As a child, Cortney spent every day with her nose stuck in a book to the neglect of her chores, a habit that persists to this day. When she can be persuaded away from her books (usually with promises of chocolate), you can find her working on her novel, watching period dramas, listening to KPop, or arranging flowers. Her reading kryptonites include fairy tale retellings, Austen interpretations, YA fantasy, historical romance, and contemporary romcoms. Come find her if you ever want to chat about Downton Abbey, cheer on the Sun Devils, debate the merits of Matilda's book and movie versions, or reminisce about the magnificence of Mariah Carey's Daydream album.
It seems like a normal day for Jeff: he’s combed his fur, he’s eaten his breakfast, etc, so he sets out from home. However, he knows something is terribly wrong, but he can’t think of what it is. The chatty bear nervously greets everyone he meets, all the while pondering what could be wrong. Finally, he thinks of finding his friend Anders, who he can trust to tell him the truth. A delightful story for read-aloud fun, little ones will enjoy tagging along with Jeff as he seeks out his best friend and inadvertently starts a new trend.
As the subtitle states, this is a “Comprehensive List of What Not to Say to Black People, for Well-Intentioned People of Pallor.” Sometimes the only way to make a point is through humor - biting, acerbic, sarcastic humor. Smyer goes through the alphabet of words and phrases that no one wants to hear; entries like “OVERSENSITIVE: Y’all snap after you have been unpopular for two weeks. I’ve been black my whole life. In America. And I’m at least functional. I’m oversensitive? The record reflects otherwise.” are both hilarious and hard-hitting. A super-quick, timely, funny read.
Willow is an extremely shy rabbit who lives in an abandoned mailbox. One day a little boy’s letter finds its way into her home. The letter asks the moon to shine brightly at midnight for the boy’s mother’s birthday. Knowing she is the only one who can deliver the letter, Willow gathers all of her courage and sets out to go to the moon. Readers young and old will be encouraged by Willow’s unfailing perseverance to complete a task so far out of her comfort zone.
Jamila would rather play basketball rather than attend science camp, and Shirley’s not jazzed about dance camp, either. When the two girls meet at a garage sale, Shirley has the perfect solution: they can spend time together at the basketball court instead. When their moms agree, Jamila finds herself wondering about the strange, bewildering Shirley. Turns out Shirley is the neighborhood kid detective (with Sherlockian deductive skills!), and Jamila becomes embroiled in the case of the missing gecko. From the first page, you’ll dive into this unlikely friendship and find yourself flipping pages to see Shirley solve the case in this fun, fast-paced mystery.
Miriam has trained endlessly to become a prima ballerina, but just as she reaches her goal, an ankle injury cuts her dream short. Relegated to the corps, she decides she can’t stand by while another dancer takes her place. Accepting magical pointe shoes from a mysterious spirit seems like the solution, but once the shadowy form starts to enact revenge on behalf of Miriam’s obsessive ambition, she may find the price is higher than she can pay. Evocative of a more juvenile Black Swan, this wonderfully-illustrated ballet drama asks readers to consider if accomplishing a dream is worth it if the cost is losing yourself.
Inspired by the author’s life, this tale of a grandchild separated from her grandmother will tug at your heartstrings. The main character moves from Taiwan to San Diego and misses her grandmother with every step. They stay in touch via video calls, but it is not the same. As time passes and the narrator gets used to America, going back to visit Taiwan doesn’t feel the same. Full of lovely illustrations and sprinkled with Mandarin vocabulary, this touching story is about immigration, familial love, and love felt across great distances.
Kevin loves making new friends, so when a new-corn moves in next door, he just knows that they’re going to be bestie-corns. Kevin takes Eric to the soda shack, but Eric would rather drink clam juice than glitter soda. Eric invites Kevin over for a movie night, but Kevin doesn’t like scary movies. Over and over, they try to find activities they can do together, but eventually they discover that trying to force a bestie-corn friendship doesn’t work. So instead of BEST friends, they stay friends, and everyone is happier for it. A wonderful lesson about friendship for all ages!
The intricate illustrations, seemingly cuts of paper painstakingly arranged, drew me to this book, but the story itself caught my heart. Arlo loves books with a passion that no one else shares. The mayor even goes so far as to tear up every single book in town. Arlo tries to write his own, but no one listens, until one single page that got buried in the ground starts to grow. Nourished by Arlo’s stories and words, the tree grows taller and taller, until it starts sprouting books. The books get harvested and shared and read and spread throughout the town, and finally the mayor and everyone else learn the true value of books and reading.
