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Children's Book Buyer & Programming Director
I am a kidlit & YA specialist to the core! I read it all, from board books to children's nonfiction to middle grade adventure to complex young adult novels. I look for books that offer readers something new--an original imaginative spark, an undeniable human connection, or a distinctive point of view. I also love nonfiction that ignites curiosity and expands the worldview of young readers. Reading with my two kids at home (one eager and one more reluctant) plus literacy work with emerging readers keeps me honest, seeing what kids at different stages and levels respond to (or don't).
In this gorgeously illustrated jungle adventure, a boy threads his canoe through the murky waters and deep green shadows of a mangrove forest--braving hidden eyes, daunting waves, and his own unease to get to his very first day of school in the Mekong Delta. Kids will love getting lost in the beautiful pages of one boy’s quest to conquer his fears as he embarks on his next great journey: going to school!
In the hills of Port-au-Prince, Fallon and Manman tighten their silk mouchwas and head to the market past the tap-tap bus, the rhythmic sounds of kompa music, and painted walls that withstood the big earthquake. Fallon can't wait to carry the panye full of food home, balanced perfectly on her head just like Maman! And today it's finally Fallon's turn to try in this warm look at the passing of a family tradition that simultaneously celebrates the strength and resilience of Haiti.
Readers will fall in love with this curmudgeonly sea dweller brought out of his shell by an irrepressible new neighbor. Playful visual wordplay infuses sly humor and gets kids practicing their sight words along the way in this beachy tale that’s perfect for family storytime (and truly fun to real aloud)!
The source of life, water can't be taken for granted. Inspired by Indigenous activists and traditions of stewardship, this gorgeous appreciation of the natural world serves as a rallying call to protect the planet we call home."
Music floats away on the air; sleep comes and goes; even lice (luckily) leave your scalp. Embracing impermanence with whimsy and wonder, Alemagna's quiet appreciation of life's ephemeral moments will leave young philosophers pondering deep thoughts.
You're taller than a book but not as tall as a redwood tree or Mt. Everest—which in turn represent tiny specks within our universe. Curious minds will boggle at the escalating scale of this expansive yet accessible look at our place in the cosmos.
Even though everyone calls her "Too Small Tola" because she's the youngest, Tola's pluck, determination, and can-do spirit prove she's anything BUT small when she puts her mind to getting something done in this exuberant early chapter book set in Lagos, Nigeria.
Sent from her insular Haitian village to live with extended family in New York City, Gabrielle is plunged instantly into a world where nothing seems familiar. Though she knows you should NEVER trust a witch, Gabrielle takes a chance on three magical mango slices offering wishes guaranteed to help her fit in. As long as she never uses the last one, her essence will be safe from the witch's clutches--but wishes ALWAYS come with consequences, and witches usually have more than one trick up their sleeves. This is a dazzling debut offering danger, intrigue, and a dollop of magic within a heartfelt exploration of the immigrant experience.
In this resonant Thai-inspired reimagining of Les Miserables, readers find perfectly ripe mangoes falling from trees, wondrous orbs that illuminate the night, a monk who dispenses wisdom with blessings, a high-born girl determined to prove her worth, a tyrant whose luminous magic sows division and despair, and a prison-born orphan searching for freedom amidst it all. Magic and philosophy mingle in this thrilling tale of friendship and courage that exposes the difference between wisdom and power and explores what it means to bring light to the darkness.
In this extraordinary ode to the power of storytelling, a young refugee tries to win over his American classmates with tales of his Persian ancestors--stories that enchant the listener, impart deep-rooted truths, and carry the weight of the world. Readers will slow down to savor the significance of each mesmerizing word.
Flirting with the possibility of magic in the world, even as it digs deep into the dark complexities of human relationships, King and the Dragonflies is one of my favorite books of the year. Following a young boy navigating a devastating loss, questions about his identity, and real concern for a former friend, this remarkable novel offers a moving portrait of someone figuring out who they are, finding the courage to say what they really mean, and knowing exactly when to trust their gut.
