Sea Otter Heroes by Patricia Newman

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Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: Proof that otters are even more amazing than we thought (because they save ecosystems).

What made me pick it up: I don’t know if you know this yet, but I really, really like otters.

My favorite things: I appreciated how much scientific explanation was in this book. It was a little text heavy for a picture book but perfectly detailed for an older reader. It’s separated into chapters to make reading with your little one easier by breaking it up into segments. And of course, I’m always rooting for the otters. I’m so glad they are being protected so we can discover how beneficial it is to have them around.

Who it’s great for: Budding scientists. Otter lovers.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


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


 

Before I Forget by B. Smith, Dan Gasby and Michael Shnayerson

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Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: Model, restaurateur, and lifestyle guru Smith and her fight against early onset Alzheimer’s.

What made me pick it up: A patron called asking about it and it sounded interesting. I originally thought it was Smith writing about her husband’s early onset diagnosis. I was incorrect.

My favorite things: This is powerful. It is mainly told by Gasby with small sections by Smith. I listened to the audio and hearing how slightly vacant she sounds is heartbreaking. I appreciated their honesty about difficulties they face with her new capabilities and how her continued decline is likely inevitable since the science isn’t ready to fight back quite yet. I admired Gasby’s dedication to Smith even after losing her as the partner she used to be. It made a strong impression of the importance of health insurance, health education, and fundraising for more research to be done. It reminded me a little of Pat Summit’s memoir after her early onset diagnosis which stays with me to this day. I also was glad to learn that there now is a definitive diagnostic test on live patients for Alzheimer’s, although it is cost prohibitive and not usually covered by insurance. *sigh*

Who it’s great for: Individuals or family members of someone with Alzheimer’s. Those curious about the disease.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


Find this title at Amazon or in your local library.


 

Hunger by Roxane Gay

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Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: Roxane Gay reflects on her life in her body. She explores struggles with size, eating disorders, assault, and what it’s like to exist in a world that wasn’t designed to accommodate your body.

What made me pick it up: I love Roxane Gay’s work and I thought this book sounded important.

My favorite things: Take a deep breath before you dive into this because it is deep, raw, and painfully honest. She doesn’t shy away from details of her assault or the ways she thinks of her assailant to this day. She even takes the time to explain why she’s more comfortable identifying as a victim of sexual violence rather than as a survivor – without condemning or questioning those who do identify as survivors. The courage and openness throughout Hunger is consistently inspiring.

Who it’s great for: Fans of Roxane Gay’s other work. Memoir readers looking for something heavy to dig into.

Abby’s rating: five-shells


Find this book at Amazon or in your local library.


 

Blue Sky White Stars by Sarvinder Naberhaus

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Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: The is a celebration of America, its diversity, and its flag.

What made me pick it up: I really like this illustrator, Kadir Nelson — he did Henry’s Freedom Box and If You Plant a Seed although I didn’t realize that until I got the book. It must have been reviewed well somewhere or sounded intriguing, so I placed a hold on it.

My favorite things: The illustrations are beautiful! Combined with the spare prose this is a powerful book. It really conveys the message of the American flag across history and throughout the vastness of the country, its people, and its customs. I enjoyed such a simple, yet positive, message.

Who it’s great for: Anyone who needs a small reminder of why America is great, especially when it might not feel that way. Readers who enjoy great illustrations and want to feel briefly that they are in an art gallery while reading a book.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


Find this book on Amazon or in your local library.


 

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg and Nell Scovell

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Originally published in: 2013

What it’s about: COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg considers her own experiences and gives advice for women on investing fully in career and life. You can also read Erica’s review of Sandberg’s later book Option B.

What made me pick it up: I’ve been meaning to check it out for a while and the audiobook was available to check out.

My favorite things: Some will argue that this is geared only toward certain women, but Sandberg does a great job of identifying her own privileges and trying to adapt her advice to women who may not have the same opportunities. She also encourages women to fully commit to whatever decisions they make even if they aren’t the same ones she would make.

Who it’s great for: Women looking for advice on career and life or insight into one woman’s rise to the top. Readers who enjoyed Sandberg’s later book, Option B.

Abby’s rating: three-shells


Find this book at Amazon or in your local library.


 

Unbound by Ann E. Burg

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Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: A family who escaped slavery and their journey to join the colony of maroons in the middle of Virginia’s Great Dismal Swamp to live freely.

What made me pick it up: A coworker came down to tell me she was working on her book talk for it and I realized I had read the author’s previous work (Serafina’s Promise) and love a novel in verse so I took it from her when she offered and checked it out.

My favorite things: This book is powerful. The verse nature of the writing makes it go very quickly. The first-person narration helps bring to life the experience of slavery for Grace. As someone who once was a nine-year-old who had trouble keeping her thoughts in her head and not saying whatever she thought, it really brought home how that once had much worse consequences. I could relate to all of Grace’s emotions — especially guilt. Even though you are fairly certain of the outcome, it’s still an edge-of-your-seat read as Grace and her family flee for their lives.

Who it’s great for: Anyone who wants to learn more about a lesser known group of runaway slaves/slave settlement. Readers who want an emotional portrayal of the slavery and runaway experience.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


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


 

Hazy Bloom and the Tomorrow Power by Jennifer Hamburg

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Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: Third grader Hazy starts having premonitions about what will happen the next day and the results of her trying to use those fuzzy visions to prevent (or maybe cause) catastrophe.

What made me pick it up: I saw it recommended a couple times by our children’s librarians for reader’s advisory requests. I looked into it and thought it might be something my soon-to-be third grade niece might like for Christmas so I placed a hold on it and read it as a gift preview.

My favorite things: This book is really fun. I like giving my niece books that contain characters that get up to high jinks but really only have good intentions. Previously I gifted her The Astounding Brocoolli Boy and this is similar in tone. I liked Hazy’s realistic relationships with siblings, parents, and friends. It nailed being a third grader and all the complications that can come with that. It also has a good acceptance of self and others story line. I look forward to future Hazy books.

Who it’s great for: Third graders. Kids who stumble and blunder their way through sometimes. Readers looking for tiny adventures.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


Find a copy of this book on Amazon or at your local library.