Emmy loves handwritten letters and typewriters and Masterpiece Classic, and cameras that use 35 mm film. Basically, she's just taking the 21st century one day at a time. Reading helps — some of her favorites include memoirs and short stories and humorous essays — but her true passion is children's literature. She'll be thrilled to show you what the wonderful middle-grade section has to offer: especially stories about ordinary kids whose inner lives happen to be extraordinary. She counts Harriet the spy, Leo the late bloomer, Caddie Woodlawn, Winnie Foster, Cassandra, Holden, Matilda, and Anne Shirley among her kindred spirits.
It's easy to like whatever book you've read most recently best, but I'd argue that Conversations with Friends, Rooney's debut novel, is better than her second -- namely because it's a little messier, and therefore feels even more authentic. The narrator, Frances, floats above situations with an arch eye, at once seeming incredibly perceptive then naive. Rooney is a master of small details that set an entire scene in just a few words. The words she gives Frances feel exactly like the sort of thing a 21-year old would remember when telling her story -- the kind of hat she was wearing when he called, the way a blouse felt clinging to her skin in the rain after a fight -- giving an intensity to the ordinary. The narrative isn't perfect: sometimes sections trail off without any real resolution, and you're not entirely sure why they were included, what you're supposed to take away from them. Just like many of the moments in real life.
Here's a true adventure story: penniless Irish immigrants Daniel and Kathleen survive a dangerous ocean voyage only to be dumped into the tinderbox of Civil War-era New York City, where they need a plan, and quick, lest they starve. How do cross-dressing, a perceptive nun, a golden harp, and a theater magician figure in? This middle-grade historical fiction explores some acutely relevant prejudices through the eyes of a boy whose homesickness and hunger shows him the similarities between people no matter their beliefs, their looks, or their past.
The first time I read this book, I teared up at the end. The second time, too. Anyone will recognize the frustration felt upon making a mistake and having to decide: give up, or figure out how to keep going from here? The sparse text reads almost like a poem, and the illustrations are kooky and funny, with surprises with every turn of the page. I love that this book celebrates mistakes -- as opportunities, as inspiration, as the secret to stumbling upon even bigger and better ideas.
If you like books where it's not obvious at the outset what the story is about, where the hum of discovery keeps you turning pages, you'll enjoy this middle grade. Set in a New York City apartment building, you get to know (and quickly care for) a large cast of characters, with shy newcomer Kid at the center. When the different threads begin to intersect, the reader will realize that we all may have more in common then you'd think. This is good writing: quick-paced, like a lengthy short story. Fleming quietly, subtly shows readers the payoff of facing one's fears. And the passages from the goat's point of view are sure to bring a grin to your face.
This is a story about losing a loved one to a brain tumor, about the ethics of reality TV, about euthanasia, about murderers and nuns and gamers. It's also about 15-year-old Jackie, who's living out the horror and confusion of watching her father's decline in front of a million TV viewers every night. The book explores the messy pros and cons of anonymity versus putting yourself out there. Although it's categorized as YA, the book has crossover appeal, as readers take a turn in the mind of every character -- including the tumor itself, which provides some of the story's funniest and most moving chapters. Like most reality shows, it's got a great cast of characters, and like most reality shows, you'll find it hard to peel yourself away.
This slim volume is absolutely not what you expect it to be. The writing is quiet and thoughtful, just like Evelyn, our 5th-grade main character. Her regimented existence is conveyed through small, ordinary details. When Queen enters the picture, it's with gentle ripples, not splashes. The book perfectly captures that invigorating first time of getting to know a person whose life is radically different than your own. It makes Evelyn (and readers, too) wonder: What if we proudly exhibited our differences, instead of hiding them? Sometimes the thrill in getting to know someone new lies in discovering more about yourself.
Perhaps (like me) you are friends with a cat like Archie Snufflekins. He's the kind of cat who goes by many names -- who belongs to everyone in the neighborhood, and no one. Each day Archie makes his rounds, visiting neighbors more out of duty than enjoyment. Until the day he decides to drop in on the loneliest resident on the block . . . The message is sweet: sometimes it takes a cross-looking calico to unite a neighborhood!
