Kafka on the Shore
by Haruki Murakami
I can tell you a bunch of things that happen in this novel: a 15-year-old Kafka Temura runs away from home, an old, child-like man who can talk to cats confronts an evil figure calling himself Johnny Walker, there is a small library on the island of Shikoku staff by a that might be haunted, and it rains fish at one point. However, I cannot tell you what it is about! Murakami writes magical realism at its finest. The mundane approaches the uncanny and the magical seems mundane. This novel leaves me feeling like I really experienced something, but I couldn’t quite explain what that is.
Department of Speculation
by Jenny Offill
This is a novel about a marriage. But if you are expecting the standard Girl-Meets-Boy-Couple-Gets-Married-Have-Problems-Marriage-Ends/Survives-Lessons Learned-The-End Story, this book might take a moment for you to get into. The primary characters are simply referred to as “the wife” and “the husband” and the story is created through a collection of moments, beautifully written. It has a wry sense of humor, the wife at one point stating, “I never liked to hear the doorbell ring. None of the people I liked ever turned up that way.” At only 192 pages, it’s a fast read but one that will stay with you.
An Untamed State
by Roxanne Gay
Gay’s debut novel is the harrowing story of Mireille, the American born daughter of a wealthy construction magnate in Haiti, who is kidnapped in broad daylight in front of her home and held for ransom for 13 days. While her father refuses to pay the ransom, Mireille is brutalized physically and psychologically. She is released, traumatized, and broken, but she ultimately survives, finding strength and a way to exist in the world again. This could have been written as a genre-thriller, but that is not Gay’s intention. There is nothing thrilling here. Gay explores the violent contrasts of beauty and brutality in Haiti, a woman’s endurance of that violence, and how she chooses to live afterwards.
The Poet X
by Elizabeth Acevedo
Xiomara Batista feels unheard and is harassed by her peers and older men, so she lets her fists do the talking instead. But Xiomara has plenty to say. She’s questioning her religion and likes a boy her mother wouldn’t approve of, so she puts all her thoughts and feelings into her poetry. When Xiomara is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t think she can speak her words out loud, let alone get approval from her parents. But she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems, and she refuses to be silent. The Poet X is touching and honest and a story you will remember long after you close the cover.
Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All
by Laura Ruby
In 1941 after Frankie’s mother died, her father left her and her siblings at an orphanage in Chicago. It was only supposed to be until he got back on his feet financially but instead, he remarries and moves to Colorado, abandoning Frankie and her sister at the orphanage with the cruel nuns and their oppressive rules. But someone is still watching over her: Pearl, a ghost who died when she was about Frankie’s age. Pearl follows the sisters as they fight to survive while she tries to come to terms with her own death. This book is a slow burn, but it gives you plenty of time to connect with Frankie and Pearl and their heartache.
by Zack Smedley
Nate never imagined he would be attacked by his best friend, Cam. Now, Nate is being ordered to give a statement, under oath, that will send Cam to prison. The problem is, the real story isn’t that easy or convenient—just like Nate and Cam’s friendship. With all eyes on him, Nate must make his confessions about what led up to that night with Cam, and in doing so, risk tearing both of their lives apart. Readers who enjoy emotional and suspenseful fiction and characters with complex relationships will enjoy this book.
by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Cindy Derb
This 2021 Caldecott Honor Book blends illustrations and ideas to satisfy the soul with gentle nudges that explore our modern relationship with nature. Simple but deeply evocative.
Me & Mama
written and illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera
Rich, textured illustrations complement this moving story of a young child’s bond with her mother. The daily activities they share are imbued with joy and meaning. Don’t miss this 2021 Caldecott and Corretta Scott King Honor Book.
A Place Inside of Me: A Poem to Heal the Heart
by Zetta Elliott and Illustrated by Noa Denman
Written in verse, this story takes readers along with a young African American skateboarder as he rides through his neighborhood examining feelings evoked after a police shooting. Another Caldecott Honor book, the colors are as strong as the emotions shared.
The Chocolate Touch
by Patrick Skene Catling
Could there be such a thing as too much chocolate? John Midas learns the answer, in this retelling of the myth of King Midas, in a most unfortunate way. This zany tale is a great read-aloud the whole family will enjoy and remember.
by Astrid Lindgren
Pippi has no parents to tell her what to do or to go to bed. She has a horse and a monkey. She lives the perfect nine-year-old life! This frolicking story is a great adventure for readers who love silly antics, crazy hair and dream of a parent free life!
The Secret Garden
by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Considered a “classic,” this is the story of how Mary Lennox, a lonely orphan, brings life back to a secret garden and a sickly boy. This sweet story will leave an impression on readers’ hearts who long for adventure, discovery and a secret place to call their own. Younger readers may enjoy the Classic Starts edition.