As both a cat lover and a bookstore fan, The Bookstore Cat caught my eye for immediate, cuddly reasons. Join the journey from A to Z as the book describes the many facets (and myriad of expressions) of the handsome orange tabby that inhabits the eponymous bookstore. Charles Santoso’s charming illustrations bring this book-loving feline to life.
Instagram star The Tiny Chef comes to bookland with his first picture book, wherein his precious recipe book (or, as the Chef would say, “weshipee blook”) is missing. Join the Chef as he struggles, searches, nearly explodes, and then finds his calm in visiting his garden and cooking a stew. Based on the stopmotion mini-episodic adventures found on Instagram, where the Tiny Chef cooks, performs puppet shows, visits friends, and more, this rhyming tale of the Chef’s hunt for his recipe book will delight.
A young girl, recently immigrated to the United States, feels lonely, lost, and alone. Her aunt and uncle try to make her feel at home, but she misses her parents, her cats, and her friends. One day her aunt tells her the ancient story of how Persians first came to India. The Persians, trying to find a new home, work to convince the Indian king to let them stay. Though they don’t speak the same language, each side realizes they can coexist peacefully, and a new, happier life begins for everyone. The young girl realizes she is like the Persians and that she has no reason to feel lonely. Beautiful illustrations frame this uplifting tale.
When Shelly adopts Hugsby, their lovely friendship begins. They play and laugh together, and most importantly, they love each other. For Shelly, this is enough...until it’s time for Pet Monster Show-and-Tell Day at school! Hugsby can’t do fancy tricks like backflips or magic like some of the other monsters, so what can Shelly show her class? Set in an adorably illustrated world, Shelly and Hugsby prove everyone (and every monster!) is special and talented in their own way. You’ll definitely want to look at the flyleaf pages at the front and back of the book for more fun details, like other monsters up for adoption or more of Hugsby and Shelly’s adventures.
Ever, a penniless orphan living in the bowels of the Switchboard building, and Hannah, the pampered daughter of the owner who’d rather wear pants than act like a proper lady, have one thing in common: an unfailing curiosity about the mechanics of the Switchboard. Pull a lever here and the building staircases move; crank another there and pathways spin and floors rise and drop. But the building hides a secret that could affect everyone in the city, and there’s a guild of assassins willing to kill for it. Throw in a secret society and family drama, and you’ve got a rollicking steampunk adventure that races along right to the very last page.
What do you name a ghost/best friend/trickster demon you inherited from the witchy grandmother you never met? If you’re Suraya, you name him Pink. Pink is Suraya’s only companion growing up; the other girls at school shun her for her poverty and her cold, aloof mother wants nothing to do with her. Even so, they are happy together until Suraya makes a human friend, and Pink’s jealousy starts to spiral out of control. Add in some malicious enemies, both human and not, and suddenly things are looking bleak. Set in Malaysia and based on folklore, this creepy yet touching ghost adventure is a unique, fast-paced friendship story.
Bea’s happy living peacefully in the forest with her grandfather, the Pig Wizard, helping him gather potion ingredients and caring for their animals. But when she returns home one day to find him gone on a mysterious quest, it’s up to her and her new Galdurian friend Cad to bring him home.There are many obstacles along the way: a valley full of giant crabs, lizards who want to roast them,a cursed temple, tentacle monsters, tricksters and thieves, and more. Sometimes Bea’s anxieties overwhelm her, but she’s got Cad to encourage her to keep going. The first in a series, Tim Probert’s lively, whimsical illustrations and swashbuckling characters will leave you eager for the next installment.
When Jingwen’s family moves to Australia, he feels like they have moved to Mars. Jingwen can’t speak or understand Martian (how English sounds to him), which makes going to school a struggle every day. To cope, Jingwen gets the idea to honor his father’s memory by baking all of the cakes that would have been on the menu of their dream cake shop, Pie in the Sky. Jingwen is determined to bake all of them so his father knows he hasn’t forgotten him. Cake makes people smile, his father said; maybe it will help Jingwen smile, too. Full of heart and delicious cake, Jingwen’s journey to bake all of the Pie in the Sky recipes will enthrall.
Eleven-year-old AJ feels inadequate, especially when it comes to letting his crush Nia know how he feels about her. Nia’s obsession with vampires gives AJ the idea to pretend to be one; soon he’s smearing dark eyeshadow around his eyes, avoiding the sun, and spreading fake blood on his gums. When AJ and Nia are paired on a project to research Transylvania, he ups his efforts even more to get her attention, which works...because she’s a slayer. Suddenly AJ has to dodge stakes and holy water, protesting his innocence. But Nia’s skills may come in handy when a real vampire emerges from the most unlikely of places. Satirical and relatable, this is a funny story about friendship, crushes, and being yourself.
