Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia

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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

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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).


 

Slice Harvester by Colin Atrophy Hagendorf

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Originally published in: 2015

What it’s about: A chronically drunk punk in his late twenties goes on a quest to eat every pizza in Manhattan and blog about it. His love for New York deepens and he finds meaning for himself and reasons to sober up along the way.

What made me pick it up: Erica left this on my desk for me because I talk about eating pizza a lot.

My favorite things: Okay look, I didn’t grow up in New York so I don’t think that they have the greatest pizza on Earth, but at some points he almost had me convinced. Hagendorf strikes a good balance between backstory, pizza reviews, and the Harvesting experience. He’s self-deprecating but fun.

Who it’s great for: Fans of food memoirs. People with strong opinions about pizza. Greaseballs, dirtbags, true weirdos, and the people that love them.

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


Want a copy? Find one at Amazon (affiliate link) or see if it’s available at a library near you.


Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney

9781250113320

Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: An 85-year-old woman walks around New York City on New Year’s Eve 1984 reminiscing about her 60 years there.

What made me pick it up: It got really good reviews. It had good cover art.

My favorite things: This book wonderfully balances the present Lillian’s experiences in 1980s NYC and Lillian from times gone by. I really liked the spirit of the character – an independent woman when that was still a difficult thing to be, who gets caught off guard by unexpected love, and then sidetracked completely by mental illness. She is feisty and strong and I appreciated her attitude and her indomitable will. You’ll want to be friends with Lillian Boxfish.

Who it’s great for: Fans of New York City. Anyone who has had a feisty grandmother whom they love. Readers looking for a strong female lead and a historical bent in their next novel.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


Pick up a copy at Amazon (affiliate link) or your local library.