Program Review: Books & Bites with Author Shane Burcaw

Posted & filed under Blog, Youth & Teen.

Our library was lucky enough to talk with Shane Burcaw for a special edition of Books & Bites. We talked about his children’s book Not So Different: What You Really Wanted to Ask About Having A Disability. We also talked about his popular YouTube Chanel with his fiancé Hannah (Squirmy and Grubs). We discussed his disability (spinal muscular atrophy), as well as his purpose in writing his 3 books, popular blog (Laughing at my Nightmare), and YouTube channel, to demonstrate how normal his life is and how you can overcome obstacles with your attitude and humor. Everyone was able to get a good understanding of who he was and some of the basics before we spoke to him, and were able to use that discussion to write down excellent questions for him when he spoke to us.

Shane spoke to us about a lot of things. First, he spoke about the basics of his life. He also touched on his writing process, some things that are unique about his life, as well as common misconceptions and challenges that he deals with when talking with people, buying a house, and even eating food. Kids asked him formal questions about his book, but also about his personality and everyday life. In this way, they were able to get a full and comprehensive understanding of Shane during the discussion and Q&A session. Because his books are so intertwined with his life, he was a perfect person to have an author visit, and kids were able to access his work to a much larger degree than if they hadn’t talked to him.

Be sure to check out Shane’s writing and content here, and stay tuned for more program updates! 

Not So Different

Laughing At My Nightmare

People Assume My Girlfriend is My Nurse

Laughing At My Nightmare – BLOG

Caldecott Club #5

Posted & filed under Blog, Youth & Teen.

Hi! I’m Miss Eti, one of the Youth & Teen Services librarians and I’m back with another recap of our latest Caldecott Club session. We had our 5th session on Thursday, December 5th and selected our final 2 books to send to our Voting Party in January. To refresh your memory, the Caldecott Award is the award for the most distinguished American picture book for children, given out each year by the Association for Library Service to Children. We began our program by having Ya. open our final box of books for us to explore.

The books we discussed in session 5 were:

Where Are You From? by Yamile Saied Méndez, illustrated by Jamie Kim 

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson  

The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad with S. K. Ali, illustrated by Hatem Aly

Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison

Here’s the necessary spoiler alert for all of these picture books.

Picture Walk

The irony of hosting a program series is once you figure out the things that work and don’t, the program is almost over. Our latest Caldecott Club session was the best yet, I think, with our group sitting around a table by the screen with clearer images of the books. Everyone was very welcoming of our new friend, Al., who joined us at this session. I remain grateful that Ms. Gaby joined us again during this session, which was a huge help! She ensures that everything runs smoothly. Thank you, Ms. Gaby!!

I began our session by playing a video made by club members, A. & K., with their friend, Ab., revealing the titles we were going to read. How cool is it that some of the authors mentioned actually reposted this video on Instagram? One of our friends also told me that their teacher played their video in class! We’re famous!

I began our journey by asking our group a pre-reading question. Our theme was pride, so I asked them to think about and write down their ideas: What’s something special about you that you’re proud of? Something special about your family, your culture, your history? Some answers included skills like dancing or singing, another kid wrote that she was proud of her different cultures and that she’s a lefty. Framing our conversation with these ideas in mind helped us look at the books thematically. 

Where Are You From? by Yamile Saied Méndez, illustrated by Jamie Kim

I began our discussion by asking the group, “when you see this title, “Where Are You From?” what does it remind you of or make you feel? Y. shared that it’s asking where her family members are from, where they live. C.. asserted, “mind your own business,” which led us to discuss how this question can be asked in mean, nosy way. S. said it reminded her of her grandmother’s house and visiting her there. A. said “I think about my family.” A. later added, “sometimes when people ask that, people feel uncomfortable.. Or if they say it, maybe there’s something going on there, and they don’t like the place [the other people are from].” This brilliant insight helped us think critically about the often double-meaning embedded within this question that is used to isolate or discriminate against people. 

