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Curriculum Spotlight

MCS Eighth Graders Gain First-Hand Career Experience During Annual Mentoring Day

Date Posted: 
Thursday, March 23, 2017

On Friday, March 17, Manhattan Country School eighth-graders visited professionals from a wide range of careers for our annual Eighth Grade Mentoring Day. Each year, these trips allow students from the graduating class to learn about careers of interest by visiting people in the MCS community working in those fields. The mentors spend several hours showing their guests around, explaining what a typical day entails, describing how they got where they are professionally, answering questions and more. 

These mentors are alumni, parents, parents of alumni and friends of the MCS community. When students observe a work environment in person and oftentimes get hands-on experience, it can spark a fascination and help shape their careers goals.

The following mentors participated in this year's event:

  • Animal Medicine: Dr. Erika Gibson '86
  • Anthropology: Dr. Pamela Calla
  • Art: Andrew Page
  • Computer Science: Marcin Sawicki
  • Education: Sasha Wilson '84
  • Film: Damon Gambuto '87
  • Food: Aaron Kirtz
  • Law: Caitlin (Naidoff) Glass '00 and Andrew Weinstein
  • Music: Ezra Gale '85

Following their visits, the students offered a recap of their experiences. Here are a few of their responses:

Aaron, Carolina and Layla visited Caitlin (Naidoff) Glass ('00), a law clerk to a United States District Court Judge, and former alumni representative to the MCS Board of Trustees. Carolina said: “We were guests at a naturalization and watched an arraignment…. My favorite part was when the judge shouted us out before they handed out the certificates.”

Adam, Malik, Myles and Sherman traveled to Ezra Gale’s (’85) studio in Brooklyn. Ezra is a professional musician, writer and composer. Myles said: “We went and recorded two songs and learned a lot about the equipment and how it works…. The match was perfect and the experience was great.”

Ama, Brandon and Jessica (pictured above) visited MCS parent Andrew Page at Urban Glass, his glassblowing studio in Brooklyn. Jessica said: “We observed artists create beautiful glass pieces. We saw how glass beads and neon signs are made and learned how expensive but awesome glassblowing is.”

Eighth Grade Mentoring Day

Jenna, Malia and Tai took a train all the way to New Jersey to get a tour of Forever Cheese with Aaron Kirtz, cheese monger and long-time favorite of Eighth-Grade Mentoring Day. Tai said: “I learned how cheese is stored, how it is transported, how to know if its good or bad cheese, compliance and FDA[-related matters].”

Jan headed uptown to spend time with Sasha Wilson '84, founding director of Bronx Community Charter School (BxC). As a school founded on MCS' principles, BxC's mission statement declares, "All members of our school community will be committed to making thoughtful choices, advancing democratic values, and effecting change in the broader community." Jan said: “I learned that schools all have different operations and different styles of learning….  I hoped that I would learn more about how a charter school operates, and that’s exactly what I got.”

Pearl and Sophie met with Andrew Weinstein, an MCS parent and trustee who is a criminal justice attorney and founder of The Weinstein Law Firm. Sophie said: “[We] went to [Andrew’s] office as well as the Manhattan Court… We went to two different court cases, and learned about criminal defense law, and how it’s related to social justice, race and class… Before this I never really thought about going into law, but I’m now considering it.”

Eighth Grade Mentoring Day

Anais and Izzy got to see Garden State Veterinary Specialists with veterinary neurosurgeon and MCS trustee Dr. Erika Gibson '86. Anais said: “We went into consultations and saw the beginning of a surgery. We learned different types of treatments for dogs with neuro issues.”

Damon Gambuto '87, co-executive producer at Leopard Films, invited Jonah and Monte to Leopard Studios. Monte said: “[We] learned about all of the pre- and post-production process…. I really enjoyed seeing a side of film I would not regularly see. I thought it was a perfect fit.”

Jack, who expressed interest in software design, animation and other technology-related careers, went downtown to visit MCS parent Marcin Sawicki. Marcin is a programmer/developer at Jane Street Holding. Jack said: “When I arrived at the office, Marcin gave me a tour of the trading/developing floor and the common areas. Then, he and I sat in a private office and he showed me some of the things he has coded or is coding.”

