~by Amanda Smith
Life has changed drastically for all of us, but one thing that remains unchanged is the comfort, escape and friendship good books offer. An unexpected benefit of self- quarantine is that we have more time to read. Even though physical libraries are closed, e-books and audio books are still available through apps such as Libby and Audible, and while we cannot browse our favorite Indie bookstores, we can still support them by ordering books through Indiebound.
So, snuggle up with some stories. Read aloud one of your kids’ best-loved novels, share some of your childhood favorites, or discover new darlings together.
In honor of National Reading Month, here are some of my recent favorites:
LOVELY WAR by Julie Berry is an intriguing story of four main characters’ loves and lives during World War I. The story is narrated by a group of Greek gods holding a self-imposed trial of love and war, as World War II rages on. Crystal Kite winner, LOVELY WAR is swoon-worthy. The reader is transported to a different time, introduced to some less-familiar aspects of First World War history, strung along on a musical journey, entertained by laugh-out-loud moments of Olympian egos, and swept up in true love.
For more historical YA, also check out WHITE ROSE by Kip Wilson.
TO CATCH A KILLER and TO RIGHT THE WRONGS by Sheryl Scarborough are intriguing, edge of your seat, CSI-thrillers that will keep you reading deep into the night.
For World War II history told in a completely different but equally engaging medium, the graphic novel THE FAITHFUL SPY by John Hendrix is a must read. Hendrix tells the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the theologian who helped plan multiple plots to assassinate Hitler, his internal struggle with morality, and his heartache over the deterioration of his country. With powerful graphics, striking symbolism, and straight forward language Hendrix also shows the bone-chilling rise of Adolf Hitler. Haunting illustrations, striking hand-lettering, and brilliant use of color help readers better understand the history, the conflict, and the connection between these two men.
A lighter middle grade graphic novel with themes of friendship and fitting in, is ALL’S FAIRE IN MIDDLE SCHOOL by Victoria Jamieson.
WISHTREE by Katherine Applegate is a heart-lifting, encouraging middle grade about a tree and its endearing posse of animals who work together to restore right in their upturned neighborhood. Young readers will love the characters! Because of its lyrical language, this is a great book to read aloud with your kids. It will fill your household with hope!
Other MGs to check out are OUT OF MY MIND by Sharon M Draper. (The audio-book performance of this one is fabulous!), and THE INQUISITOR’S TALE or THREE MAGICAL CHILDREN AND THEIR HOLY DOG by Adam Gidwitz.
One of my absolute favorite book-purchases this year is THE LOST WORDS, a poetry anthology by Robert McFarlane. This book is in no hurry. Three full spreads, adorned with realistic watercolor paintings by Jackie Morris, are dedicated to each acrostic poem. The poems are about nature words that were removed from the dictionary to make room for more modern words, and THE LOST WORDS reminds us to cherish the beauty of the natural world. This book is luxurious, and I found that I also wanted to consume it slowly, drinking in each exquisite word, the decadent imagery, and each brush stroke of the art.
Picture books can powerfully communicate emotions, such as anxiety or uncertainty, to young and old. Lita Judge’s newly released WHEN YOU NEED WINGS helps readers calm fears through the use of imagination. The watercolor illustrations are breathtaking and contribute to a sense of peace. THE RABBIT LISTENED by Cori Doerrfeld is the perfect picture book for learning to process and express emotions, and a good conversation starter. TRUMAN by Jean Reidy is a heart-warming story of perseverance and love.
Whether you read alone or with someone. Whether you read historical fiction, lighthearted silliness, or picture book magic. Whether you read fast and furious to solve the mystery, or slowly, tasting every word, be sure to read, read, read to stay connected with the great, big, beautiful world outside your door.
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