Kathleen Carey, manager of The Little Book House, the children’s arm of The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza in Albany, N.Y., shared word of a handful of titles she’s pleased to be handselling as spring comes into bloom.
A new middle reader I’m very excited about is Hello, Universe by one of my new favorite authors, Erin Entrada Kelly. I believe this is her third book, and she seems to get better with each one! In all of her novels, young characters struggle to overcome issues, but her writing is never heavy-handed, and her characters are kids that any reader will recognize. In her latest novel, the lives of four middle schoolers intertwine when the local bully plays a prank on one of them. They all learn a lesson, and the story is beautifully written. The author is Filipino-American, and each of her novels features a character who is as well, and it’s really interesting to have that cultural aspect and perspective in the stories. I am really enjoying handselling this novel, and we’re doing very well with it. I will be shocked if Kelly doesn’t win a Newbery at some point—she is that good.
Another recently published middle reader I really love is The Metropolitans by Carol Goodman. It’s kind of like The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler meets Arthurian legends meets a World War II mystery. The story takes place on the day of the Pearl Harbor bombing, and four 13-year-olds are summoned to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City to find an Arthurian manuscript that might stop the war from reaching American soil. The main characters take on characteristics of Arthurian legendary figures, and it’s a very interesting mix of history and ancient history. It’s a fun, smart, and faced paced mystery that I like very much.
In YA, I really enjoyed Alex and Eliza: A Love Story by Melissa de la Cruz. It’s a fictionalization of the courtship between Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler, and is a great mix of history and clean teen romance. It’s riding somewhat on the Hamilton mania, but is very well written and offers strong female perspectives—not only Eliza’s, but also those of her mother and sister. The novel opens with an actual letter from Hamilton to Eliza, which sets the stage for the story, and since Albany plays a key role in the novel, we are definitely handselling that local angle, and that gives us a nice sales push.
Another YA novel we are excited about, which is in a completely different vein, is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. It’s a debut about a teenage African-American girl who lives in a predominately poor and black community, but attends a predominately white private school. She is the only witness to her best friend’s shooting by a police officer, and she finds herself straddling her two worlds, and having to decide how to stand up for her community and her friend while maintaining her life at school. It’s a story about systemic racism, but it is really a character-driven novel—and heart-wrenching—and it deserves all the attention it has been getting.
In picture books, I’m especially excited about a couple of spring-themed ones. A new book I adore is Plant the Tiny Seed by Christie Matheson, who also wrote Tap the Magic Tree. I like to call her books interactive without any electronic bells and whistles. These are lovely, gentle books told in rhyme, and children are told to touch an image, and see on the next page what happened when they did that. In this new book, they see a plant starting to grow—it’s almost like a finger-play book. The illustrations are beautiful, and the text is simple and not overloaded.
And another new book I love is Bee: A Peek-Through Picture Book by Britta Teckentrup, who is another favorite author of mine. She also wrote Tree, which has been one of our bestselling books—we handsell it like crazy. Each page has this amazing art, and you see the action through die-cut holes. Her books are nonfiction that read like a rhyming storybook while teaching, and they are perfect for pre-K and kindergarten.