Book Bites: Hugs, Bugs, & More

We'll just cut to the chase here: There have been an incredible number of great books publishing this spring, and more than one of them probably deserves a spot on your shelf. Here, we're highlighting a few of our most recent favorites, covering all kinds of ages and interests. Picutre books? Of course. Middle grade from an award-winning Texan author? Don't mind if we do. Literary fiction? Romance? Memoir? Please and thank you. It's a veritable feast, y'all. Which means there's only one thing left to say: Bon appétit!

Ages 3-6

Big and Small and In-Between by Carter Higgins; illustrated by Daniel Miyares

This lovely picture book imagines all the things a reader can collect - both physical and ephemeral. From big things like bravery to little things like a small worm just eaten by a bird, the items will make the reader smile, laugh, cry and wonder. Glorious!
— Cathy

READ because this is a stunning book that will enthrall all ages.
PASS if you have really terrible depth perception.
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How to Hug a Pufferfish by Ellie Peterson

Pufferfish don't like surprises and if you want to hug one, you've got to do it in the correct way, giving plenty of notice and being willing to high five (or high fin) if the pufferfish prefers that. Combining science with social awareness, this colorful picture book is a great conversation starter on respecting personal space.
— Cathy

READ because this is a great and clear introduction to consent and personal space. Plus, it's funny!
PASS if you thought this would be a step-by-step guide on how to find and safely hug a pufferfish. Sorry. 
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Ages 7-10

Out in the Wild! by Mike Lowery

Meet the Bug Scouts - four insect friends who go on adventures to earn their Bug Scout badges. Full of goofy jokes and plenty of fun, readers will be eager to pick up the next book in the series!
— Cathy

READ if you are a graphic novel enthusiast, or a fan of Dog Man, Narwhal and Jelly, or CatStronauts
PASS if bugs give you the creepy crawlies — even adorably illustrated ones like the characters in this awesome book you should read. 
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Ages 8-12

The Last Mapmaker by Christina Soontornvat

Soontornvat combines history, adventure, and fantasy in this gripping story of Sai, a 13-year-old girl from the slums of An Lung, whose intelligence and artistic talent give her an opportunity of a lifetime. She goes to work for the master mapmaker of the kingdom of Mangkon (a fantasy take on somewhere like the coast of Thailand), and accompanies him on a sea voyage to explore and map the seas of the southern hemisphere. But the voyage turns into something of a nightmare when conflicts arise among the captain, her officers, the mapmaker and a mystery woman over the ship's route into dangerous seas. Sai and a young stowaway named Bo have to fend for themselves to survive the rough seas and a dangerous dragon. Great action/adventure drama.
— Alice

READ because Christina Soontornvat is a visionary and author of two 2021 Newbery Honor Books. 
PASS if you are scared of vivid and suspenseful tales. 
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Adult Fiction

The Caretakers by Amanda Bestor-Siegal

In Paris in 2015, a young boy is discovered dead at his wealthy suburban home. What happened to this son of a well-off French family? While unraveling the mystery, we are introduced to three au pairs, a French language teacher, and the daughter of one of the wealthy families. The language teacher, Geraldine, befriends the au pairs, even letting them stay overnight with her. Each of the au pairs, Lou, Holly, and Alena, came to Paris for various reasons and at times it is glorious while often it’s lonely and filled with uncertainty. The daughter, Nathalie, is frustrating yet gains sympathy due to her complicated life. Set when Paris experienced several terrorist bombings, a scary vibe overshadows the story. Being a foreigner has its unique challenges, but the bombings heighten the struggle for these young au pairs. The novel moves around the interesting characters, highlighting their individual motivations and gradually unraveling how they are connected. Good suspense with modern, fresh characters. Recommended.
— Liz

READ because you’re looking for a fresh and thrilling mystery.
PASS if you’d like to read this book while you are in Paris, for the full spooky effect. 
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Last Dance on the Starlight Pier by Sarah Bird

Love and loss on Galveston Island. Evie Devlin has trained as a nurse but she has a troubled backstory as a dancer. When she is asked to be the resident nurse for the marathon dancers at a somewhat seedy "palace," she is met with resistance, a very handsome dancer, and tons of secrets. Sarah perfectly captures the era complete with the music, the background, and the desperation.
— Valerie

READ because this is a moving story with incredible character voices.
PASS if you don't mind us narcing to Sarah about your bad taste in books. (Not to brag, but we're totally friends.)
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Part of Your World by Abby Jimenez

The scene is set, Alexis' car swerves avoiding a raccoon and ends up in a ditch in the middle of nowhere. Daniel enters as the proverbial boy next door, offering her a tow. One bet in the bar later leads Alexis to a "sleepover" and sneaking out the next morning. The problem is neither can stop thinking about the other and they come from two different worlds with baggage of their own. In trying to figure out how to bring their worlds together and fight what is really important, some huge lessons are learned along the way.  Once again Jimenez has the reader laughing, crying, and giddy from sweet romance!
— Christina

READ because we all need a fun, well-written romance right now.
PASS if you won’t be able to read it without getting “Part of Your Wold” from The Little Mermaid out of your head.
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Adult Nonfiction

Left on Tenth by Delia Ephron

Delia Ephron, a screenwriter of much acclaim, writes tenderly (and humorously) about her travails with cancer. After losing her sister and her husband to cancer, she reconnects with an old flame (he remembers them going on a few dates, she does not). But soon she is diagnosed with the same cancer that took Nora. Peter is her rock during these months of suffering. She is a beacon of hope to all of us who are staring down our sixties and beyond.
— Valerie

READ because this is a masterful memoir and a must-read.
PASS if you just realized Delia Ephron wrote the screenplays for stone-cold classics like You’ve Got Mail and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and now you need to watch those immediately.
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Brighter by the Day by Robin Roberts

Good Morning America anchor Roberts shares her advice for finding joy in life. She reminds the reader/listener that choosing optimism must be practiced, just like any skill we'd like to develop. Welcome heartfelt words from a beloved American personality.
— Cathy

READ because is there a better way to start your day than by reading the memoir of a Good Morning America anchor? 
PASS if you’re a night owl. Or a vampire.
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