Fall 2020 Featured Titles

Southborough Library Staff Sugestions

The Watsons Go To Birmingham - 1963 | by Christopher Paul Curtis

This historical fiction tells the story of an African-America family navigating daily life during the height of the civil rights movement and is told from the perspective of Kenneth Watson, a fourth-grader who lives in Michigan with his parents, older brother Byron, younger sister Joetta. While kids tease him for being a nerd, his brother is the biggest bully at school. His parents decide the only way to get Byron back on track is to send him to live with his grandmother in Alabama. They all go on the road trip together unaware of the tragic events about to take place that will impact them the rest of their lives.

Why Amy likes this book: This book is funny and realistic but also emotional, offering a great opportunity for families to read together and talk about its topics of race and violence when the family’s experience culminates around the 16th Street Baptist Church bombings in Birmingham. I really enjoyed Kenneth’s voice because the author captures the mind of a 10-year-old so well. This story examines deeply relatable feelings about friendship, morality, guilt, and the enduring love of family through such an honest lens.

Out of the Dust | by Karen Hesse | Audiobook 
Out of the Dust cover

This historical novel in verse tells the story of fourteen-year-old girl, Billie Joe, who lives in Oklahoma on a farm hit by the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression. Billie Joe lives to play the piano in her own passionate way especially with her friend, Mad Dog, but she wants nothing more than to leave all that behind after her mother is involved in an accident. Enduring many tragedies, Billie Joe struggles to forgive herself and her father as they decide how to navigate loss together while the harsh, unforgivable landscape makes survival a daily challenge.

Why Amy likes this book: Although this is a sad story of hardship and loss, I recommend this Newbery Medal winner for its beautiful poetry, extraordinary storytelling and also because I think it is very important to read about hardship, resilience and forgiveness. This story also captures an important piece of America’s history that helps teach young and older readers about our past and how it shapes our present day lives.

Pax | by Sara Pennypacker | Audiobook
Pax cover

Peter’s best friend is a fox named Pax that he has raised since finding him abandoned in the woods. When Peter’s father volunteers for the war and Peter is sent to live with his grandfather, the two friends are separated by hundreds of miles and soon must overcome many obstacles to reunite, including surviving a war that rages around them as well as from within. Peter wrestles with the loss of his mother and his father’s anger while Pax must learn to how to survive in the wild. The challenges each endure during their journey, however, might transform their friendship forever.   

Why Amy likes this book: I really enjoyed how this story about our most powerful bonds in life is told in alternating perspectives of Peter and Pax, with a particular fondness for how well the author depicts the fox’s perception of the world. This is a harsh story about war and its destruction, but also is a beautiful and very honest portrayal of loyalty despite our shortcomings and the consequences of choices we make. I like how an unexpected encounter with a woman in the woods helps Peter overcome his grief and anger because it shows the importance of taking risks, asking for help, and being true to yourself.

The Lions of Little Rock | by Kristin Levine 
The Lions of Little Rock

Marlee finds comfort in reciting prime numbers as well as clean mathematical answers and patterns. The idea of finding a friend or speaking during class in her middle school is too messy and much less fun. So, when Marlee finds herself making friends with the new girl, Liz, she knows this special bond is worth fighting for even if it means taking risks. This historical fiction places Liz and Marlee in the midst of the “Lost Year” in 958 when schools were closed in an attempt to block desegregation in Arkansas and examines how it split a community and became dangerous to stand up for equality and do the right thing.

Why Amy likes this book: I love how well this story is told and identify with the shy main character who finally realizes she must find her voice to take a stand. I like that Marlee must decide whether or not to disobey her parents and how the author shows parents as well as children struggling to figure out the issues at stake as well as how members of the same family can come to different decisions. This was a very poignant book about race relations in the South as well as bravery, family and friendship.

