Imagine the conniving trickster characters from Treasure Island involved in a mystery with strange curse-like occurrences disrupting the inhabitants of their ship. It’s 1634 and famed detective Samuel Pipps is shoved into a cramped cell in the brig for a mysterious crime nobody’s sure he committed. The passenger ship’s journey to Amsterdam is cursed before it even begins, and strange happenings and mysterious deaths plague the passengers as they take to the sea. Sammy Pipps’ right-hand man and bodyguard Arent and the brilliant and enigmatic noblewoman Sara Wessel act as makeshift detectives while the real detective dictates as well as he can from the brig. Turton’s attention to detail makes this a real page turner and the plot unravels so brilliantly. It’s dark in places, humorous in others. It’s a swashbuckling adventure, mystery, romance, with a hint of the supernatural, and it’s perfect for anyone looking for an escape.
In a remote area of the Scottish Highlands, Inti Flynn and her team of wolf biologists have reintroduced wolves into the landscape in a rewilding effort. Amidst sometimes violent conflict with local farmers who fear the wolves’ return, Inti must confront the bleak and seemingly endless mess that is the present, while being haunted by the ghosts of her past and her own fears over facing her future. Inti yearns to stay in the wild with her wolves even as she consistently has to deal with humans, butting heads with the closed-minded, frightened locals and sparring with the enigmatic police chief after a resident’s disappearance is blamed on the wolves. But no battle she wages is as powerful as the one fought between her past self that believed in the good in humans, and the broken, pain-riddled, disillusioned person she is now. The way McConaghy writes that journey packs a multitude of intense, beautiful punches that you won’t soon forget. Her language as the mystery unfolds will bring Scotland’s frozen forests to life around you in this poignant story that’s both a love letter to wolves and the wildness of the wilderness, and to incalculably deep character exploration. It will leave you stunned.
Hank is a grumpy little cactus who just wants to be left alone… until he realizes his outer prickliness keeps others from wanting to hug him anyway. Suddenly, all he wants is for someone to hug him. This picture book made me think of how this pandemic has cut us all off from our friends and family for so long, and how we took the time we had with those people pre-pandemic for granted. Like Hank, I suddenly find myself really wanting a hug too! And also like Hank, I have to believe that this will all be over eventually, and we’ll be with people we care about in person again to hug as often as we want. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the illustrations are endlessly adorable. All ages will find value in this book.
The gold rush, the fountain of youth, folklore, and magical realism combine in a refreshingly modern and original novel that gifts its readers with an incredibly relatable portrayal of American teen life in G.W. Bush era’s Georgia suburbs, before plunging us into Silicon Valley ten years later for a subtle but powerful exploration of what the American dream is to children of immigrants. Neil is a second-generation desi teenager in an Atlanta suburb, having grown up constantly surrounded by other desi kids and parents with exceptionally high expectations for their American sons and daughters. Neil isn’t as driven as his older sister or his friends and classmates, but that all changes when he stumbles upon the major secret his neighbor and crush Anita and her mother have been hiding from the world. Gold Diggers is a feast of a story that swings from teen angst and laugh-out-loud humor to tragedy, from folklore to hard reality, and finally culminates in a heist that would make the Rat Pack proud. It breaks apart the mythology of monolithic culture with the perfect alchemy of humor, magic, and irresistible, albeit flawed, people. Let it sweep you off your feet.
In a world where meanness and othering sometimes seems louder than kindness and acceptance, I Talk Like a River is a balm. A boy who struggles with stuttering can’t find the words when he’s asked to answer a question by his teacher in front of the class, and he’s laughed at by his classmates. When his dad picks him up from school only to find him distraught, he takes him to the river to teach him a different way to look at his stutter, one that helps him accept himself the way he is. Every single word on the page evokes arresting imagery to describe what stuttering feels like, and even the way the sentences are structured on the page reflects how someone who stutters speaks, with breaks and pauses, the way the water in a river meets obstacles and finds its way around them. This book is for anyone who has ever been made to feel alone because of something that makes them different. It’s about accepting who you are and being proud of your differentness, rather than “overcoming”. At every turn, this is a perfect book.