Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia

claytonbyrd

Originally published in: 2017

What’s it about: Clayton Byrd loves nothing more than playing his blues harp with grandfather – Cool Papa Byrd. When Cool Papa Byrd passes suddenly Clayton struggles to adjust. He leaves home hoping to catch up with Cool Papa’s band of Bluesmen and finds an unexpected adventure on the way.

What made me pick it up: This is one of the finalists for this year’s National Book Award in Young People’s Literature – the winner will be announced tomorrow!

My favorite things: There’s a reason why Rita Williams-Garcia has won so many awards – she’s a masterful writer who never shies away from difficult topics. She takes a tale of love, loss, and grief and makes it thrilling but relatable. She weaves music throughout the story, making Clayton’s world come alive. No character is two dimensional, rather, she writes everyone as a full and complex person.

Who it’s great for:  Middle-grade readers looking for a story that treats black boys as real people and not as stereotypes. Fans of Williams-Garcia’s other work. Readers interested in the roles music can play in life.

Abby’s rating: five-shells


Find this in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

The Goat by Anne Fleming

thegoat

Originally published in: 2017

What’s it about: Kid and her parents leave Toronto to spend six months in New York City dogsitting for her father’s cousin while her mother performs in an off-broadway play. She befriends Will and the two of them confront their biggest fears to determinedly search for a goat rumored to bring seven years good luck to anyone who can spot him.

What made me pick it up: This was recommended by a colleague whose current ambition is to convince as many people as possible to read this book.

My favorite things: Fleming does a great job of introducing a variety of obstacles that characters face in daily life- in the form of disability, mental and physical illness, and loss – without sensationalizing them at all. Rather, each character’s experience of difference is matter-of-fact and something to be taken in stride rather than agonized over throughout the book. It’s a fun, quirky story that many readers will find both outrageous and relatable.

Who it’s great for: Middle-grade readers who like a quirky adventure. Fans of E.L. Konigsburg.

Abby’s rating: four-shells


Find this in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall

jabari

Originally published in: 2017

What’s it about:  A little boy facing his fears and jumping off the diving board.

What made me pick it up: It looked summery and fun.

My favorite things: I really like the father-son relationship. The dad is supportive of Jabari’s struggle for independence but lets him know he can take his time getting there. I really liked Jabari’s sense of adventure, even when he was afraid. The realistic depiction of fear was also nice. I liked the message that you can do things you are afraid of and that sometimes that takes more time to warm up to than you might think.

Who it’s great for: Littles trying to be brave. Intrepid swimmers. Young adventurers.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


Find this in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

Maple by Lori Nichols

maple

Originally published in: 2014

What it’s about: A little girl named Maple and the namesake tree that is her best friend.

What made me pick it up: I’m a lifelong maple tree and maple syrup fan so when I saw the name of this book I checked it out.

My favorite things: I love the depiction of Maple’s relationship with the tree. How it listens to her and doesn’t mind if she’s too energetic or loud. I really liked how she lays under the tree and watches the leaves rustle. It reminded me of many afternoons spent doing just that when I was little and made me want to go outside and do it again. But most of all I enjoyed the tiny surprise at the end.

Who it’s great for: Tree lovers. Rambunctious little ones and parents of them.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


Get this book in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

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Originally published in: 2007

What it’s about: An orphaned boy living in a train station in Paris where he steals food to survive and takes care of the clocks.

What made me pick it up: Abby said it contained a lot illustrations so it was practically a graphic novel.

My favorite things: This book is like reading through a silent film. The illustrations are breathtaking, and rightly so, since this was awarded the Caldecott Medal in 2008 for illustrated work. I don’t think I’ve felt so strongly for a character since Harry Potter. Now this is no HP but there are a lot of similarities. It follows a boy on his own as he makes friends and works to solve a mystery before time runs out all while trying to protect his secrets. Magic might be involved. This was heartfelt and also very fun. Plus it flies by so the 533 pages are done in a blink. Seriously, I started this after work and was so drawn in I finished it in one sitting.