When you find out your father isn't so much a structural engineer as an ancient magical entity entrusted with protecting the barrier between humanity and the powers of Darkness, it's a shock. But Maya doesn't have much time to ponder her new reality, as she's plunged straight into a battle to save her father (and the world), armed only with a magic staff, a vast knowledge of comic books, and the support of her friends in this sparkling series opener rooted in West African mythology.
When Clo's sent to an island and told to spin fish into yarn, she just wants to go home. But the more she learns, the more her future seems as unknowable as the big salt sea in a redolent, shimmering story spun from the threads of Greek mythology.
Everyone in Dadaab is waiting: for family, an end to war, or a ticket to America. For Omar, protecting his disabled brother is top priority, but an education could unlock his future (if he's lucky) in this poignant memoir of refugee camp life.
Otto and Sheed are no strangers to bold heroics. But when the Epic Ellison Sisters (their bitter rivals) save the city again, the boys must find one last adventure to even the score before school starts in this zany mash-up of whirlwind adventure and MAD science.
A bear cub of a girl chafes against rules and expectations in her aristocratic Athenian house while a slave with the soul of an artist seeks freedom from his bonds. Destined never to meet in the human world, their fates entwine through bonds of love and tragedy, leading each of them on unexpected and perilous paths through the ancient world -- while the beautiful, vengeful, generous gods tip the scales from above.
Blending verse and prose, archaeological context, and a lesson in Socratic questioning from the master himself, this ambitious novel offers philosophical readers plenty of food for thought. Perhaps not for the casual or reluctant reader, this one will offer a unique reading experience for those thoughtful and inquisitive middle school readers looking for something a bit more complex! I've never read anything quite like it.
Ever a slight outsider within her Sault Ste. Marie community as an unenrolled Anishinaabe descendant on her deceased father's side and a member of one of the town's wealthiest white families on her mother's, Daunis has long felt pulled between worlds. But suddenly her tangled family ties, love of hockey, and passion for science uncomfortably collide as she investigates a string of drug-related deaths in the community--deaths that hit Daunis way too close to home. Filled with Anishinaabemowin phrases and compelling cultural context, Boulley's immersive YA thriller packs a big punch that will stay with readers for a very long time.
After activist and YouTube star Kezi Smith is killed in police custody after a social justice rally, her sisters and best friends decide to honor her memory by taking a road trip through the south that Kezi herself had planned--using The Negro Motorist Green Book to make stops that intersect with the history of her own family. The Moulite Sisters offer a breathtakingly wide lens as they interrogate what it means to be Black and labeled "one of the good ones" (and what it means if you're not) in this searing and unpredictably complex examination of racism, power, sisterhood, and fame. There's also a lot more to this twisty tale than meets the eye, but to say more would spoil the experience of discovering that for yourself...
Bound by blood to murder one she loves (who is also the Crown Prince), Tarisai takes drastic measures to suppress the venom in her veins in this epic fantasy filled with political intrigue and dazzling worldbuilding rooted in Nigerian folklore.
Mistreated lady's maid by day, witty advice columnist by night, 17-year-old Jo Kuan challenges 19th century society's status quo by skewering the inequalities she sees firsthand. But as her words light a fire, how long can she protect her secret identity?
Those only familiar with Charles Lingbergh as a famous flyer (or for his son's tragic kidnapping) will be shocked and fascinated by the story of how America's shiniest, most wholesome hero turned into a eugenics supporting apologist for the Third Reich. Eerie parallels to our present moment make Fleming's masterful portrait of an extremely complicated man a compelling (and disturbing) must-read. I read it straight through in one sitting!
Dragon Hoops is full of fascinating characters and suspenseful sports montages, but it also reckons in unexpected ways with the nature of heroism and courage, laying the groundwork for a triumphant sports story that feels less about winning and more about figuring out what it means to play the game. A remarkable journey that turned this sports averse reader into a true fan (at least for the duration).