Hard to believe it's already May! This year has already brought some superb reads; here are some of my favorites:
Terry Lynn Johnson's Survivor Diaries is one of my favorite new series, especially for picky/reluctant readers. Combining short chapters with lots of action, this series captures the attention of a great variety of reading abilities and interests (with survival tips at the end of each book from noted experts such as the National Forest Service and the Coast Guard!). Avalanche! introduces us to twins who must survive an avalanche; Overboard!, the first in the series (which does not need to be read in order), features siblings who must battle hypothermia.
I have my eye on all books soccer- related now that we're getting closer to the men's World Cup (however, with United States and Italy both shockingly out of the running, I don't really have a team to root for! Better luck next year with the ladies' teams.). The Field celebrates the enormous popularity and universality of soccer through a group of children in St. Lucia playing the "beautiful game." With Creole words sprinkled throughout the text, and the children's poverty noticed but not dwelt upon, this is a lovely and joyful look at children in a country rarely represented in children's literature!
I am in the midst of planning a fall Cape Cod honeymoon, so I immediately grabbed Hello Lighthouse when it came in. This is GORGEOUS and on my shortlist for Caldecott 2019. It's quite a sophisticated and lengthy look at the life of a lighthouse and the family that lived it in long ago.
I feel very strongly about books that feature underrepresented cultures that are not about food, holidays, or historical fiction. While those books are definitely important and needed in any library collection, it's so important that we have stories that are everyday "slice of life" stories. I love Mommy's Khimar, and I'm so excited that it's been quite popular at our libraries since we added it to the collection. This reminds me of What Can You Do With a Rebozo?/What Can You Do With a Paleta?, in that it features a young child exploring and gaining cultural pride from an everyday yet important aspect of his/her life. When this unnamed young girl wears her mother's khimar (hijab), she imagines that she is a queen, a superhero, and much more! What makes this interesting is that mom is apparently African-American and a convert, as there is mention of the visiting grandmother attending church instead of their mosque; the vast majority of our children's books featuring Muslim characters are about families that have an Arab or Middle Eastern background, so this is a unique addition!
Warrenton youth services staff knows that I am obsessed with the Mrs. Peanuckle's board books series. With lovely pastel illustrations and fun facts, this series is a wonderful appreciation of nature in an ABC format. It's perfect for families that want board books that go beyond a simple sentence on each page.
Nimoshom and His Bus is another fantastic "slice of life" story, this one featuring a Cree community. If you ever had a bus driver that truly loved and cared about the children on his/her bus, you already know Nimoshom. Whether he's joking with his charges or teaching them new words in Cree, Nimoshom definitely makes an impact on his riders' lives.
I adore the HilLo series, but I have to admit that I did not love the one before Waking the Monsters as much as the first two stories. Thankfully, Waking the Monsters is just as fun, hilarious, and moving as its predecessors. The wacky and endearing story of a young blond-haired alien has more depth in this one, as HiLo is now learning more about his past. The Mega Robot Monsters are threatening Earth more than ever, and HiLo is determined to stop them...but at what cost? Cannot wait for this one to continue.
Want something more adult? Try these two:
The Aviator's Wife is one of my favorite (adult) historical fiction novels, so any new book from Melanie Benjamin immediately gets my attention. I love, love, love historical fiction, but it can be heavy reading at times. If you need a break from war, famine, epic sagas, and the like, consider The Girls in the Picture. Even if you're not into "old Hollywood" (and this is really old Hollywood, since it takes place during the silent movie era), this story of a complicated friendship between two women and their battles in the very male-oriented world of Hollywood feels quite contemporary.
I don't think there's a specific name for this type of book, but I cannot resist books that feature the author exploring/learning more about his/her cultural background, such as The Hundred Year Walk: An Armenian Odyssey, My Father's Paradise: A Son's Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq, or my two current reads, In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History and The Best Cook in the World: Tales From My Momma's Table. The Home That Was Our Country: A Memoir of Syria is one of the best I've recently read, and if you want to understand how Syria (a once sophisticated, multicultural, and educated nation) became a horrific bloodbath, you should definitely read this book. It gives a deeply personal take on the tragedy of Syria more so than a regular history/current events story would, as it traces Alia Malek's family history (and Syria's history) over the past century, revealing a time in which Christians, Jews, and Muslims worked and befriended each other in their close living quarters. The rise of the Assad family, the immigration of Syrian Jews to other lands, and the Arab Spring are closely tied into the Malek family's struggle to reclaim their grandmother's apartment. This is not a quick read, especially if you're like me and were wholly unfamiliar with Syria's history and cultures before starting it, but it is a rewarding, emotional, and rich read.
Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library