Try as she might, Vera just can’t seem to fit in. A Russian girl in the suburbs, her American friends all have bigger houses, nicer toys, prettier clothes, and every summer they go away to fancy camps. When Vera finds out about Russian summer camp, she’s convinced that she’ll finally have the summer camp experience she’s been dreaming of. The disappointing reality is her tentmates are bullies, everyone has to speak in Russian all the time, and the outhouses are both disgusting and terrifying. It’s shaping up to be a terrible summer - and then it gets worse. Will Vera ever make a real friend or learn to appreciate nature? Based on the author’s childhood, this graphic novel explores how sometimes we should be careful what we wish for.
As if her parents getting divorced wasn’t enough, Jen has to move to the countryside with her mother and her new boyfriend Walter, take care of all sorts of chores like feeding chickens, and deal with Walter’s daughters on the weekends - all without a comic book store in sight. Loosely based on author/illustrator Lucy Knisley’s own experiences, this graphic novel explores the difficulties of moving to a completely different environment, with a sudden influx of new people to boot. Jen struggles to adjust to a new life of farmers markets and chicken coops, and slowly her “part-time sisters” become less adversarial and more sisterly. The ending is a bit abrupt, but as it is the proposed first in a trilogy, that can be forgiven.
A bout of meningitis leaves Cece with impaired hearing, and just like that everything changes. In this graphic memoir, Cece adjusts to her new normal, learning to read lips and reluctantly taking sign language classes. As she gets older, she becomes more self-conscious about both her disability and her giant hearing aid, the Phonic Ear. Cece starts at a new school, friendships are made and broken, a cute boy moves in down the street, and Cece discovers the Phonic Ear gives her super hearing powers. Drawn in a delightfully bright, anthropomorphic and imaginative style (everyone is a rabbit), Cece’s day-to-day adventures help readers understand what it may be like for someone with different abilities than their own.
After their father was killed and they were separated from their mother, Omar and his brother Hassan fled Somalia and have been living in a Kenyan refugee camp for seven years. Omar spends his days taking care of mostly nonverbal Hassan, who is prone to seizures. School seems like an impossibility until Omar finds out higher education could be the key to getting relocated by the UN. The book follows the next eight years of their lives, and it is a heartrending, unforgettable window into what these refugees are suffering every day. I found myself tearing up at various points as I read: for triumphs celebrated, for losses felt, for injustice and hopelessness that seemed overwhelming. A fictionalized account of coauthor Omar Mohamed’s experiences, this emotional, hopeful book is a must-read.
Instead of the art school he’s been dreaming about, Jordan’s starting seventh grade at a new school: elite, far away from Washington Heights, and decidedly less diverse. His teachers call him and the few other Black students by the wrong names, every POC student endures “good-natured” taunts from the school bully, and Jordan finds himself fighting misconceptions other students and faculty form simply by looking at him. But there are also new friends to make and art styles to learn, so maybe, just maybe, being the new kid won’t be as bad as Jordan thinks. Funny, heartwarming and aggravating all at the same time, Jordan’s experiences are timely and relatable, and Jerry Craft’s illustrations enrich the story and bring it to life.
The argument for middle school dress codes is that too much skin distracts other students (read: boys) from learning, and thus school administrations unfairly focus on and police female students. At her middle school, Molly starts a podcast interviewing various girls at her school who have been punished for dress code violations (some more ridiculous than others), and the injustices revealed incite the students to band together in protest to do what they can to change the rules. Each chapter begins with another podcast, making for a quick read. A subplot involving Molly’s brother selling vaping pods to younger kids spotlights another timely issue. This book may be fiction, but it is very much based in today’s reality.
Bec McMaster's London Steampunk series really puts the "steam" in steampunk, but her deft weaving of vampire and werewolf lore into her version of alternate London keeps me coming back for more. Action-packed, with fierce heroines, arrogant and devilishly handsome heroes, and bursting at the seams with intrigue and mysteries abound, not to mention all the spicy hot romance, the series and its subsequent Blue Blood Conspiracy series have made me a Bec fan for life. She's an insta-buy for me for sure!
Half-Chinese and half-white, fourteen-year-old Hanna is no stranger to racial intolerance. She and her father have spent the past three years traveling the frontier. Hanna must hide as her father feels out each town’s feelings toward Chinese people, and more often than not they have to keep moving. They settle in LaForge and Hanna starts school, determined to get her diploma and become a dressmaker. Hanna has few allies among her schoolmates, and the number of townspeople who would accept a garment sewn by her is fewer still, but she is adamant their hatefulness won’t stop her. With a realistic view of racial tensions during the 1800s, this engaging coming-of-age story is a quick but absorbing read.
