Originally published in: 2018
What it’s about: Being kind in the face of bullying.
What made me pick it up: I can’t quite remember. I think I saw it on Twitter. Wherever it was, the person was raving about it.
My favorite parts: This sweet and brief picture book contains no words. And it doesn’t need to. The story is told perfectly through the illustrations. When a young child is antagonized by a bully she finds an ally in another child who witnessed the bullying. And they walk to school together. Then another child joins, until everyone chooses to support the bullied child. It’s powerful and lovely and all kids and adults alike should read it.
Who it’s great for: Everyone. No exceptions.
Find this book in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).
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.
Find this in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).
Originally published in: 2015
What it’s about: A little boy with a pet elephant searches for a group that will accept him and his pet.
What made me pick it up: I saw it reviewed on another blog and the cover captured my eye. Also, I have a strong and ongoing desire to have a pet elephant so this was right up my alley.
My favorite things: This picture book was sweet story about friendship and belonging. It has lovely illustrations and a positive message.
Who it’s great for: Elephant lovers. Parents looking for stories of friendship and inclusion to read to their children. Fans of excellent illustrations.
Get a copy of this book on Amazon (affiliate link) or at your local library.
Originally published in: 2016
What it’s about: Jahren’s journey to be a scientist who has her own lab, which is also her journey to become herself.
What made me pick it up: It had a lot of holds. I’d heard about it a little. It was about trees or plants or something I was interested in reading about at the time. Little reasons.
My favorite things: Like her blog says, Hope Jahren sure can write. This is beautiful. Jahren writes so well about things that are so hard and complicated. I was floored with how realistically she was able to portray her mental illness, especially her episodes. It brought tears to my eyes. I also appreciated the story of the enduring friendship she built with her longtime assistant Bill. That story of how friends become family always warms my heart. Mostly, I liked how forthright she is. How she makes you want to keep going even though it’s tough because of how frequently she did the same. It will inspire you.
Who it’s great for: Teens. Adults. Anyone who is pursuing something but isn’t sure it will work out. Those who struggle with mental illness. Lovers of trees. You, if you want to read a great story of finding your place and your people.
Find a copy of Lab Girl at Amazon (affiliate link) or in your local library.
What it’s about: Peter is a 12 year old boy and Pax is fox. They’ve been inseparable since the day Peter rescued Pax as a kit. Now they are being forced apart, but will go the distance to find their way back each other.
What made me pick it up: I actually picked this one up because the cover is so compelling.
My favorite things: Wow, reading Pax felt like getting punched in the gut-in a good way! Peter and Pax have an incredible bond, and I loved that we got to read about it from both of their perspectives. I was surprised to find that this story is really as much about war as it is about friendship. I wasn’t expecting war to feel as close as it does. Pennypacker does a great job of making war very real and very personal. Despite the heavy themes, Pax is mostly a story about love and friendship and how they can flourish even in troubled times. You’ll definitely want a box of tissues on hand before you dive into this one.
Who it’s great for: Tweens who can handle some graphic content. Those looking for a story of resilient love and friendship. Fans of The Fox and the Hound.
What it’s about: A young girl fears nothing and relies on no one, at least until she is confronted with the reality that jumbies exist. She learns that it’s okay to be scared and important to trust in your friends.
What made me pick it up: I was looking for a creepy middle grade read and came across The Jumbies. I was only planning to read the first few pages to get a feel for it, but I got sucked in.
My favorite things: I don’t know too much about Caribbean folklore, so I enjoyed getting to learn a little through the context of the story rather than having everything spelled out. I love the variety of characters and relationships that develop throughout the story. Baptiste does a great job of illustrating the idea that just because you are scared of someone or something, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are dangerous or want to hurt you-sometimes they’re just different than you.
Who it’s great for: Tweens looking for stories of friendship. Fans of creepy. Those looking for a strong female lead.