Osiris was seeking a mentor in anthropology and was connected with Dr. Pamela Calla, a cultural anthropologist and professor at New York University’s Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies. Osiris said: “I talked with Dr. Calla about her studies in cultural anthropology. I learned a lot about ‘engaged’ anthropology and how Dr. Calla links this study to activism. I also talked with her about the biological/physical side of anthropology.” His advice to future eighth-graders: “Don’t be nervous about meeting new people.”

A very special thanks to Flannery, Maiya, Akemi, Matilde, all the mentors and everyone who helped make Eighth Grade Mentoring Day a success. Those in the MCS community interested in hosting students for the 2018 Eighth Grade Mentoring Day should contact Matilde Gonzalez at mgonzalez@manhattancountryschool.org.

5-6s Celebrate 100th Day of School

Date Posted: 
Thursday, March 16, 2017

100th Day of School

On Thursday, March 9, Manhattan Country School’s two 5-6s classes celebrated the 100th Day of School. This annual observance highlighted the students’ creativity and developing math skills.

5-6s Norte

100th Day of School

In preparation for the big day, students in 5-6s Norte worked on family projects that involved creating something using 100 items. Some examples included a tree made of 100 dental floss sticks, a student's name spelled with 100 guitar picks, a display of 100 balloons, a picture of a shark complete with 100 shark teeth and a display of 100 velcroed batteries.

100th Day of School

Families were invited to visit the classroom Thursday morning to join the students in a 100th Day of School celebration. The room was decorated with chains made of 100 paper links. Guests were treated to a special trail mix made with 100 of each of the following ingredients: Cheerios, chocolate chips, raisins and marshmallows. There were numerous books about the 100th Day of School available for reading and students and guests engaged in math activities, including skip counting to 100. Assistant teacher Lesly led the kids in doing 10 different exercises 10 times. Visitors were challenged to guess which of four jars contained 100 beans. In the afternoon, 5-6s Norte hosted 4-5s Este, the 8-9s and many MCS faculty and staff members.

100th Day of School

 

5-6s Sur

100th Day of School

5-6s Sur also welcomed their families and MCS students, faculty and staff to their classroom to witness the many ways they celebrated 100. Exhibits included artwork made with 100 dots, structures made with 100 Legos and designs made with 100 blocks of different shapes. The students also built objects using smaller groups of materials (e.g. 10 Mobilos, 25 Flexiblocks). These creations were displayed together to make collective groups of 100.

100th Day of School

100th Day of School Reader

Continuing a tradition from MCS’ time on 96th Street, 5-6s Sur hosted 10 (actually 11) special guest readers, who each read for ten minutes (one pair read together). The read-a-thon began with Karen, our sixth-grade teacher and co-director of City Camp, who read A Giraffe and a Half. Amanda and Joe, who work in the MCS kitchen, read The Unbeatable Bread. Maiya, our Upper School director, read Who’s A Pest?, a childhood favorite of hers (and Laleña’s!). Anisah, who worked with the 5-6s last year and is currently with the 6-7s, read The Dark. Angela, our communications director, came to read A Pocket for Corduroy, before returning to the 100s Museum with her camera that afternoon. Nicole, who is teaching the 8-9s, got to meet the class and read The Whisperer. Mary, our Lower School director, read No Roses for Harry and Nancy H., our parent fundraising and special events coordinator, came to introduce herself and read Ada Twist, Scientist. Alaina, the Upper School science teacher, read And Tango Makes Three, an exciting book for all the children who are familiar with the Central Park Zoo, and their day was rounded out by a fairly new face to MCS, Matilde, our database associate, who read a Madeline book. The children were thrilled to get to meet so many new faces and see some folks they recognize, and it was so lovely to have so many members of the MCS community join us in our celebration.

Are Your Hands Really Clean? This Lower School Science Experiment Has the Answer

Date Posted: 
Friday, March 3, 2017

Handwashing Experiment

In the first couple months of this year, a significant number of Manhattan Country School students and staff members were out sick. A nasty bug was going around. With so many in the community affected, School Nurse Katie Patterson and Lower School Science Teacher Olivia Kurz decided to team up to educate students about effective handwashing to prevent the spread of illness-inducing germs and bacteria.

Handwashing Experiment

Handwashing Experiment

During her science classes with the 7-8s, 8-9s and 9-10s, Olivia asked students to put lotion on their hands and then wash them as they normally would. She didn’t tell them that the lotion was a special ultraviolet light reactive lotion designed to simulate germs. When the students finished washing, she shined a ultraviolet light on their hands. Many of the students saw white spots, which represented germs they had missed when washing. Olivia also shined the light on the soap dispenser and faucet, which illustrated how easily germs and bacteria can be transferred.