The classic cozy mystery gets a millennial twist here with thoroughly enjoyable results. Twenty-something Mimi’s adventures with her snarky talking cat Marshmallow are charming and humorous in turns. Mimi has recently opened her own pet grooming salon in LA and in trying to drum up customers, she accidentally embroils herself in a murder investigation. It’s up to Mimi and Marshmallow’s deductive skills to get the lead investigator off Mimi’s back, clear her name, and find the real murderer, all while dodging her mother’s increasingly ridiculous blind date setups and swooning over her lawyer neighbor Josh. If this first book is an indicator about the rest of the series to come, I might be a new fan of the genre.
Maia has accomplished the impossible by sewing three dresses made of sunlight, moonlight and stars’ blood and freeing her love Edan from his curse, but the cost is her own humanity. Her demonic side slowly sinks its claws deep, taking her memories, her magic and her mind with it, all while she and her loved ones fight to keep evil invaders at bay. The conclusion to Elizabeth Lim’s duology is just as enthralling as its predecessor; I read both books back to back because I had to find out what happened in A’landi next. I loved the lyrical, evocative descriptions of the land, the fabrics and the magic. A new addition to my favorite author list!
Maia aspires to be the greatest tailor in A’landi, an honor only open to men. When the emperor calls for a competition to decide who will become the next imperial tailor, Maia disguises herself as her older brother and enters. With the help of magic scissors and her own seamstress skills, Maia seeks to prove her worth. But once the emperor makes his choice, Maia discovers that her real test has only just begun. Touted as “Project Runway meets Mulan,” this fantasy adventure is utterly mesmerizing, thrilling enchanting. Elizabeth Lim’s lyrical and imaginative prose caught my attention from the first page and held it until the last. Waiting impatiently for the sequel!
Rosie and Dominic’s rocky marital journey captivated me so completely I read this book in one night. Dominic is the strong, silent type - too silent, after coming home from deployment in Afghanistan. Rosie abandoned her dream of opening a restaurant years ago and it’s been slowly killing her ever since. Somewhere along the way they stopped communicating, except on Tuesday nights, when they burn up the sheets. Chemistry has never been their problem; it’s just everything else. As Dominic and Rosie work on salvaging their marriage through last-ditch counseling, I found myself cheering, facepalming, and fanning myself in equal measure. Maybe not your traditional rom-com, but entertaining and heartwarming all the same.
Jamie and Maya aren’t having a great summer - he’s stressing over giving a speech at his sister’s bar mitzvah (preferably without throwing up), while her parents are separating - and it gets worse when their mothers coerce them into canvassing for the local senate election. Trying to get a traditionally red town to vote Dem when there are racist trolls putting white supremacist stickers everywhere and someone’s trying to pass an anti-hijab bill seems impossible, but Jamie and Maya rely on each other and grow closer in the process.This cross-cultural love story set against the backdrop of a local senate election is an absorbing, relevant must-read.
I dare you to read this without a smile on your face and/or clutching your heart and saying, “Aww!” Go on, try it. You can’t, right? Beth Ferry’s delightful tale of a little caveboy named Neander becoming smitten with an bow-and-arrow-wielding cavegirl named Neanne at first sight, enhanced by Joseph Kuefler’s simple yet engrossing illustrations, captured my attention (and my heart) from the first page. After swooning all over the place at just the thought of Neanne, Neander sets out to find the perfect gift to express his affections, and after a couple of false starts, he succeeds. A short and sweet prehistoric love story!
We return to the world of Medio on the brink of war, and this time our story is from Carmen’s point of view. A true daughter of the revolutionary group La Voz, Carmen’s heart beat only for the cause - until she met Dani. Torn between love for her people and the one girl who takes her breath away, Carmen’s conflicted state centers most of the action in the book until the final, heart-pounding confrontation between La Voz and Mateo, her former husband and the newly minted president. We Set the Dark on Fire was one of my favorite books of 2019, and Tehlor Kay Mejia brings the duology to an exhilarating, unputdownable finish you won’t want to miss.
As a rom-com aficionado, the premise of a book written where the protagonist willingly puts herself into every single meet-cute setup that she can think of - from Notting Hill to Sleepless in Seattle to The Holiday and so many more - sounded like a fun ride, and I wasn't disappointed. Evie's journey to love was funny, heartfelt, sometimes predictable (but in that good way that you know it'll end with a happily-ever-after because it's a rom-com) and always a roller coaster. Super sweet and chaste like all the best Hallmark movies, Would Like to Meet is perfect for all the fellow rom-com lovers out there.
