Book Bites: Sep-Tome-Ber

September is here! Has it brought us any cooler weather? No, not really. But what it has delivered is just as good — we've officially entered Big Fall Publishing Season, and great new books are coming fast and thick. Here, we're highlighting a dozen of our very favorites from the first half of the month, including new books by longtime favorites like Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen, Cressida Cowell, Lauren Groff, and more. Stay tuned next week for another round of reviews... and in the meantime, we highly recommend investing in some new shelving. You're going to need it.

Ages 4-8

How Does Santa Go Down the Chimney? by Mac Barnett; illustrated by Jon Klassen

Longtime friends Barnett and Klassen collaborate on this charming, funny, and gorgeous picture book that answers the age-old question of how Santa gets down the chimney. Share this with everyone — young or old — who has wondered the same thing.
— Cathy

Read because this is another winning effort from one of our all-time favorite picture book teams.
Pass if you prefer to leave life's eternal mysteries unexplored.
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Ages 8-12

Something Like Home by Andrea Beatriz Arango

Eleven-year-old Laura is placed to live with her aunt, whom she doesn't know very well, by social services after her parents are sent to rehab after overdosing in front of her. Angry at herself for getting her parents in trouble after calling 911, angry at her aunt who has too many rules (she was taking care of herself just fine before), she finds and rescues a dog named Sparrow and concocts a plan to train Sparrow to be a therapy dog so she can get to the rehab center and be reunited with her parents. Her new school recognizes her need for extra help with reading, she makes a new friend, she learns a little bit more about her Puerto Rican family's past, and she starts to question why her parents can't just hurry up and get better - don't they love her enough to do that? A poignant novel in verse covering a tough topic.
— Aerie

Read because this is story intimate, touching, and beautifully written.
Pass for now if you're looking for a lighthearted pick-me-up.
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The Odds by Lindsay Puckett

Begonia was left as a baby at Swamp Root Manor, a retirement home for Odds — those with a supernatural or paranormal Oddity. The Manor is running out of money and might have to close, and Begonia is determined to find a way to save the place she lives and all the grandmas and grandpas that have raised her. There is also the small problem of a ghost haunting the grounds and leaving some of the residents in a coma. To make matters even worse, she has not yet figured out what her Oddity is - and if she doesn't figure it out before her 11th birthday, she will have her memory wiped and be forced to go live with the Never Odds in town. She decides to team up with Bass, another kid visiting his grandmother in the Manor, to solve the mystery of the ghost, figure out how to save the manor, and find her Oddity — the thing that makes her different. A deliciously creepy tale with a twist of an ending you won't want to miss!
— Aerie

Read if you can't stop watching Wednesday and already have pumpkins on your porch.
Pass if you still have Puckett's earlier book, The Glass Witch, sitting in your TBR stack.
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Which Way to Anywhere by Cressida Cowell

Izzabird and K2 O'Hero know they have magic in their veins, but their dad has been missing and presumed dead for years, and their mom has remarried to ordinary Daniel Smith, bringing Theo and Mabel into the blended family that just cannot get along. The only exception is baby Annipeck, who is beloved by all. When strange monsters enter the picture, the children realize they are not safe anymore. The discovery of Annipeck's magical ability to bring plastic objects to life and K2's ability to draw maps to other worlds brings attention to them by dueling bounty hunters Cyril and Horizabel, and the childen are swept into an adventure across the universe to save their family. With her typical quirky voice and drawings, Cowell draws you into a world that keeps you turning the page and warms your heart, and leaves you ready for the next adventure with the characters you have just fallen in love with. 
— Aerie

Read because come on: It's a new series from Cressida Cowell!
Pass if you're allergic to having fun.
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Enlighten Me by Minh Lê; illustrated by Chan Chau

When Bình is caught fighting back at school, he is nearly suspended and his parents decide to take him and his sisters to a silent Buddhist retreat to unplug. Bình has not been able to tell his family that he was fighting back against bullies, and he is not excited to give up his video game for the retreat. While at the retreat, he learns more about himself and how he can rely on his family and friends for support through the stories of Buddha's past. A fun and quick graphic novel.
— Aerie

Read if you can't get enough of Jerry Craft or Raina Telgemeier.
Pass if you alone possess the secret to total happiness and enlightenment.
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Meet the creators at our Tweens Read Festival next month!

