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ALA Best Books for Young Adults
Click to search this book in our catalog The Serpent King
by Zentner, Jeff

Publishers Weekly Forrestville, Tenn., named after Ku Klux Klan founder Nathan Bedford Forrest, isn't exactly a welcome place for slightly ouside-the-mainstream folks like friends Dillard, Lydia, and Travis. Dill is a high school senior whose snake-handling preacher father is currently incarcerated; Lydia, a successful fashion blogger, plans on attending NYU after graduation; and Travis, large of body and gentle of soul, loses himself (and the pain of his father's physical and emotional abuse) in a fantasy series called Bloodfall. While Dill finds comfort and beauty in music, Travis's innate kindness belies his circumstances, and Lydia's incandescent, gleefully offbeat personality draws them together. As the novel, Zentner's debut, builds to a shocking act of violence that shatters the friends' world, this sepia-toned portrait of small-town life serves as a moving testament to love, loyalty, faith, and reaching through the darkness to find light and hope. Zentner explores difficult themes head on-including the desire to escape the sins of the father and the fragility of happiness-while tempering them with the saving grace of enduring friendship. Ages 14-up. Agent: Charlie Olsen, Inkwell Management. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Book list In small-town Forrestville, Tennessee, broody musician Dill Early begins his senior year with a general feeling of dread because it means his best friend, Lydia, will be leaving for college once they graduate. As the son of a snake-handling Pentecostal preacher currently in prison, Dill is unable to escape his father's shadow. Lydia, on the other hand, is an outspoken blogger and fashionista, who can't wait to get out of Dodge. Completing their trio is Travis, a gentle giant who carries a staff and is obsessed with fantasy novels. In chapters that shift among the teens' perspectives, Zentner effectively shows the aspirations, fears, and dark secrets they harbor during their final year together. A musician himself, Zentner transitions to prose easily in his debut, pulling in complex issues that range from struggles with faith to abuse to grief. Refreshingly, this novel isn't driven by romance though it rears its head but by the importance of pursuing individual passions and forging one's own path. A promising new voice in YA.--Smith, Julia Copyright 2015 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

School Library Journal Gr 9 Up-The son of a snake-handling preacher imprisoned for possessing child pornography, Dill escapes his controlling mother and social ostracism with the help of his two friends, Lydia and Travis. As the trio round out their senior year, it becomes overwhelmingly apparent the different paths their lives are going to take-Travis is content working in a lumberyard and diving into a fantasy world from a book series in his spare time, while Lydia runs a popular fashion blog and is intent on attending New York University. As for Dill, he yearns for more than Forrestville, TN, can offer, but he feels compelled to honor his father's legacy and his mother's domineering wishes. As Dill grapples with a crush on Lydia and a mother who wants him to drop out of high school, a YouTube clip of Dill singing and playing guitar begins to garner attention. Dill must decide among what his heart wants, what his family needs, and his own desire for a life outside of their small town; "If you're going to live," he says, "you might as well do painful, brave, and beautiful things." Zentner offers a contemporary young adult novel that explores many issues common with teenagers today-bullying, life after high school, and the coming together and breaking apart of high school friendships. Thorough characterization and artful prose allow readers to intimately experience the highs and lows of these three friends. VERDICT Recommended for fans of John Green and Rainbow Rowell.-Amanda C. Buschmann, Atascocita Middle School, Humble, TX © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

ALA Notable Books for Children
Click to search this book in our catalog A Big Mooncake for Little Star
by Grace Lin