Guts | by Raina Telgemeier 
Guts cover
The author writes about her own experiences as a child with anxiety and tummy troubles through a graphic novel format. Raina is in the fourth grade and feeling stressed about school work and friends when one night she gets sick and throws up. The doctor concludes she is healthy but when her upset stomach and fear of throwing up again don’t go away, her parents make sure she can talk to someone about her phobias. Raina learns it is ok to talk about her fears and that she is not alone in her struggles at school as she figures out how to handle challenges.   

Why Amy likes this book: There are so few books that talk honestly about anxiety. I love that this story is told through a graphic novel format based on the author’s own experiences because it makes the topics more accessible and helps younger or older readers relate to universal feelings of anxiety around school as well as how anxiety can make us physically feel. The author also encourages children to talk to someone about stress so they don’t have to feel overwhelmed, alone or like they don’t fit in. It is worthwhile to check out the author’s other graphic novels Sisters, Smile, Ghosts, Drama and more.

Spring 2020 Featured Titles

Available on Libby / Overdrive & Hoopla

RulesRules | by Cynthia Lord | Audiobook

This book is told from the perspective of twelve-year-old Catherine. Her eight-year-old brother, David, is autistic and Catherine has created a set of rules to help them both navigate the world together but wishes for time with friends during summer break as well as more attention from her parents. She hopes a girl who moves next door won’t be too embarrassed to hang out but finds her world turning upside down when she meets a boy at David’s weekly occupational therapy. Catherine realizes she must come to terms with her decisions to fit in and doing the right thing. 

Why Amy likes this book: While I wish this book delved further into the brother’s experiences and perspective, the author does an excellent job portraying a realistic family experience with autism. It is difficult to read about Catherine’s resentment and embarrassment but it is also very honest portrayal which could help readers grapple with fears of differences. A Newbery Honor winner, I like that Rules is based on the author’s own experience of raising a son with autism and how she couldn’t answer her daughter’s question about why families like theirs were not represented in any books. I think the story can also help readers understand that we all have feelings, hopes and dreams regardless of our abilities. 

The Epic Fail of Arturo ZamoraThe Epic Failure of Arturo Zamora | by Pablo Cartaya | Audiobook 

Summer break means 13-year-old Arturo will help out with his close-knit family’s Cuban restaurant in Miami. His relationships with his mother and Abuela are put to the test when a developer, Mr. Pipo, threatens to stop the expansion of the restaurant and none of the family members is able to agree on how to save the business. Arturo must find the confidence to speak up for his family as he navigates his first love and friendships, the ailing health of his dear grandmother and the complex ups and downs of community advocacy.

Why Amy likes this book: I really enjoyed how the author brings an authentic voice to the likable Arturo while beautifully portraying the vibrant bonds of a Cuban American family working to support a dream. I also like that Spanish and poetry are woven throughout the story but in a way that all readers can understand. As Arturo fights to save his family and the restaurant, funny moments help break the heartache of loss. There is magic in the Zamora family’s rich traditions and stories that create even deeper community ties. Recommended for grades 5-8.

White BirdWhite Bird: A Wonder Story | by R.J. Palacio 

This graphic novel continues the author’s story of Auggie & Me about Julian's grandmother and her experiences during World War II in France. As a young Jewish girl, Sara escaped her school and was hidden for over a year by a family during the Nazi occupation. She tells her grandson about how a classmate who was shunned ended up saving her life. Although Sara suffers the loss of family and friends, she is willing to talk about this time in her life so that he understands the importance of speaking up about injustices when others are unwilling.

Why Amy likes this book: I read this book in one sitting! I was deeply moved by this upsetting yet hopeful story in our history. The book’s gorgeous illustrations showing both the world’s cruelty and beauty will stay with you. Despite its troubling topics, the author is able to write in way that is honest and gracefully connects the past with the present for children or readers of any age. I felt inspired to share this story with my younger girls because Sara’s message about the Holocaust is so important: kindness helps preserve humanity. Recommended for Ages 10+.

