by Charles J. Finger
This is a collection of folktales from South America. The author learned the tales from native storytellers during his own travels.
I love fairy- and folktales, telling how things came to be the way they are, animals talking… This book has all of that. Each of the stories was new and fresh, and I loved it.
by Adam Gidwitz
In this first volume of the Unicorn Rescue Society, two children discover something extra strange on their most unusual field trip.
I first heard about this series on the Books Between podcast, in an episode where she shares her students’ top 20 favorite books. It definitely deserves to be on the list—it was fun, light, and quick, and I can’t wait to read the next in the series. The characters were diverse, funny, and well-developed. I would definitely recommend this to young readers.
by Kristen D. Randle
When Ginny and her family move across country at the same time that her favorite brother goes to college, she feels totally lost and alone. In the midst of her upheaval, she is drawn to Smitty Tibbs, the strange boy in her homeroom who hasn’t spoken a word to anyone since he was two years old. What keeps him trapped within himself? And if she can help him break free, what then?
I read this book in high school, and it stuck with me. I’ve been thinking about it for the past several years, and I finally got around to rereading it. It feels a little bit dated, between the lack of technology and some of the slang, but it is still a really good book. I love the characters and the depth. It addresses some hard stuff, like emotional abuse, but there is nothing explicit, and it consistently emphasizes hope and light and love.
by Carole Estby Dagg
Eleven-year-old Terpsichore Johnson moves to Alaska with her family as part of FDR’s New Deal program to resettle families on relief onto their own farms. Terpsichore has to deal with all of the usual challenges of moving and making new friends along with less common challenges like not having electricity or even a house at first. She also has to do her best to convince her mother that the family should stay in Alaska.
I can’t speak for whether the historical details of this story are accurate—I enjoy historical fiction, but this isn’t a time frame I know well—but I’m always a fan of pioneer stories, especially in Alaska. I enjoyed the characters, particularly spunky and courageous Terpsichore, and while the writing wasn’t flawless, the story was well told. One of my favorite takeaways from the book is that kids are just as capable as adults to do big things and change the world.
by Julie Buxbaum
After her father’s tragic death in a car accident that still haunts her, Kit needs space. She finds refuge at the lunch table of David Drucker, a quiet outsider with Asperger’s (although he’ll be the first to tell you that’s not an actual disorder anymore). An unlikely friendship forms, which opens both of their worlds in unexpected ways.
I really enjoyed this book. It was a little predictable at times, and there was a fair amount of swearing, but I quickly fell in love with the characters. The themes of honesty, being yourself, and finding your tribe made this high school romance feel fresh.
by Gwendolyn Clare
In this steampunk alternate history where scriptology—creating alternate worlds with words—is an actual science, Elsa comes from her scribed homeworld of Veldana to Earth to try to find and rescue her abducted mother. She learns a lot about Earth, friendship, and her own abilities along the way.
This book made me want to read more steampunk. I loved the world, the action-packed adventure, the mad science, and the characters. There were a few points where I thought explanations were a little unbelievable (not because they didn’t fit the real world but because they didn’t feel quite right for the world of the story), but it wasn’t enough to keep me from enjoying it.
by Adam Gidwitz
If you read Grimm’s fairy tales closely, you’ll see a pattern of stories following two children, a boy and a girl: Hansel and Gretel. This is their story, retold in the right order through the fairy tales.
Gidwitz does not hide anything at the beginning of this book: he says from the get-go that these stories are bloody, scary, and awesome. And I’d have to agree. The original Grimm stories are gruesome, and Gidwitz doesn’t cut any of that out. But he infuses it with his signature irreverent humor, which breaks up the darkness and lets some light in. I really enjoyed this book, but I might use a little caution before letting younger readers (less than 8 years old) read it.
by Hendrik Willem van Loon
I am trying to read, or at least attempt, all of the Newbery Award winners from 1922 to the present, and this is the very first. It tells the history of the world from the beginning of time through the present day. Because the scope is so broad, some people groups get left out, or get touched on only briefly–by the author’s own admission, inclusion in the book requires that the people do things that change the course of human history, which not all peoples at all times have done.
When I first took this book out of the library, I was intimidated by the size–it’s pretty thick, and I was afraid it would be dry and boring and a drag to get through. In general, the conversational tone and story-telling attitude made it an enjoyable read. Some chapters were quick and fun; others did drag on, and I had a hard time staying interested. Overall, though, it does a good job of making history accessible for everyone.
by Alwyn Hamilton
Middle East meets Wild West in this magical gunslinging adventure. All Amani has ever wanted is to get out of her nowhere town of Dustwalk. But when she finally escapes with a mysterious stranger, she’s in for surprise after surprise—about her companion, her country, and even herself.
Fast-paced, smart-mouthed, and full of twists—I couldn’t put it down. I love the magical elements (including Djinni legends), and the characters were interesting and fully formed. That said, there were a lot of references to sex/prostitution (plus a lot of violence and even more alcohol) that, while fitting within the story world, may be a bit much for younger readers.
by Catherynne M. Valente
When the Green Wind shows up at September’s window riding a flying leopard, she goes with them without a second thought. They show her the way to Fairyland, where she meets a wyvern and all sorts of wonderful creatures, including the Marquess in her fabulous hat. Fairyland is unhappy under the Marquess’s rule, and to save her friends, September finds herself trying to save all of Fairyland.
This book is a beautiful story, beautifully written, with all of the wonder and nonsense of Alice in Wonderland. September is never simply pulled along by events or acted upon by her surroundings—she makes very conscious choices, even if they’re not always the ones she’d like to make. My only issue is with the audiobook (not the book itself)—sometimes September sounded a bit whiny, but I believe that was an issue with the narration, not with the character or dialogue.