Publishers Weekly Nighttime paintings by Lin (Where the Mountain Meets the Moon) add magic to this fable about why the moon waxes and wanes. The story's events unfold against the velvety black of the night sky as Mama and Little Star, dressed in black pajamas spangled with yellow stars, work on their mooncake (an Asian holiday treat, Lin explains in an author's note) in the kitchen. Mama takes the cake out of the oven and lays it "onto the night sky to cool." She tells Little Star not to touch it, and Little Star attends but awakens in the middle of the night and remembers the cake. A double-page spread shows Little Star's speculative glance on the left and the huge golden mooncake-or is it the round, golden full moon?-on the right. Whichever it is, Little Star takes a nibble from the edge, another the next night, and so on until the moon wanes to a delicate crescent. Lin successfully combines three distinctive and memorable elements: a fable that avoids seeming contrived, a vision of a mother and child living in cozy harmony, and a night kitchen of Sendakian proportions. Ages 4-8. (Aug.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal PreS-Gr 1-Little Star's mother admonishes her not to eat the giant mooncake, which she left cooling in the night sky, but Little Star has her own ideas. Little Star makes a mischievous choice. "Yum!" Each night, she wakes from her bed in the sky and nibbles from the giant mooncake. "'Little Star!' her mama said, shaking her head even though her mouth was curving. ' You ate the big mooncake again, didn't you?'" Rather than scolding, Mama responds with a kind offer to bake a new mooncake. Observant eyes will recognize that the final pages showing Little Star and her mama baking a new mooncake are a repeat of the front papers-a purposeful hint that the ritual is repeated monthly as Little Star causes the phases of the moon. Artwork is gouache on watercolor paper. Each page has a glossy black background and small white font. Little Star and her mother have gentle countenances twinkling with merriment. Both wear star-studded black pajamas that are distinguishable from the inky sky only by their yellow stars and the occasional patch of Little Star's exposed tummy. The cherubic Little Star floats through the darkness, her mooncake crumbs leaving a trail of stardust in the sky. VERDICT The relationship between Little Star and her mother offers a message of empowerment and reassurance. Lin's loving homage to the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival is sure to become a bedtime favorite.-Lisa Taylor, Florida State College, Jacksonville © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book list Against the backdrop of a black sky, Mama and Little Star bake a giant mooncake. But as she puts the cake out to cool, Mama admonishes her daughter not to touch it. And she doesn't until she wakes up in the night. Then, it's pat, pat, pat over to the mooncake, where she nibbles just a bit. Each night, there's more nibbling, causing the mooncake to change shape, until it's just a crescent. That's when Mama sees what's happened, but she isn't mad. It's just time to make another mooncake. Although the story is slight (and there's no direct aligning of the mooncake with the stages of the moon, either in text or note), the gouache illustrations are excellent. Mother and daughter, both dressed in star-covered black jumpsuits that add bits of light to inky backgrounds, are intriguing characters who come alive through facial expressions. Little Star's impish looks are worth the price of admission. This has no roots in Chinese mythology, Lin says, but she associates it with Asian moon festivals. A complementary read for those holidays.--Cooper, Ilene Copyright 2018 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Caldecott Medal Winners
Click to search this book in our catalog A Different Pond
by Bao Phi

Book list *Starred Review* Before dawn, a Vietnamese American man and his young son set out to fish for their supper in a nearby lake. As they travel the lamp-lit streets, build a small fire, and drop their hook into the water, the little boy contemplates his parents' lives, the everyday task of fishing for their supper, and the stories they've told him about living in Vietnam before coming to America as refugees. Phi's bittersweet story of the resourcefulness of an immigrant family is lovingly illustrated in Bui's evocative artwork. Her expressive ink-black brushstrokes stand out against a background of star-speckled, crepuscular blues, and at poignant moments in Phi's story, she movingly homes in on the facial expressions of the boy and his father. While the story occasionally hints at painful things, the gravity of those events is depicted in the emotional reactions of the characters in the present, rather than images of war in the past. The boy's father has fond memories of Vietnam, heartbreak for the people he lost in the war, and gratitude for the opportunities afforded to him in the U.S., all of which the boy silently internalizes into both appreciation for his life and curiosity about a place he's never been. This wistful, beautifully illustrated story will resonate not only with immigrant families but any family that has faced struggle.--Hunter, Sarah Copyright 2017 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