I shared that Yamile Saied Méndez is an Argentine-American and her husband is Peurto Rican. In a TeachingBooks interview, Yamile said, “My name is Yamile Daniela Saied Mendez. Yamile is an Arabic name, and because I’m Argentine, I pronounce it with an Argentine accent, the Y like an S-H. So, “sha-MEE-lay” And my grandfather named me. His name was Ricardo, and he was the son of an immigrant father from Syria in Argentina. Yamile means beautiful, and every time my parents said my name I really did feel beautiful.” I wanted to make sure we all knew how to say her name correctly, which is an essential part of learning about authors. I also introduced them to Jamie Kim, who is the South-Korean born, North Carolinian illustrator who used watercolors and digital techniques to bring this beautiful book to life. 

The kids shared their impressions of the children asking the little girl about where she is from. A. said, “They’re asking as if you can’t be from somewhere else.” C. reacted with “stop being so nosy.” E. thought “it looked like a teacher [the dancer] was asking her and the students were looking to know.” We talked about the physical space between the girl and the other kids, towering over her and how that must feel. Dal. shared, “she’s like, can you stop asking me all of these questions.” E. noticed the different color palettes on the pages with the girl and the group questioning her, so “she might be feeling down or sad.” C. added, “there’s another aspect of power, with the ballerina standing right in front of another kid, so he’s standing on his tippy toes.” When her abuelo, her grandfather, appears, A. expressed her appreciation for the art, saying, “I love the picture. He’s closing his eyes and the background is the sky.” C. shared how he “loved how it was 3-D, like you’re looking up.” 

We experienced the journey with the little girl and her grandfather in the Argentine pampas, among the mountains and sky, exploring the many facets of her family history and identity. C. pointed out the birds in previous spreads. When we ruminated about why the birds were included, Dal. shared that birds are part of their country. A. shared that the birds show “that they can fly and feel free.” E. said that they’re free to roam like they did on the land. As we shifted perspectives to think about Puerto Rico, C. noticed even more birds, which led us to think about migration. We talked about how the color shifts as the locations change, which Jamie Kim did brilliantly. C. shared “I love how the text is wrapped around the sun.”

S. wondered if Jamie Kim chose where the words would be placed in the art. We touched upon some of the history in Argentina referenced in the book, thinking about how our stories are shaped by the history our families experienced. We then geared up for the dramatic page turn when the girl asks where she’s really from and, “[abuelo] points to his heart, “you are from here, from my love and the love of all those before us.” We talked about how this page is zoomed in right where abuelo’s heart is. We talked about how we are from our ancestors.

With the ending of “I Am,” A. asserted, “I’m from your heart.” Da. made a wonderful personal connection to this book, sharing a song that he usually sings at church called “I Know Who I Am,” which he loves to sing. C. then made a connection to Moana singing about her identity. Dal. wrote in her evaluation that “I love the artwork so much. I like the colors in the book.”

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander & illustrated by Kadir Nelson 

As soon as I showed them the cover of this book, they instantly recognized Kwame Alexander, whose book, “How to Read A Book,” illustrated with Melissa Sweet, was part of our previous Caldecott Club session. They were adamant to point out that he also wrote The Crossover, which A. shared she’s reading right now. I then shared a pre-reading question with our group: What does it mean to be undefeated? A. shared that “anything that life throws at you, always get back up.” C. shared “to be winning at something.” Da. shared, “never to get defeated.” K. shared, “if you get hit, always come back up.” For this picture walk, we actually shared a video of Kwame and Randy Preston sharing this book on tour this spring, while showing the PowerPoint slides. Ms. Gaby was instrumental to making this picture walk happen and go so smoothly, especially with so many working pieces.

We began our picture walk by noticing the birds on the title page. E. shared connections to “Where Are You From?” saying, “they got judged by their skin color and they were not free like the birds…” This led us to think about how birds can be a metaphor for spirit. We then talked about the first spread with Jesse Owens, talking about Kadir Nelson used oil painting to create realistic art, using shadows and light to convey meaning. When we read the spread, “And the ones who didn’t,” we talked about why the page is not illustrated. Al. shared how the “ones who didn’t survive, there’s no people to put on the page.” We talked how it’s a visual moment of silence for the ordinary people whose stories and contributions may be unknown, but we need to recognize them. We then paused, like Kwame, to ask what the book is about. E. said, referring to heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson, “it was kind of brave of him.” Da. said, “it’s about the freedom to be heard.” We made the connections about visual light and shadow as we talked about artists shining their light. We shared an annotated slide with the names and photographs of the people referenced in the art. C. asserted that the righteous marching ones spread was about protesting.  

