The Universe in Your Hand by Christophe Galfard

universe

Originally published in: 2015

What it’s about: Galfard, protégé to renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, takes readers on a journey through space to broaden their understanding.

What made me pick it up: I saw my coworker checking out the audio CDs from the library and I loved the font on the cover and then I saw the word universe and got my Google on. Another book about astrophysics? Yes please!

My favorite part: Galfard brings together imagination and analogy to help readers visualize complex astrophysical concepts. It also contains a fair bit of humor. I just love all the different books about these concepts and gobble them up. This one definitely had me texting friends things like “part of space is opaque” when I read interesting new tidbits. I still can’t totally explain string theory to dinner party guests but this book was fun and I’m recommending it to everyone.

Who it’s great for: Space nerds. Science geeks. People like me who have wandered into an astrophysics book bunny trail and want to keep going.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


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


 

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.


 

The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho

alchemist
This post contains affiliate links.

Originally published in: 1988

What it’s about: A young man discovers his life’s purpose and heads out on an adventure to locate the treasure it promises him.

What made me pick it up: One of my friends said it was her favorite book ever so I figured I should check it out. Turns out it is also conveniently short.

My favorite things: If you are into semi-mystical, quasi-spiritual books similar to The Little Prince or The Prophet, then this is right up your alley. It follows a traveler on a journey while dropping big metaphysical ideas into the text about love and life and the soul. It had me in tears in parts because I enjoy reading about characters who figure out the secret to life and what their outcomes are. I also enjoyed the message of how long it might take and how hard you might have to work to reach such treasure.

Who it’s great for: Readers looking for a brief adventure. Anyone who wants to take a spiritual journey.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


Get this book on Amazon or at your local library.


 

The Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin

port

Originally published in: 2012

What it’s about: A group of 50 African-American soldiers who were tried for mutiny for refusing to work in unsafe conditions in the Navy during WWII after a catastrophic explosion and how it led to the desegregation of all military forces for the US.

What made me pick it up: It was part of a Stand Strong & Stand Together collection of Overdrive titles the library offered in the wake of the Charlottesville tragedy and it was short.

My favorite things: This story was so well told. I am really into learning more of the stories I never learned in school about civil rights heroes and this is one. These men stood up for better treatment for people of other races and prevailed. Not without hardship or penalty and despite threat of death. It tells an important story that your small, personal decisions can benefit larger groups and have lasting positive repercussions.

Who it’s great for: History buffs. Civil rights students. Readers looking for diverse books.

Erica’s rating: five-shells


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


 

The Death and the Life of the Great Lakes by Dan Egan

greatlakes

Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: The Great Lakes and how important they are to the world and how poorly we’re treating them.

What made me pick it up: I grew up on the southern shore of Lake Ontario and spent my summers swimming in its waters. I know the vital connection between the land and the people and the water so I get really worked up whenever I find out that something catastrophic has happened to them or is about to due to government or personal negligence. The imminent threat of Asian carp invasion is just the latest, scary possibility that could’ve been prevented. *sigh*

My favorite things: This book is so informative. It details the history of mistreatment of the waterway as well as all the man-made changes which have led to the problems faced today. Most importantly he even-handedly makes the point that this water is vitally important and we need to care for it and protect it. To do so we can’t let it leave the watershed and we can’t allow massive ecosystem collapsing species like carp to get in. We need to try harder to keep these great bodies of water alive and well for future generations. It will make you sad in parts and furious in parts. Hopefully it will also make you ready to fight for these beautiful lakes.

Who it’s great for: Water babies. Great Lakes lovers. Environmentalists. Anyone interested in future international affairs.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


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


 

Every Body Yoga by Jessamyn Stanley

every body yoga

Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: An unintimidating guide to getting started with yoga for people of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and abilities.

What made me pick it up: Stanley is something of an Instagram star, so I was curious to see what she’d have to say to reluctant would-be yogis.

My favorite things: Part guide for the reluctant yogi, part memoir, Stanley openly shares her own complicated history with yoga to make it more accessible to anybody that’s been afraid to try because they don’t think that they will be capable. She’s so inspiring and encouraging that I, who have always had trouble with the quiet and introspective aspects of yoga, found myself anxious to give it another shot. She also includes several sequences for feelings that it’s easy to identify with, such as I Need To Chill the F Out (pg 206) and  I Need to Love Myself (pg 212).

Who it’s great for: Anyone who’s considered practicing yoga but been too intimidated to start.

Abby’s rating: five-shells


Find this book at Amazon or in your local library.


 

Everyone’s a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too by Jomny Sun

aliebn
This post contains affiliate links.

Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: Jomny, a lonely alien, is sent to Earth to study humans in this charming graphic novel. Instead, he encounters a variety of Earth’s creatures and, through their humanity, learns some of life’s biggest lessons.

What made me pick it up: When I saw the word aliebn on a book spine I thought my fever brain was playing tricks on me, but after I took a closer look I needed to know more about these aliebns.

My favorite things: It was adorable, funny, poignant, and smart. Each of the creatures Jomny meets teaches him something new about what it means to be an individual and still be part of a community. Like the story, the art is simple but compelling. I especially enjoyed the endpapers of the book, which contained a log Jomny keeps of his adventures on Earth as well as his charming interpretations of each interaction.

Who it’s great for: If you loved The Giving Tree but also love The Oatmeal, this book is for you.

Abby’s rating: four-and-a-half-shells


Find this title at Amazon 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.


 

Charlottesville

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Image created by beloved Charlottesville store Rock Paper Scissors. Learn more at: https://www.thinkrpscville.com/

As we all begin to move forward after the horrendous Charlottesville violence of August 12, Abby and I thought we would share some books that might make for good reading to further inform on issues of racial and social justice.

Books We Have Reviewed Before
Miss Crandall’s School for Young Ladies and Little Misses of Color by Marilyn Nelson
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Freedom Over Me by Ashley Bryan
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham
Stamped From The Beginning by Ibram Kendi
March (series) by John Lewis

Other Titles We Recommend
The Youngest Marcher by Cynthia Levinson
Voice of Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford
The Crunk Feminist Collection by Brittney Cooper
Hidden Figures by Margot Slatterly
Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Homegoing by Yaa Gayasi
Tears We Cannot Stop by Michael Eric Dyson
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America by Kiese Laymon

Enjoy these books and pursue other reading that opens you up to new ideas and the experience of people different than you. Most importantly going forward, treat each other with understanding, kindness, and love.