Friendship

Staff Picks: The First Rule of Punk

When 12 year old Malú’s moves to Chicago with her mother, she’s worried she won’t find her place. But in exploring her Mexican heritage, embracing her love of all things punk, and connecting with new friends, she learns how important the first rule of punk actually is. Malú’s zines (self published magazines) are printed throughout the novel, offering another glimpse inside her mind and a great introduction to the art of zine making. Recommended for readers aged 9-12.

Staff Picks: The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold

Reviewed by Ginny H. 

A.F. Harrold's novel follows Rudger, an imaginary friend. Amanda, Rudger's real person friend, helps him run away from an evil man who hunts "imaginaries".

But when Amanda is injured, Rudger is left all alone, which is bad news.The longer that Rudger has no one to believe in him, the more he fades. Can Rudger evade the evil hunter and find Amanda before he fades completely?

The Imaginary is a great book for kids interested in whimsical, imaginative fantasy stories

Reading with Patrick

Everyone has heard about the talented, super-smart teachers who work for the Teach for America program. But why do many of these new teachers only stay for a year or two and then move on?

In Reading with Patrick, compelling and emotionally resonant memoir, Michelle Kuo, a Harvard-educated Asian American, relates her two years teaching in poverty-torn Helena, Arkansas, a delta town close to the Mississippi state line that has lost nearly all of its industry. Kuo also describes her parents’ great expectations for her career, and their deep disappointment when she takes a low-paying position in education.

A Gentleman in Moscow

During the first half of the twentieth century, thousands of Russians suffered fates much worse than life-long imprisonment. Joseph Stalin sent many artists, writers, and politicos to the Gulag—or killed them outright.

This is the fictional story of Count Rostov, an educated aristocrat devoted to the literary arts, who found after the first Russian Revolution that being a count was not only illegal, but dangerous. The Count traveled to Paris, and unlike many of his contemporaries visiting abroad, decided to return home. But in the 1920s, under Stalin's Article 58 banning counterrevolution, Rostov stood before a tribunal, and was sentenced to permanent imprisonment at the luxury Metropol Hotel—for writing a poem that he never wrote.

Kubo and the Two Strings

Kubo and the Two Strings is a stunningly beautiful film that tells a deeply moving story of family, belonging, and adventure through the clever stop-motion. This Oscar-nominated film takes place in a medieval, mythologized Japan where our hero, Kubo, is forced to go on a quest to recover magical armor and weapons to stop the Moon King’s sinister plans. Kubo is a very talented musician and uses a magical shamisen, a lute-like instrument, to control pieces of his environment and aid him is his quest in breathtakingly beautiful ways that are worth watching over and over.

On his journey, he is joined by a talking macaque, Monkey, and a samurai who was cursed to live as a giant beetle, Beetle, and their interactions provide a great deal of humor. Together they battle monsters, try to untangle the mystery of Kubo’s family, become a team, and discover who they truly are.

Magnus Chase and the Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan

Winner of the 2017 Stonewall Book Award for Children's and Young Adult Literature, Magnus Chase and the Hammer of Thor marks Rick Riordan’s return to the world of Asgard. Picking up right after their triumph at the end of the previous story, Magnus Chase and company must now retrieve Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, before the giants invade and destroy Earth. So overall, just your average day really. Filled with Riordan’s trademark research, interpretative genius, and wit, The Hammer of Thor will satisfy die-hard fans and likely make some new ones, as he tackles issues of race, religion, representation, and gender.

Another Brooklyn

The helplessness and friendships of childhood are topics that many writers have tackled. Fewer have written about African-American girlhood, as Woodson does here. The book centers on August, the intelligent young girl who leaves the lush south for the vibrant and dangerous streets of Bushwick, Brooklyn.

“For a long time my mother wasn’t dead yet.” This sentence opens the novel, which doesn’t proceed chronologically, but follows an inner lyric pulse. Throughout, the whereabouts of August’s missing mother haunt the story.

August’s family lived in Tennessee on a farm called SweetGrove land.  It was inherited from her grandparents. After their uncle, Clyde, a Vietnam soldier dies, her mother begins to unravel. Soon, her father rushes north with August and her little brother to Brooklyn, his home town.

It’s summer--so for safety, August’s father locks her and her little brother, who is only five, inside their third-story apartment. They spend long summer days watching children play on the street: double-Dutch, stick ball games and splashing under open fire hydrants.  A colorful parade of adults wearing dashikis and other colorful outfits weave past.

The Inquisitor's Tale by Adam Gidwitz

Gidwitz tackles a slice of medieval history in the style of The Canterbury Tales and much of the book is narrated by various individuals being interviewed in a local inn. This story follows a young peasant girl with prophetic visions, a young monk with supernatural strength, and a young Jewish villager who can heal any wound (as well as the aforementioned Holy Dog). Gidwitz mainly focuses on their adventures during the first half of the story, how they got into their current predicament, how they met one another, and the enemies they conquer (such as a dragon, who, due to an unfortunate intestinal issue, breathes fire out of the wrong end). However, this story also covers serious topics within its pages, such as how can three children and a dog stop a book burning, deal with intolerance and discrimination because of who they are, or avoid members of the Inquisition?

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