The holidays are quickly approaching, which also means it’s a time to reflect on a year of great books! So, as you scan your holiday gift giving lists and wonder what to buy for a loved one, consider gifting them a story. Here are some of my favorites of 2018.
I may be the teen librarian, but I have a passion for picture books and middle grade as well. If you’re looking for a picture book, “Dreamers” by Yuyi Morales and “The Rough Patch,” by Brian Lies are two of my favorites. Both are devoted to tougher subjects, “Dreamers,” about Morales’ move to America with her daughter and how the library helped her to learn English, and “The Rough Patch” about learning to cope with the loss of a loved one. They will both make you tear up and put a smile back on your face.
For middle-grade books, check out “Front Desk” by Kelly Yang, or buy the “Track” by Jason Reynolds (the first book is “Ghost”). Yang’s first middle-grade book is a story of hardship, friendship and overcoming obstacles. Mia’s family immigrates from China and her parents take a job managing a motel. Facing racism, unfair working conditions and homesickness, Mia’s family perseveres. Written in a lighter and straightforward manner, this book is the perfect way to expose third- to sixth-grade children to these tough topics. Reynold’s “Track” series is superb. Four kids on an elite track team get the chance to shine over four consistently well-written and entertaining novels. Family issues, competition and friendship are highlighted, and all four kids are diverse and complex. It is great for the reluctant reader in your life.
My last two suggestions are Young Adult books. “The Prince and the Dressmaker” by Jen Wang was a surprise last-minute addition to my favorites list. The graphic novel tells the story of a young dressmaker who quits her job in a shop to design dresses for a wealthy patron who encourages her to follow her instincts to create the best dresses she can. I won’t spoil the rest of the plot, but it’s perfect for anyone who loves fashion, modern fairy tales or stories about being true to yourself. There is a small romance, but it involves a single kiss and only three or so pages devoted to it, so it is perfectly acceptable for middle school and up.
“Truly Devious” by Maureen Johnson is a true-crime YA book written by an author with a great track record for mystery books. With a dedication that says, “For anyone who has ever dreamed of finding a body in the library,” you know exactly what you’re getting into, and the mystery, plot twists and flashbacks do not disappoint. Stevie, the main character, is likable and very interesting and I can’t wait to see her try to solve more mysteries, as the second installment in the series is to be released in January. Recommended for grades eight and up.
Off the Shelves is published Sundays. Each week a different Kenosha Public Library or Community Library staff member organizes reviews of a handful of books available through the library system.