Book Bites: Desperately Seeking Shelf Space

We know from over 25 years selling books that something amazing — a life-changing, world-enlarging, all-time-favorite of a book — can seemingly come out of nowhere, at any time of the year. Generally speaking, though, publishing tends to ebb and flow, with certain seasons or weeks set aside for a pile-up of incredible new releases. Lucky for you, we're in the midst of such a pile-up right now, as the world gets ready for spring and summer reading. So many great books have been coming into the store over the last few weeks, spanning all ages and all interests. The hardest thing about it was figuring out which titles to highlight for you here! We finally settled on eleven great reads, which you can find below. Give one a try — we know you're going to love it.

Ages 8-12

John's Turn by Mac Barnett; illustrated by Kate Berube

It's a big day at school for John - it's his turn to perform during Sharing Gifts time. He's nervous as he puts on his costume and stands before his classmates and begins to dance. Told with sparing text, this is a gorgeous story about the courage to share what you love with your friends and the joy that can come from that. For all ages. 
— Cathy

READ because Mac Barnett literally cannot create a bad book.
PASS if you blew the big move in your recital years ago and still can't look at anything that mentions dance.
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Somewhere in the Bayou by Jerome Pumphrey and Jarrett Pumphrey

Four animals make their way through the bayou and try to cross a creek. They find a log that has a strange tail next to it. Each animal takes a different approach with varying degrees of success. Pick up this book to see the surprising conclusion, which will be a perfect jumping off point for plenty of discussion. 
— Cathy

READ because the Pumphrey brothers’ iconic illustration style and delightful storytelling is as good as ever. 
PASS if you are easily spooked by strange tails.
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Ages 8-12

The Aquanaut by Dan Santat

Since her father was lost at sea, Sophia has been raised by her uncle at Aqualand, a marine theme park. When an "aquanaut" full of sea creatures breaks into the lab, they try to free the orca whale and Sophia realizes that Aqualand is more sinister than she realized. Funny and tender, this graphic novel by Caldecott-Award winning author/illustrator Dan Santat reminds us all that family — however we define it — comes first.
— Cathy

READ because this graphic novel is a perfect mix of hilarious and heartfelt.
PASS if you think all whales should be kept in captivity.  
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Anybody Here Seen Frenchie? by Leslie Connor

Aurora and Frenchie have been best friends—really each other’s only friends—since third grade. You don’t see one without the other. Aurora is loud, impulsive, and boisterous, constantly blurting out what she thinks but usually what no one else wants to hear. Frenchie is totally nonverbal, but Aurora can read his needs, thoughts, and ways like no other. She’s Frenchie’s greatest advocate, determined to get others to “see” him the way she does and to include him.

Sixth grade brings huge change: two girls new to town befriend Aurora and Frenchie; for the first time, Frenchie and Aurora are not in the same class, and Frenchie has a young, new aide. The two are no longer always in each other’s line of sight. And then one day, Frenchie goes missing. How is it that no one noticed? No one has seen Frenchie? How do you search for someone who doesn’t speak? Whose fault is this? Leslie Connor brings to life a village in Maine readers will want to visit, if not move to, and irresistibly quirky characters they’ll want to be neighbors with.
— Jennifer G.

READ because this is a beautiful tale of friendship between two neurodivergent kids.
PASS if you're taking the year off of reading for some reason. 
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Wingbearer by Marjorie Liu; illustrated by Teny Issakhanian

When a bird dies, its spirit returns to the Great Tree to rest before it can be reborn. Zuli, a young girl, was raised by bird spirits in the branches of the Great Tree, where she is watched over by her guardian owl, Frowly. When Zuli and her companions begin to notice no new bird spirits returning to the tree, they know something is very wrong. Zuli and Frowly are sent out into the world beyond to discover what is happening. Along the way, Zuli will face danger, meet creatures she has never before encountered and learn about her own story as well.
— Jennifer K.

READ because this graphic novel has everything — magic, adventure, and friendship.
PASS if adventures make you queasy. 
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Ages 14-18

The Rumor Game by Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra

At exclusive Foxham Prep, a rumor starts at a party and spreads like wildfire. Told in multiple points of view with texts, social media posts and news stories, this incredibly real and utterly horrifying thriller reminds the reader of the incredible damage gossip can cause. For grades 9 and up.
— Cathy

READ if you were a fan of We Were Liars, Cruel Summer, or Gossip Girl.
PASS if gossip and drama not involving you makes you feel left out. 
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Gallant by V. E. Schwab

Orphan Olivia has nothing of her parents besides a journal of handwritten notes interspersed with drawings. One day a letter arrives at the orphanage inviting her to her uncle's house, Gallant. When she arrives no one knows who she is or seems to want her there.

