Eight more days of school for me! Yes, we are STILL in school through the end of next week. Will it ever arrive? I feel like a little kid waiting for Santa–is it June 28th yet? Is it June 28th yet?
This week’s list is short, but it packs a punch! I’ve featured 10 titles this week, and five of them received multiple starred reviews. I know school is out for many of us, but it’s definitely worth a look for our back-to-school book orders!
Jay Reguero plans to spend the last semester of his senior year playing video games before heading to the University of Michigan in the fall. But when he discovers that his Filipino cousin Jun was murdered as part of President Duterte’s war on drugs, and no one in the family wants to talk about what happened, Jay travels to the Philippines to find out the real story. Hoping to uncover more about Jun and the events that led to his death, Jay is forced to reckon with the many sides of his cousin before he can face the whole horrible truth — and the part he played in it.
RECOMMENDED FOR: Grades 9-12
GENRE: realistic fiction
THEMES: The Philippines, drug war, colonization
READALIKES: Long Way Down (Reynolds), The Border (Shafer)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred, Kirkus starred, Publishers Weekly starred, SLJ starred
WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Part coming-of-age story and part exposé of Duterte’s problematic policies, this powerful and courageous story offers readers a refreshingly emotional depiction of a young man of color with an earnest desire for the truth.” (Kirkus starred review, 15 Apr 2019)
Brody Fair feels like nobody gets him: not his overworked parents, not his genius older brother, and definitely not the girls in the projects set on making his life miserable. Then he meets Nico, an art student who takes Brody to Everland, a ‘knock-off Narnia’ that opens its door at 11:21pm each Thursday for Nico and his band of present-day misfits and miscreants. Here Brody finds his tribe and a weekly respite from a world where he feels out of place. But when the doors to Everland begin to disappear, Brody is forced to make a decision: He can say goodbye to Everland and to Nico, or stay there and risk never seeing his family again.
RECOMMENDED FOR: Grades 7-12
GENRE: fantasy, magical realism
THEMES: friendship, belonging, family problems, LGBT+
READALIKES: Peter Pan (Barrie), Wendy Darling (Oakes), Never, Ever (Shrum)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred, Kirkus starred, Publishers Weekly Annex starred
WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Everland is a lovely conceit amid beautifully realized worlds and wonderfully individual, empathetic characters. The result is a memorable fantasy to occupy a proud place on the shelf beside Peter and Wendy.” (Booklist starred review, 1 May 2019)
From some of your favorite bestselling and critically acclaimed authors–including Sandhya Menon, Anna-Marie McLemore, and Rin Chupeco–comes a collection of interconnected short stories that explore the intersection of family, culture, and food in the lives of thirteen teens.
A shy teenager attempts to express how she really feels through the confections she makes at her family’s pasteleria. A tourist from Montenegro desperately seeks a magic soup dumpling that could cure his fear of death. An aspiring chef realizes that butter and soul are the key ingredients to win a cooking competition that could win him the money to save his mother’s life.
RECOMMENDED FOR: Grades 8+
GENRE: short stories
THEMES: food, love, family, magic
READALIKES: Fresh Ink (Giles), Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America (Zoboi)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred, Publishers Weekly starred
WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “A brilliant multicultural collection that reminds readers that stories about food are rarely just about the food alone.” (Kirkus starred review, 15 Apr 2019)
Weekends are for partying with friends while trying to survive the mindnumbingness that is high school. The countdown to graduation is on, and Skye has her sights set on escaping to art school and not looking back.
But her party-first-ask-questions-later lifestyle starts to crumble when her mom rekindles her romance with the man who betrayed Skye’s boundaries when he was supposed to be protecting her. She was too young to understand what was happening at the time, but now she doesn’t know whether to run as far away from him as possible or give up her dreams to save her little sister. The only problem is that no one knows what he did to her. How can she reveal the secret she’s guarded for so long?
WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “With layered nuance, the novel brings to light the impact of sexual assault and the importance of consent. A somber yet triumphant tale of family and fortitude.” (Kirkus, 1 Apr 2019)
Seventeen-year-old Xochi is alone in San Francisco, running from her painful past: the mother who abandoned her, the man who betrayed her. Then one day, she meets Pallas, a precocious twelve-year-old who lives with her rockstar family in one of the city’s storybook Victorians. Xochi accepts a position as Pallas’s live-in governess and quickly finds her place in the girl’s tight-knit household, which operates on a free-love philosophy and easy warmth despite the band’s growing fame.
