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The Cardboard Kingdom, a graphic novel by Chad Sell, is a love letter to make-believers. The kids in his fictional neighborhood spend the summer creating elaborate costumes, weapons, and secret hideouts from cardboard boxes that they beg, borrow, and steal. The heartwarming cast of characters, including an evil sorceress, an alchemist, a banshee, and a gargoyle, demonstrate time and time again that they will only be limited by their own imaginations. Many of the kids face resistance from their parents, such as the professor whose father doesn’t understand why she wants to dress up in a mustache or the banshee who’s grandmother constantly tells her that “nice girls don’t talk so loud”, but each finds strength in their alter-ego and many of the small-minded adults eventually come around or are shown to be in the wrong. The Cardboard Kingdom is a wonderfully crafted world that has something for everyone (including your inner child) and one that you’ll want to come back to over and over again.
In Ghost Boys Jewell Parker Rhodes weaves the story of 12-year-old Jerome, a young black boy who is murdered by a white police officer while playing with a toy gun, invoking Tamir Rice and so many other young black boys who are shot down, choked, or beaten because they are perceived as a threat. The story is told from the point of view of Jerome’s ghost as he recalls the events leading up to his death and befriends Sarah, the daughter of his murderer and the only living person who can see him. Confronting racism and police violence is not easy and Ghost Boys doesn’t seek to make it so. Instead, it open space for conversations about power, privilege, and pain that are much needed.
Vera is too Russian, too poor, and too weird for the kids in her neighborhood. So she decides to hedge her bets by attending a Russian summer camp in a last-ditch effort to find somewhere she belongs. Instead, she finds more of the same. Her cabin-mates ignore her at best, she's terrible at capture the flag, and the only place to poop is a hole in the ground. It isn't until she stops worrying about trying to fit in or impress other kids in that she's able to enjoy herself - important lessons for us all to take to heart! An all-too-relatable story about the painful parts of growing up on the outside, this graphic novel is perfect for fans of Victoria Jamieson and Raina Telgemeier.
When Arlo Finch moves to Pine Mountain, CO with his mom and his sister, the appearance of his Uncle’s childhood dog in ghost form is only the first in a long line of clues that there’s more to his new home than what meets the eye. When he joins the Rangers, a mix-gendered scouting troup, with his new friends, Indra Srinivasaraghavan-Jones and Henry Wu, he becomes acquainted with the mysterious Long Woods that their town is located along. The Long Woods is responsible for the appearance of a strange girl in Arlo’s mirror, roads that take him nowhere, and mysterious balls of light that attempt to lead him to his death. John August’s screenwriting background is apparent in this series opener filled with magic, mayhem and a century-old mystery. Readers beware: this books will leave you wanting more! Luckily this is only the first book in the series AND John August has a podcast about the process of writing and publishing this book for fans who want a behind-the-scenes look at the industry!
Will knows the rules. Don't cry. Don't snitch. Get revenge. After his brother is shot, these tenants are all that he has left. Taking the elevator down with a gun tucked against his spine to fulfil his task, he is joined by his friend Buck who was shot and died years earlier. Then Dani who died when they were just kids, and on and on until the elevator is filled with ghosts from his past, each with a lesson to impart. When the elevator doors open, Will must decide where his future fits in amongst his past. Another stunning novel from Jason Reynolds, an author who writes with his whole heart.
A Girl Like That is a book framed by loss . It opens on Zarin and her friend Porus hovering above a car crash as their family members cry over the bodies they recently left behind. As Zarin's story is rewound to the beginning and pieced together by those who knew her (or thought they did), its' shape is almost too much to bear. The death of her mother, abuse at the hands of her aunt, sexual assault, and ostracization all weigh down on her but never succeed in weighing her down. Zarin continues to be unapologetically herself - a messy, complicated, brave, and lovely person - right up to the end. One of the most important books I've read, Bhathena is unquestionably a writer to watch.
If you know Holly Black, you already know the world Jude and her sisters inhabit. A world filled with beauty that is sharper than the edge of the sword, where blood flows as abundantly as the wine, and desire is a wicked and twisted thing. Jude was seven when she came to live in the High Court of Faerie after her half-sister's Fey father murdered their mother for daring to leave him. Despite this bloody beginning and the cruelty of her classmates, Jude wants nothing more than to belong and sets her sights on becoming the King's champion. But others want to use her for their own ends and she's soon drawn even deeper into the twisted world of power and pleasure she inhabits. Holly Black has truly cemented her title as Queen of Faerie and created a seductive world you won't want to wake up from.
