The Story of Mankind (YA)

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.

Rebel of the Sands (YA)

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. 

The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (MG)

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.

New Kid (MG)

by Jerry Craft

Jordan is starting seventh grade at a new school—an expensive private school in a high-end neighborhood—when he’d rather go to art school. He must survive middle school, make new friends, and reconnect with old ones, all while navigating his primarily white school as a person of color.

This Newbery-Award-winning graphic novel was a lot of fun—the art was awesome, and the sense of humor made even the big issues relatable. It explored themes of race, diversity, and giving new things—and new people—a chance. To survive his school year, Jordan must find a way to blend separate aspects of his life so that they don’t pull him apart. All of these lessons are worth learning at any age.

Sorcery and Cecelia (MG)

by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

This historical fantasy follows two cousins, Kate and Cecy, in a Regency London where magic is real, magicians are everywhere, and some of them aren’t very nice. It all starts with an attempted poisoning via hot chocolate and gets more complicated than either girl expects.

I’ve read this book several times (I own a copy), and I love the characters, the intertwined storylines, and the fact that this story is told entirely in letters between the two cousins. It’s a light, fun read with plenty of action and suspense. 

Mini Book Reviews

I’ll be sharing mini book reviews here on the blog.

(I borrowed each of these books from the library because I wanted to, all opinions are 100% honestly mine, and I’m not compensated in any way for writing them.)

My goal is to help you find books that you–or the young readers in your life–will love.