But on the night of the Vernal Equinox, as a concert afterparty rages in the house below, Xochi and Pallas perform a riot-grrrl ritual in good fun, accidentally summoning a pair of ancient beings bound to avenge the wrongs of Xochi’s past. She would do anything to preserve her new life, but with the creatures determined to exact vengeance on those who’ve hurt her, no one is safe–not the family Xochi’s chosen, nor the one she left behind.
WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “This tale of found family and recovery weaves an unforgettable punk rock–infused spell.” (Kirkus starred review, 1 May 2019)
Meet Rosalie, a common mole. The first thing you need to know about Rosalie is that she is shaped like a potato. Not a new potato, all cute and round, but a plain old lumpy potato. She may be small. She may be spongy. But never underestimate a mole. I know what you’re thinking: moles are just squinty-eyed beasts that wreck your lawn. You’re right! Those squinty eyes and mounds of dirt are proof that moles have superpowers. There is absolutely nothing common about the common mole.
RECOMMENDED FOR: Grades 2-5
THEMES: animals, moles
READALIKES: Beavers (Poliquin)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred
WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “On almost every page, Frith’s freestyle animal portraits, cutaway views, and glimpses of the casually dressed author scouting out facts echo the narrative’s exuberant tone as well as significant portions of its content. Readers will never again regard these “bionic burrowers” as pests—or, at least, not as ordinary ones.” (Booklist starred, 15 May 2019)
Jat is a boy who wants more from life than collecting coal from the Fire Sea. Newton is a misfit giant, cast out of his homeland for his love of science and reading. Brought together by chance, the two become the best of friends. But when enemy giants threaten to ruin everything, it’s up to Jat and Newton to defend Jat’s village, leading to the journey of a lifetime.In the timeless tradition of The BFG and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, John Himmelman blends adventure and humor to create an unforgettable story of friendship.
WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “While some sections seem to exist as action for action’s sake—and it can get a tad gruesome—the narrative as a whole offers a cohesive adventure story with a few surprise twists. A sweet tale about a different scientific revolution and its rocky start.” (Kirkus, 15 Mar 2019)
Debut author! There was a different sort of piglet in the pigpen one cool spring morning. That “different” one is named Penny, and she’s really not a piglet at all…she’s a puppy. A puppy who gets longer and longer as her piglet siblings get bigger and bigger.
Penny doesn’t understand why she’s different–she only knows that Mama Pig loves her just the same as the rest of the litter. Penny’s siblings are baffled by her peculiar behavior–like digging with her paws instead of her snout, and especially her loud, sharp oink. Good thing Penny likes all the sounds she can make, and when danger strikes and her peculiarities prove to be strengths, the piglets see that sometimes it’s good to be a little different!
RECOMMENDED FOR: PreS-Grade 1
GENRE: picture book
THEMES: animals, puppies, pigs, being different
READALIKES: Antoinette (DiPucchio), Paris-Chien: Adventures of an Expat Dog (Mancuso)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred
WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “The adorable piglets (and dachshund pup) in the hand-drawn and digitally painted illustrations are expressive and distinct, with a look that strikes the right balance between cartoon and realism.” (Kirkus starred review, 15 Mar 2019)
America’s most iconic national symbol was a gift from France to the United States–provided America raised the money for the pedestal on which it was to stand. Urged on by the publisher Joseph Pulitzer, it was raised, largely with the help of children, in the first example of a crowd sourced fund-raising campaign. This book tells the story of the best gift ever: how it was designed, created, transported, and then finally erected on its pedestal in the entrance to New York Harbor.
RECOMMENDED FOR: Grades 1-6
GENRE: nonfiction picture book
THEMES: community, alliance between France and America
READALIKES: Her Right Foot (Eggers), Naming Liberty (Yolen)
STARS AND AWARDS: BCCB starred, Kirkus starred
WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “The author’s awestruck writing, featuring punchy, taut sentences, makes for fast-paced reading, as do dramatic page turns, and it emphasizes the grandeur of the enterprise; fascinating, quirky facts abound.” (Kirkus starred review, 1 May 2019)
Rhyming text celebrates the joy a reader experiences when reading a book.
RECOMMENDED FOR: PreS-Grade 3
GENRE: picture book
THEMES: reading, books, how-to
READALIKES: Abner & Ian Get Right-Side Up (Eggers), Just Read! (Degman)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred, Kirkus starred, SLJ starred
WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “A beautiful book not to be rushed through, but to be enjoyed morsel by tasty morsel.” (SLJ starred review, 1 June 2019)