School Library Journal K-Gr 2-This gorgeous tale about a father/son fishing trip shows the interconnectedness of family and the inexorable way that generational history impacts the present. The story is told from the boy's perspective, as his father wakes him long before dawn to go fishing. Although the child enjoys the outing as a special adventure with his dad, they are fishing for food, not sport, and they must be home in time for the father to leave for work. The quiet time together provides opportunities for the man to talk about his past life fishing with his brother in a different pond in Vietnam, long ago before the war and before coming to America. After they return home, triumphant, with a bucket of fish, the boy contemplates his role as the youngest in the family-no longer a baby-and even though he is sad that both his parents have to work, he knows there will be a happy, love-filled family dinner later that night. Bui's cinematic illustrations make use of panels and weighted lines, evoking the perfect background or facial expression for each piece of text. The text placement and composition of the illustrations allow each occurrence or observation to be its own distinct event, stringing together the small, discrete moments that make up a life, a memory, and a history into a cohesive whole. VERDICT This gentle coming-of-age story is filled with loving, important aspects of the immigrant experience and is a first purchase for all libraries.-Anna Haase Krueger, Ramsey County Library, MN © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Phi, a poet whose parents were Vietnamese refugees, draws from childhood memories in this story about fishing with his father before sunrise on the lakes of Minneapolis. They didn't do it for fun; it was a way to put food on the table. "Everything in America costs a lot of money," his father tells him. Sometimes, they run into fishermen from other marginalized communities: a Hmong man "speaks English like my dad and likes to talk about funny movies," and a black man "shows me his colorful lure collection." Though the morning is an adventure for the boy, it's the start of a long day for his father, who heads to work afterward (as does the boy's mother). Bui (The Best We Could Do) uses confident ink lines and watery washes of deep blue to evoke the predawn setting and tender familial relationship. Graphic novel panels and strong figures give the pages the air of a documentary as Phi celebrates an unexpected superhero: a father who endures a strange new culture, works to support his family, cherishes time with his son, and draws no attention to the sacrifices he's made. Ages 6-8. (Aug.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

New York Times Bestsellers
Click to search this book in our catalog American Dirt
by Jeanine Cummins

