Nanette O’Hare has everything going for her. She’s a star athlete, academically gifted, and popular. But something is missing. When her favorite teacher picks up on Nanette’s malaise, he gives her a battered copy of The Bubblegum Reaper, an out-of-print novel that had a big impact on him as a teen. This one small act causes the start of huge changes in Nanette’s life.
Why I finished it: I was intrigued by Nanette who is a teen struggling to define her own personality and live up to the expectations of her family and friends. She quits her soccer team and dumps her old friends, choosing instead to reread The Bubblegum Reaper over and over looking for the deeper meaning behind the story. I really enjoyed the relationships she builds with Nigel Booker, the book’s author, and Alex, another teen fan who also happens to be a poet. Nanette’s and Alex’s efforts to uncover the secrets behind the book result in several surprising events that ultimately lead Nanette to rethink who she is and who she wants to become.
It’s perfect for: One of my students, Jean, who will appreciate Quick's trademark combination of humor and pathos. She'll also like the way Alex takes on the bullies tormenting a friend, even though it gets him in big trouble. Plus, as a poet herself, Jean will love the poetry Alex sends Nanette from juvie.
There’s no better company to be in than that of comedic legend Carol Burnett as she guides you through her hilarious behind-the-scenes memories as she narrates IN SUCH GOOD COMPANY. It really is like listening to an old friend (who happens to have incredible storytelling skills and spot-on timing). Plus, this audiobook features cast interviews, a conversation with Dick Cavett, and much more! Just wait until you hear the true stories behind the casting, the costumes, and the mind-blowing creativity that defined The Carol Burnett Show. And all revealed in Carol’s easy, conversational tone, complete with character voices and genuine laughter as she looks back at TV history-in-the-making. We dare you not to smile while listening.
Two short board-book comics that focus on feelings and the joy of sharing.
Why I picked them up: Jenni Holm’s daughter is totally sunny, and her son is often grumpy. When I read her books, I often look for them in the characters.
Why I finished them: Bright colors, basic shapes, and few words make these a great introduction to sequential art for the younger set. Plus (Warning: Minor Spoiler) balloons make everyone happy, and dropping my ice cream makes me nearly impossible to cheer up, too.
Readalikes: The two Yo Gabba Gabba! board book graphic novels, Gabba Ball! and Good Night, Gabbaland!, the only other chewable comics I recommend. And for kids whom you’re ready to trust with thinner pages, Régis Faller’s wordless Polo books.
Audiobooks put you in the room where it happened. Judith St. George’s lively biography, told in alternating chapters, brings to life two complex men who played major roles in the formation of the United States: Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. Named as a Top 10 book for ‘Hamilnerds’ by The Nerdy Book Club, THE DUEL was also praised by School Library Journal as “equally intriguing and approachable.” The audio edition allows famous historical figures to tell their stories, bringing this fascinating period in American history to life—plus those who have listened to the Hamilton soundtrack on repeat hundreds of times will want to add this new listen into the mix. A perfect choice for classrooms!
This coffee table book profiles eighty-eight bicycle crafters, from frame builders such as Mark Nobilette to graphic designers such as Garrett Chow. Each chapter features a profile of an individual or group with info about its philosophy and the direction it takes with bikes, and includes several pages of gorgeous pictures. Not only are there details shots, there are also workshop pictures of metal tubes being mitered, brazed, and welded into place. There are also action shots, including one of three-time cyclocross world champion Zdenek Stybar taking major air on a shockingly pink bike with drop bars.
Why I picked it up: I commute, shop, and sightsee by bicycle, but I don't race. But because I’m short and stout, the production bicycles that fit me often feature design compromises or racing styling, so I'm always on the lookout for trendsetting work by specialty houses and custom builders.
Why I finished it: As soon as I opened it, I recognized a bike as a one-off masterpiece by Bruce Gordon. With its beautiful carbon fiber fenders and its frame tubes bonded into titanium lugs highlighted by lusciously perfect circles of red paint -- just because I'd seen the bike in real life didn't keep me from drooling again when I saw the photos. There is a serious emphasis on eye candy in this book, but The Bicycle Artisans is not just about the bling. The innovative but utilitarian STRiDA folding bicycles credited to Ming Industries are also lovingly photographed.
It’s perfect for: Paul, Joi, Big Paul, Andy, Erin, Eric, Sharon, Kelly, Mike, Gail, Gayle, Gale, and all of my other riding pals. Many of them have riding and lifestyle needs that aren't catered to by today's current crop of carbon fiber racing machines with no room for racks, bags, or tires wider than an inch. Most of the artisans are interested in more practical bikes for commuting and toting kids or groceries, folding bikes that do well on public transportation or can be stored in small apartments, and bikes geared for the non-competitive, performance-oriented world of randonneuring.