As we headed into the series of spreads about the unspeakable, I thought it was important to provide a preface for our group to let them know we were going to discuss some difficult things and create space to process and share. Aya shared how these pages were about “how they couldn’t say what they wanted to say.” We made connections between all of these unspeakable events as we thought about the history of racism and the fight for justice and equality that continues today. The kids instantly recognized Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the next spread. In the next spread, C. instantly noticed Michael Jordan. E. noticed LeBron James. I then asked the group who are the undiscovered.

We then noticed the birds on the underdogs and uncertain page. E. shared “it’s saying that they’re free.” S. shared “I feel like it connects to the unspeakable, maybe the ones who lost their lives became birds and are free.” This connected to some of the research I did where Kadir Nelson talked about his use of birds as a metaphor for spirit, going back to the ancient Egyptians. This helped us think about those who have come before us who have given up their lives to fight for freedom. E. thought they looked like doves, which means peace. S. shared that Kadir “is so good at drawing.” I played Kwame and Randy performing the final page of the book, declaring “this is for you and you and you – this is for us,” all while Randy sang and played guitar.

I pointed out the most excellent back-matter in the book, which informed much of what I shared. I then shared the quote from Maya Angelou that Kwame cited in his author note, “you see, we may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated. It may even be necessary to encounter the defeat, so that we can know who we are. So that we can see, oh, that happened, and I rose. I did get knocked down flat in front of the whole world, and I rose.” We then did a movement break by doing stretches while watching Kwame’s The Undefeated performance from ESPN.

The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad with S.K Ali, illustrated by Hatem Aly

We began our discussion by getting to know the creators of this extraordinary, beautiful book. We talked about how fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad became the first hijab-wearing U.S. athlete to qualify for the Olympics in 2016  and the first Muslim-American woman to earn a medal at the games. I shared that she had written a book called Proud: Living My American Dream, and C. brightly declared that there’s a copy in his school library.

C. wondered, “whose idea was this?” I shared the research I had done about Ibtihaj’s inspiration for writing The Proudest Blue, paraphrasing this powerful quote from her Bustle interview, ”It can be difficult to navigate spaces when you’re made to feel different, but one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is to love yourself as you are and push past society’s limited expectations of who you are.” 

We began our picture walk in the endpapers joining sisters Asiya and Faizah with their mom on their trip to get Asiya a hijab, where they purchase a gorgeous blue hijab. When they arrive at school on Asiya’s first day wearing her hijab, a girl in line asks Faizah about her sister’s hijab. Our group pointed out how this question was a curious one, rather than a double-meaning question like in Where Are You From?

The perspective then shifts as we travel into Faizah’s mind, seeing Asiya’s hijab as the sky. S. pointed out the birds on this page, noticing a reoccurring theme in all of our books I hadn’t noticed until she pointed it out. C. pointed out how Asiya is the sky. On the next spread, we noticed Asiya’s friends’ reactions when a figure points. Al. shared “they’re mad.”

I asked the group what they thought about how Hatem illustrated the people laughing without distinct features.  E. shared “I kind of like it.” C. “they’re kind of there but not.” We talked about how we’re centering Faizah and Asiya’s experience and this isn’t a story about the bullies. Da. pointed out how the waves spread is also the front cover.

We talked about the movement in the cartwheel scene. When I asked the kids how this scene made them feel, Al. shared “sad because it’s mean.” This is based off of Ibtihaj and S.K Ali’s experiences wearing hijab at school.  Again, we talked about the insights from the writers, specifically from the Hijabi Librarians blog’s interview: “…we wrote the book the way we did – not centering the bully’s transformation or change to become a better person (as many books on bullying tend to do) but focusing on the internal process by which a young person can move on from being attacked for who they are.” 

We talked about their mom’s advice for dealing with hurtful words, “Don’t carry around the hurtful words that others say. Drop them. They are not yours to keep. They belong only to those who said them.” E. shared that “if they [the bullies] say hurtful words, they’re going to keep them and be known as mean.” Al. thought “it would be good to drop it, but it would be pretty hard because it would be rude to say it back to the person who said it to you.” Da. shared how it connected to the bullying training they did in school last year. We looked at the author’s notes, making connections about why the authors created the book. We then saw the endpapers where the parents are waving the girls goodbye as the head back to school the next day, coming full circle. 

Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison

I began our journey by sharing how this book is based off the short film, Hair Love, which was literally released online that day. What perfect timing! You can watch it now too! 

I told the group that Vashti Harrison made all of the art digitally, which blew them away. We started our discussion by talking about Matthew A. Cherry’s interested in portraying an African-American dad with his daughter, providing representation for that relationship. Da. shared how he had a friend who had the same hairstyle as Zuri. We made a connection to the other books, thinking about self-love and taking pride in who we are, as the text says, “Daddy tells me it is beautiful. That makes me proud. I love that my hair lets me be me!”

We talked about how Zuri loves her hair in all its different styles. We noticed how the dad tries to help do Zuri’s hair and how the art sequentially shows the different styles, before and after he tries to help. When the dad covers her hair with a hat and Zuri gets upset, we could see the love between them as they figure out what to do together.

Once, with the help of a YouTube tutorial, Zuri and dad figure out how to rock her perfect look, it’s revealed that she wanted to look her best for her mom’s return. E. asked, “When the mom comes back, where was she?” Da. suggested “maybe she went to Florida or something.” Our final spread is a beautiful picture-talking moment celebrating family and hair love, with Rocky, the cat, of course. S. noticed that the tablet is just a grey circle rather than an Apple icon for copyright reasons. D. shared in her evaluation, “I like her cat. It is cute. I like the last page.” D. asked “Can I say they’re all my favorite?” 

Voting

After we had walked through each book in a whirlwind of color and conversation, we were ready to vote. Each child received a paper ballot to select their top 2 choices. The top books then are the winners of our session and go on the Voting Party on January 9. Al. added our final two books to our Caldecott Club poster.

And the winners are….

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson  

Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison

Please join us for our next Caldecott Club session on Thursday, December 19 at 3:30-5:00. This will be our recap session where we’ll review all of the books going to our voting party, so if you missed a session, this is the one to attend. We’ll also have a super special guest, a grown-up committee member, and we’ll make art in the style of the books we’ve been exploring! 

Did you miss any of our sessions? Curious what happens in Caldecott Club? Want to know the brilliant things our kids said? Check out our recaps of each of the previous sessions!

Caldecott Club Session 1

Caldecott Club Session 2

Caldecott Club Session 3

Caldecott Club Session 4

Resources

A librarian always provides their sources – here are a series of resources I found while preparing for this program that you may want to check out:

Where Are You From? by Yamile Saied Méndez, illustrated by Jamie Kim

For Anyone Who Has Been Asked, “Where Are You From?” By  Yamile Saied Méndez (Medium)

My Family Tree Activity

You Belong (Margie Myers-Culver’s Librarian’s Quest)

Yamile Saied Méndez’s website 

Jamie Kim’s website 

Publisher’s website

Where Are You From? by Yamile Saied Méndez Review (Latinx in Kid Lit Review)

¡Vamos a hablar! | Let’s Talk! — Interview with Yamile Saied Méndez (Adriana M. Martínez Figueroa/boricuareads)

Truer Words Podcast interview with Yamile Saied Méndez

A Letter from Yamile Saied Méndez

New Release: Where Are You From? – Yamile Mendez ’17

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander & Kadir Nelson  

How Did A Poem Commissioned By The Undefeated Become A 2019 New York Times Best-Selling Children’s Book? (ESPN Front Row) 

National Gallery of Art Talk with Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson, moderated by Kevin Merida, senior vice president and editor-in-chief, ESPN’s TheUndefeated.com (Video)

The Undefeated by Monique Harris (Calling Caldecott) 

WPR’s “The Morning Show” Interview with Kwame Alexander

This Is For ‘The Undefeated’: A New Picture Book Celebrates Black Brilliance: Interview with Kadir Nelson (All Things Considered) 

Author Kwame Alexander Wants to Help Young People Imagine a Better World (The Takeaway) 

Poetry as History in The Undefeated by Erika Thulin Dawes (The Classroom Bookshelf) 

The Undefeated Review (Betsy Bird’s A Fuse #8 Production) 

Kwame Alexander on The Undefeated (Video) 

Kadir Nelson’s website

Kwame Alexander’s website

The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad with S.K Ali, illustrated by Hatem Aly

Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad on message of ‘resilience’ in new kids’ book (Today Show)

Publisher’s Website

Ibtihaj Muhammad’s Website

S.K. Ali’s Website 

Hatem Aly’s Website

Ibtihaj Muhammad | Proud: My Fight for an Unlikely American Dream (Video) 

Book Discussion: The Proudest Blue (Hijabi Librarians)

Author and Illustrator Interview: S.K. Ali and Hatem Aly (Hijabi Librarians)

Olympic Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad Has Written A New Book For Children About The Beauty Of The Hijab

By Cristina Arreola & K.W. Colyard (Bustle) 

Olympic Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad Turns Bullying Experiences Into New Children’s Book (Here & Now) 

Under by Hijab by Hena Khan Teachers Guide 

Color Them Courageous (Margie Myers-Culver’s Librarian’s Quest)

2020 Charlotte Huck Recommended Book 

Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison

Hair Love Film 

Publisher’s Website 

Matthew A. Cherry’s Website

Vashti Harrison’s Website 

Animation Magazine article 

Movie: ‘Hair Love’ (All Things Considered)

Children’s Review: Hair Love (Shelf Awareness) 

Hair Love | Meet author Matthew Cherry & illustrator Vashti Harrison (Video)

Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry Book Review + Natural Hair Tips and Techniques (Here Wee Read) 

A Q&A with Matthew A. Cherry and Vashti Harrison, Author and Illustrator of HAIR LOVE (Blue Willow Bookshop Blog)

Interview With Hair Love’s Matthew A. Cherry by Carolyn Hinds (Black Girl Nerds) 

The Interview : Vashti Harrison by Carolyn Hinds (Black Girl Nerds) 

Illustrator Spotlight: Vashti Harrison (KidLit411)

Vashti Harrison Lets the Light In (New York Times) 

Minorities in Publishing Podcast: Interview with Vashti Harrison (Podcast)

Interview: Matthew Cherry and Peter Ramsey on the Importance of ‘Hair Love’ by Dorian Parks (Geeks of Color) 

How a short film helped me teach my daughter the beauty of her natural hair by Wanna Thompson (Hello Giggles) 



New Book Tuesday 12-10-19

Posted & filed under Blog.

Africaville by Jeffrey Colvin

A ferociously talented writer makes his stunning debut with this richly woven tapestry, set in a small Nova Scotia town settled by former slaves, that depicts several generations of one family bound together and torn apart by blood, faith, time, and fate.

Structured as a triptych, Africaville chronicles the lives of three generations of the Sebolt family—Kath Ella, her son Omar/Etienne, and her grandson Warner—whose lives unfold against the tumultuous events of the twentieth century from the Great Depression of the 1930s, through the social protests of the 1960s to the economic upheavals in the 1980s.

A century earlier, Kath Ella’s ancestors established a new home in Nova Scotia. Like her ancestors, Kath Ella’s life is shaped by hardship—she struggles to conceive and to provide for her family during the long, bitter Canadian winters. She must also contend with the locals’ lingering suspicions about the dark-skinned “outsiders” who live in their midst.

Kath Ella’s fierce love for her son, Omar, cannot help her overcome the racial prejudices that linger in this remote, tight-knit place. As he grows up, the rebellious Omar refutes the past and decides to break from the family, threatening to upend all that Kath Ella and her people have tried to build. Over the decades, each successive generation drifts further from Africaville, yet they take a piece of this indelible place with them as they make their way to Montreal, Vermont, and beyond, to the deep South of America.

As it explores notions of identity, passing, cross-racial relationships, the importance of place, and the meaning of home, Africaville tells the larger story of the black experience in parts of Canada and the United States. Vibrant and lyrical, filled with colorful details, and told in a powerful, haunting voice, this extraordinary novel—as atmospheric and steeped in history as The Known World, Barracoon, The Underground Railroad, and The Twelve Tribes of Hattie—is a landmark work from a sure-to-be major literary talent.

The Book of Science and Antiquities by Thomas Keneally

Thomas Keneally, the bestselling author of The Daughters of Mars and Schindler’s Listreturns with an exquisite exploration of community and country, love and morality, taking place in both prehistoric and modern Australia.

