The end of August can be a dreaded time for kids of all ages as summer fun transitions back into school routine. What better way to get back into the swing of things than with familiar characters, favorite authors, and honest, relatable, fun tales from school? To give recommendations for every kid in the family, I’ve teamed up with Crystal to suggest the best school books available at the library or through the Hoopla app. Stay tuned for our next blogs where we’ll be talking about school themed chapter books for early readers and beyond! To start things off, I’ve highlighted some of the best picture books for helping younger kids gain confidence about going to school, especially if they are going for the first time.
Pete the Cat Rocking in my School Shoes by Eric Litwin with pictures by James Dean
Pete the cat knows the importance of looking good on his first day as he goes to school rocking a new pair of his signature sneakers. The first day of school isn’t without its challenges for Pete, but this book shows how something as simple as a new pair of shoes can help a child start school with the confidence of everyone’s favorite cat. Pete the Cat: The Wheels on the Bus and Pete the Cat’s Got Class are also available at the library with audio versions available on the Hoopla app.
What Did You Do Today?: The First Day of School by Kerry Arquette with illustrations by Nancy Hayashi
This unique book does the double duty of showing a kid what to expect at school while also giving them a look into what their grownups do during the day as well. While many back to school books focus on the child missing their adult, this book shows that missing one another is shared experience along with other activities like having lunch.
School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex with Illustrations by Christian Robinson
Kids aren’t the only ones who get nervous about going back to school, it turns out that your school is very nervous about meeting you too! This sweet and hilarious book shows what your school goes through to be ready as Frederick Douglass Elementary shares many of the same worries as the kids who will soon inhabit it. Will the kids at school like school? What if school gets embarrassed? Luckily, in spite of a first day full of new things, both school and its new students decide they want to have many more days of fun that year.
Maisy goes to Preschool by Lucy Cousins
Starting preschool can be just as big of an adventure for kids and Maisy Goes to Preschool introduces small children to everything they can expect at school through Cousins’s friendly illustrations and a short story that’s the perfect size for smaller attention spans.
First Grade Stinks by Mary Ann Rodman with illustrations by Beth Spiegel
Many children are excited about the new freedom of first grade and maturity that comes with being old pros at going to school. But many kids are also not expecting the new changes that come with moving past kindergarten. Through this funny and relatable book, Haley learns that while many things are different in first grade, that can be a good thing when it comes to learning new things like reading. She also learns that the most important things, having teachers that care and good friends, are the same no matter what grade you’re in.
The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn with illustrations by Nancy M. Leak
The Kissing Hand is a wonderful book for a child who is especially nervous about starting school and being away from their parents for the first time. This book is a beloved classic because of the useful ritual it shares for helping kids feel close to their loved ones when they are apart. By finding a way to bring a kiss with him to school, Chester Racoon helps remind kids that they are loved and that separation is only temporary.
Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes
Little worries can seem huge to a child Wemberly’s age so starting school is no easy task when that change can make even the bravest child worry. This book reminds kids that everyone worries about big changes (including grownups!), and that they won’t be the only ones who are nervous on the first day.
Lunch Money and Almost Late to School by Carol Diggory Shields with illustrations by Paul Misel
These two collections of poems are silly fun for all ages and cover a wide variety of school topics from show and tell mishaps to making sense of math. Told with fun illustrations and words that crawl, twist, and turn across the page, these books are perfect for reading aloud and laughing away back to school jitters.
Other Great School books:
The Berenstain Bears go to School by Jan And Stan Berenstain
How do Dinosaurs go to School? By Jane Yolen with illustrations by Mark Teague (Also available as an audiobook on the Hoopla app).
Froggy Goes to School by Jonathan London with illustrations by Frank Remkiewicz
If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, Don't! by Elise Parsley
We Don't Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins (available as an e-book with narration through the Hoopla app)
For this month, with summer reading going on, I thought I’d recommend some bingo picks. Now, even though I have a specific bingo in mind, that doesn’t mean some books can’t be mixed and matched. A few, if not all of the books can fit into multiple categories. Also, I am a big believer in the story being the thing that counts, so even though the bingo is on the adult reading log, the books are a mix of juvenile, young adult, and adult fiction.
Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks
Friends with Boys is a graphic novel about a girl named Maggie who is not only just starting high school, but is also going to public school for the first time. She has only ever been home schooled before. Her only classmates were her brothers. Now she is thrust into a world she doesn’t know how to navigate and is struggling to deal with her brothers having friends and activities that don’t include her. It is a nice coming of age story with budding friendships, the perils of fitting in, and even ghosts. The artwork is really detailed and done well enough that I don’t miss the inner monologue and descriptions that you would find in other novels.