If you judged this book by its cover, you might think it was a fairy retelling. The action takes place in the Everwood, an enchanted forest dreamed up by our heroine Finley, full of rowdy knights, rescue missions, and daring escapes. It's where she retreats on her increasingly frequent "blue days". This is a kid absolutely packed to the brim with secrets; confused and guilt-ridden and desperate to be happy. Turns out those traits run in the family. Finley's storytelling talents are interwoven with a very real depiction of childhood anxiety and depression. A compelling family mystery will pull readers quickly through this story of self-acceptance and learning to trust.
If you're ever jealous, impatient, or rude -- if you ever let your temper run away with you, or say the wrong thing before you can stop yourself -- then you will immediately recognize THE SNURTCH. Ruthie's Snurtch is waiting for her every day when she arrives at school. He is a scribbly mess of flaming orange spikes, with an all-too-familiar nose and miniature pigtails. Over and over Ruthie is seized by the Snurtch's whims, and finds herself ostracized by her classmates. Ferrell and Santoso brilliantly portray Ruthie's desperation to be understood. So how do you beat your own personal Snurtch? Keep reading -- the final two pages resonate no matter your age.
In her preface, Nicoletti writes, "I fell in love with cooking through reading." I know exactly what she means. Some of my favorite scenes from literature involve lengthy descriptions of food. Remember the hot, buttery pancakes eaten by the stack in Pippi Longstocking's kitchen? Or Almanzo Wilder tucking into a farm-fresh Sunday dinner? Chocolate frogs aboard the Hogwarts express, and mouthwatering Turkish delights? (And I didn't even know what a Turkish delight was!) Growing up, books were Nicoletti's comfort food. Later, working as a chef, she started inventing dishes inspired by the the novels she and her friends devoured -- and a Book-Supper-Club was born. You'll drool over the recipes, but even better, after reading vignettes about the ways these novels shaped her life, you'll have a ready-made reading list the next time you visit!
This book makes a fantastic gift for any junior fashion designer. It includes a sketchpad pre-printed with croquis, and a pack of templates, divided into categories ranging from retro to funky to elegant. The lightweight paper makes tracing a breeze. There's even a page of accessories and hairstyles to add that finishing touch to your designs! Store all of the pieces from your growing collection in the large pocket on the inside cover. Wannabe fashionistas will love the sophisticated, portfolio feel. It's sure to inspire hours of creative play!
Ballet Cat loves to leap! Sparkle Pony would rather play checkers. Ballet Cat wants to twirl! Sparkles wants to make lemonade instead. Ballet Cat tells him to kick! How will Sparkles ever be able to tell Ballet Cat that he doesn't love dancing as much as she does? What if it ruined their friendship? Bob Shea is a master at tackling real kid's issues with playfulness and compassion. With an awesome electric color scheme and wonderfully expressive characters, this beginning reader teaches kids not to be afraid of voicing their feelings -- and shows the give and take of true friendship.
Grownups aren't always perfect, and kids know it. In this picture book of opposites, a group of rainbow-colored munchkins judge whether their mommies are always polished, patient, and unflaggingly enthusiastic -- or, you know, actual human parents. Kids will delight in shouting out the less-than-flattering choice with every page turn. Marla Frazee's artwork has a lively, finger-painted quality that's the perfect fit for this great read-aloud book.
Who doesn't want to be a ninja, or a cowboy, or a brave knight in shining armor? Nothing gets those guys down, right? But wait -- just because you have super strength doesn't mean you never get scared. Or disappointed, or lonely . . . just like us non-superheroes. Read this and you'll see that when you mix sweet with tough, you get a fantastic book.
If you like your heroines red-haired and plucky, and your copy of Anne of Green Gables is worn thin -- you'll enjoy this book about a desperate farm girl who runs away to Baltimore in 1911 and finds work in the illustrious Rosenbach household. Told in diary entries, it's impossible not to cheer for impetuous Joan as she struggles to act refined, keep kosher, and (most importantly) stay out of Rosenbach family affairs! Whenever I had to put this book down, I looked forward to the time when I could pick it back up again. If you love historical fiction, treat yourself to this entertaining read!
