Lisa Christie posts picks as a former bookseller, a book blogger, and friend of the store! Lisa lives in Norwich with her two active boys, Hank and Mateo and her husband Chris. A nonprofit consultant, Lisa is the founder of Everybody Wins! Vermont, a program that brings reading mentors into local schools. She and Lisa Cadow - another former Norwich bookseller - created The Book Jam, a fun blog about books to "alleviate book jams (e.g., what to read tonight, what to take on that trip to Italy, what to get your mom, your best friend, your brother)." The Book Jam also supports the Norwich Bookstore and other independent booksellers through links to indie web sites and periodic live events.
So, Mascot was one of my favorite books of 2017 and Mr. John's second book - The Other, Better Me - may be my favorite kids' book of 2019 thus far. Life for Lola, the heroine, changes dramatically when her teacher asks her class to pick one thing about themselves that could be different and write about how their lives, and they themselves, would change in this "other "scenario”. Lola decides to imagine life with the father she has never met. Then, she and her best friends, aspiring detective Kiana and possible boyfriend Nick, decide to actually find her dad. In doing so, they quickly learn life is never as simple as it seems. The author unfolds their story with complete compassion and lovely humor. As a bonus for those of us who appreciate librarians and books, a librarian and a book play an important role in Lola's life. Basically, I loved The Other, Better Me and recommend it for anyone looking for a great heroine and a good story.
Memoirs often pull at one's heartstrings and this one definitely does. But it is also full of hope -- possibly because as we read we know Ms. Grimes emerged from her childhood of traumas (estranged but loving father, mother with severe mental health issues, poverty, foster care) to become an award-winning poet. My favorite moment of hope emerges at the end when, as a young woman, she has the courage to approach James Baldwin and tell him she is a writer too, and ask him to look at her work. He does so; and then he provides his phone number for her to call. I love it because it shows Mr. Baldwin as a caring person, but mostly because it shows that Ms. Grimes had the gumption to believe in herself when her circumstances could have caused the opposite response. Written with a poet's excellent word choices, this book is for everyone.
I loved this novel about Amara and her search for her place within her far flung family. She, her dad, her mom, and her soon-to-be-born sister, inhabit and love Beavertown, Oregon. Here, her father has his dream job with NIKE, her mom owns her own clothing business, and Amara can count on her best friend Titus. However, her dad's family resides in Harlem, a place she has requested to see for the first time as her 12th birthday gift. This requests sets in motion a series of questions and events regarding secrets (her beloved grandma died the day Amara was born) and reconciliation (her dad has not spoken to her grandpa since her grandma died). Woven with important reminders of sites in NYC and important African-Americans, this novel will have you relating, smiling, and thinking differently upon its completion. Ms. Watson is the recipient of the Coretta Scott King Award and a Newbery Honor winning author; this book reminds us all why.
Reminiscent of The War That Saved My Life, one of my son's favorite books of all time, Love to Everyone tells the story of WWI through the eyes of a young English girl, Clarry Penrose. Clarry manages to find good in everyone and everything. This proves a difficult task as her father isn’t fond of children and her mother died days after she was born, a fact her brother blames her for and takes awhile to forgive. She has to fight to be educated as her dad thinks girls don't need schooling. She also only sees her favorite person in the world - her cousin Rupert- once a year. in annual trips to Cornwall. All of this is minor to the issues WWI creates for her family, her stalwart friends, her town, and her country. A lovely tale about a girl who refuses to accept the fact many doors are closed to her dreams; and one that brings WWI into the reader's heart with realistic descriptions of war time realities on the home front and in the trenches. A truly a gem of a book for fans of historical fiction and well-told tales.
Mr. Schmidt, of Wednesday Wars fame, may have just become my favorite author for kids. OK, maybe that is Kwame Alexander, or Jacqueline Woodson or ... Anyway, Mr. Schmidt's newest novel is a superb look at what happens when tough things occur in life. In this case, the tough things include the unexpected death of a younger brother and a father who finds another family to love and is never coming back. But as Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick, a butler who shows up on the family doorstep one day, continually reminds Carter, the narrator of this gem of a book, life is difficult and one has two choices in life: either be a gentleman or a bore. Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick is hanging around to ensure Carter chooses to be a gentleman. Told with humor (e.g., fabulous scenes of learning how to drink proper tea and play cricket) and love, this tale of how the lives of Carter, his three sisters, and his mom are forever changed when a butler arrives on their doorstep. Think of a portly Mary Poppins who makes you walk the dog and clean the dishes.
A great book about high school life today. The main character, Bijan Miajidi, is pulled from the obscurity of JV basketball to the varsity limelight, which he hopes will help make it easier to talk to his crush Elle. Instead, he is targeted by an internet photo doctored to make him appear as a terrorist. As he tells the story of what happens next, his narrator voice is joined by his internal narrators - ESPN basketball commentators Reggie Miller and Kevin Harlan - providing color commentary and comic relief to the often difficult events of the novel. In short, Ms. Farizhan compassionately and effectively covers coming out stories, cyberbullying, pressure to get into the right colleges, sports, and racism, without preaching, in a true page-turner.