Library Journal In a book both timely and prodigiously readable, Cummins (The Crooked Branch) offers an unrelenting and terrifyingly you-are-there account of a Mexican mother and son fleeing to America after cartel violence takes their entire family. Lydia had been comfortably running a bookstore in Acapulco, but cartel violence is escalating, and the charming customer with whom she's become friendly turns out to be the jefe of the newest, cruelest cartel in town. When he's also the subject of her journalist husband's latest reveal-all profile, vengeance is swift, which puts Lydia and Luca on the run by bus and van, in migrant shelters, on top of a train, and, finally, in the remote and blazing American Southwest. Cummins expertly balances the brutality of the cartel, its scary omniscience, and Lydia's ululating fear with Lydia's passionate commitment to Luca's survival and the numerous small, brave acts of kindness she encounters that speed this duo north. VERDICT Here, it's the journey rather than the arrival on American dirt that counts, and readers will wonder whether they could ever have survived such a trek even as they realize that this could happen to them. An important book. [See Prepub Alert, 7/15/19.]—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly With this devastating yet hopeful work, Cummins (The Crooked Branch) breathes life into the statistics of the thousands fleeing their homelands and seeking to cross the southern border of the United States. By mere chance, Lydia Quixano Pérez and her eight-year-old son, Luca, survive the massacre of the rest of her family at her niece’s quinceañera by sicarios of the Los Jardineros cartel in Acapulco. Compounding the horror of the violence and loss is the fact that the cartel’s leader is a man that Lydia unwittingly befriended in her bookstore. Lydia and Luca flee north to the only refuge that she can imagine: her uncle’s family in Denver. North of Mexico City, all other sources of transportation become impossible, so mother and son must risk traveling atop La Bestia, the freight trains that are the only way to reach the border without being seen. They befriend two beautiful sisters—Soledad, 15, who is “a living miracle of splendor,” and Rebeca, 14—who have fled life-threatening circumstances in Honduras. As the quartet travel, they face terror on a constant basis, with danger possible from any encounter, but also compassion and occasionally even wonder. This extraordinary novel about unbreakable determination will move the reader to the core. (Jan.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal All's well for Lydia Quixano Perez, who runs a bookstore in Acapulco while raising beloved son Luca, until her journalist husband writes a reveal-all profile of the jefe of the newest drug cartel brutalizing the city. For safety, she and her family are forced to flee north, trying to get onto "American dirt"—but what will life be like for them when they arrive? Starting to buzz; a ten-city author tour.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus This terrifying and tender novel is a blunt answer to the question of why immigrants from Latin America cross the U.S. borderand a testimony to the courage it takes to do it.Cummins (The Crooked Branch, 2013, etc.) opens this propulsive novel with a massacre. In a pleasant Acapulco neighborhood, gunmen slaughter 16 people at a family barbecue, from a grandmother to the girl whose quinceaera they are celebrating. The only survivors are Lydia, a young mother, and her 8-year-old son, Luca. She knows they must escape, fast and far. Lydia's husband, Sebastin, is among the dead; he was a fearless journalist whose coverage of the local cartel, Los Jardineros, is the reason los sicarios were sent, as the sign fastened to his dead chest makes clear. Lydia knows there is more to it, that her friendship with a courtly older man who has become her favorite customer at the small bookstore she runs is a secret key, and that she and her son are marked for death. Cummins does a splendid job of capturing Lydia's and Luca's numb shock and then panic in the aftermath of the shootings, then their indomitable will to survive and reach el norteany place they might go in Mexico is cartel territory, and any stranger might be an assassin. She vividly recounts their harrowing travels for more than 1,000 miles by bus, atop a lethally dangerous freight train, and finally on foot across the implacable Sonoran Desert. Peril and brutality follow them, but they also encounter unexpected generosity and heroism. Lydia and Luca are utterly believable characters, and their breathtaking journey moves with the velocity and power of one of those freight trains.Intensely suspenseful and deeply humane, this novel makes migrants seeking to cross the southern U.S. border indelibly individual. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Book list Lydia Perez's life is not extraordinary; she is a bookstore owner with a husband and eight-year-old son, Luca, in Acapulco. When cartel jefe Javier Fuentes has her entire extended family killed while Lydia and Luca are fortuitously hiding in a bathroom, Lydia realizes they must leave Mexico immediately or be killed when Javier finds out she is still alive. Luca, confused but trusting in his mother, embarks with her on an odyssey to the north, joining other migrants trying to make it to the U.S. border. What they see along the way will bring readers both heartbreak and hope, pain and promise. While Cummins alternates points of view, Luca's voice in particular sings with innocent optimism in the face of a series of near misses. The journey towards the prospect of safety is not only that of Luca and Lydia but of many other migrants, and complex secondary characters serve as both warnings and signs of possibility. Beautiful, straightforward language drives home the point that migration to safer places is not a political issue but a human one. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: With a story line sure to be much discussed this election year plus a film in the works American Dirt may be the don't-miss book of 2020.--Tracy Babiasz Copyright 2019 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Newbery Medal Winners
Click to search this book in our catalog Piecing Me Together
by Renee Watson