Those who have escaped to a small town in the summer know the feeling of a world contained -- a world that only exists when you return. For budding teenager Rose, the lake town of Awago (complete with best friend Windy) is her retreat. Mariko Tamaki captures all of the shades of a friendship experiencing growing pains, and the reality of how much kids overhear and observe, often to the obliviousness of the adults around them. Jillian Tamaki's artwork is magnificent -- I was blown away by how fully she captures that summertime feeling of seclusion, of time slowing down. Many of my favorite scenes contained no text at all. The understated ending is absolutely perfect.
If you're a visual learner like me, you'll gobble up Maps. From the floating markets of Thailand to bullfighting in Spain, each page is packed with lively illustrations and facts to explore. Besides sharpening your geography skills, you'll get a taste of each country's language, traditional dishes, beloved fictional characters, favorite sports and pastimes, most popular names for children -- even the oceans surrounding the continents teem with finely-drawn native sea creatures. This is a resource kids will be eager to take from the shelf again and again. You'll discover something new with each viewing. Another must-have for building your ideal library!
You don't have to be a regular reader of Garden and Gun to enjoy this collection of essays, compiled from the magazine's monthly column of the same name. Each author has challenged himself to try to get down in words exactly what about his dog is worthy of remembrance. The selections here feature a stellar cast of characters: some of the most spirited, steadfast, whip-smart, lovable troublemakers you'll ever meet. That is to say, you meet dogs. Can a writer make you love (really love!) his pet in just a few pages each? I have known and cherished several dogs -- all special, and all recognizable in snippets from these stories. But dog lover or not, you'll find yourself blinking back tears at these quick, bittersweet snapshots into southern life, where having a dog is essential to better understanding yourself, and "good" is in the eye of the owner.
Do you want to throw the perfect party for a group of dragons? This book will tell you everything you need to know! The key is tacos, lots and lots of tacos. But whatever you do, STAY AWAY from spicy salsa! This book will make you laugh out loud. As soon as I finished, I wanted to read it again!
Animalium is the first in a series of books meant to replicate the experience of visiting a museum, all from the comfort of your favorite armchair. Its visual tour is divided into six "galleries," one for each of the main classes of animals. This is a book to sit with for an hour, the heavy, oversized pages spread across your lap. The detailed illustrations will draw you in and kindle your curiosity. Every beautiful color plate is accompanied by a key with distinctive, notable facts about each specimen. This gorgeous encyclopedia would be a wonderful addition to any classroom or library, and makes a perfect gift for the budding naturalist. It's Audubon for the modern-day set!
Alfie Summerfield is five years old when his father leaves to fight in World War I. By the time he is nine, the letters from the front have stopped coming, and none of the adults he has known his whole life will tell him the truth about what might have happened to his dad. Alfie is determined to figure it out for himself. Alfie's world centers around his London neighborhood -- the close, terraced houses on Damley Road, where "all the people were friends, or they had been before the war began." His observations -- of the small changes creeping into his everyday life; of his neighbors and their differing opinions about the war -- bring the period to life. Boyne doesn't shy away from the horrors of war, but I was so invested in the characters I couldn't stop reading. No matter your age, you'll connect with Alfie's story.
Jim Henson has been one of my heroes for as long as I can remember, and this amazing book illustrates why. It can barely contain the endless fountain of his creativity -- here you'll find page after page of marvelous sketches, storyboards, and discarded scripts, alongside both family photos and stills of his beloved Muppets. Best of all, if offers a behind-the-scenes look at his creative process. I loved seeing how even his biggest, craziest ideas started out small. One of Henson's gifts was the ability to recognize other visionaries like himself, to illuminate their talents and convince them to join him in creating all things unique, weird and new. His fearless, try-anything attitude and willingness to risk failure is inspiring. If you're in need of a boost of confidence to revisit your own creative endeavors, look no further -- Jim's energy and enthusiasm leaps off every page.
