Read any great books lately? Here are a few of my recent finds:
Continuing in my recent lucky trend of finding wonderfully written stories that go in unexpected directions is THE WALLS AROUND US, by Nova Ren Suma. This time, a superb literary text brings with it an eerie ghost story. Amber tells the moving story of life inside Aurora Hills juvenile detention center, and what happens when Orianna appears. Violet is a dancer on the outside, about to leave for her dream school (Juilliard) yet she’s got a rotten secret involving Ori. A rich, rewarding YA.
ALL RISE FOR THE HONORABLE PERRY T. COOK, by Leslie Connor is, coincidentally, also set in a prison, but this time we’ve got Perry, whose mom has been serving time at the Blue River Co-ed Correctional Facility for nonviolent offenders in Surprise, Nebraska, since before he was born. Though Perry goes to a regular school in town, the warden has always allowed him to make his home at Blue River. Along with his caring mom, many of the inmates are his friends and family, and things go well for all concerned until an ambitious DA decides that he knows what’s best for Perry. This is a warm, loving story with plenty of heart and kid-appeal. (MG)
REBEL OF THE SANDS, by Alwyn Hamilton, is an engaging fantasy, set in a fictional desert where magic still lives, though it’s mostly in hiding. Amani lives in Dustwalk, a town every bit as forlorn as it sounds. Her only hope is to pass for a boy and somehow escape to the city, where life must surely be better. When she meets Jin, they form an uneasy alliance, and her plans take a detour into forbidden magic and full-scale rebellion. (YA)
WHEN SPRING COMES, by Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Laura Dronzek, is a lyrical homage to Spring. This is a text worth reading over and over, pitch-perfect in rhythm and repetition, with brightly-colored paintings that will make it truly accessible to kids. Pair it with the also-awesome And Then It’s Spring, by Julie Fogliano and Erin Stead, for two different approaches to a similar theme.
IN A VILLAGE BY THE SEA, by Muon Van, illustrated by April Chu, is a poetic, circular tale inspired by the author’s ancestral home in Vietnam. A warm tale, with a bit of humor, a touch of magic, and gorgeous paintings make this book really special.
ASK ME, by Bernard Waber, illustrated by Suzy Lee, takes readers through a day of questions and answers, as father and daughter spend some comfortable time together. Told all in dialog, the story and illustrations are tender and inspiring.