Who it’s great for: Readers of all ages. HP fans. Film buffs, especially from the early days of movies. Those looking for adventure.

Erica’s rating: five-shells


Find this book in your local library or on Amazon(affiliate link).


 

Patina by Jason Reynolds


Originally published: 2017

What it’s about: A young teen girl dealing with a new school and a new family situation while finding her place on a new track team.

What made me pick it up: I’ve been wanting to read something by this author for a while. When I saw this audio was available I placed a hold.

My favorite parts: As a former track runner I enjoyed the depictions of how important running is for a runner, as well as how much it is a team sport even though it seems so individualistic. Made me want to run a relay again. I also enjoyed how much this was a just a plain every day story about a regular girl and her situation and how she is dealing with it. It was incredibly authentic both in relationships and experiences.

Who it’s great for: Older chapter book readers looking for a good, but realistic, story. Those looking for proof that you can come through any situation. Runners and wannabe runners.

Erica’s rating:


Find this book on Amazon(affiliate link) or in your local library.


 

Stella By Starlight by Sharon M. Draper

stella

Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: An 11-year-old African-American girl named Stella growing up in a small North Carolina town in the 1930s and all the challenges she and her family and other African-Americans in her town face.

What made me pick it up: It came up when I placed another book on hold as a suggestion, but I can’t remember what that book was anymore. I’ll pick up almost any title with racial justice themes these days, so I think that may have played a role.

My favorite things: The language in this book is beautiful. I liked how just because it’s a children’s book it didn’t shy away from brutality and injustice to favor a happy ending. The depictions of bravery by young children like Stella, and family and community are very heartwarming and heart wrenching all at once.

Who it’s great for: Anyone interested in the poor treatment of African-Americans in the south during the Jim Crow era.

Erica’s rating: four-and-a-half-shells


Find this book in your local library or on Amazon(affiliate link).


 

Bad Guy by Hannah Barnaby

badguy

Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: A picture book about a young boy determined to be bad.

What made me pick it up: I like Barnaby’s work. I’ve only read her YA novels and was excited to get my hands on this, her first picture book. I heard her talk about the process of writing it a few years ago and am excited to see the finished product.

My favorite things: This book will remind you what it was like if you used to be a headstrong, mischievous child. The little boy hellbent on becoming a villain is fun. My most favorite part, though, is the end where he discovers a partner in crime in the most unexpected person. I also enjoyed the subtle send up to Bond villains in the illustrations.

Who it’s great for: Bad kids who grew up. Good kids who think they are or wish they were bad. Anyone with a healthy sense of imagination.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


Find this book on Amazon (affiliate link) or in your local library.


 

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

gregor

Originally published in: 2003

What it’s about: A teen boy and his two-year-old sister fall down an air vent in the laundry room of their NYC apartment building and land in a new world where they have to end a war and rescue their father to get back to the surface.

What made me pick it up: Abby told me to read it because it was good.

My favorite things: This book was so much fun! It’s full of action and adventure and authentic emotion. It has well-depicted family ties and fully fleshed out characters. It had me tearing up in parts and the action was so well paced that I was willing to overlook the minor predictability. In addition to the pace, I really enjoyed Gregor’s process of learning just how strong and capable he is. I can’t wait to read the rest in this series!

Who it’s great for: Young Harry Potter readers searching for a similar title. Readers of all ages looking for a little adventure.

Erica’s rating: four-and-a-half-shells


Find this book on Amazon(affiliate link) or in your local library.


 

Last Stop On Market Street by Matt De La Peña

market

Originally published in: 2015

What it’s about: A young boy and his grandma taking the bus through their city.

What made me pick it up: I actually got a few pages into this a year or so ago but didn’t get to finish it. When I saw it available in our Overdrive collection I checked it out.

My favorite things: This has vibrant illustrations and a powerful message of community. I liked the grandmother’s openness to all the people around them and how that rubbed off on her grandson. It is a simple, beautiful story.

Who it’s great for: Littles who want things they can’t afford. Anyone seeking a story of community. Readers who try to find beauty wherever they look.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


Find this book on Amazon (affiliate link) or in your local library.