BUYERS' PICKS | MARCH 2023
Clear some space on your bookshelf—here are our buyers' must-read picks of the month.
A literary coming-of-age meets a dark tale of horror. A family marked by loss yet relentless in the pursuit of a better future. A funny novel which insists that, even when we're warped by those we love most, we can be brought closer to our truest selves. A picture book edition of an iconic poem by Joy Harjo. And a middle-grade series for readers who love stories about animals, magic, and kids like them embracing their power to change the world.
We asked Changing Hands co-founder Gayle Shanks and our buyers Miranda, Natalie, Cortney, and Allie to share the books they're most excited about this March.
"Meet Penny Rush, a woman whose goal is to start her life over when it appears to be falling apart but has no idea what is in store for her when she gets on a bus and heads to Santa Barbara to check on her grandmother – a supposedly retired doctor, a hoarder of many things including human bones, who threatens people with bayonets, and is arrested by the police. Penny’s parents went missing in the Australian outback, and her husband cheats on her, but her days becomes populated by other edgy idiosyncratic people who keep popping up in her life and need her care. One of them owns an old van filled with detritus that he dubs, The Dog of the North, and Penny finds herself on a road trip with him and finds not only new towns but also insights into herself and the healing of old wounds that she wouldn’t have imagined possible. I loved every sentence in this novel and though hard to explain, it touched my heart deeply, made me laugh, and reminded me why good stories and great writing are such a blessing in my life."
"I am SO HAPPY I found this book. It’s quirky, unsettling, and darkly imaginative. Ren Yu is every parent’s and coach’s ideal high school athlete – determined to be the best swimmer, graduate with honors, and receive a scholarship to a well-respected college. But she has a secret that clashes with these expectations: she wants to become a mermaid and will do everything in her power to achieve this. As a former athlete, Ren is my role model. She determines who she truly wants to be and becomes this; despite the unrealistic pressures she faces from overbearing and misogynistic coaches, controlling parents and pushy teachers. She accepts the desires and limitations of her body, something many female athletes cannot do if they want to succeed in a male-dominated arena. I’ve read very few books that truly capture these distinct conflicts, and I am so grateful to Jade Song for writing this."
"An incredibly moving and utterly absorbing family saga, this is one of my favorite reads of the year so far. It follows three siblings who were sent ahead of the rest of their family on a journey as part of the 'mass exodus' from Vietnam in the 1970's. Their story is a story of tragedy that is all too true to life for those who have been forced to migrate due to wars and other circumstances outside of their control. It is also a story of overcoming, and is so poignant and beautiful in its telling that I was captivated from the first page to the last sentence. This is a quick read but a powerful one that I can't recommend highly enough."
"I sincerely believe there’s nothing Christina Soontornvat can’t do. She's written fantasy and nonfiction picture books, early chapter books, and award-winning middle grade novels. Her latest venture is a fantasy series aimed at 7-9 year olds. Fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender will enjoy following Plum and her friend’s exciting adventures as she attends Guardian Academy and learns how to harness her animal transformation powers. Filled with engaging characters and sprinkled with illustrations throughout the book, I recommend Plum’s captivating story for young readers who are moving past early chapter books but aren’t quite ready to tackle 300+ page novels."
"The combination of Caldecott Winner Michaela Goade's stunning illustrations and Poet Laureate Joy Harjo's lyrical poetry, this picture book is an immediate classic that should be cherished and bought for future generations to hold. Goade’s illustrations pull from her Tlingit heritage while also highlighting the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, to which Harjo a part of. Harjo's poem REMEMBER, adapted for the book, reminds us all that we are connected to each other and the world around us and to sit and ponder where we fit into it all. Picture books are not just for kids, they are beautiful reminders of the complexities of life told in a medium available to all."