The Secret GardenThe Secret Garden | by Frances Hodgson Burnett | Audiobook

After losing both of her parents, young Mary must live with her widowed uncle in England. She is described as foul-tempered, sickly and selfish but things begin to change for Mary as she becomes determined to unlock the mystery of her uncle’s secret garden. Mary begins to spend more time exploring the garden, becoming healthier and happier, but her discovery of a boy hidden away in her uncle’s estate also proves to be another opportunity for transformation and renewal.

Why Amy likes this book: A classic of English children’s literature, this story shaped my love of reading. I still remember my mom reading this and how it ignited my imagination. Even as a child, I understood the novel’s lessons about how nature and friendships can heal and change people for the better. As a parent, I now also appreciate the way the author honestly portrays difficult feelings like loneliness, sadness and anger in a way that helps children work through emotions. *This title is part of the hoopla BONUS BORROWS COLLECTION! For a limited time, this is one of 1000+ titles you can borrow without using any of your monthly hoopla Borrows!*

MatildaMatilda | by Roald Dahl | Audiobook 

Matilda is a gifted child who finds solace from her unkind parents in her town library at the tender age of four when she learns how to read. Although her school discovers just how brilliant she really is, Matilda soon makes her very own discovery: she has telekinetic powers that can be used to fight back against her parents and horrifying headmistress, Ms. Trunchbull. Matilda finds comfort in Ms. Honey, her classroom teacher, who supports her throughout this classic tale of challenges and triumphs. 

Why Amy likes this book: There are many reasons why children love Roald Dahl’s timeless stories: fantasy, gross things, unlikable adults, pictures, made up words and the ability of young characters to find some kind of power. This was indeed a favorite of mine growing up and I loved reading this again as an adult because I admire that Matilda never gives up and enjoy Dahl's playful imagination. Despite being young and small, she is smart and shows how reading, learning and a little perseverance change her life for the better.

BreadcrumbsBreadcrumbs | by Anne Ursu 

A modern retelling of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen, Breadcrumbs is its own original fairy tale that weaves in many classic children’s fables throughout this story of friendship, loss and change. Hazel and Jack are eleven-years-old and best friends until one day Jack changes and disappears. Hazel is hurt but knows that his heart has been frozen and soon encounters many adventures as she must brave the woods alone to save her friend.

Why Amy likes this book: I fell in love with the way the author magically blends fantasy with reality through her writing as well as illustrations to create a beautiful space for children and adults to grieve changing friendships. Growing up can be hard, but I like how this book helps comfort its readers through Hazel’s transformation from self-doubt to strength and bravery amidst a confusing world of unspoken rules. I was taken aback by the honest and gorgeous writing. I did not want this book to end! 