Other graphic novels you may consider are...
Playing For Pizza by John Grisham
Okay, so this one was the square I was least looking forward to. Sports fiction is not usually my go-to genre, the bingo is definitely doing its job in making me branch out with this one. Playing for Pizza was a surprise. It was really interesting and it draws you in quickly. The character Rick Dockery is a third string quarterback (That’s right, I now know what a quarterback is!) who is in the hospital after what could be considered the single worst performance in NFL history. He took an almost guaranteed win and trip to the super bowl and destroyed it. He is cut from the team and no one else will take his agent's calls, let alone let him near their team. He is getting death threats and his agent is telling him to call it quits, but he won’t. He refuses to give up on his painful career and takes his only offer. He goes to Parma, Italy to play for the Panthers. Playing for Pizza is a light read filled with food and humor.
Other sports fiction you might consider are...
The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter
The Kept Woman is a really intense read. It is a detective mystery with a few twists and turns that surprised and made it a new favorite of mine. I quickly got caught up in the characters with all their problems surrounding the case and their relationships. The Kept Woman follows GBI's investigator Will Trent while he investigates the murder of an ex-cop and the secrets that surround it. The Kept Woman is actually the eighth in a series that follows Will Trent, but it can be read alone. I started with The Kept Woman and liked it so much that I went back and read the rest.
This book has violence, swearing, and abuse. So be careful. It is a darker book than I usually recommend, but if you don’t mind that, it really is worth it.
Other Mystery you might consider are...
The Good Guy by Dean Koontz
The Good Guy is about a stone mason Timothy Carrier who is at the bar with friends after work when a nervous man sits beside him. He is passed an envelope filled with cash and picture. “Ten thousand now. You get the rest when she’s gone.” So he has a choice, ignore it or help the woman in the photo. With the title “The Good Guy” you can guess what he chose. The problem is the man who was actually hired for the job doesn’t give up that easily, and he does not appreciate someone interfering in his work.
The Good Guy has some creepy, twisted, and violent bits when you’re in the point of view of the killer, but it is a mostly clean read.
Other suspense novels you might consider are...
Made Into a Movie
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Ella Enchanted is one of my all-time favorite books and if you have only seen the movie you are missing out. The movie isn’t a bad movie by itself. However, it, like most movies, only scratches the surface of the book, and takes a few too many artistic licenses. The movie is fine and flashy and all that, but the book is so much better. Ella Enchanted, if you haven’t heard of it, is a story about a girl who was given the gift of obedience from a fairy named Lucinda. She has to do whatever she is told to do. When her mother dies and her father remarries Ella is put in a really difficult situation, because her step-mother and step-sisters don’t know about the curse. That doesn’t stop them from using her uncanny obedience though. So at first chance Ella sets out on a quest to find Lucinda the fairy and have her undo the curse.
Other Books Made Into A Movie You Might Consider Are...
(Let’s just say that if you have seen a movie based on a book, the book deserves a read.)
If you want more suggestions for a different bingo square let me know, and I’ll get back to you!
Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing by Judi Barrett
This cute book tells why animals should not wear clothing by telling how odd it would look or that animals might even wear them wrong. My favorite images of the animals wearing clothing is how many neckties a Giraffe can wear or that a billy goat might eat his clothes! If your a lover of chickens then seeing a chicken wearing clothes will be a funny sight for you. Whatever you do just don’t give a porcupine clothes to wear.
Never Trust a Troll by Kate McMullan
If you have ever wanted to go to dragon slaying school with a troll than this book is for you. Wiglaf is attending another year of Dragon Slaying school when he finds out that there is a dragon on the loose who is headed straight for his school. While trying to be a great role model for the first year students Wiglaf gets partnered with a troll who is always joking around. The first year students thinks that the troll is pretty funny and would rather hang around the troll than to do their studies. But the jokes stop when things get serious at the school.
Bad Kitty Gets a Bath by Nick Bruel
In this great adventure bad kitty teaches the do’s and don’ts of giving your cat a bath. There is the difficult ways which are funny to read an the illustrations are funny as well. I love how in the house all the furniture is portrayed as being torn up or scratched up even the humans as well. The dog even gets an amusing bath in this book as well but it too is a joke for the cat to trick her into a getting a bath. Don’t be tricked by a calm cat at bath time, she may be waiting to attack.