Readalikes: If you're interested in bicycles beyond racing, read Just Ride: A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike by Grant Petersen. He is possibly the most polarizing and iconoclastic bike designer in North America: The word “retro-grouch” was coined to describe his advocacy for proven and reliable parts, designs, and construction methods. If you prefer vintage bike porn, try Rebour, edited by Robert van der Plas, a collection of the wonderfully meticulous line-drawings by illustrator and journalist Daniel Rebour from the 1930s to the 1980s.
Called “a must-have selection for any library collection” in a starred review from School Library Journal, IN THE SHADOW OF LIBERTY by New York Times-bestselling author Kenneth C. Davis is also a must-hear selection thanks to a talented full cast ensemble. Through the powerful stories of five enslaved people who were “owned” by four of our greatest presidents, this audiobook helps set the record straight about the role slavery played in the founding of America. IN THE SHADOW OF LIBERTY is brought to life on audio by Frankie Faison, Keith David, JD Jackson, Adenrele Ojo, Adam Lazarre-White, Dion Graham, and Mark Bramhall, alongside the Author himself. Get a sneak preview of these talented readers telling the stories of the real people who were essential to the birth of this nation but traditionally have been left out of the history books. CLICK TO WATCH THE TRAILER AND HEAR MORE.
In his forty-ninth year, Rainn Wilson reflects on a life filled with D&D, exotic places, acting, and awkward fame.
Why I finished it: Much to my disappointment, the bassoon is mostly used as a prop to show what a big dork Wilson was in high school. By the time I figured this out, though, I was more intrigued by his spiritual journey. I've never really known anyone who practices the Bahá’í faith, so it was all new territory for me, and I liked its message of love and acceptance and unity. It also emphasizes self-examination and exploration of spiritual matters, which is so important to Wilson that he created a production company called Soul Pancake. The motto is "We make stuff that matters,” and they produce those awesome Kid President videos. He has also published a Soul Pancake book which encourages readers to "chew on life's big questions" and explore their creativity. So cool!
It’s perfect for: Evan, who wants to be an actor when he grows up. Wilson's depiction of his struggles and sacrifices would make anyone think twice about choosing this career. Before he because famous, Wilson spent lean years barely scraping by. One miserable winter he and a friend split a studio in an unheated, shower-free, rat-infested loft in pre-gentrification Brooklyn.
Great storytelling is meant to be heard. Don’t miss out on this unique audiobook production from New York Times-bestselling author Adam Gidwitz, featuring a Full Cast, original music by medieval scholar and musician Benjamin Bagby, and a bonus track of the first known recording of the epic poem, “The Song of Hildebrand.”
1242. On a dark night, travelers from across France cross paths at an inn and begin to tell stories of three children: William, an oblate on a mission from his monastery; Jacob, a Jewish boy who has fled his burning village; and Jeanne, a peasant girl who hides her prophetic visions. They are accompanied by Jeanne's loyal greyhound, Gwenforte…recently brought back from the dead. As the narrator collects their tales, the story of these three unlikely allies begins to come together. Start listening now.
Meet Sakamoto, the new kid at the local high school. Not only is he tall, dark, and handsome, but he’s intelligent and unflappable. He’s always one step ahead, which is necessary when your talents bring out both love and jealousy in everyone around you. When targeted by bullies, Sakamoto catches the dirty eraser meant for his head before it hits him, and pops open an umbrella just before a bucket of water dumps on him. The most popular girl in school tries to hook him but he cleverly deflects all attempts at intimacy. A teacher obsessed with putting him in his place kicks him out of class, only to realize Sakamoto wanted him to so that he could feed an injured bird. There seems to be nothing Sakamoto can’t do.
Why I picked it up: The positive review in Otaku USA.
Why I finished it: I don’t usually enjoy manga drawn in a seinen style, but the action lines perfectly capture Sakamoto’s smooth moves, whether he’s bounding to the second floor to deliver a plate of lunch snacks or using his drawing compass to sword fight a hornet.
I’ve always had a soft spot for the megane characters in Japanese pop culture. Sakamoto is the embodiment of the extremely analytical, exceptionally smart, calculating, and slightly devilish stereotype. But he also always does the right thing. He solves his friend Kubota’s extortion problem by getting them both jobs at a fast food place -- Sakamoto’s charms bring in a flurry of business and Kubota has to work extra-hard, creating self-pride and determination to stand up to the bullies. Plus I loved it when Sakamoto helps him fight back with a creatively brutal use of a straw and creamer packet.
It’s perfect for: My teenage son, Noah, who looks (and occasionally acts) like a megane. Like Sakamoto, he often puzzles over other people’s behavior and observes that “humans” are an “interesting species.”