An award-winning documentary filmmaker, Shelby Apple is obsessed with reimagining the full story of the Learned Man—a prehistoric man whose remains are believed to be the link between Africa and ancient Australia. From Vietnam to northern Africa and the Australian Outback, Shelby searches for understanding of this enigmatic man from the ancient past, unaware that the two men share a great deal in common.

Some 40,000 years in the past, the Learned Man has made his home alongside other members of his tribe. Complex and deeply introspective, he reveres tradition, loyalty, and respect for his ancestors. Willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good, the Learned Man cannot conceive that a man millennia later could relate to him in heart and feeling.

In this “meditation on last things, but still electric with life, passion and appetite” (The Australian), Thomas Keneally weaves an extraordinary dual narrative that effortlessly transports you around the world and across time, offering “a hymn to idealism and to human development” (Sydney Morning Herald).

Shatter the Night by Emily Littlejohn

An enthralling, atmospheric new novel from Emily Littlejohn, author of acclaimed debut Inherit the Bones, featuring Colorado police officer Gemma Monroe.

It’s Halloween night in Cedar Valley. During the town’s annual festival, Detective Gemma Monroe takes a break from trick or treating with her family to visit an old family friend, retired Judge Caleb Montgomery, at his law office. To Gemma’s surprise, Caleb seems worried—haunted, even—and confides in her that he’s been receiving anonymous threats. Shortly after, as Gemma strolls back to her car, an explosion at Caleb’s office shatters the night.

Reeling from the shock, Gemma and her team begin eliminating suspects and motives, but more keep appearing in their place, and soon another man is killed. Her investigation takes her from a chilling encounter with a convicted murderer at the Belle Vista Penitentiary, to the gilded rooms of the renovated Shotgun Playhouse, where Shakespeare’s cursed play Macbeth is set to open in a few weeks.

Yet most disturbing of all is when Gemma realizes that similar murders have happened before. There is a copycat killer at play, and if Gemma can’t stop him, he’ll carry out his final, deadly act.

The Wicked Redhead by Beatriz Williams

The dazzling narrator of The Wicked City brings her mesmerizing voice and indomitable spirit to another Jazz Age tale of rumrunners, double crosses, and true love, spanning the Eastern seaboard from Florida to Long Island to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

1924. Ginger Kelly wakes up in tranquil Cocoa Beach, Florida, having fled south to safety in the company of disgraced Prohibition agent Oliver Anson Marshall and her newly-orphaned young sister, Patsy. But paradise is short-lived. Marshall is reinstated to the agency with suspicious haste and put to work patrolling for rumrunners on the high seas, from which he promptly disappears. Gin hurries north to rescue him, only to be trapped in an agonizing moral quandary by Marshall’s desperate mother. 

1998. Ella Dommerich has finally settled into her new life in Greenwich Village, inside the same apartment where a certain redheaded flapper lived long ago…and continues to make her presence known. Having quit her ethically problematic job at an accounting firm, cut ties with her unfaithful ex-husband, and begun an epic love affair with Hector, her musician neighbor, Ella’s eager to piece together the history of the mysterious Gin Kelly, whose only physical trace is a series of rare vintage photograph cards for which she modeled before she disappeared.

Two women, two generations, two urgent quests. But as Ginger and Ella track down their separate quarries with increasing desperation, the mysteries consuming them take on unsettling echoes of each other, and both women will require all their strength and ingenuity to outwit a conspiracy spanning decades.

New Book Tuesday 12-3-19

Posted & filed under Blog.

Beating About the Bush: An Agatha Raisin Mystery by M.C. Beaton

New York Times bestseller M. C. Beaton’s cranky, crafty Agatha Raisin—now the star of a hit T.V. show—is back on the case again.

When private detective Agatha Raisin comes across a severed leg in a roadside hedge, it looks like she is about to become involved in a particularly gruesome murder. Looks, however, can be deceiving, as Agatha discovers when she is employed to investigate a case of industrial espionage at a factory where nothing is quite what it seems.

The factory mystery soon turns to murder and a bad-tempered donkey turns Agatha into a national celebrity, before bringing her ridicule and shame. To add to her woes, Agatha finds herself grappling with growing feelings for her friend and occasional lover, Sir Charles Fraith. Then, as a possible solution to the factory murder unfolds, her own life is thrown into deadly peril. Will Agatha get her man at last? Or will the killer get her first?