I’ve been a fan of Liz Climo’s comics for a few years now, but if you’ve never had the pleasure, I implore you to pick up this book. A rabbit pops out of its burrow in just the wrong spot - right in front of a hungry bear. As the bunny pleads for its life, you slowly discover that it is not that the bear’s tummy is hungry for food so much that its heart is hungry for companionship. I particularly loved the bunny’s resigned declaration of “Aw, nuts” when it first sees the bear and that it immediately orders the bear a pizza to avoid being lunch. Don’t miss this adorable and funny tale of reluctant friends!
All Reuben wants to do is camp with his friends in the woods and eat donuts, but when he discovers his pants are wet in a very uncomfortable place, there’s a mystery afoot: which of his friends could have done such a dastardly thing? And worse, who is lying about it? Come along with Reuben as he plays detective and ultimately decides friendship trumps wet pants.
Most of us are familiar with Disney’s version, but here Faye-Lynn Wu retells the famous Ballad of Mulan with Joy Ang bringing the Chinese folktale to life through absolutely gorgeous illustrations. Mulan’s story is one of deep familial devotion marred by separation and strife as she goes off to war for many years. The repetition of Mulan being described as “strong and able” was lovely to read, and ending the book with the original ballad written in Chinese characters was a nice touch as well. A great read for those of us who are learning (or need the reminder) that women can be warriors, too!
This book is a Korean drama in literary form, which is why I love it so much. It has all the best elements of a typical Korean television show: romantic tension, action scenes, all the kimchi you could want, wise old grandmas, and main characters being Noble Idiots for the sake of each other; and none of the bad: there is NO LOVE TRIANGLE. I mentally cheered so hard when I found out Jihoon’s best friend Somin is just a platonic, awesome, supportive best friend, because dramas so often throw in other female characters as hurdles to the main pairing’s happy ending. Jihoon and Miyoung have enough roadblocks by themselves, given that she’s half-gumiho (a mythical nine-tailed fox demon) and he only cares about high school in that it is an impediment to his video game playing time. Their story sucked me in just like all the best shows and I had to binge-read until I got to the end. Hopefully you’ll find it just as absorbing, too!
Tehlor Kay Mejia proves stunningly skillful at conveying everything happening in the fantastically-rendered world of Medio through the eyes of her main character Dani. Whether Dani is smelling “light-as-air” tortillas cooking, burying all of her feelings behind her impassive facade, or imagining how the lips of her nemesis would feel against her own, we feel it all with her. My heart pounded in time with Dani’s as she dove headfirst into the deeply opposing worlds of political espionage and first love, navigating her cold marriage to a two-faced government official and his other wife against the backdrop of a rebellion ready to explode. This is the author’s first book and 2020 cannot come fast enough for me to find out what happens next.
I usually read books featuring characters with similar personalities to myself, so The Way You Make Me Feel was an anomaly for me. Clara is a self-described jerk, defiant and peevish, who carelessly skates through life (literally - she hides her skateboard under her prom dress to sneak it in) and banks on her ability to talk her way out of trouble. I actually didn’t feel much sympathy for Clara until she had to suffer through the punishment of her actions, and working at her father’s Korean-Brazilian fusion food truck marked the beginning of her journey to becoming a decent human being. I cheered Clara on as she traded up for an infinitely better best friend and swooned over love interest Hamlet Wong’s adorable approaches to dating Clara (even if she couldn’t admit to herself she found them just as charming). This book made me hungry for bulgogi and a sweet summer romance, always the perfect combination.
Jen Wang first captured my attention through her art style via the gorgeous salmon-colored cover of The Prince and the Dressmaker, but it is her storytelling prowess that keeps me coming back. Stargazing hit home for me especially as a Chinese-American, a lover of K-Pop, and a person who has worried about being left behind as best friends seemed to find newer, better models. As I followed Christine and Moon on the ups and downs of their journey to best friendship, I found myself identifying with both of them. Do I dance around my house to Blackpink or get over excited and talk too quickly about things I fangirl about like Moon? Yes. Do I slurp noodles like there’s no tomorrow and sometimes retreat timidly from the crowd like Christine? Also yes. If you’re the loud, self-assured friend or the quiet, introspective friend, or if you just want to look at cute drawings of dumplings, noodles and bok choy and get a feel-good friendship story as a bonus, this is the graphic novel for you.