Let’s Eat in The Funny Zone By Gary Chmielewski
This book of jokes is all about food. It is separated into sections that include breakfast jokes and lunch jokes. No worries these jokes don’t get too inappropriate for the dinner table. Some examples of the jokes are “What do you get when you cross an elephant and some peanut butter?” I won’t give you the answer though you have to check out the books for that. “Why did the strawberry cross the road?” Once again you’ll have to take a look at the book for that.
Dinosaur Jokes Compiled by Pam Rosenberg
This book is pretty funny with some of the dinosaur puns and jokes that it has. Some of them make you wonder if that’s how some of the dinosaurs went extinct. An example of this is, “What’s huge and bumps into the sides of mountains?” Trust me it’s not an answer you’re expecting. This book is a fun and easy read for reader’s that is sure to entertain you and the family.
Magical Mischief By Rick and Ann Walton
This book is a fun read and has a lot of jokes and humor packed into it. It is sure to keep anyone entertained. This one also has jokes about the circus, animals and daredevils. Some of the jokes that are within it are:
“Ringmaster: I hear the fire-eater’s sick. What’s wrong?
Clown: She has heartburn.”
Q. What do you get when a dragon jumps into the ocean?
A. A heat wave.
Get the family together and have some laughs with this book.
The Science Zone by Gary Chmielewski
This is another fun joke book that is a great way to get family friends to laugh. This book deals with science jokes, riddles, and tongue twisters. The book is separated into sections and so you can choose to start with out-in-space jokes or computer science. You don’t really have to read this book in order, unless you want to. Examples of jokes from this book are:
“Star light, star bright. First star I see tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might. Darn- it’s just a satellite!”
Q.How does the barber cut the moon’s hair?
A. Eclipse it!
Q.How do Hurricanes see?
A. With one eye!
Romance is one of my favorite genres and I just wanted to share a few of my top picks.
I’ve Got Your Number By Sophie Kinsella
I picked up I’ve got your Number By Sophie Kinsella as part of a dare I set for myself on a reading slump. I needed new books to read so I decided to go the thrift store and pick out a few books at random, without reading the back, the plainer they looked the better. The copy of I’ve Got Your Number I found was a hardback without its dust jacket. All I had to go on was the title on a black background (I didn’t have high hopes). When I started reading it I was pleasantly surprised. I loved it. I read it nonstop cover to cover and laughed all the way through. It is a funny story about a woman named Poppy that starts with desperate measures. Poppy’s phone is stolen and her engagement ring is lost. When she finds a phone in the trash can she figures finders keepers she can leave a number for the hotel to call her on when they find her ring, its perfect! Well the phones owner kind of disagrees… What comes after is a funny and surprising string of events. I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it to anyone who likes a lot of humor with their stories.
At Any Price By Brenna Aubrey
At Any Price is a book I found on one of those free ebook sites. Now if you get a lot of the free romance ebooks you’ll know to read them with a bit of acceptance. A lot of the free ebook romances you find can be a little slapdash and even disappointing in some cases. At Any Price is a brilliant exception to this trend. It is a trilogy about a woman named Mia and her manifesto. Mia has decided that woman’s virginities have been valued and used by men to gain money or influence throughout history and it is high time women have gotten something out of it. She decides to sell her virginity to the highest (thoroughly screened) bidder. She ignores her friend’s protests and when all the bids are in she could have enough to save her mother’s ranch and finish out her schooling. The problem is the winner’s reluctance to claim his prize. The book sounds like it could be a same old same old sort of story but Brenna Aubrey turned a romance trope of a down on her luck girl into an emotional rollercoaster series that is a must read. The first one was a free ebook because they know that after you read the first book you’re hooked. I not only got the other two in ebook, but I ordered them in print for my own collection, and to borrow out.
The Obsession By Nora Roberts
I have always been a fan of Nora Roberts because of her wide range of topics. She can go from futuristic mystery to fantasy with witches, immortals, and mermaids, and most that’s in-between. The Obsession is one of my favorites of Nora Roberts’s vast collection because it is great at flirting with the line between romance and suspense. This was the first of her books that had a little bit of a Dean Koontz kind of vibe. Now don’t get me wrong, it is a romance book, but when you’re in the perspective of the killer it really is up there with bad guy factor. The Obsession follows a Girl named Naomi from when she is a little girl trying to outrun her daddy’s reputation, to when she grows up, now a successful photographer, and finds a place to settle down in Sunrise Cove. She finds friends and a love interest in Xander Keaten but her past and the sins of her father are never more than a nightmare away…
Charming the Prince by Teresa Medeiros
Charming the prince is a great historical romance and fairytale retelling of Cinderella. Lord Bannor is the pride of the English and the Terror of the French until the war ends and he finds himself overrun with a dozen children he doesn’t know how to deal with let alone raise. It is a war he can’t win alone. He sends out his steward the find them a mother and him a bride. He wants a mother for his children and has no interest in the bride herself, until Lady Willow shows up. He never expected she would join forces with his mischievous kids.