There is a wall at the bottom of the grand house's garden, with a door in the center. A door that draws Olivia's attention and is a source of fear for the occupants of the house. After finding her mother's journal, Olivia starts to unravel the mystery of her parents, the mysterious door in the wall, and the house that lies beyond….
— Caroline

READ if you love Neil Gaiman or Melissa Albert. 
PASS if you’d like to read Schwab’s 20 *other* New York Times bestselling books first. 
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Adult Fiction

One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle

Katy's mom was her best friend — the first person she asked for advice, the first person she called every day. When she passes away, Katy's grief is unfathomable. Leaving her husband, dad, job and life behind, she goes to Italy alone on a trip she was planning to take with her mother. Taking in the beauty of Positano, she eats, drinks, and explores while processing her grief. In a surreal moment, she meets Carol, the 30-year-old version of her mother. Learning about her mom and who she was in the past leads Katy to know who she wants to be moving forward. A powerful tale of learning to let go and live your best life. This book appealed to my every emotion and sense. I have felt myself thinking about a quote from the book ever since I finished it: “There is more to life than just continuing to do what we know. What got you here, won't get you there.”
— Christina

READ because, like all of Serle's books, you’ll want to give this one a hug when you finish.
PASS if you are waiting to book your flight to Italy so that you may read this on the beach in Positano.
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Listening Still by Anne Griffin

Jeanie Masterson is born into the family business, Masterson Funeral Directors — her father is a mortician,  serving the families of their small rural village in Kilcross, Ireland. From a very young age, Jeanie has been able to converse with the dead for a short time before they really pass on. Often what is imparted is important information: forgiveness begged for; the deed to the house is under the bed in the red box; or things far more serious such as affairs and lies revealed. Jeanie's father (also given the "gift") often chooses the path of least resistance, to protect the living, whilst Jeanie finds this practice of deception troubling. The blessing and tremendous burden are often born alone by Jeanie, her husband and most ardent supporter left on the outside to tend to the physical touches of preparing the dead. The story then turns to life in high school and to the torrid and combustible love affair of Jeanie and Fionn, the photographer who has recently moved with his family from Dublin to her small village. What follows is the delicate, exquisite examination by Anne Griffin of what happens when a road forks and a path is not followed. Should Jeanie follow her heart or honor the dead and her calling in service to them?
— Raquel

READ because this is beautiful and heartachingly honest.
PASS if you only read books with simple, one-dimensional characters.
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Adult Nonfiction

Sentient by Jackie Higgins

This is a fascinating and knowledge-expanding examination of sensory perception among a variety of animals, including humans, that blows a big hole in our school-learned understanding of how our five senses work. It turns out that even humans have more than five senses. The author considers 13 animals (e.g. Great Gray Owl, Star-nosed mole [my favorite], Vampire bat, Bloodhound, Cheetah) and gives neuron-level descriptions of their keenly developed senses. She then relates those physical manifestations to how humans see, smell, hear, taste and feel. Even with the scientific details of ongoing research, her writing is clear and her examples illustrate the technical stuff in understandable language. You'll look at your dog's nose in a whole new way! Recommended.
— Alice

READ because this is brilliant. And even if science is not your thing, it is extremely digestible!
PASS if you get overwhelmingly jealous that your dog can sniff things much better than you can.
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Seven Games by Oliver Roeder

Some games have been around for thousands of years. A version of checkers was found in Egyptian tombs. This fascinating book about the development of games and AI brings in math, computers, and people who devote their lives to figuring out how to play games better. The games are (in order): Checkers, Chess, Go, Backgammon, Poker, Scrabble, and Bridge. Interestingly, bridge is the only one (because of the way duplicate is played) that AI has not developed more than humans. Roeder takes you deep inside tournaments and interviews many masters of their individual games.
— Valerie

READ because this is a fascinating look at some of your favorite games and why we play them.
PASS if you lost your life savings to the dark underground world of extreme checkers.
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