Monday, June 26, 2017

Random Reads: Check Them Out!

We are full steam ahead with our summer reading program! With the armful of books we see leaving the checkout desks, we know that many readers are (hopefully) discovering some awesome new reads (or enjoying old favorites). I hope you're having a great summer filled with reads that entertain, inspire, and/or educate; I certainly am! Here are my favorite recent reads:


The Most Magnificent Thing is a sweet and encouraging testament to the value of creativity, hard work, and determination. This young lady has an idea for a magnificent thing; however, she's not quite sure how to make it happen! It's rather harder than she thought it would be; but with the help of her dog, she's determined to be successful.

Dan Gemeinhart is one of our newly popular (in the last two years or so) authors, so I knew Scar Island would be popular. Think Oliver meets Lord of the Flies; this is a bit more mature than his other novels, and really straddles the children-YA divide. Jonathan has been sent to a reform school for juvenile delinquents; his crime (unstated until much later in the story) haunts him, and he cannot forgive himself (unlike some of the other boys at the school, he receives regular contact with his parents). To his horror, he discovers that the school is run by a cruel supervisor, who delights in physical and mental abuse of the boys. Due to a freak accident, the boys suddenly find themselves unsupervised and isolated. This is a gripping and haunting story (and a bit melodramatic at times, as usual for Gemeinhart's novels) that's full of action and adventure.

If you're looking for something more light-hearted, consider Short. As someone who is short statued and who loved participating in plays when I was a kid, I delighted in this fun read. Julia reluctantly tries out for a local production of The Wizard of Oz, due to her mother's insistence. The production is a big deal for the community, for professional actors will fill in for some of the roles (as well as a professional director). To everyone's surprise, Julia is cast--as one of the Munchkins. Despite her misgivings, Julia loves being part of the show (her emotions after the final curtain has dropped will resonate with not just those who have worked in theater, but also anyone familiar with the emotional letdown that happens after a wedding, graduation, or other big event has passed). As can be expected, there are certainly real-life dramas that occur during the production, as well as new friendships formed (particularly between Julia and one of the professional actors in the show, who has dwarfism).

Sherri Winston is known for her light realistic chapter books featuring African-American girls; The Sweetest Sound is abit more serious than her other stories, but just as heartwarming and compelling. Cadence loves to sing and has a beautiful voice--just like her mother, who left years ago to pursue her singing career. In her small mountain community and her tightly-knit church, Cadence (nicknamed Mouse) has been overprotected (and pitied, as she is well aware), especially by her father. Cadence longs to join the Youth Choir at her church, but that requires an audition...something that the painfully shy girl dreads. Readers who like sensitive stories with unique characters will enjoy this.

Delia thinks her summer will be quite boring, until she is invited to accept an internship at her uncle's Earth Time Museum!  When the interns are whisked away on time travel adventures (including with dinosaurs and into the future!), they have to use their wits to make it to the next challenge. The Time Museum will be a hit with those who love fun and exciting graphic novels with plenty of humor.


City of Saints and Thieves is a heartrending and stunning mystery set in the Congo (Democratic Republic). When Tina decides to investigate and seek justice for her mother's murder, she discovers unsettling secrets about her past and her mother's life before her birth. This is an evocative murder mystery that ties in great insights into the troubles of the region, especially as they affect women.

Jade's private high school is worlds away from her neighborhood; as one of the few minority students and scholarship students, she often feels different from the other students. Hoping to be accepted into the school's study-abroad program, she is dismayed when she is instead invited to join Women to Women--a mentorship program for "at-risk youth." After reluctantly attending outings, she discovers that her mentor is an affluent and well-intentioned young African-American woman who also treats Jade like a charity case (and inevitably offends Jade's mother in the process). Jade's passion for collage art and photography provide escape and opportunities for her to express herself, resulting in a very satisfying and hopeful ending.


I've seen Homegoing pop up on many book reading club selections, so it's been on my radar for a while. I love historical fiction and books set in other countries, so it had instant appeal.  Beginning with half-sisters Effia and Esi in 18th century Ghana, Yaa Gyasi creates an epic saga through the slave trade, American slavery, Ghana's fight for independence, the jazz era, and 20th century Harlem. If you love epic historical sagas, you should read this (as you can expect, it gets quite sad and dark at times).

Looking for more titles? Check out Wowbrary (including back issues).

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

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