The story is filled with humor and hijinks, and is a must read for anyone who likes a good historical romance.
Jake By Leigh Greenwood
Jake is another historical romance but this one is a western. Jake is a rancher who just came back from the civil war to find his family ranch in shambles. Isabelle is taking a wagon-load of orphan boys to Santa Fe to try and get them adopted. They pair up. Jake is a help and a protection on their travels and the boys help him in driving his cattle to market. You end up getting to know all the characters and really root for them.
Jake can be read as a standalone but it is the first in the series that has a book for each of the boys.
A Christie classic with the famous Hercule Poirot and the immaculate train the Orient Express. High rolling characters travel on this train and when a snowstorm traps the Orient Express these travelers are trapped on board for days. A man is murdered with the murderer trapped on board the train with the travelers. With 12 people on board there are 12 suspects for Poirot to investigate. With Poirot’s need for balance will he find the balance he needs to bring the murderer to light?
Bill Hodges Trilogy by Stephen King
This series of books is not typical for Stephen King and he calls it his “first hard-boiled detective book”. Each book starts out very much like the opening scenes in many of Stephen King's books with the reader coming to sympathize with the characters. Then the carnage starts. The main character, Bill Hodges, is a very hardy type and finds purpose with solving the crimes committed by Mr. Mercedes, so named from the opening scene. He comes into contact with some very unconventional people that come together to form an unlikely group to chase a criminal. The suspense abounds as the series continues in Finders Keepers, the second book. Bill is back with Holly and a few others to continue crime fighting with a new detective agency of the same name. The crime to be solved this time is any book lovers nightmare, an author’s retirement and murder before he published the last two installations in a series of books called the Runner Trilogy. Also well known, is that the missing notebooks are still out there. Suspense builds as the events slip into the unnatural that we have come to love from Stephen King. He must have a touch of mythical added in there! The third novel finds Bill not as well as we hope, but he continues to impress as his drive keeps him on the path to find out what is behind the series of suicides happening around a familiar character, Mr. Mercedes. How will it all end?
*As with all Stephen King books, especially these dealing with crime can be graphic, violent, disturbing, and of course scary!
This book is about a pediatrician whose wife was killed over a decade prior. One day, he receives a message which causes him to question whether or not his wife is really dead. This message spurs him on a search to discover the truth. With a bit of romance thrown in, this is an enjoyable book even for someone who doesn't read mysteries often. Though this is adult fiction, it is not explicit.
The Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear take place in England between WWI and WWII. The main character, Maisie Dobbs, is trained in psychology and solves mysteries using her knowledge of human behavior. The whole series is very well written and the characters are expertly developed.
This dark and edgy mystery series are thrillers set in England. Would you kill someone to save yourself?...
-Various Staff Members
Young adult fiction as a genre has really changed over the past decade or so and become more of a destination for readers rather than a holdover between children and adult books. We often at the library have someone who has read a book and loved it and now wants the sequel who, when we head toward the young adult section, says something to the effect of "Oh, but those books are for teens" not realizing that the book they are after is a young adult book. I have interacted with adults who are embarrassed to head into the teen section and find the book that they want because they do not want to be seen checking out young adult books without a teenager at their side. And on the flip side, I have met many adults like myself who the majority of what they read is young adult fiction. I am here to tell you today to try one of those young adult books, even if you aren't a young adult! Maybe you hate it, but maybe you love it! Below are an assortment of young adult books in no particular genre or order that tend to be popular hits with the masses. And, if you like these, keep an eye out for another list coming later this month! Happy reading!
This book is a fun read with a happy ending which is always nice. As realistic fiction the book does a good job of dealing with themes that are applicable to actual teenagers such as identity struggle, embracing talents, broken friendships, and teenage love. This book was not utterly complex in character or plot, but was relateable for an average teenage girl with a little bit of heartbreak and then perfect resolution to make the story enjoyable. This book also ties into its predecessor, Anna and the French Kiss, by using the same characters at the theater where Lola works.
Best for: Grade 9 and older. Romantic and some mature sexual themes, no graphic descriptions.
