Between the Lines by Sandra Neil Wallace


Originally published in: 2018

What it’s about:  An African-American football player turned painter. Or, I guess, a painter who intermittently played football.

What made me pick it up: I can’t remember now. It must’ve been mentioned somewhere and sounded interesting so I placed a hold.

My favorite parts: The illustrations are lovely, as are the examples of artwork included. I really enjoyed learning about an artist I’d never heard of before and a bit of African American history that is not widely known. It was such an inspiring story and a nice reminder to follow your dreams, even if it doesn’t pay or you get sidetracked for a while on your journey.

Who it’s great for: Art lovers of all ages. Readers looking for less well known African American history stories.

Erica’s rating: four shells

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


Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older


Originally published in: 2015

What’s it about: Brooklyn teen Sierra Santiago’s summer vacation is interrupted by weeping street murals, family secrets, and a kind of magic that links the world of the living with that of the dead.

What made me pick it up: I remember seeing good buzz about this when it came out a couple of years ago, so I checked it out when I saw that the audiobook was available.

My favorite things: Once I started this book I didn’t want to stop. The story is engaging and moves quickly with a sense of urgency that will make it hard to put down after “one more chapter.” Woven throughout the story are critiques of a sort of neocolonialist anthropology, gentrification, and erasure of cultural traditions – all of which come together to create a complex portrait of a changing Brooklyn.

Who it’s great for:  Teens interested in urban fantasy.

Abby’s rating: three-and-a-half-shells

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


The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker


Originally published in: 2017

What’s it about: The story of two friends, partners in art and life, creating animated works that bring them a sort of fame while also forcing them to confront difficult truths and traumas in their lives that other people would like to leave in the past.

What made me pick it up: I needed an audiobook to listen to and this one was available, has gotten a lot of good press, and has a cover that makes me want to read it.

My favorite things: Whitaker treats characters suffering addictions almost without judgment in a way that is refreshingly humane. She takes the time to develop every character’s layers and the complexity of their relationships.

Who it’s great for:  Readers looking for complex relationships between characters or an exploration of identity.

Abby’s rating: four-shells

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


Imagine Wanting Only This by Kristen Radtke


Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: A graphic memoir exploring love, art, loss, memory, and mortality.

What made me pick it up: I can’t seem to pass up a graphic memoir.

My favorite things: Radtke’s art is done in a simple grayscale that perfectly complements her story. I loved the way she tied together her own restlessness with an examination of mortality. The way she chronicles her own loss and grief through a growing fascination with deserted towns is honest and compelling.

Who it’s great for: Readers looking for an engaging exploration of mortality and meaning. Fan’s of artists’ memoirs.

Abby’s rating: four-shells

Pick up a copy of this book at Amazon (affiliate link) or in your local library.


Pretending is Lying by Dominique Goblet


Originally published in: original 2007, in translation 2017

What it’s about: A graphic memoir chronicling relationships and family dysfunction, love and heartache.

What made me pick it up: I gravitated toward it the moment it showed up on our cart of new books – the bleak cover art was immediately compelling to me.

My favorite things: The art, the art! Written over the course of twelve years, the art varies in style and medium and still somehow fits together to paint a portrait of a life through time. Complexities and heartaches of real life, honest about flaws, weaknesses, and mistakes. I love the use of handwriting rather than a font for an even more expressive read.

Who it’s great for: Readers looking for an emotionally engaging exploration of family and relationships.

Abby’s rating: four-shells

Pick up a copy of this book at Amazon (affiliate link) or in your local library.

A Poem for Peter by Andrea Davis Pinkney


Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: Children’s book author Ezra Jack Keats and his creation of the iconic book The Snowy Day.

What made me pick it up: I saw it in the Children’s section of the library and it reminded me of the book on e.e. cummings I had read recently. I enjoyed that so I checked this out.

My favorite things: This book mimics Keats’ beautiful illustration style which makes it both nostalgic and engaging. It was interesting to learn about the hardships he faced as an artist before he became the prolific author we know him as today. I also liked how the story of Keats’ life was being told to Peter.

Who it’s great for: Keats fans. Snowy Day fans. Kids who want to learn more about an author.

Erica’s rating: four-shells.

Find these books at Amazon (affiliate links): A Poem for Peter; The Snowy Day or your local library.