Dork Diaries 14: Tales from a Not-So-Best Friend Forever by Rachel Renée Russell

Nikki Maxwell’s summer is packed with drama in this fourteenth installment of the #1 New York Times bestselling Dork Diaries series!

Nikki and her bandmates are looking forward to an AWESOME summer on tour as the opening act for the world famous Bad Boyz! Nikki is a little worried when her frenemy, MacKenzie Hollister, weasels her way into a social media intern position with the tour. But she has a total MELTDOWN when she learns that MacKenzie is her new roommate! Will Nikki survive her dream tour as it quickly goes from AWESOME to AWFUL?! The drama continues in Dork Diaries 14: Tales from a Not-So-Best Friend Forever!

Just Watch Me by Jeff Lindsay

A masterful thief plots an impossible crime—stealing the Iranian Crown Jewels.

From the author of the wildly successful Dexter series comes a new, mesmerizing bad guy we can root for: Riley Wolfe. He’s a master thief, expert at disguise, and not averse to violence when it’s needed. It’s no accident, though, that Riley targets the wealthiest 0.1 percent and is willing to kill them when they’re in his way: he despises the degenerate and immoral rich and loves stealing their undeserved and unearned valuables.

In this series launch, Riley aims for an extraordinary target in a heist that will make history. Riley will try to steal the Crown Jewels of Iran. Yes, these jewels are worth billions, but the true attraction for grabbing them comes down to one simple fact: it can’t be done. Stealing these jewels is absolutely impossible. The collection is guarded by space-age electronics and two teams of heavily armed mercenaries. No one could even think of getting past the airtight security and hope to get away alive, let alone with even a single diamond from the Imperial Collection.

No one but Riley Wolfe. He’s always liked a challenge.

But this challenge may be more than even he can handle. Aside from the impenetrable security, Riley is also pursued by a brilliant and relentless cop who is barely a step behind him.

With the aid of his sometime ally, a beautiful woman who is a master art forger, Riley Wolfe goes for the prize that will either make him a legend—or, more likely, leave him dead.

A Madness of Sunshine by Nalini Singh

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh welcomes you to a remote town on the edge of the world where even the blinding brightness of the sun can’t mask the darkness that lies deep within a killer.…

On the rugged West Coast of New Zealand, Golden Cove is more than just a town where people live. The adults are more than neighbors; the children, more than schoolmates. 

That is until one fateful summer—and several vanished bodies—shatters the trust holding Golden Cove together. All that’s left are whispers behind closed doors, broken friendships, and a silent agreement to not look back. But they can’t run from the past forever. 

Eight years later, a beautiful young woman disappears without a trace, and the residents of Golden Cove wonder if their home shelters something far more dangerous than an unforgiving landscape.  

It’s not long before the dark past collides with the haunting present and deadly secrets come to light.

Dead Astronauts by Jeff VanderMeer

Jeff VanderMeer’s Dead Astronauts presents a City with no name of its own where, in the shadow of the all-powerful Company, lives human and otherwise converge in terrifying and miraculous ways. At stake: the fate of the future, the fate of Earth―all the Earths.

A messianic blue fox who slips through warrens of time and space on a mysterious mission. A homeless woman haunted by a demon who finds the key to all things in a strange journal. A giant leviathan of a fish, centuries old, who hides a secret, remembering a past that may not be its own. Three ragtag rebels waging an endless war for the fate of the world against an all-powerful corporation. A raving madman who wanders the desert lost in the past, haunted by his own creation: an invisible monster whose name he has forgotten and whose purpose remains hidden.

Meg & Jo by Virginia Kantra

The timeless classic Little Women inspired this heartwarming modern tale of four sisters from New York Times bestselling author Virginia Kantra.

The March sisters—reliable Meg, independent Jo, stylish Amy, and shy Beth—have grown up to pursue their separate dreams. When Jo followed her ambitions to New York City, she never thought her career in journalism would come crashing down, leaving her struggling to stay afloat in a gig economy as a prep cook and secret food blogger.

Meg appears to have the life she always planned—the handsome husband, the adorable toddlers, the house in a charming subdivision. But sometimes getting everything you’ve ever wanted isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

When their mother’s illness forces the sisters home to North Carolina for the holidays, they’ll rediscover what really matters.