Patrisse Khan-Cullors contains multitudes; She is an artist, organizer, mother, daughter, sister friend, lover, creator, freedom fighter, and co-founder of Black Lives Matter. In this memoir, she shares stories about the members of her family and community -her tribe - and the ways their lives are shaped by the hypocrisy and illogical-logic of a white supremacy. When school shootings occur in white districts, black and brown students end up having to pass through metal detectors on a daily basis (and their families can be fined up to $250 if they’re late because they were waiting in line to be scanned and searched). When killer cops murder black children and their communities call for an indictment, tanks and tear gas are rolled out. Her brother, diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, has his medication withheld and is placed in solitary confinement (proven to worsen such disorders) in response to his outbursts. Khan-Cullors traces her growth as an activist growing up in a society that is intent on criminalizing black bodies and chronicles her ongoing fight for black liberation, including the events that led to the emergence of Black Lives Matter.
Caitlin Doughty, a mortician by trade and founder of The Order of the Good Death, takes her readers on a global journey to discover how people care for their dead in different parts of the world. From open air pyres in Colorado to Indonesia where mummies continue to live with their families after passing, Doughty lets us in on the rituals and customs that give people comfort and make space for them to be held during times of grief. None of these practices are fetishized or shamed, and in fact, she spends a fair portion of the book indicting deathcare in the western world. Her humorous writing style and a subject that isn’t often discussed make this an enjoyable and enlightening read! ~Kinsey
Our story begins when a mouse is swallowed by a wolf. ‘“Oh woe!’ said the mouse. ‘Oh me!’ Here I am, caught in the belly of the beast. I fear this is the end.” But his fears are in vain for inside the wolf’s belly is a duck! His outlook on life is thus: “I may have been swallowed, but I have no intention of being eaten!”. Safe from predators, the two dance and dine on cheese and wine. But when the wolf is threatened by a hunter, will they brave the forest to defend their home? A wonderful read-aloud and a perfect allegory for making the best of a bad situation.
This is the kind of book that you shouldn’t read around other people because you’ll either be constantly stifling laughter or forcing them to stop whatever they’re doing so you can read a quote out loud. Even when detailing failed relationships, life with an abusive alcoholic father, and the daily joys of chronic pain, Samantha Irby is laugh-out-loud funny and all too relatable. I have never felt more called out than while reading the chapter titled A Case for Remaining Indoors. Other highlights are Fuck It, Bitch. Stay Fat., Feelings Are a Mistake, and My Bachelorette Application in which she describes her hobbies as “eating snacks, sleeping during the day, scrolling through Facebook quickly enough that people’s stupid videos don’t start playing automatically, listening to slow jams.” ~Kinsey
If you were to make song about, fruit let’s say, through some stretch of the imagination, you could make a rhyme for almost any piece of fruit in the produce aisle - peach and banana are easy, but even kumquat gets his shot. The only one left out is our poor protagonist, Orange. As the rhymes get progressively weirder - a pearwolf (a pear bitten by a werewolf) and Nietzsche both make a brief appearance - the Orange becomes more and more distraught, only to realize that perhaps there is a word that rhymes with orange, and perhap it’s the best rhyme of al. This book weird and awesome and the roll-on-the-floor-laughing kind of funny, but it’s also a beautiful story about celebrating difference. (If you choose to do so by making an epic music video, all the better.)
Nicki Demere is a snarky thirteen-year-old pickpocket drafted by the US government for a top-secret mission. Under the alias Charlotte Trevor, she joins a family of three going into the Witness Protection Program, testing the theory that the family will be harder to locate. She settles into her new school unders strict instructions to blend in. As per her orders, she joins exactly one extra curricular and maintains no higher or lower than a B- average (even if it means having to re-do her homework to get several answers wrong). She surprises herself by forming friendships with her shy neighbor Britt, extroverted and overachieving student council member Holly, and even, tentatively, with her new brother, Jackson. But as she becomes more invested in being Charlotte Trevor, the eventuality of the past catching up to them becomes more likely, potentially ruining her chances of being part of a normal family.
Red is an old oak tree with a story to tell. In addition to housing many animal families including skunks, owls, opossums, and a crow named Bongo, she serves as a wishtree for the neighborhood, a place where people can tie their hopes and dreams. Samar, a muslim girl, moves into the house next door and wishes for a friend. After 200 years of silently watching people make wishes, Red decides to break the rules and help Samar by making her wish come true. Despite claiming that trees don’t tell jokes, only stories, Red is a humorous narrator and interesting facts about trees and animals are woven through this story of friendship, belonging, and the power of community.