I had heard a great deal about what a terrific read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe was, but I really had no idea what to expect. This book is so packed with poignant social themes that I really only could read short sections at a time. It honestly was not my typical read simply because of how heavy and tumultuous I felt it was, however, I think this book has value beyond what many books in the realistic fiction genre may offer. This book also provides a voice to teens who are struggling with both discovering and/or accepting their sexuality. The characters were well developed and conflicted enough that readers can connect to them on a more personal level. While I thought the book was well written and complex, it is not necessarily everyone's cup of tea.
Best for: Grades 9 and older.
I really enjoyed this novel and have since read the second and third in the trilogy! The book caught me from the very first pages and kept me engaged throughout the story. I really enjoyed the concept and that it felt unique. One thing I like about fantasy books is that because the genre is so wide and all-encompassing, the authors often write using very original or unique ideas and so I feel less like I am reading a formulaic story that I've read a thousand times before. I also enjoyed reading from the standpoint of a female character who, at first, is not a strong female lead. She is insecure and downtrodden simply doing as she is told, whereas by the end of the book she has begun to realize she has some power over her choices and destiny and becomes a very strong and likable character. It was really good character development on the part of the author which made me engage with and relate to the main character, and thereby the story, even more. The book also is so involved with a great deal happening that it was a quick read because I did not want to put it down at all!
Best for: Grades 9 and up.
This is a book which I have known about for a while but have put off reading because I knew the content was poignant dealing with the Nazi's and WWII and that many characters died. I finally took the opportunity to read it and was fascinated by the way it is written. Yes, the book is sad, but it is also very interesting in that the narrator of the story is Death. Death describes the encounters he has had with the book thief, Liesel, and describes them using the colors White, Red, and Black which are also reminiscent of the Nazi flag so there is flagrant symbolism involved. This book was very emotional, and because of the way it is written as a fiction with a main character who grows in age over the course of the story it is also easy for readers to relate to. It is also a book told from a different point of view than many mainstream books on WWII. Liesel is not a direct target of the Nazi's as she looks like the ideal German citizen. However, her foster parents also care for and hide Max, who is a Jew on the run. Seeing the war from another point of view with this family, and Liesel, quietly undermining the Nazi's, was thought provoking.
Best for: Grades 9 and up.
This is a lesser known book which I have checked out probably 5 different times and wanted to read and yet somehow I just never get around to it. How wrong I was! This is another book with a strong female lead who is just trying to make a life for herself while her parents and other kingdoms try to force their will upon her. This book is a mix of fantasy and dystopian genres which makes it a fun read. Also, if you read the whole trilogy, there are some fun little Easter eggs hidden throughout the text about the society and time which came before that you may find interesting. This book was well-written, entertaining, and thought provoking about the way we view and judge other societies and cultures with which we may not be familiar, based on our overheard or perceived constructs.
Best for: Grades 9 and up.
For the Juvenile recommendations I wanted to suggest some of the less popular and maybe a little older books to try to avoid telling everyone about books they have already read or heard about. I also tried to mix in as much variety as I could, so if anyone wants more genre specific suggestions let us know and we'll get working on it!
For the first book I went with an old favorite...
The Devils Arithmetic By Jane Yolen
The Devils Arithmetic is a really great story about a thirteen year old girl named Hannah. She is a typical girl with no patience or understanding for her family’s insistence on remembering the past and the importance of the Seder. That is, until she is transported back to WWII and the Holocaust. She experiences firsthand the past she should remember and gains a new appreciation for her family and the culture they share. It is a really great and educational book especially for fans of Number The Stars (another more well-known fiction on the Holocaust by Lois Lowry). It is a 4th grade reading level with the suggested age of 12+ due to violent content associated with WWII and the Holocaust.
My Teacher is an Alien By Bruce Coville
My Teacher is an Alien is a quick, lighter read about a girl just starting the sixth grade. She is looking forward to school, her teacher, and the class play...until she finds out her should be teacher has been replaced with Mr. John Smith. He is grouchy, by the book, hates music, and when she catches him pulling off his face she has to figure out how to get rid of him before students get abducted. The character development is a little lacking in this book, but it is fun and cute. It is a 5th grade reading level.
Touching Spirit Bear By Ben Mikaelsen
Touching Spirit Bear is a story about permanent consequences and taking responsibility for your own actions. Cole Mathews is the main character and is a troubled kid on a bad path. He has been stealing, fighting, and bullying. His last victim ended up in the ICU with brain damage which landed Cole in jail with the possibility of being tried as an adult. Cole blames everyone else for his actions and problems including his victims. He is offered one final choice: prison or Circle Justice. Cole will either live behind bars or spend one year in isolation to try and change before being charged. This book is almost a mix between Holes and Hatchet in some ways, but in this book the main character is actually in the wrong. Touching Spirit Bear is all about redemption and changing for the better. Touching Spirit Bear is 5th grade level and has some bullying and violence to look out for.