Reader's Advisory for Children's Books

Chapter Books Recommended by Ms Kim

The War that Saved My LifeThe War That Saved My Life  & AudiobookThe War I Finally Won & Audiobook | by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley | Suggested Grades 4-6
Set during World War II in Britain, these stories focus on Ada, a young girl born with a disability. Her abusive mother keeps her held prisoner in their apartment, but when the opportunity comes to evacuate out of London, Ava sneaks away with her younger brother. They are taken in by a woman named Susan and as they adjust to their new lives, the wartime struggles around them grow more intense.
Why Kim likes these books: Ava was such a likeable character and was living such a difficult life. She had so many things working against her and she kept trying to move forward. I just kept rooting for things to work out for her.
The Candymakers | The Candymakers and the Great Chocolate Chase | by Wendy Mass | Suggested Grades 4-8
It's a candymaking contest at the Life is Sweet candy factory, and the competitors are four 12-year-olds. Each is trying to create the new best candy in the country, and the factory has all kinds of amazing equipment and ingredients to help them. But when a secret ingredient goes missing, the contestants have to up their candy creating skills to try and solve the mystery.
Why Kim likes these books: These stories combined humor, mystery, and solid plot lines about each character. I enjoyed seeing how each person responded to the challenges of the candy making contest and the promotional tour of the country that followed. 
Greet Treehouse WarThe Great Treehouse War | by Lisa Graff | Suggested Grades 4-6
When Winnie's parents get divorced, they decide she will spend three days a week with each of them in their adjoining houses. Since there are seven days in a week, she would spend Wednesdays by herself in a treehouse between the two houses. As she gets more frustrated with her parents she decides to barricade herself in her treehouse and then her friends decide to join her. Will the kids or the parents agree to compromise first?
Why Kim likes this book: Although it's unlikely that parents would actually set up this scenario, I could understand why Winnie preferred the peacefulness of the treehouse when her parents were being unreasonable. Despite the situation, a fair amount of humor was included, and I enjoyed the interactions between the characters.
Notorious & Audiobook | by Gordon Korman | Suggested Grades 3-7
Keenan usually lives all over the world with his mother, but while recovering from an illness he is sent to live with his father on Centerlight Island, half of which is in the United States and half in Canada. Keenan's neighbor ZeeBee is both obsessed with the island's history and the belief that her first dog, Barney One, was murdered. As Keenan recovers from his illness, he gets caught up in ZeeBee's quest to solve mysteries about both of these. A good amount of humor and adventure follow!
Why Kim likes this book: I am a big fan of Gordon Korman. Most of his books involve characters that readers can relate to in various ways. In this story, I really liked the characters of both Keenan and ZeeBee, and easily got caught up in the plot. 


Children's Book Series to Recommend

When Just One Book Isn't Enough

Alien in my Pocket Series | by Nate Ball | Suggested Grades 1-5

Blast Off! Part One: Author Nate Ball, who is an MIT graduate and host of PBS’s Emmy Award-winning Deign Squad Series, writes about fourth-grader Zachary whose life is turned upside down when a small alien, Amp, crash-lands into his bedroom window. Zachary realizes the alien is not there to harm him and must figure out with his best friend, Olivia, how to protect the alien and repair his spaceship. Fun ensues when Amp causes trouble for Zachary at home and school. Alien in My Pocket has eight chapter books in this series. 

Blast Off!The Science UnFairRadio ActiveOn Impact!

Why Amy likes these books: This is a great way for readers who love science and aliens to start to ease into chapter books! It is very funny and has great illustrations as well as do-it-yourself science experiments and facts throughout these adventurous and fast-paced books. Ms. Kim actually recommended this series to my daughter which we really enjoyed reading together. She laughed a lot and looked forward to visiting the library to find the next books in the series. 

Secret Agent Jack Stalwart | by Elizabeth Hunt | Suggested Grades 1-4

Jack Stalwart is an ordinary boy by day who becomes a secret agent at night as he searches the world for his missing brother, Max. Armed with plenty of secret agent equipment, Jack is summoned to a new location each night to fight off evil and solve a mystery.

The Escape of the Deadly DinosaurThe Search for the Sunken TreasureThe Mystery of the Mona Lisa The Caper of the Crown JewelsThe Secret of the Sacred TempleThe Pursuit of the Ivory PoachersThe Puzzle of the Missing Panda
Why Kim likes these books: Each story takes place in a new location, so readers can travel around the world with Jack. Seeing the different tricks and spy equipment he can pull out to help solve the mysteries is also fun.
Mr. Lemoncello | by Chris Grabenstein | Suggested Grades 3-7
Luigi Lemoncello is the most famous gamemaker in the world, and he just designed the new town library. Twelve children are selected to spend the opening night locked in the library, which has amazing interactive features. To get out, they must solve the puzzles and figure out the clues before the others do. The sequels follow the contestants through many other challenges.

 Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's LibraryMr. Lemoncello's Library OlympicsMr. Lemoncello's Great Library RaceMr. Lemoncello's All-Star Breakout Game
Why Kim likes these books: As a librarian, I always like to read about libraries! But this library was unlike any that anyone could imagine. The puzzles were tricky but also fun to try and solve. The humor, great characters, and puzzles made these stories really enjoyable to read.