Every day, Ophelia counts exactly how many months, days, and hours have passed since her mother died. Her father is always busy and her sister distant, so Ophelia spends her time exploring the enormous, chilly museum where her father works--the rooms of dinosaur bones and menacing preserved animals, the corridors lined with portraits of melancholy-looking, lonely girls like herself. Until she discovers a room where a boy has been locked away by an evil queen. He needs her help to complete a quest he started hundreds of years ago, a quest to save the world. The trouble is, Ophelia is not sure she believes in hundred-year-old boys, or evil queens. Or especially in magic. This spooky fantasy adventure has one good part after another--ghost girls and sword fights and the hunt for keys that fit missing locks. It will teach you about how to be a friend, how to be brave, how to believe.
This is the perfect picture book to read together before bed. French illustrator Joelle Jolivet is know for her large format visual dictionaries, and the same bright, rustic artwork enlivens every page here. The writing is simple and rhythmic: I am in the poppy, said the bee. I am in the sky, said the cloud. Some of the examples are surprising: where would you guess you'll find the pebble, or the hole? This book will no doubt inspire plenty of discussions over everyday discoveries after reading. I felt a pleasant sense of order and calm with every page, leading to a gratifying end.
In the future, why wonder about "meant to be"? All it takes is a visit to your local envisioning center, where (for a $30 co-pay) you can see what life holds for you and your loved one in fifteen, twenty, or thirty years. Evelyn (a pseudo grown-up) has just dumped her boyfriend after a revealing envisioning session proves their future unsatisfactory. She feels more in control with every potential future she rules out--but is she becoming an addict? Godfrey (a classic romantic) thinks envisioning is a scam, but his girlfriend insists they try couples envisioning before she'll accept his engagement ring. So what does it mean when a pretty stranger keeps popping up in all of his sessions? For anyone who's ever felt overwhelmed by the constant unknowns of adult life, or eager to define the future--but especially those who are ever-optimistic in the search for love, this humorous, light read is a perfect palette cleanser if you're between bestsellers!
Before hipsters were mainstream and Young-Adult was a well-loved genre, there was Weetzie Bat, Francesca Lia Block's punk glam ode to L.A. Now celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary, it's every bit as sparkling and modern as when it was first published. Meet Weetzie, a vintage-wearing, adventure-loving, vivacious free spirit. She and her best friend Dirk gallivant all over Shangri-L.A., surfing, taking in matinees, clubbing at the Starwood--always on the lookout for love--all described in a rush of shimmering, silky, slinky language. You'll be swept up in the exuberance of the writing and the onslaught of tasty, near-tangible details. Weetzie Bat has been both praised for its inclusivity and banned for its "inappropriate subject matter." To me, it's a book about acceptance--first and foremost, about loving and accepting yourself. It champions custom-made families and embraces diverse lifestyles. It touches on grief, forgiveness, fear of the future--without ever feeling weighed down. Weetzie's zeal for life is infectious, and so is Block's vibrant, accessible prose.
Brockmeier's memoir opens two days before the start of his seventh grade year, in Little Rock, Arkansas, 1985. You'll be instantly transported back to the growing pains of junior high through his truly radiant descriptions. Brockmeier captures it all: from magnanimous teachers to friends suddenly turned adversaries, from the heavy sounds of the corridors to slang overheard on the carpool ride home, right down to the taste of Kevin's favorite snack foods after the final bell. Not one thing about his recollections feels artificial--each detail is treated with the care of getting it exactly right. I couldn't help but admire Kevin's unflagging, sometimes cringe-worthy commitment to his own sense of self--although more from recognition than sympathy. We witness first-hand his budding self-awareness; he's always just a tiny step behind in deciphering that line between current socially-acceptable behavior, and what'll invariably lead to savage ridicule. My favorite part of the book comes approximately halfway through, during a particularly dark hour in Kevin's school year. For a single chapter Brockmeier takes a fantastic dip into fantasy, giving both readers and our protagonist a glimpse into his future. Is the author providing his past self reassurance, or us? Either way, it reminds you to take hope. You survived the seventh grade, and Kevin will too. The honest, uplifting ending will leave you reflective, and maybe even a little relieved to be an adult.