Recent Reviews

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African Icons: Ten People Who Shaped History Cover Image
African Icons

STAFF REVIEW: This book is wonderful in so many ways! Start with the presentation.The illustrations accompanying each of the biographical chapters are perfect, the portraits by Hillary D. Wilson colored and detailed beautifully. The graphic patterns through each chapter add to the character of the book as they are drawn from the specific historical periods represented by the individuals. And then the words, and the people featured. We learn so little about the history of the African continent during our lives. In most of our educations it doesn't appear until we reach the period of enslavement. And this despite it having being long established that this was the birthplace of humanity. So who were the equivalents of the British Kings, the Japanese Samurai? This is what this book is about - providing a history of Africa through the stories of ten of its leading people. Here you will learn about Queens and warriors and men whose wealth would (if converted to today's money) make them the richest men ever to live. This book fills a gap in all our bookshelves. It should be in every school library, every classroom, and every home. Recommended by Hannah

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A-Okay Cover Image

A-Okay is the graphic novel I didn’t know I needed, and I bet a lot of kids need it, too. Why do we never talk about acne in fiction?! This semi-autobiographical story follows Jay, an eighth-grader with severe acne that came out of nowhere. When nothing else seems to work, he starts taking Accutane, a powerful skin-clearing drug with awful side effects. Jay struggles to find friends and avoid bullies at school but takes pride in a newfound sense of style that distracts from his slowly fading acne. Meanwhile, he’s finally figuring out his asexuality, but not without a few misunderstandings. As a former Accutane patient myself, I loved this one. Recommended by Mary

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The Golden Hour Cover Image
The Golden Hour

Traumatized after witnessing an instance of gun violence, Manuel returns to school feeling anxious and withdrawn, but when he’s paired with Sebastian and Caysha for a group art project, the three become fast friends. They bond over school bus rides to Sebastian’s house in the country outside of their Kansas town, where he’s raising a bucket calf for 4-H. Manuel anchors himself in moments of panic by taking pictures with his phone, and his eye for photography leads him to the county fair as well. The Golden Hour is a sweet story of smalltown friends, with gorgeous art and coloring and important messages about trauma and mental health. They’re even a hint of baby queer love. Recommended by Mary.

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Call Me Athena: Girl from Detroit Cover Image
Call Me Athena

Call Me Athena was inspired by the author’s grandmother, Mary, the daughter of French and Greek immigrants. In 1930s Detroit, Mary is fiery, her twin sister is tame—Mary doesn’t want to be a Good Greek Girl. Her story unfolds in bundles of graceful verse, alternating with chapters about each of her parents, from before they came to America. Despite the generational gap, their stories mirror each other, and Colby Cedar Smith includes fascinating endnotes that provide context to historical references—to WWI and the city of Detroit—which are brought to life with the electricity of love at first sight. Mary’s tale is that of a feminist Cinderella. Recommended by Mary

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Cat & Cat Adventures: The Quest for Snacks Cover Image
Cat & Cat Adventures: The Quest for Snacks

Squash and Ginny aren’t ordinary cats. As soon as their owner leaves the house, the cats sneak off to their secret lair to dream up their next adventure. Unfortunately, they’ve run out of snacks—this calls for a snack potion! But in order to make the potion, Squash and Ginny need three special ingredients from far off places. Along their journey, they’ll face great challenges, engage in friendly competition, make new friends, and honor each other’s strengths. This is a cute and silly story with some lovely lessons—I’m also obsessed with one-eyed Squash! Recommended by Mary

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Tidesong Cover Image

Sophie is a young witch growing up with the weight of the expectations of her family on her still young shoulders. One day, to prepare her for her entrance audition to a prestigious magic school, she is sent to live with her aunt and cousin to train. While there her frustrations at her lack of knowledge and training, and her low self-belief lead to a small incident that risks destabilizing the world (or at least the local coast)! The art work in this graphic novel is beautiful, reminiscent of the worlds created by Studio Ghibli in films such as Kiki, Spirited Away, and Howl’s Moving Castle. Sophie is a great character who children and adults alike will identify with. This book is great for learning about self-acceptance, family, love, and friendship. Recommended by Mary

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The Last House on Needless Street Cover Image
The Last House on Needless Street

Ward's Last House on Needless Street had me on tenterhooks from the first sentence. The characters are delightfully unsettling, reminiscent of figures we may recognize but altogether their own entities. The atmosphere of the story is claustrophobic, the air is stale and sour. It wraps around the reader and squeezes. The plot unfurls in a stuttering, looped fashion, as more questions appear with each answer given. There are many willfully forgotten truths waiting to be unearthed. Who and what exactly is in the last house on Needless street, and what in god's name is in those woods? Recommended by Jack

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The Speckled Beauty: A Dog and His People Cover Image
Speckled Beauty

A wounded bear of a man and a dog as stubborn and as stubbornly bad as the pet mule he tries to herd. Hardly the makings of a love story, unless you're Rick Bragg. In language as rich as a Southern rib-cracking breakfast, Bragg makes you fall for this dog as he did when it wandered, bloodied and half-starved, into his life when he hardly knew he needed it. Everyone in his family agreed, there was no point in keeping this dirty, confounded animal. But mutual love becomes the irrefutable point. And after reading Speckled Beauty I'm smitten with both of them. Recommended by Kelly

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Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law Cover Image

After many best-sellers, Mary Roach has mastered the art of delivering unpalatable messages by marinating them in humor. Documenting a 15th century medieval lawsuit against a caterpillar eating crops is just one example of how she uses our chuckles to help us think across the species barrier. Though humans know that we have a negative impact on plants and animals and their habitats nearly every time we step foot out the door, Roach helps us connect the dots between our and other beings' behaviors and needs that conflict and what needs to happen to nudge the edges of this fine border between the species so that we can more peacefully coexist. Recommended by Kelly

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Hao: Stories Cover Image

Wow. This book is beautiful, in all the ways possible. Each story focuses on a woman adapting to a change or a new situation or an event. Ye Chun captures the uncertainty, the fear, the power, the frustration, the determination of her characters perfectly. Each story is an intense journey, written in a language that evokes feelings and surroundings. I am not normally a fan of short stories, yet I was pulled into this collection immediately and was unable to put the book down until I turned the final page. These wonderful stories are bound in a beautiful book, which explores the evolution of Chinese writing throughout, with characters and their pictographic origins featuring in many of the stories. A must read in the coming months. Recommended by Hannah.