The Widely Unknown Myth of Apple & Dorothy by Corey Ann Haydu

Every year, a small community of near-gods on Earth must climb a ladder to the heavens and eat a slice of apple from Hera to ensure their immortality for another year. In exchange, they get to live on Earth and experience life like humans. Apple and Dorothy are friends because their moms are friends, Dorothy's mom Penny as a descendent of Pandora and Apple's mom Heather as a descendent of Hera. But one year Penny doesn't climb the ladder — she decides she wants to be human. When Penny is later killed in a car accident, the gods declare that everyone in the community must pick a side — choose to climb the ladder and remain gods, or stay on earth and become human. Dorothy is grieving the loss of her mother and Apple decides her quiet and isolation is something she must fix by distracting Dorothy with excitement about returning to the heavens. But as the date to decide gets closer, Apple fears her best friend will not return with her, and she makes a grave mistake when she tries to control the future that will threaten the entire community. A gorgeously written story about friendship, loss, and hope, told from the viewpoints of each girl. Highly recommend!
— Aerie

Read because this is a fresh and fun retelling of Greek myth.
Pass if you're looking for something stale and stodgy instead.
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Adult Fiction

The Long Game by Elena Armas

After Adalyn goes viral for attacking her team's mascot, her father banishes her to a small town in North Carolina. Adalyn is responsible for managing the Green Warriors, however, she is in for a surprise when she discovers the team is full of kids. The surprises do not stop there, Adalyn is forced to work with Cameron Caldani, a star goalkeeper who mysteriously retired and remained hidden. While the two are complete opposites and would love to get as far as possible from one another, they work together to get their team a success story. For fans of Tessa Bailey, Lucy Score, and Ted Lasso. Highly Recommended!
—  Ayah

Read if you've been rereading It Happened One Summer while bingeing Ted Lasso.
Pass if you identify more with Led Tasso.
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North Woods by Daniel Mason

Using a house as a character, Mason has written a fascinating piece of historical fiction. Starting out as a shack that harbors two runaway lovers in a western Massachusetts forest in the 17th century, the house evolves over the next more than 300 years as different people live in it, among them a British soldier turned apple farmer, two inseparable sisters, an artist, a mother with a schizophrenic son, a crime reporter, an environmental science teacher. The forest that surrounds the house is also part of the story as changes in the environment occur and as insects and animals impact the life of the many types of trees. Mason uses a variety of literary forms from straightforward narrative to letters, speeches, poetry and song that bring together all the characters in a connecting thread. A touch of magical realism (some ghosts of previous residents still live in the house) adds another dimension to the story. Recommended.
—  Alice

Read because this is one of those mind-expanding dazzlers you can never read enough of.
Pass if your mind is already so expansive that it might crack through your skull.
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The Graveyard Shift by Maria Lewis

Tinsley does not shy away from horror, in fact, she loves it and is up to date on any horror movie out there. Using her passion, she hosts The Graveyard Shift, an 11pm-6am radio slot dedicated to songs used in horror movies. When Halloween comes around, she prepares a few treats for her listeners, however, she did not expect a live murder to occur on air. While there is no apparent threat towards Tinsley, she is unable to shrug off the feeling that danger is near. Read along to find out if Tinsley survives!
—  Ayah

Read because this is a perfect seasonal mystery to curl up with.
Pass if you're saving this one for Halloween night.
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The Vaster Wilds by Lauren Groff

During a scarlet fever outbreak, a young girl flees the devastation of the Colonial encampment she has called home. Rushing with few provisions, she faces numerous harsh conditions but has a fierce intensity that propels her forward. Memories of past injustices and small moments of joy return to her as she scrambles through the turbulent surroundings. Survival becomes her mantra. Told in brutal detail, a story of untamed existence. Recommended. 
—  Liz

Read because this is another can't-miss novel from a writer at the height of her powers.
Pass if "three-time National Book Award finalist and perennial bestseller" isn't impressive enough for you
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The Wren, The Wren by Anne Enright

Three generations of Irish women reflect on their lives; as mothers, sisters, lovers, and daughters, we can imagine how they make their way through daily life. It's hard and the loving is harder. One person who connects them all is a somewhat washed up poet who abandons his family for America, only coming back to be buried. 
—  Valerie

Read because this one is picking up starred reviews left and right.
Pass if you only read critically derided works.
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Adult Nonfiction 

Two Roads Home by Daniel Finkelstein

The author, former executive editor of The Times of London, reconstructs in impeccably researched detail the experiences of his parents who grew up in Europe during the 1930s and 1940s. His mother was a German Jew whose father, Adolf Wiener, developed an extensive archive that documented the rise of National Socialism in Germany, especially its impact on Jews. The author's father was the only son of a wealthy Polish industrialist and WWI war hero. Both parents' families were deported during the early days of WWII — his mother was sent to Bergen-Belsen camp, and his father was shipped off to work camps in Siberia and Kazakhstan. This detailed account describes the lucky breaks, the ingenuity and the determination that allowed his parents to survive their horrific wartime experiences. The author emphasizes that though Nazi war criminals were convicted after the war for crimes against the Jews and others, there was no similar justice meted out for the equally egregious atrocities committed by the Soviets. We are reminded that every holocaust survivor's story is different from every other's.
—  Alice

Read if you're looking for a great history book to dig into.
Pass if you've learned everything there is to know about history. 
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