Top Staff Picks – November 2021
Tara Westover grew up preparing for the End of Days, watching for the sun to darken, for the moon to drip as if with blood. She spent her summers bottling peaches and her winters rotating emergency supplies, hoping that when the World of Men failed, her family would continue on, unaffected. She hadn’t been registered for a birth certificate. She had no school records because she’d never set foot in a classroom, and no medical records because her father didn’t believe in doctors or hospitals. According to the state and federal government, she didn’t exist. As she grew older, her father became more radical, and her brother, more violent. At sixteen Tara decided to educate herself. Her struggle for knowledge would take her far from her Idaho mountains, over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d travelled too far. If there was still a way home. EDUCATED is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty, and of the grief that comes with the severing of the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, from her singular experience Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one's life through new eyes, and the will to change it.
Bicycling with Butterflies by Sara Dykman
Outdoor educator and field researcher Sara Dykman made history when she became the first person to bicycle alongside monarch butterflies on their storied annual migration--a round-trip adventure that included three countries and more than 10,000 miles. Equally remarkable, she did it solo, on a bike cobbled together from used parts. Her panniers were recycled buckets. In Bicycling with Butterflies, Dykman recounts her incredible journey and the dramatic ups and downs of the nearly nine-month odyssey. We're beside her as she navigates unmapped roads in foreign countries, checks roadside milkweed for monarch eggs, and shares her passion with eager schoolchildren, skeptical bar patrons, and unimpressed border officials. We also meet some of the ardent monarch stewards who supported her efforts, from citizen scientists and researchers to farmers and high-rise city dwellers. With both humor and humility, Dykman offers a compelling story, confirming the urgency of saving the threatened monarch migration--and the other threatened systems of nature that affect the survival of us all.
The classic novel of freedom and the search for authenticity that defined a generation. September 5th, 2017 marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of On the Road.
Inspired by Jack Kerouac's adventures with Neal Cassady, On the Road tells the story of two friends whose cross-country road trips are a quest for meaning and true experience. Written with a mixture of sad-eyed naiveté and wild ambition and imbued with Kerouac's love of America, his compassion for humanity, and his sense of language as jazz, On the Road is the quintessential American vision of freedom and hope, a book that changed American literature and changed anyone who has ever picked it up.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Housseini
A Stunning Novel of hope and redemption, taking us from Afghanistan in the final days of the monarchy to the present, The Kite Runner is the unforgettable and beautifully told story of the friendship between two boys growing up in Kabul. Raised in the same household and sharing the same wet nurse, Amir and Hassan grow up in different worlds: Amir is the son of a prominent and wealthy man, while Hassan, the son of Amir's father's servant, is a Hazara -- a shunned ethnic minority. Their intertwined lives, and their fates, reflect the eventual tragedy of the world around them. When Amir and his father flee the country for a new life in California, Amir thinks that he has escaped his past. And yet he cannot leave the memory of Hassan behind him. The Kite Runner is a novel about friendship and betrayal, and about the price of loyalty. It is about the bonds between fathers and sons, and the power of fathers over sons -- their love, their sacrifices, and their lies. Written against a backdrop of history that has not been told in fiction before, The Kite Runner describes the rich culture and beauty of a land in the process of being destroyed. But through the devastation, Khaled Hosseini offers hope: through the novel's faith in the power of reading and storytelling, and in the possibilities he shows us for redemption.
Young Adult Fiction Picks
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy
A reminder of the most important things in life. A book of hope for uncertain times. Enter the world of Charlie's four unlikely friends, discover their story and their most poignant life lessons. Charlie's first book includes his most-loved illustrations and new ones too. The conversations of the boy, the mole, the fox and the horse have been shared thousands of times online, recreated in school art classes, hung on hospital walls and turned into tattoos.
Age rating: All ages, including adults.
The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni
Here at Zalindov, the only person you can trust is yourself. Seventeen-year-old Kiva Meridan has spent the last ten years fighting for survival in the notorious death prison, Zalindov, working as the prison healer. When the Rebel Queen is captured, Kiva is charged with keeping the terminally ill woman alive long enough for her to undergo the Trial by Ordeal: a series of elemental challenges against the torments of air, fire, water and earth, assigned to only the most dangerous of criminals. Then a coded message from Kiva's family arrives, containing a single order: Don't let her die. We are coming. Aware that the Trials will kill the sickly queen, Kiva risks her own life to volunteer in her place. If she succeeds, both she and the queen will be granted their freedom. But no one has ever survived. With an incurable plague sweeping Zalindov, a mysterious new inmate fighting for Kiva's heart, and a prison rebellion brewing, Kiva can't escape the terrible feeling that her trials have only just begun.
Age rating: 14+
Children’s Fiction Picks
Listen, Layla by Yassmin Abdel-Magied
Exploring the diaspora experience, race, politics and identity, Listen, Layla by Yassmin Abdel-Magied is an own voices novel for young readers, which bursts with passion, humour and truth. Layla has ended the school year on a high and can't wait to spend the holidays hanging out with her friends and designing a prize-winning Grand Designs Tourismo invention. But Layla's plans are interrupted when her grandmother in Sudan falls ill and the family rush to be with her. The last time Layla went to Sudan she was only a young child. Now she feels torn between her Sudanese and Australian identities. As political tensions in Sudan erupt, so too do tensions between Layla and her family. Layla is determined not to lose her place in the invention team, but will she go against her parents' wishes? What would a Kandaka do?
Age rating: 12+
The Invisible Boy by Alyssa Hollingsworth
Twelve-year-old Nadia has discovered a new and dangerous secret: she is lonely. Then two things happen that change everything. She meets Eli, who she suspects may be a superhero, and she finds a strange letter under the dried juniper branches. The next day Nadia gathers her courage to take the letter to Eli. But something about Eli's family is very strange. Why doesn't he let her step close to the house? And is her new friend hiding his own secrets?
Age rating: 11+
Picture Book Picks
Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
While riding the subway home from the pool with his Abuela one day, Julián notices three women spectacularly dressed up. Their hair billows in brilliant hues, their dresses end in fishtails, and their joy fills the train car. When Julián gets home, daydreaming of the magic he's seen, all he can think about is dressing up just like the ladies in his own fabulous mermaid costume: a butter-yellow curtain for his tail, the fronds of a potted fern for his headdress. But what will Abuela think about the mess he makes -- and even more importantly, what will she think about how Julián sees himself?
Age rating: 4-8
Animalphabet by Julia Donaldson
A splendidly die-cut alphabet of animals. Each cleverly cut flap draws you further into a beautifully vibrant world of huge elephants, slithery snakes and growling tigers. Sharon King-Chai's bold colours and shapes make Animalphabet a rich delight for children of all ages while Julia Donaldson's rhythmic text is a pleasure to read aloud. The cleverly written, simple text invites children to compare one animal to another, and clever hints and peep-through holes within the artwork make this a hugely entertaining guessing game as well as a gorgeous book to treasure.
Age rating: 2-6
Experience the inspiring true story of Dream Alliance, an unlikely racehorse bred by small-town bartender Jan Vokes. With little money and no experience, Jan convinces her neighbors to chip in their meager earnings to raise Dream and compete against the racing elites, becoming a beacon of hope in their struggling community as he rises through the ranks.