Thursday, September 15, 2016

September Recommendations

As summer stumbles into fall, what great reads have you discovered?

Here’s what I’ve been enjoying lately:


GREENGLASS HOUSE, by Kate Milford, takes place during twelve-year-old Milo Pine’s winter vacation. Just when he’s looking forward to relaxing with his family (they never have guests the first week of vacation), the doorbell rings. Somehow, on a cold and snowy night, the old smuggler’s hotel fills up with strange guests who tell strange stories about why they’ve arrived. Milo and cook’s daughter Meddy uncover plenty of secrets as they use lessons from an old role-playing game to help investigate a string of robberies and more. This is a top-notch mystery with plenty of atmosphere. Especially perfect for a cold night and a cup of hot chocolate, but worthy of being enjoyed anytime! (MG)

Jennifer Nielsen’s newest novel is a stand-alone, called THE SCOURGE. Like her False Prince trilogy, this one features a troublemaker with a heart of gold. Ani and her best friend Weevil are taken by the governor’s men to be tested for a deadly plague called the Scourge. Though initially Ani tests negative, a second, more radical test indicates that she actually has the disease. She and Weevil, who contends that he has it, too, are sent to the Colony, a place of banishment for all Scourge victims. Ani’s strong sense of justice stirs up more than the governor and her henchmen have bargained for, as she and Weevil do whatever it takes to uncover the truth. Strong characters drive this adventure. (MG)

HOW TO HANG A WITCH, by Adriana Mather, is a contemporary novel of ghosts, witches, and an ancient curse, all of which harken back to the 17th century witch trials in Salem, MA. Like the author, protagonist Samantha is a direct descendant of Cotton Mather, the Puritan minister responsible for the Trials. When her dad slips into a coma, Sam and her stepmother sell their NYC apartment and move to the family home in Salem to save money for medical bills. Sam immediately runs afoul of the Descendants, a group of rich goths whose ancestors were witches actually hanged in the Trials. Throw in a couple of handsome guys, one of whom is a ghost, and you have all the elements of a very engaging story. Good messages about bullying and mob mentality, too. (YA)

Picture Books:

These three especially strong picture books beg to be read aloud, and all for different reasons. Two are by editor-turned-author Richard Jackson (each with a different illustrator), and one is by Nina Laden, not to be confused with a book recently out by Dan Santat of the same name.

The first by Richard Jackson, IN PLAIN SIGHT, is illustrated by Caldecott Medalist Jerry Pinkney. It’s the heartwarming story of Sophie, who lives with Mama and Daddy and Grandpa, who lives by the window. Every afternoon, Sophie and Grandpa play a game. Sophie finds things her grandpa has lost, things which are hiding in plain sight. The lyrical prose says plenty, but it’s still spare enough to let the wondrous art carry a full share of the story. (Don’t forget to check check endpapers and under the dustcover, too.) This cozy book should end in hugs all around.

A second book by Richard Jackson, HAVE A LOOK, SAYS BOOK, is illustrated by Kevin Hawkes. If I said it was a story about textures, I’d be selling it way short. This one needs to be read aloud for the sheer joy of letting the words roll off your tongue. Hear yourself saying them, then read it to someone else and the experience just gets better. Once again, no wasted words and gorgeous art make this a wonderful example of picture book-making at its very best.

And, finally, ARE WE THERE YET?, by Nina Laden and Adam McCauley, should be read aloud because it’s more fun that way. The text is simple, mostly “Are we there yet?” and the answer, “No.” But the illustrations are jam-packed with details to discover, and they get more outrageous as the story progresses. Sit next to someone as you look for the many recurring elements, and, like the kid on the back endpapers, when you’re done you’ll all want to say, “Let’s do it again!”


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