A great book for younger readers (4th-8th grade) that helps them understand Black Lives Matter, while also providing insights into navigating middle school, friendships, teachers, and the ever-evolving process of figuring out exactly who they are. Ms. Ramee's main character, a 7th grade African American girl named Shay, hates to get in trouble, doesn't understand her older sister's insistence that being black is embedded in certain traits, and honestly, really just wants to get out of Middle School with her friendships intact, her grades their usual A+ level, and perhaps a cute boyfriend. The world is conspiring against all her wishes, and her hand is forced when a local white police woman is acquitted for shooting a black man. Shay will make you assess what is important for you to stand up for, how your unique traits manifest your stand, and ideally to actually stand up for something. I hate to compare it to The Hate U Give, but Ms. Ramee's debut novel is reminiscent of Ms. Thomas's unflinching look at what it is like to be a Black Adolescent in the USA today, and that is high praise.
History, Civil Rights, and a huge mystery involving buried treasure, hope, and mistakes intertwine in this excellent chapter book. The adventure begins when Candice finds a letter, in her grandmother's attic, describing a long ago mistreatment of a black woman Siobhan Washington and offering a treasure to anyone who solves the puzzle contained in the letter. Years ago, Candice’s grandma lost her job when she tried to solve this mystery. Candice’s hope to avenge her grandma leads her to befriend Brandon, the quiet book-loving boy across the street. Together they uncover a past that their town would rather forget. Mr. Johnson’s ability to mix finding friends, divorce, poverty, wealth, bullying, lgbtq issues, single parenting, the historical mistreatment of blacks in America, sports, and growing up into a page turning mystery is a joy to read. This is a powerful novel about the Jim Crow South, and the fact everyone has the ability to change and be redeemed. Enjoy!
I laughed. I cried. I snorted from laughing and crying. And, I loved this book about baseball, horrific accidents (a dad dies and a son is in a wheelchair), rebuilding muscles and lives, friendships, parents who annoy, and middle school. I might even have to become a Cardinals fan. Reminiscent of my other favorite middle grades baseball novel, Soar, in its scope and unflinching look at tough situations, and how people can inspire as they face every obstacle. You will be so grateful you read this book.
This tale of Jimmy, a middle school aged boy tasked with giving the eulogy for his "very hard to love" cousin, is a superb way to think about all the "hard to love" people we encounter as we go through life and what we may do to be better in all aspects of our dealing with them. The fact Jimmy's suit is way too small and buttons are threatening to pop at any moment is one of many small details that Mr. Schmidt uses with great skill to make the characters, their issues, and the whole plot real. A great debut novel that will have you thinking at the close. Note: also addresses alcoholism, tragic accidents, abuse.
As a mother to two sons, adopted from South America and raised in overwhelmingly white Vermont, this book was truly difficult for me. Chung’s stories of growing up as the rare person of color in her predominantly white community in Oregon and the trauma that she had to work through as a result, hit a little too close to home. Her difficulties with identity and her adoption, tugged hard at my heart and my guilt. Her writing is poignant and pointed as she tells her tale of finding her birth family, exploring her own feelings about motherhood while preparing to give birth for the first time, and discovering what family means to her. In short, this book is a great memoir for anyone interested in the experiences of people of color in the USA, the experiences of adoption in the USA, and how families are formed no matter your race or birth status.
There are books that are so gorgeous when you finish you turn back to page one and start over again. This debut novel is one of them. I was extremely moved by this story, and so sad to see it end that I finished the author's notes and began again, re-reading the first 30 pages before I was ready to let these characters go. Set in Bogota during the height of Pablo Escobar's power, Contreras shows the horrors violence breeds through the eyes of seven year old Chula and her family's maid, Petrona. Loosely based upon actual events in her life, her writing devastates and uplifts with every perfectly placed word.
I was afraid to read this as I thought it would disappoint. It does not. The main character, Aza and her best friend Daisy, a writer of Star Wars fan fiction, suffer through high school, first loves, and homework in Indianapolis. However, Aza also suffers from spiraling thoughts that take over her life. She has an OCD condition that is being treated in a straightforward and insightful manner as this moving tale unfolds.The characters feel real, the situations are challenging, and Mr. Green's writing about teen life propels the reader forward faster than he or she might wish. After finishing the tale with tears in my eyes, perhaps what touched me even more was Mr. Green's matter of fact acknowledgement in the endnotes that mental illness affects his own life, providing resources and solace that those who suffer are not alone.
A superb YA novel about being profiled by police for being black, and how current events, BLM, and politics affect black youth today. In this excellent debut novel, a black student - Justyce McAllister, who is at the top of his class, captain of the debate team, and set for the Ivy League next year - is handcuffed by a police officer and released without physical harm. The psychological toll of being profiled is explored as this novel delves into his life at his mostly white prep school and in his mostly black neighborhood. To help cope, Justyce researches the writings of Martin Luther King Jr, and writes him letters asking for guidance about how to live today. While Mr. King obviously never answers, the letters provide a great premise for thinking about how MLK would have handled life as a black man today. The letters also provide grounding once the novel's action turns extremely ugly. Read it and discuss.
