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Staff Picks: Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones

Reviewed by Cidne B.

Told in a series of letters, this is the story of twelve year old Sophie Brown’s adventures after she and her family move from L.A. to the rundown farm they inherit from her great-uncle Jim. It begins with the sighting of an unusual chicken and leads to the discovery that there was once an entire coop full of remarkably different breeds.

This wonderful novel tackles issues of family, belonging, community, and change. The difficulties of adjusting to a whole new life are made more interesting by Sophie’s efforts to learn how to take care of her remarkable flock and to solve the mystery behind where they came from and where they are hiding.

Witty, engaging, and utterly delightful, with charming illustrations by Katie Kath, this warm-hearted story would make an excellent read aloud for younger children as well as appeal to independent readers.

Staff Picks: What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? by Chris Barton

Reviewed by Alejandria G. 

It’s impossible not to feel inspired while reading this gorgeous, well-written nonfiction picture book about the life of Texas congresswoman Barbara Jordan.

From a young age, Barbara Jordan had a remarkable voice. Her voice demanded attention and projected confidence beyond her years. As the author ponders, “What do you do with a voice like that?”. And so began the journey of Barbara Jordan from child to college student. From lawyer to Congresswoman. Jordan spent her career speaking up for those who had less power and protected the rights of those who were discriminated against. Chris Barton’s wonderful words remind us to honor Jordan’s legacy by making our own voices heard.

Ekua Holmes honors Barbara’s life with gorgeous mixed media illustrations. Bold colors and patterns fill the pages and add dimension to the story.

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

Staff Picks: The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Reviewed by Lizzie F. 

Callum Hunt has spent his entire life avoiding magic, but his attempts to flunk the entrance exam for the Magisterium are unsuccessful, and he finds himself an apprentice at the underground magic school where young mages are trained. Despite his initial reluctance, he begins to enjoy learning to use magic, but nothing can prepare him for what he is about to learn about himself and his past.

This book is great for fans of Harry Potter and the twist ending will leave you excited for the Magisterium series' second installment.

Staff Picks: The Honest Truth

Reviewed by Ginny H. 

Mark has been sick for a long time and after receiving bad news from the doctors, he's had enough. He's angry, scared, and just wants to disappear. So he does.

Mark sets out with his dog, Beau, to climb Mount Rainier. He encounters all kinds of people and obstacles along the way, all the while documenting his travels with his camera and writing haikus. While he misses his mom and dad and his best friend, Jess, he keeps going, even when he starts getting sicker.

This book was a really intense adventure novel. I found myself relating to the character in huge ways. The bond between Mark and his dog, Beau, was so relatable and real. When they got into some of the more dramatic parts, I was literally holding my breath!

If you like adventure and action, you'll love this book by Dan Gemeinhart.

Staff Picks: Dactyl Hill Squad

Reviewed by Ellen A. 

Welcome to 1863 New York City, where dinosaurs roam the streets! Magdalys Roca and her fellow orphan friends are enjoying a field trip in the city when riots break out and a few of their group are kidnapped. It's up to Magdalys and the Dactyl Hill Squad to rescue their missing friends and defeat the evil magistrate, Riker. 

This alternate history involving the U.S. Civil War, a diverse bunch of heroic orphans, and dinosaurs is quite a thrilling ride. The exciting adventure, written by Daniel José Older, also touches on deeper issues such as extreme racial injustice and fighting for what is right.

I'm looking forward to the second book in the series, Freedom Fire, to be released in May 2019.

Staff Picks: The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge

Reviewed by Dana D.

Brangwain Spurge, the historian of the elves, is sent into rival goblin territory to deliver a peace offering in hopes of easing tensions between the two worlds. Werfel, the goblin historian is thrilled to meet Brangwain and has been put in charge of planning the perfect visit. But, things go wrong before Brangwain even steps foot on goblin territory, and get worse after that.

Fans of the Hobbit and The Invention of Hugo Cabret will love this tale told half in pictures and half in words.

Staff Picks: Serafina and the Black Cloak

Reviewed by Ginny H. 

Serafina and her Pa live in the basement of the Biltmore Estate. Serafina loves her Pa and the quiet nights when she can skulk around the estate kitchens and catch rats. She loves everything about her life except for the fact that no one but her Pa knows she exists.

One night, while out catching rats, she witnesses a kidnapping of sorts. And then, more children begin to go missing from the estate. Serafina has no choice but to team up with the young master, Braeden, to figure out what is happening to all the children before she or Braeden fall victim next.

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