The Two Princesses of Bamarre By Gail Levine
The Two Princesses of Bamarre is a magical story about two sisters. Meryl is brave and dreams of adventures, fighting dragons, and protecting the kingdom. Addie is more timid and content to stay within the castle walls. The two are different in every aspect, except for their unwavering bond as sisters. When Meryl becomes gravely ill the tables are turned. Addie must go on a dangerous quest to find a way to save her sister. She encounters dragons, magic, and wizards. This is a great story with themes of adventure and family bonds. This book is a 4th grade reading level.
Among The Hidden By Margaret Haddix
Among The Hidden is about a boy name Luke who is the third child in a place where third children are not allowed. Because of this, he is a shadow child. He has never gone to school, never had a friend, and, after homes start being built around the farm, he cannot even go outside. One day Luke sees another kid like him, a girl named Jen, who is not happy to be kept in the shadows. This is a suspenseful story that really engages the reader and makes you want to keep reading.
This book is a 5th grade level. It does talk about population control and that could be a sensitive subject to some individuals.
The Frog Princess By E D Baker
The Frog Princess is a fairy tale story with funny and engaging characters. The main character Emma is an unconventional princess who does not fit in and longs to escape her frustrating life. However, she did not mean to escape her life by turning into a frog. Emma spends the rest of the book trying to figure out how to change back! This book is a 5th grade reading level.
Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians By Brandon Sanderson
Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians is a really funny story about a boy named Alcatraz who has an unlucky knack for breaking things. He has been shifted from foster home to foster home because of it. On his thirteenth birthday, a grandfather he did not know he had shows up and tells him that his knack for breaking things is actually a gift-- the most powerful one in the family. Alcatraz then sets out on an adventure with his newly discovered family to stop the Librarians from conquering the remaining Free Kingdomers and ruling the world. Brandon Sanderson is one of my favorite authors and always manages to make an engaging and unique story. This book is a 5th grade level.
With all of the books that are available I can never seem to find enough time to read, which is why I love audiobooks. Suddenly boring tasks like driving, cleaning, and getting ready in the morning become prime listening time and a way to sneak in those extra must read books. The library makes it super easy to access audiobooks as well by offering them through several formats. With your library card, you can access a wide selection of books on cd in both non-fiction and fiction titles. Also available are the Cloud Library and RB Digital apps. Hoopla is also a fantastic app, but is only available if you are a district resident (not a Pocatello resident, sorry!)
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
If you or the child in your life have ever listened to the audiobook editions of Harry Potter than you are already familiar with the wonder narrations of Jim Dale. The Night Circus is a wonderfully magical tale about a duel of destiny between two magicians who are bound to battle until the complexity of human emotion ruins the game. Throughout all of the varied characters in the world of The Night Circus, Dale makes it easy to forget that you are listening to one solo narrator which, in my opinion, makes this the best kind of audiobook.
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
I loved watching Aziz Ansari as Tom on Parks and Recreation but I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I saw that he had written a book about love in modern times. This is definitely a book that benefits from being read by its author because throughout his observations on love and life, Ansari mixes in funny personal anecdotes as well as ridiculous voices, and special call outs to listeners. I really enjoyed this book because while many celebrities these days are writing books about love, Ansari actually collaborated with social scientists to take the recurring incidents from his show and see how they fit into a wider picture of love in the twenty-first century. Because this book does talk about love, there is some sexual content listeners should be aware of.
Beartown by Fredrik Backman (Cloud Library)
Fredrik Backman, the author of library favorites such as A Man Called Ove and My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry is back with Beartown, a moving story of a town that’s all about hockey until a tragic incident forces the residents to look off the rink and inside themselves. If you’ve ever watched Friday Night Lights, then you will be familiar with the setting of a blue collar town that lives for sports, but with a narrative that doesn’t revolve around them exclusively. When I began Beartown, I almost stopped listening because I know nothing about hockey. I was glad that I didn’t however, because Beartown is actually a story about the things in life that keep us going; family, friends, and those special passions that make life worth living. Because of the inclusion of rowdy teenage boys and the nature of the town tradgedy, there is langauge and sexual content throughout this book. Beartown can be found on the Cloud Library app.
The Night She Won Miss America by Michael Callahan
On the surface, The Night She Won Miss America might look like your usual chick lit read, but it quickly becomes a suspenseful drama instead. Suspense stories are usually not my cup of tea but the historical and romance novel elements of this one really piqued my interest and made it so I couldn’t stop listening. This audiobook would be a good car trip listen. The Night She Won Miss America does have some adult content. This audiobook can be downloaded from the Hoopla app if you are a district resident.
