Here are some terrific books to look for this month:
ELEANOR AND PARK, by Rainbow Rowell, is a thoroughly engaging story of first love, high school style. Eleanor is a misfit who always stands out--she's a big girl, redheaded, and she dresses like no one else at school. Park lives on the fringes of social acceptance, a half Asian, taekwondo expert, punk rock lover. When they meet, the chemistry explodes. The alternating points of view successfully highlight the difference between how each character thinks, and how s/he is perceived by others. This is a smart, sensitive novel, and a standout debut for the author.
I really enjoyed ONE CAME HOME, by Amy Timberlake. This mid-grade mystery/adventure story features a spunky main character, thirteen year old Georgie Burkhardt, of Placid, Wisconsin, in 1871. Georgie is a crack shot who always speaks her mind. Soon after Georgie's older sister Agatha runs off with a pair of pigeon hunters, a body with a gunshot wound to the face is brought back for burial. Georgie insists the dead young woman is not Agatha, and she aims to prove it. Though this may sound grim, this story has plenty of laugh out loud moments, as well as many thoughtful ones. Trying to buy a horse so she can follow Agatha's trail, Georgie instead ends up with a mule, and a chaperone who is Agatha's surprisingly handsome jilted suitor. Georgie tangles with the mule, the handsome ex-suitor, a mountain lion, and some shady characters in this complex tale.
In ZEBRA FOREST, by Adina Rishe Gerwitz, Annie and Rew live with their Gran on the edge of town, near the local prison. Their father was killed years earlier in a fight, and their mother took off when both children were very young. While Gran has her good days and her bad days, this is home. Annie and Rew's summer vacation is interrupted by the arrival of a convict, who recently escaped in a mass breakout, and suddenly everything changes. Zebra Forest features strong characters who experience believable growth, in an engrossing writing style.
IF YOU WANT TO SEE A WHALE, words by Julie Fogliano, pictures by Erin E. Stead, continues the successful partnership of the author and illustrator which we saw in And Then It's Spring. If You Want to See a Whale is another quiet, thought-provoking poem with lovely illustrations by Caldecott-winner Stead. This book is both an invitation to study nature closely, as well as to create your own magical world.
THANK YOU, MAMA, by Kate Banks, with pictures by Gabi Swiatkowski, is a lesson in manners, disguised by a fun story, illustrated with distinctive acrylic paintings. Alice tries to teach her new parrot to say thank you, just the way Alice must. There is a lesson in patience here, too. The spare text would be a good choice to use to study how to tell a complete story in a very streamlined way.
HAVE YOU SEEN MY NEW BLUE SOCKS? written by Eve Bunting, with pictures by Sergio Ruzzier, seems perfect for toddlers, as well as for very early readers. The text tells a rhyming, cumulative tale, which is brought to life by the distinctively quirky watercolor illustrations. The collaborators of Tweak, Tweak here create a delightful mini-mystery, told in somewhat Seussian language. It's wonderful!