Caramel Fishkill was born in the back of a moving car and named after a sign on the side of the highway. She lives in a trailer with her neglectful alcoholic mother and abusive grandfather, but must fend for herself when her grandfather dies and her mother disappears. She changes her name to Fishkill Caramel and returns to school with a tough new exterior, but she doesn’t bargain on meeting eccentric Duck-Duck Farina and joining her gang, the GR. Duck-Duck and her mother, Molly, adopt Fishkill into their family and her walls start to come down, only for the reappearance of her mother to destroy the fragile life that she’s started to build for herself. This is a hard book to read, but Lehrer handles the intense themes well and makes it worth the heartache by letting us into Fishkill’s life. 14+
More than anything, Aster wants to learn how to be a witch. But despite his affinity for that type of magic, his community adheres to strict gender roles. When caught spying on the girls lessons, he is admonished for his interest and pressured into following tradition by learning how to shapeshift. The only person who understands what he is going through is his friend Charlie, the type of girl who rides her bike off a cliff to prove she’s tough. When an unknown evil force begins kidnapping his male cousins, Aster knows that he is the only one who can save them. But he’ll have to break tradition and risk exile in order to do so.
Aven Green has no arms. She lost them in a wrestling match with an alligator (or so she tells the gullible new kids that ask nosy questions). This state of armlessness forces her to become a “problem-solving ninja”. The errant whispering and staring and stupid-question-asking is far outweighed by the supportive community that she has cultivated, but everything changes when her parents decide to take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown theme park in Arizona. Aven struggles to adjust to the change, but when she befriends fellow misfit Connor and the two begin investigating a mystery at the park, things start to look a little less bleak. Aven is a fun and fresh heroine and her story is entertaining from start to finish!
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. He liked to be up there with the birds. Then, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall… he’s kind of famous for that part. Even though the King’s Men are able to put him back together, his newfound fear of heights keeps him from doing all the things he used to love, including sleeping on the top bunk, reaching his favorite cereal in the grocery store, and being near the birds. He begins to build paper birds to bring him closer to the sky he misses, but when the bird he’s spent so much time building gets stuck on the wall, Humpty is forced to walk away or face his fear. Santat’s retelling of a classic explores how surviving hardship transforms us and his illustrations perfectly convey the emotional journey of recovery.
Colleges are always looking for well-rounded students, but re-incarnated weapon of Sun Wukong and present-day demon fighter probably isn’t what they had in mind… When the Monkey King, disguised as a transfer student named Quentin, shows up at Genie’s school demanding she turn into a stick that he can hit things with, her already precariously balanced school-life balance falls apart. Genie wants nothing more than to escape the bubble of Silicon Valley, but how can she stay on top of her Ivy League application when demons and gods from Chinese folklore keep appearing on her front porch demanding she save the world? Genie’s story is humorous and, despite the shapeshifting demons, incredibly relatable in how she deals with the competing pressures of being the perfect student, friend, and daughter.
Recently orphaned, Jane accepts an invitation to a former-tutor’s family island/mansion, Tu Reviens. Jane arrives with all of her possession, the most notable being 37 handmade umbrellas, and discovers a bizarre cast of characters and a lot of strange goings ons. Jane must make a choice who to pursue for answers; Mrs. Vanders, the little girl, Kiran, Ravi, or Jasper? Reminiscent of a choose-your-own-adventure novel, the story splits into five separate narratives from this point, each of a different genre (mystery, thriller, horror, science fiction, and fantasy). Each chapter, building on the previous, takes readers through a variety of plots that weave together art heists, secret government plots, spies, travel through alternate dimensions, talking animals, romance, intrigue, and a sentient house that yearns for a soul.
This book is a grand tour gone wrong - or very, very right depending on your perspective! What starts out as an educational exploration of Europe for future-viscount Henry “Monty” Montague, his biracial best friend, Percy, and his feminist/self-taught-physician sister, Felicity, is soon derailed when the three narrowly escape an attempt on their lives and must flee the country. On the way, they befriend pirates, battle brigands, and break a few hearts for good measure. The characters are wonderfully complex and woven throughout this adventurous romp is a story about identity, privilege, trauma, and loving relationships across these lines.
Maria Luisa, aka Malu, doesn’t often fit the image of the perfect senorita that her mother (whom she nicknames SuperMexican) wants her to be. Malu identifies more with the punk side of her heritage and can usually be found hanging out at her dad’s record store listening to loud music, wearing mismatched clothes in bright colors, and making zines. When her mother accepts a two-year professorship in Chicago, Malu has to deal with leaving her dad and his record store behind, starting a new school, and being mocked by her nemesis, Selena, who refers to her as a “coconut”. When Malu’s punk band is rejected from the school talent show for not being traditional enough, they decide to resist in the most punk way they know how; by being themselves!