Mr. Reynolds tackles gun violence in an unique and powerful novel. The story unfolds in short bouts of insightful, concise verse over the course of a 60 second elevator ride when Will must decide whether or not to follow the RULES - No crying. No snitching. Revenge. - and kill the person he thinks killed his brother Shawn. With this tale, Mr. Reynolds creates a place to understand the ‘why’ behind the violence that permeates the lives of so many, and perhaps hopefully a place to think about how this pattern might end.
I don't think I have ever read such a well written, honest, and brutal account of sexual assault and its aftermath. This sounds like a horrid reason to pick up a book, and it is horrid to think that the author endured a brutal and life-altering assault at age 12, but the story and Ms. Gay's candid insight offer much more than that. Her analysis of her life after assault, as a morbidly obese woman in a society that abhors fat people, is also brutal. Her memoir is filled with self loathing and big mistakes, but also hope, self love, professional accomplishments, friendships, social commentary, and always, always her body and her relationship with it. If, as a woman, you have ever tried to explain or understand your relationship with your own body, Ms. Gay will help. If, as a man, you have never understood this relationship, Ms. Gay will help you gain some insight. If you want to better understand how people who are obese feel, Ms. Gay offers this gift to you. If you have a complicated relationship with your body, Ms. Gay shows you are not alone. If you just want to spend some time with a talented writer of insight, Ms. Gay's Hunger is your chance.
Mr. Alexander does it again, with help from Ms. Hess; I truly love the books this man creates. Blade is the son of an aging rock star who reacted to the death of Blade's mom with an everlasting and highly dysfunctional descent into addiction and absentee parenting. As the story unfolds, Blade deals with his high school graduation, his father's inability to stay sober, his sister's delusions of grandeur, a broken heart, and a recent revelation he is adopted, by escaping to Ghana to find the birth mother he didn't even know he missed. This is a terrific tale of music, maturing, love, adoption, and finding your way, told in Mr. Alexander's usual sparse, but effecting poetic style (with an added bonus of a great soundtrack list).
As a white mother of Latino boys adopted in infancy from South America, this book is one of the most discomforting and difficult books I have ever read. Then when I looked at the acknowledgements and saw her thanking Transracial Abduction websites, I visited those and did not sleep for many nights. I say this to disclose this review is difficult for me to write. Ms. Ko has crafted a well written, compelling story of Deming, an American boy born to an undocumented Chinese immigrant. After his mother mysteriously disappears one day, he is adopted by a white couple living in the NYC suburbs and renamed Daniel. In light of today's headlines about ICE and immigration, this novel puts stories and faces on those headlines and is incredibly important. The excruciating part for me was the negative way in which transracial adoption was depicted. I am so glad I found this book as it led to a well-told and important tale. I am also glad that it reminded me there are many sides to any story. But honestly, being confronted with opinions and stories that place my life story in a negative light is tough. That said, I am willing to learn from tales that contradict and disrupt my preferred narrative. Needless to say, my teenage son and I have already started to discuss the issues in this book. And to conclude, Ms. Kingsolver's PEN/Bellwether Prize picked an amazing tale, AGAIN. It has left me reeling.
If you ever wondered how Julia, the superb heroine of Code Name Verity was able to do what she did during WWII, this prequel shows the family and upbringing that shaped her. The plot incorporates dead bodies, missing servants, life of the gentry and travellers, and the Scottish countryside of the 1930s. It made me want to re-read Code Name Verity to discover how this new information about her family changes that story for me.
A thriller from one of my favorite people (yes, we are friends). Perfect for fans of Gone Girl or The Girl on a Train.
Sometimes it takes a work of fiction to give life to current events. And sometimes it takes a book for children to give all of us a starting point for conversations about difficult issues. Ms. Thomas has done all of us a service by producing this fresh, enlightening, and spectacular book about the black lives lost at the hands of the police every year in the USA. Starr Carter, the teen she created to put faces on the statistics, straddles two worlds -- that of her poor black neighborhood and that of her exclusive prep school on the other side of town. She believes she is doing a pretty good job managing the differing realities of her life until she witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood friend by a police officer. As the jacket description of this book stated, The Hate U Give “addresses issues of racism and police violence with intelligence, heart, and unflinching honesty". Just as importantly, it is a great story, with fully formed characters who will haunt you, told by a gifted author. Please read this one!
Yes, this is another WWII novel. But this one about the lives of a family of Polish Jews and their efforts to survive the onslaught of the Holocaust and the German and Russian armies, seems especially important in light of current political rhetoric. The fact that all the characters and their escapades, deaths and near-deaths are based on the truths of the author's own family had my heart in my throat at times. A moving debut novel about family, survival, and living.
I so hope there is someone like August Snow - half black, half Mexican, ex-cop with a strong sense of justice and community - looking out for Detroit. The hope this book expresses for Detroit weaves throughout the narrative and Mr. Jones's descriptions of Detroit's decline and partial resurgence make the city an actual character in this thriller. Yes, he makes mistakes and, wow, by the end his body count is way too high for my tastes, but so few books take place in modern day Detroit. Enjoy this one!