Book Bites: Names of Acclaim

Ever since the start of fall publishing season a few weeks ago, there’s been a non-stop wave of great new books hitting our shelves. Last time we did this, we recommended new titles by big-name literary titans like Jacqueline Woodson, Eoin Colfer, and Attica Locke. And now? Now we have even more books by big names to share with you. From Blue Willow Hero Bob Shea all the way to the inimitable Ta-Nehisi Coates, this batch of bestsellers, breakouts, and bigwigs is guaranteed to please. The only question is: Which will you read first?

Ages 4-8

Who Wet My Pants? by Bob Shea; illustrated by Zachariah Ohara

Bear is bringing donuts to his fellow scouts when he discovers that his pants are wet. He refuses to deliver his donuts until he discovers WHO WET HIS PANTS. Full of hilarious asides—as well as reassurance that this can happen to anyone—this is a perfect book for every preschool classroom, home, and library!

READ because Bob Shea never fails to make us laugh out loud.
PASS if you hate laughing out loud.
Order your copy on our website.

Ages 8-12

Dear Sweet Pea by Julie Murphy

Patricia "Sweet Pea" DiMarco has a lot to navigate right now: She’s living in two nearly identical homes due to her parents' divorce, trying to work out her relationships with a former best friend and a new best friend, and surviving seventh grade. When her eccentric neighbor Miss Flora Mae asks Sweet Pea to forward letters for her advice column, Sweet Pea recognizes the handwriting on one of the letters and decides to answer it herself. You can only imagine what follows—a funny, delightful story in which so many readers will see themselves. Best for grades 5 and up. 

READ because the fabulous Julie Murphy nails the voice in this, as always.
PASS if you only read YA and up. You’re missing out, though.
Order your copy on our website.
Meet the author at our annual Tweens Read festival on October 19!

Cog by Greg van Eekhout; illustrated by Beatrice Blue

Cog (short for Cognitive Development) is an infectiously likable robot who has been built to learn. Learning can be tricky, and that one characteristic tends to land him in trouble—lots of trouble. When Cog wakes up to discover not only that Gina, the scientist who constructed him, is missing, but other scientists at uniMind want to remove his brain to learn about the X-module within, Cog and four other robot associates set off cross-country to find Gina. Cognitive learning and hijinks ensue. Readers’ faces will ache from grinning from the first page to the last—promise!

READ because the face-ache is worth it.
PASS if your last brush with a learning robot ended badly.
Order your copy on our website.

Ages 10 & Up

Beverly, Right Here by Kate DiCamillo

Oh my, no one writes the human soul like Kate DiCamillo. Burying her beloved dog Buddy is the last straw for disconsolate fourteen-year-old Beverly Tapinski. Deciding that it’s time to leave town, Beverly lands in Tamara Beach, where she finds not only a job in a fish restaurant and lodging with a kooky lady with a penchant for bingo, but a circle of quirky companions as only DiCamillo can imagine them, who befriend, support, and heal her, becoming the kindred spirits she needs. The heartwarming and poignant third of the series, Beverly, Right Here can be read on its own, but it is even richer and more satisfying if the reader knows Raymie Nightingale and Louisiana’s Way Home

READ because Kate DiCamillo wrote it.
PASS doesn’t really apply to this one.
Order your copy on our website.

Ages 14 & Up

The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake

After her brother's hospitalization for a suicide attempt, Violet's parents send her to spend the summer in coastal Maine with her uncle, working at the aquarium founded by her legendary ancestors. Violet works to find normalcy after her so-called "Year of Wild" in New York City and wrestles with her family's long struggle with mental illness. It's a summer of making friends and falling in love... as well as shipwrecks, giant blue lobsters and great baked goods. Full of endearing characters, this novel is best for grades 9 and up.

READ because this is an unforgettable debut—just ask its four starred reviews.
PASS if you’re tired of books that combine romance, heartache, and shipwrecks with baked goods and giant blue lobsters.
Order your copy on our website.

Adult Fiction

The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman

In Berlin in the spring of 1941, Hanni Kohn knows she must send her twelve-year-old daughter away to save her from the Nazi regime. She finds her way to a renowned rabbi, but it’s his daughter, Ettie, who offers hope of salvation in the form of a mystical Jewish creature, a rare and unusual golem. Ava the golem is created to love and protect Lea when her own mother cannot. This is a beautifully written book—poetic at times. I read and then reread the ending because I didn't want to miss a thing. Highly recommended.

READ for the perfectly-paired lyricism and magical realism that only Alice Hoffman can deliver.
PASS if you’ve read enough WWII books. (Trust us: This one’s unique.)
Order your copy on our website.

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Coates's first novel is a brilliant companion to his memoirs and essays about race in America. In it, he tells the story of Hiram Walker, son of a slave woman and a plantation owner in mid-19th century Virginia. A bright young boy with a mysterious spiritual power he doesn't quite understand, Hiram is given a chance at education along with the less bright plantation owner's heir. As a teen, Hiram decides to try to escape the plantation, and this decision sets him on a tortuous path that leads to temporary freedom, working for the Underground Railroad, and an ongoing attempt to rescue his family from the Virginia plantation he escaped. 

There are many similarities here to Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad, especially the surreal aspects of "Conduction," Hiram's ability to will himself out of one place to another, but the story is grounded in the horribly real details of slavery, bounty hunters, and the work of rabid abolitionists. Well-written and riveting.

READ because this book proves that Coates will be as great a novelist as he is an essayist.
PASS if you still need to decompress after finishing The Nickel Boys.
Order your copy on our website.

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

Maeve and Danny Conroy's lives are uprooted when their father brings his new wife and her young daughters to live in The Dutch House, the family estate in the suburbs of Philadelphia. When their father dies, the siblings are exiled from the home they love.

Maeve, who is seven years older than Danny, decides her role in life is to care for Danny, pushing him in the direction she thinks best for him and putting aside ambition for herself. Over the course of five decades, The Dutch House follows the unshakable relationship between the siblings who keep returning to the house that they can't put behind them. 

Written from Danny's point of view, this is a novel about family, abandonment and its effects, hanging on the past, and not letting go.

READ because every book by this terrific novelist is a gift.
PASS if you haven’t forgiven Ann for the way she ended Bel Canto.
Order your copy on our website.