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
When you first look at this book it looks like historical fiction about the worlds fair, but the interwoven true crime narrative brings in a thriller element which kept me listening.
This book is great for those who are reluctant about true crime and non-fiction! This book unfolds more like a simmering thriller than non-fiction and the historical elements make it a good transition into the true crime genre. Plus, you can get ahead of the game by listening before the movie adaptation with Leonardo Dicaprio is made!
When flipping through the pages of a graphic novel, they might seem like they are just bigger comic books, but graphic novels can offer a lot to a child. Graphic novels tell longer stories using pictures which can appeal to kids who enjoy more visual media or who might be intimidated by the length of a regular book. Graphic novels can be especially good for kids who have trouble reading or are reluctant readers even though they are frequently checked out by kids of all interests and abilities. Many graphic novels can also be tested on to earn AR reading points.
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson:
Roller Girl tells the story of twelve year old Astrid as she decides to try something different from her best friend for the first time and enroll in roller derby camp. Throughout her hardest summer ever, roller derby helps to give Astrid the strength to follow her dreams, even if her best friend's dreams involve going to ballet camp instead.
Teen Zone, YA Graphic Roller, Reading Level: Third Grade
CatStronauts Series by Drew Brockington:
The CatStronauts series is about a group of lovable cat astronauts who are sent on super silly missions throughout space. Major Meowser, pilot Waffles, technician Blanket and science officer Pom Pom feature in three books. These books are a perfect starting point for a child who is interested in reading graphic novels but is still at a lower reading level. These books are also great for reading together with the child in your life because there are plenty of laugh out loud moments for adults as well as children.
Children’s Room, J Fic Brocki, Reading Level: Third Grade
Middle School is Worse than Meatloaf by Jennifer L. Holm with illustrations by Elicia Castaldi:
I was initially drawn to this book as a tween because of instead of using the expected comic style illustrations, Holm tells the story of Ginny’s first year of middle school through “stuff”. This includes a receipt for a botched haircut, a detention note, CDs and so much more. Middle School is worse than Meatloaf is highly entertaining but also relatable to anyone who has survived or is currently surviving the crazy world of junior high. Told by the author of the Baby Mouse series, Jennifer Holm, this book is perfect for the new middle schooler who has already devoured the Baby Mouse books as well as any younger child who wants to learn what the big deal is about being in middle school.
Children’s Room, J Fic Holm Reading Level: Fourth Grade
The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag:
When you are thirteen years old, there can be a large divide between who you want to be and how everyone around you sees you. This is especially true for magically gifted thirteen year old boy Astrid who is a member of a family where boys become shapeshifters and girls become witches. For most kids, this would be a dream come true, however, Astrid shows more ability as a witch than a shapeshifter. This book perfectly captures the feeling of finding your talents and learning to make your own path.
Teen Zone, YA Graphic Witch, Reading Level: Third Grade
Real Friends by Shannon Hale with illustrations by LeUyen Pham:
Real Friends is an autobiographical graphic novel by Shannon Hale, the author of favorites like The Princess Academy Series, Austenland, and The Princess in Black books. This book is a nostalgic look at learning what it takes to find a true friend in the constantly changing world of growing up. It follows young Shannon from Kindergarten through to fifth grade as she makes friends, loses friends and learns what it it means to have, and be, a real friend.
Teen Zone, JUV HALE Shanno Real-f, Reading Level: Second Grade
El Deafo by Cece Bell:
El Deafo is a sweet and funny graphic memoir by Cece Bell which chronicles how hard it can be to be a kid, especially one with a disability. The fun part about this book is that it is told completely in adorable bunny form. This book portrays its subject matter in a way that is truthful, while also highlighting that it is the things that make us different which give us our superpowers.
Teen Zone, YA Graphic El-Deafo, Reading Level: Second Grade
Other great titles to check-out:
Drama by Raina Telgemeier
March Series by Andrew Aydin and John Lewis
Bad Island by Doug TenNapel
Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks
Fish Girl by David Wiesner
Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea by Ben Clanton
The Complete Chi's Sweet Home Volumes 1-3 by Kanata Konami
To start, fantasy is NOT science fiction. Although they are often grouped together, fantasy and science fiction are completely separate genres. Just because you don’t like Star Wars or Star Trek, does not mean that you won’t enjoy fantasy fiction. One very well known example of fantasy fiction is the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling. Harry Potter novels feature elements that are characteristic of fantasy: magic, magical or fantastical creatures, situations that could never really happen in our non-magical, science-based world, etc.