Jule West Williams considers herself the antithesis to the "great white hetero hero on his fucking epic journey” and internally narrates her life like an action movie, giving herself a tragic backstory (the orphaned daughter of secret agents who were murdered in front of her). She’s on the run from her past(s) and as we move through the story in reverse, we see Jule don several different wigs and corresponding personas until it’s no longer clear what is fact and what is fiction. Her life becomes entwined with wealthy heiress Imogen Sokoloff who flits from Martha’s Vineyard to Paris on a whim, a fast friend whom she admires and envies with equal passion. But how far will Jule go to craft the life for herself that she feels she deserves?
As the title suggests, Maurice is a beast who’s not quite beastly enough. His despairing parents send him to the Abominable Academy for Brutish Beasts to mend his ways, but his roar is too musical, he’s ridiculously photogenic and can’t make a scary face to save his life, and he’s always sneaking alfalfa fritters into the lunchroom! His colorfully drawn classmates don’t know what to make of him, but when a terrifying creature (actually a tiny dog) invades the school, Maurice is the only beast who is brave enough to tame him. This silly story is a joy to read and reinforces the importance of finding strength in your differences.
This book is a guide to helping nature take over the world! In the hands of a gorilla gardener, all it takes are a few seeds before carrots are growing from cracks in the sidewalk, beans are climbing telephone poles, and squash are reclaiming swing sets. Soon the city has been transformed into a jungle and everyone is sleeping outside in trees and feasting together on all the food they planted. Eventually, every city will be a jungle city, and it all started with just a few seeds... and a gorilla gardener - like You!.
*This book also includes a history of guerilla gardening and instructions on how to make your own seed bombs!*
Although they love each other very much, Arturo’s family doesn’t always agree. But when their restaurant, opened by Arturo’s grandparents when they first immigrated from Cuba, is at risk of being torn down and replaced by luxury apartments, it will take all of them to fight back and save the neighborhood. With a healthy dose of poetry, bouncy houses, and a villain named Wilfrido Pipo, you can't go wrong with this book!
A thief who can control time, a magician whose act is more than just an act, and a whole cast of characters each with their own secrets who will stop at nothing - including murder, manipulation, and matricide- to get their hands on the Book. When no one is telling the truth about who they are and what they want, the real danger lies not in pulling off the perfect heist, but rather in making sure the Book doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Because if it
does,history as it is will cease to exist....
Katy Hudson, the bestselling author of Too Many Carrots, returns with a new book featuring Rabbit’ friend Tortoise. Tortoise is trying to sleep through winter but keeps being woken by his friend’s invitations to play with them. When he mistakes a sled for a cozy place to sleep and goes flying down a snowy hill, he gains a new perspective on what winter is all about!
Rabbit’s carrot collection is soooo big, he can’t fit in his house anymore! His friends offer up their nests, trees, and dams, but one by one they are destroyed in an avalanche of carrots leaving them all homeless. When everything looks hopeless, Rabbit realizes he just might have the solution to all their problems…! Hudson’s illustrations are brilliant, detailed, and will leave you wanting more. Luckily, there’s a sequel! (A Loud Winter’s Nap featuring Tortoise.)
When Frances, a dressmaker working in Paris, designs a daring and scandalous dress for a client, she catches the eye of a member of the royal family who hires her on the spot. However, when she arrives at the palace, she realizes that she’ll be designing dresses not for the Queen or a princess, but for the royal prince! Wearing these new creations (and an orange wig), Prince Sebastian, along with Frances, explore the city and night and become close friends. But Frances isn’t content to keep her work a secret and soon the Prince must choose between the two lives he’s created. Wang seamlessly (pun intended!) pairs a wonderful story with incredible art in this graphic novel about self-discovery, relationships, and really rad fashion.
Question: Can 36 questions make two people fall in love?
Research: Reading the New York Times Modern Love column
Hypothesis: Yes (love is like magic - you have to believe in it for it to work).
Experiment: Randomly selecting two teenagers (each with their own motivations for participating in the study and their own secrets to hide), putting them in a room together, and waiting for sparks to fly (or for blood to be spilled).
Collect data: 72 answers, dozens of instant messages, three phone calls, two letters, and one kiss
Graph/analyze data: (I would draw a graph, but at this point in the book, all pretense of this being an actual research project has been abandoned.)
Conclusion: That’s for you to decide...
