I’m keeping track: I’m ordering the books from the earlier years first and reading them as they come in. I read Andy and the Lion and Barkis this morning, and have Wee Gillis, Abraham Lincoln, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves on my desk. I probably won’t review all of them here as I really only like to write reviews of books that a) I love and b) feel inspired to write about.

Wanna challenge yourself? Get the full list of Caldecott Medal and Honor books. If you have a blog and want to indicate your participation, Laura has made an icon available.  And remember, if you tweet, don’t forget to add the hashtag #nerdcott so we can all enjoy each other’s company!

 

 

Trailer Tuesday: A Dog is a Dog by Stephen Shaskan

31 Oct

A Dog is a Dog…unless it’s not. This looks to be a fun rhyming book about opposites and animals with a silly surprise that young kids will LOVE! They’ll have a great opportunity to chime in during storytime, like the kids do in the trailer. The illustrations look whimsical and fun. Can’t wait to get my hands on this title by Stephen Shaskan!

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