One thing’s for sure—they’ll need the strength of family and the power of sisterhood to remake their lives and reimagine their dreams.

Disney’s Land by Richard Snow

A propulsive history chronicling the conception and creation of Disneyland, the masterpiece California theme park, as told like never before by popular historian Richard Snow.

One day in the early 1950s, Walt Disney stood looking over 240 acres of farmland in Anaheim, California, and imagined building a park where people “could live among Mickey Mouse and Snow White in a world still powered by steam and fire for a day or a week or (if the visitor is slightly mad) forever.” Despite his wealth and fame, exactly no one wanted Disney to build such a park. Not his brother Roy, who ran the company’s finances; not the bankers; and not his wife, Lillian. Amusement parks at that time, such as Coney Island, were a generally despised business, sagging and sordid remnants of bygone days. Disney was told that he would only be heading toward financial ruin.

But Walt persevered, initially financing the park against his own life insurance policy and later with sponsorship from ABC and the sale of thousands and thousands of Davy Crockett coonskin caps. Disney assembled a talented team of engineers, architects, artists, animators, landscapers, and even a retired admiral to transform his ideas into a soaring yet soothing wonderland of a park. The catch was that they had only a year and a day in which to build it.

On July 17, 1955, Disneyland opened its gates…and the first day was a disaster. Disney was nearly suicidal with grief that he had failed on a grand scale. But the curious masses kept coming, and the rest is entertainment history. Eight hundred million visitors have flocked to the park since then. In Disney’s Land, Richard Snow brilliantly presents the entire spectacular story, a wild ride from vision to realization, and an epic of innovation and error that reflects the uniqueness of the man determined to build “the happiest place on earth” with a watchmaker’s precision, an artist’s conviction, and the desperate, high-hearted recklessness of a riverboat gambler.

Genesis by Robin Cook

New York Times-bestselling author Robin Cook takes on the ripped-from-the-headlines topic of harnessing DNA from ancestry websites to catch a killer in this timely and explosive new medical thriller.

When the body of twenty-eight-year-old social worker Kera Jacobsen shows up on Chief New York City Medical Examiner Laurie Montgomery’s autopsy table, at first it appears she was the victim of a tragic yet routine drug overdose. But for Laurie and her new pathology resident, the brilliant but enigmatic Dr. Aria Nichols, little things aren’t adding up. Kera’s family and friends swear she never touched drugs. Administrators from the hospital where Kera worked are insisting the case be shrouded in silence. And although Kera was ten weeks pregnant, nobody seems to know who the father was–or whether he holds the key to Kera’s final moments alive.

As a medical emergency temporarily sidelines Laurie, impulsive Aria turns to a controversial new technique: using genealogic DNA databases to track down those who don’t want to be found. Working with experts at a start-up ancestry website, she plans to trace the fetus’s DNA back to likely male relatives in the hopes of identifying the mystery father. But when Kera’s closest friend and fellow social worker is murdered, the need for answers becomes even more urgent. Because someone out there clearly doesn’t want Kera’s secrets to come to light . . . and if Aria gets any closer to the truth, she and Laurie might find themselves a killer’s next targets.

The Measure of Our Lives: A Gathering of Wisdom by Tony Morrison

At once the ideal introduction to Toni Morrison and a lovely and moving keepsake for her devoted readers: a treasury of quotations from her work. With a foreword by Zadie Smith.

“She was our conscience. Our seer. Our truthteller.” –Oprah Winfrey

This inspirational book juxtaposes quotations, one to a page, drawn from Toni Morrison’s entire body of work, both fiction and nonfiction–from The Bluest Eye to God Help the Child, from Playing in the Dark to The Source of Self-Regard–to tell a story of self-actualization. It aims to evoke the totality of Toni Morrison’s literary vision.

Its compelling sequence of flashes of revelation–stunning for their linguistic originality, keenness of psychological observation, and philosophical profundity–addresses issues of abiding interest in Morrison’s work: the reach of language for the ineffable; transcendence through imagination; the self and its discontents; the vicissitudes of love; the whirligig of memory; the singular power of women; the original American sin of slavery; the bankruptcy of racial oppression; the complex humanity and art of black people. The Measure of Our Lives brims with elegance of style and mind and moral authority.