Oh, boy...do I have some books to talk about. Late March-April brought many intriguing titles my way! Let's begin:
I do love a good YA survival story. Not fantasy, science fiction, or dystopian survival. Straight up survival in nature's harsh elements is what I'm talking about. If I get my hands on something like Trapped, The Living, or Peak, it's not unusual for me to finish it in two sittings. Adrift grabbed me right away: teens from two different social classes (and countries) must fight to stay alive when they become lost at sea. Plenty of drama, hair-rising suspense, sorrow, and bittersweet elation makes this a first-rate choice for anyone looking for high-stakes adventure under 300 pages. It gets rather gruesome at times, but no one reads survival stories for descriptions of high tea with the Queen, do they?
Want something that has adventure, mystery, science fiction (with science facts), and humor in one story? Pick up Beetle Boy, the first in a planned trilogy about a young son of a famed British entomologist searching for his father, who mysteriously disappeared. If genetically engineered beetles and a mad scientist (School Library Journal compares her to Cruella de Vil, which is apt) peaks your interest, you'll definitely enjoy this.
The Bitter Side of Sweet might not fly off the shelves, but for readers who seek books set in other countries or books that tackle contemporary topics, it might be one of the most memorable YA novels they read this year. Following young teens kidnapped and enslaved at cacoa farms, this is an eye-opening and unforgettable story that is a horrid reality for too many children and young adults. Remarkably, it is also full of friendship, courage, and hope. A brief afterword gives further information on this issue and how it relates to the worldwide chocolate industry.
I've long wanted to read a book about Dietrich Bonhoeffer that wasn't a devotional, but the sheer size of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy kept me away. This phenomenal biography of the Lutheran pastor who openly defied the Third Reich and was eventually murdered at the Flossenburg concentration camp (two weeks before Allied troops liberated it) is a heavy tome, but an extraordinary read of this courageous pastor. In addition to giving a moving account of Bonhoeffer's life, Metaxes delves extensively into Bonhoeffer's writings (which later greatly inspired Martin Luther King, Jr.), which are not your average inspirational writings meant to soothe the reader. Metaxes also deeply examines German Christianity and the German church under Nazi rule (which by default was the Lutheran Church), including its collaborators and Bonhoeffer's fellow opponents. The vast majority of this was totally new to me (such as the "Germanification" of the Sermon on the Mount and the banning of tithing to the local church), and not something that is covered at great length in other books about the Third Reich. It is an inspiring, harrowing, and heartbreaking read (the framing of the beginning and conclusion of the book, which observes Bonhoeffer's parents listening to a British memorial service in honor of their son, is devastating) that is worth the patience and time it takes to read it.
I finished Hamilton: The Revolution the day it won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Even if you don't follow Broadway, you've probably heard of the (mostly) hip-hop musical about Alexander Hamilton (largely performed by actors of color). If you love books about the production of Broadway musicals (me me me, even if I don't like the show), you need to read this. Not only does this contain the show's libretto (with insightful and occasionally funny annotations from Lin-Manuel Miranda), it is gloriously stuffed with essays about the show's cast and crew, as well as the creation of the show. A must read for any Broadway fan.
My Family for the War ,winner of the 2013 Batchelder Award (which honors translations of children's/YA books originally published in a language other than English), is a captivating YA historical fiction novel centered on a ten year old German girl of Jewish descent (although her family converted to Christianity generations ago, the Nazis consider her family Jewish) who embarks to England on the kindertransport. When she eventually settles in with an Orthodox Jewish family, she rediscovers her Jewish heritage as she hopes for reunification with her parents. This is a sensitive, beautifully rendered tale that deals with heritage, loss, survivor's guilt, and love. It's one of the better historical fiction books I've read in several years, and a fascinating look at British life (and British Jewish life) during the height of the war.
I never thought I would love an easy chapter book series about animals living in an apartment building, but I adore Sprout Street Neighbors. A New Arrival returns to this diverse group of animals, who meet their new neighbor from Hawaii. Although the books are short, there is plenty of humor and tenderness that enrich the stories (most chapters are individual stories).
Looking for more suggestions? Check out recent and back issues of Wowbrary to read about the latest and greatest books ordered/added to our collection.
Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library