A boy travels with his family to Havana for the zero-year birthday of his baby cousin, riding in Cara Cara, their 1954 blue chevy that is held together with tape, wire, and love. They see many people, places, and cars throughout the day, but as he tells his father at the end, his favorite is Cara Cara because it has been in their family since his grandfather’s zero-year birthday and will one day be his! Margarita Engle’s poem is an ode to all of the pre-1959 cars in Cuba that have been passed down through the years and the ingenuity of the people there who keep them running. Mike Curato made the same trip that the boy in this book takes to Havana and it shows in his illustrations that bring the story to life and honor the relationship that people in Cuba have to their vehicles.
When Lola, a small, orange, armadillo, trips and falls, spilling juice all over a pristine white chair, she comes to the logical conclusion that there is no other solution but to run away to the library. Along the way she picks up a posse of other animals who have made tragic mistakes including a bear who broke a swingset and a lamb that snipped a garden hose in two. Emotions running high, the animals continue to make a bigger and bigger mess as they run towards the library, until a little red bird helps them see the way forward. In this catastrophically funny picture book, Tsurumi explores the the world-ending, sky-falling, heart-crushing feelings that can often accompany simple accidents and how we can recover from them.
Some books are mirrors; other books are windows. Brooks’ poem-in-picture-book-form is a beautiful combination of both that affirms and celebrates everyone’s right to a shining future. If everyone were as empathetic and self-reflective as the girl in this book, our world would look very different from the one we live in now. Read this book to yourself, to the kids in your life, to your parents, to your friends - to anyone who will listen!
At a summer camp for teens who want to Save The World!™ by launching campaigns with names such as Men’s Rights, Anti-Robotics, S.P.E.W. (we never actually find out what this stands for), and Boycott Camp, is it any surprise that campers quickly turn to sabotage when a grand prize is introduced to the mix? (It’s an unpaid internship, but hey, millennials will take what they can get these days.) Needless to say, hilarity ensues, especially with the arrival of movie star Ashley Woodstone (who some of you may recognize from Kill the Boy Band) and her campaign, Eat Dirt. But hidden within this humorous take on the classic summer camp novel is an incredibly insightful look at the shortcomings and pitfalls of modern-day activism that everyone should take to heart.
10/10 would recommend!! There are too many things I love about this YA mystery to fit in such a small space but to name a few:
- 4 different narrative perspectives that are unique and well-developed (+ the characters are diverse in a realistic and intersectional way)
- A mysterious death, blackmail, juicy high-school gossip and a twist ending I honestly didn’t see coming (Not to brag, but I can usually predict these things.)
- All of the romantic subplots are perfectly written and don’t overwhelm the story like some YA novels and Addy’s in particular is so important
I could go on, but please just read it so we can talk about how amazing it is. Come find me.
V for violated. V for vilified. V for vigilant. And now V for validated. Amidst the numerous fight scenes you'd expect from a book titled Vigilante, this book tells you over and over until you believe it that the only people who can prevent rape are rapists. It tells you that no one is ever "asking for it" and consent is necessary, and not saying "no" doesn't mean "yes". This book tells you what you desperately need to hear when you grow up in a world of "don't get drunk", "don't go off with him alone", "don't wear that unless you're ready for the consequences". It perfectly captures the way the justice system fails us, the way those with the power to protect us fail us, and the way we often fail ourselves and each other. But it also shows us how and why we need to do better. Above all Vigilante was healing to read.
It’s a problem we’ve all encountered; you have a spare dinosaur lying around but don’t know what to do with it! Well, this book has several inventive ideas for how to put your dinosaur to use that you may not have thought of (coffee grinder, diving board) as well as some warnings… (Seriously, DO NOT let a dinosaur carry your picnic basket!).
If you’re in the mood for a book that will break your heart multiple times, convince you that all human beings are inherently selfish, and destroy your belief in true love, this is the book for you! But don’t worry, the incredible care that was put into telling this story that is realistic to the point of being painful makes up for the time you’ll have to spend repairing your wall after you punch a hole in it.
Marriage vows end with the binding line “...’til death do us part.” But, as this story forces us to consider, is there any force - be it death, infidelity, decades, or the distance between two continents - that can truly separate two lives once they’ve touched? Or are we destined to haunt, and be haunted by, those who come into our lives, and who, despite our best attempts, remain both unknowable to us and forever part of our knowing?
Winning the game, rescuing the missing sister, and outrunning the worst kind of villain requires a brave heart, a little bit of magic, and a leap of faith… just make sure there’s someone around to wish you back to life if you happen to fall to your death.
Murder. Martyrs. Monarchs. Madness. Not the typical elements you might expect to find in a story about first love. But if you make a practice of believing six impossible things before breakfast, you might just get through this book without going mad yourself.