Book list Who owns the river and the line, and the hook, and the worm? wonders Jade, a scholarship kid at Portland's prestigious St. Francis High. Through her first two years of school, she's had to balance her home life in a poor neighborhood with her life at a school populated mostly by rich white kids. When offered a mentorship for at-risk girls (which includes a full college scholarship), she jumps at the opportunity to learn how to be a successful black woman. However, she soon suspects that her mentor, Maxine, may only have a superficial understanding of Jade's challenges and that there may be things Jade can teach her. Watson is unafraid to show Jade as a young woman who is resilient and mature for her age, but also plagued by self-doubt. The book itself is a balancing act between class, race, and social dynamics, with Watson constantly undercutting stereotypes and showing no fear in portraying virtues along with vices. The book's defiance of a single-issue lens will surely inspire discussion and consideration.--Suarez, Reinhardt Copyright 2016 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

School Library Journal Gr 7 Up-High school junior Jade is an "at-risk" student from a rough neighborhood in Portland, OR. She is also a talented collage artist, and she attends an elite private school on scholarship. More than anything, she wants to go on a study abroad week offered at her school to use her Spanish skills. Instead, she is given an invitation to join Woman to Woman, a mentorship program for young women like her: poor and black. Her mentor, Maxine, is from a more privileged background, and Jade doesn't see what she can learn from her. But in spite of her early resistance to Maxine, Jade begins to open up and gain confidence, and, eventually, she is able to express the importance of her family, her community, and her art. The two strong female characters and the ways in which they struggle with and support each other form the center of this tale. Most young people will relate to Jade's search to find her voice and learn to advocate for herself in appropriate ways. The lack of a romantic lead may leave some young teen readers disappointed, but there is a real, refreshing strength in a fully fleshed-out female character whose story is her own. This is a memorable novel that demonstrates that a happy ending doesn't require a romantic subplot. VERDICT This unique and thought-provoking title offers a nuanced meditation on race, privilege, and intersectionality. A first purchase for YA collections.-Kristin Anderson, Columbus Metropolitan Library System, OH © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Jade Butler, an African-American artist-in-the-making, lives with her mother in Portland, Ore., and travels by bus to private school, where she is both grateful for and resentful of the opportunities presented to her. In short, poetic chapters, Jade ponders her family, school, and neighborhood relationships, wondering where she fits in: "How I am someone's answered prayer but also someone's deferred dream." Watson (This Side of Home) weaves collage imagery throughout the story as Jade ruminates over historical figures such as York, the slave who traveled with Lewis and Clark, and distressing current events, including police violence against a neighborhood girl: "I am ripping and cutting. Gluing and pasting. Rearranging reality, redefining, covering, disguising. Tonight I am taking ugly and making beautiful." Jade's narrative voice offers compelling reflections on the complexities of race and gender, class and privilege, and fear and courage, while conveying the conflicted emotions of an ambitious, loyal girl. Teeming with compassion and insight, Watson's story trumpets the power of artistic expression to re-envision and change the world. Ages 12-up. Agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Oprah's Book Club
Click to search this book in our catalog The Meanest Thing to Say
by Bill Cosby

School Library Journal : K-Gr 3--Cosby turns his hand to writing, telling stories about situations that children often face. In The Best Way to Play, Little Bill, the narrator, and his friends get caught up in the excitement and marketing of their favorite TV cartoon, Space Explorers, and desperately want their parents to buy them the expensive video game. They become bored with it quickly, however, and realize that it's more fun to play Space Explorers outside. In The Meanest Thing to Say, Little Bill comes face to face with a bully. The Treasure Hunt takes him on a voyage of self-exploration. It seems to him that everyone in his family has a special quality. After a full day of searching, he discovers that his is "telling stories and making people laugh." These titles feature short chapters, making them appropriate for beginning readers--but they're also short enough to be read aloud. Honeywood's illustrations are bright and eye-catching, and show Little Bill and his friends and family as having distinctive personalities and characteristics. Each book comes with a letter to parents from a child psychiatrist about the subject matter in that book. While the writing is nothing extraordinary, Cosby has a good grasp of the issues and how the world looks through children's eyes. The primarily African-American characters also make these books welcome additions to easy-reader collections.

Dina Sherman, Brooklyn Children's Museum, NY Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms

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