If you would like to read a book that takes you on an adventure in a world that is full of magic and wonder, fantasy books are a great choice. There is a subsection of the fantasy genre called urban fiction, where fantastical creatures are based in a normal, everyday society. An example of this would be the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer. However, for the sake of this post, I will be highlighting the more complete fantasy novels and authors.
Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson.
Speaking of entering a new world, Brandon Sanderson is an AMAZING writer. He considers even the tiniest details of worlds and how they work. By doing this he creates completely believable realities. Warbreaker is currently a standalone novel, though there is a sequel named Nightblood promised some time in the future.
Warbreaker takes the reader into a world of fantasy where “breath” is a personal power or magic and political alliances have the power to create or destroy societies. Select people are brought back to life because of a noble death, and are deemed gods, though their conduct often contradicts that title. This novel covers the interaction between different classes, and addresses what lengths some will go to for power. Throughout the novel you get to know many different and unique characters by virtue of Sanderson’s powerful writing skills. This novel hints at intimate content, though it is not explicit. It is in our adult section and is a great read for ages 16 and up.
Other awesome novels by Sanderson include the Mistborn series in our adult section, the Steelheart trilogy in the young adult collection, and Alcatraz and the Evil Librarians in our juvenile section.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
The joke is that it takes about as long to read the series as it does to actually take the ring to Mordor. This might be true, depending on how fast you read. This is a hefty trilogy that is completely worth the time and effort. Tolkien takes world making to another level, even beyond that which Sanderson does. The trilogy begins by introducing the reader to Bilbo Baggins and his younger cousin(ish) Frodo Baggins. These two hobbits reside happily in the shire where they eat an enviable amount of food every day and enjoy smoking their pipes in peace. However, Bilbo has a secret from his past that threatens his family, the shire, and the entirety of Middle Earth, where the story is based. The complete trilogy follows Frodo and his companions on an amazing adventure to (spoiler) take the ring to Mordor.
Tolkien fills this amazing world with horrible and fantastic creatures alike. Often, Tolkien has even invented an entirely new language for these creatures. I LOVE The Lord of the Rings books and recommend them to all ages, though the length of the books may be intimidating for young readers.
If you aren’t quite ready to commit to this trilogy, the prequel The Hobbit is just as inventive and imaginative, but in much fewer pages.
Sabriel by Garth Nix
This is the first book in one of Nix’s young adult series that keeps the reader on their toes. The title character Sabriel lives in a world of magic and her father is the Abhorsen- someone with power over the dead. This heart-pounding series is full of magic, and power, and choosing the good while trying to vanquish evil. Sabriel is attended by Mogget, a cat with strong powers, and Touchstone, a Charter Mage. One of the wonderful aspects of fantasy that this novel exemplifies is the creation of a new world. This does not mean that there are no laws or that laws can be circumvented at the author’s pleasure. Rather, in fantasy novels, characters are bound by a set of laws unique to that world, including some that are similar to the laws we are familiar with.
Other novels in this series include Lirael, Abhorsen, and Clariel. I would recommend these books for ages 12 and up simply because of the reading level as well as some action and suspense.
The Keys to the Kingdom Series by Garth Nix
This is a young adult series, also by Garth Nix, which takes the reader into a world full of mystery. This book might be closer to urban fantasy than just pure fantasy as it begins in the normal world, but travels to another more fantastical one. Arthur is a young man who is supposed to die in the normal world but instead ventures into another world in order to unlock secrets and save himself, and others, through a series of keys. The series starts with Mister Monday, followed by Grim Tuesday, and so on until the seventh book Lord Sunday, which concludes the series and the fight for a kingdom with a surprising twist. Honestly, it is difficult to put these books down!
I would recommend this series to anyone 12 and older. As a side note, teenage boys might be more interested in this series because of the male main character.
To recap, the fantasy genre is its own and not just another Star Trek science fiction genre. Fantasy takes the reader to another world where where the impossible is possible! Fantasy is a great genre to read in order to escape for a few minutes. Other popular fantasy authors include Robert Jordan, Terry Brooks, and Patrick Rothfuss (all adult authors). If you are looking for an adventurous book that takes you out of the ordinary and into something extraordinary, I would recommend reading one of the above listed fantasy novels!
Looking for some inspiration on what to read next? Who better to ask then the people who work around books for a living!? Each month we will post a "staff picks" blog post written by one of our staff members. These posts will vary in genre, theme, age appropriateness, etc. If you have any requests on a genre or age category you would like to see, submit a comment here and we will get it on the list!