Handwashing Experiment

Olivia and Nurse Katie worked with the students to identify the most effective ways to wash one’s hands. Helpful habits include scrubbing one’s hands with soap for at least 20 seconds; making sure to scrub one’s wrists, the back of one’s hands and between one’s fingers; and using a paper towel or elbow to turn off the water to prevent picking up germs.

Handwashing Experiment

The 9-10s students have created illustrated handwashing guides and PSAs that are on display in bathrooms throughout MCS. The students hope that sharing this knowledge will help reduce the spread of germs throughout the school community.

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Students Examine the Role of Broken Systems in the Refugee Crisis

Date Posted: 
Friday, February 17, 2017

Upper School Assembly guest speakerThis year, students in Manhattan Country School’s Upper School are exploring various types of systems, such as government and immigration, as part of the Upper School theme. At an Upper School Assembly on Thursday, the students had a guest speaker named Joe who spoke about the system in place in Greece to address refugees.

Joe began by establishing a shared understanding of what a system is. At its most basic level, he said a system is a set of things working together. He offered the mind-body system as an example of a well-working system because it is “organized, flexible, calm and strong.” These are characteristics that are important for any system to be effective. He shared this video to illustrate his point.

Joe contends that the fact that there are refugees indicates that there is a system that is broken. He added that when people feel unsafe it is very natural for people to want to leave that situation. Thousands of refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan have left their homeland, traveling across land to Turkey and then boarding rafts to cross the Aegean Sea in search of safety on the island of Lesbos. There these refugees are living in a refugee camp, which is one example of a system.

Joe shared an example of how flexibility allowed volunteers to resolve an issue within the camp. Water collecting around buildings in the camp attracted hordes of mosquitoes. The buildings’ windows weren’t properly sealed, which allowed the insects to take over a space that was supposed to be a refuge. Because the volunteers and residents had a willingness to change, compromise and adapt, they were able to find a solution to the problem. Netting was installed over all of the windows and living conditions quickly improved.

Joe further stressed the importance of flexibility in effective systems by sharing a quote from professional ballet dancer Misty Copeland: “The path to your success is not as fixed and inflexible as you think.”

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6-7s Oeste Learns the Maya Art of Weaving

Date Posted: 
Thursday, February 16, 2017

Michele Sola meets with 6-7s class

The students in 6-7s Oeste had a special visitor on Tuesday—MCS Director Michèle Solá. She didn’t come to talk about the school. Instead she shared one of her experiences from her time as the school’s Spanish teacher—a summer trip to the Chiapas mountains of southern Mexico to learn about the Maya tradition of weaving.

Michèle explained the weaving process—from carding (stretching out) the wool and spinning the wool into thread to dyeing the thread and then using the thread to create a woven piece using a handmade backstrap loom. The process is so detailed that it can take a week to complete just one inch of weaving. The work results in an intricate design that is not only beautiful, but also tells a story.

Michele Sola

The creation of the world is a common story told in Maya weaving and is expressed through a set of sacred designs passed from one generation to the next. While the colors of the designs and the combinations can vary, the designs remain the same. Examples of these designs include elements representing ancestors, flowering corn, snakes and the universe.

Michèle shared with the students a story about a young girl she met on her trip named Andrea. Andrea couldn’t speak, but she communicated through weaving, a skill she learned from her grandmother. This encounter inspired Michèle to write a book about a young Maya girl titled Angela Weaves a Dream. Writing the book was a process she says included 37 rewrites.

Michele Sola with student

The students had a chance to see examples of woven clothing and textiles Michèle brought back from Mexico. One student even had the opportunity to try on some clothing that a young Maya girl would wear.

Michele Sola teaches students to how to weave

After her presentation, a small group of students joined Michèle to learn how to weave their own pieces. It’s an activity Assistant Teacher Anisah Moonsammy will continue with the class in the weeks to come.

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Math Team Tests Skills at Mathcounts Competition

Date Posted: 
Thursday, February 9, 2017

Math Team

This past Saturday, eight seventh- and eighth-graders from Manhattan Country School's math team attended the Manhattan-wide Mathcounts competition at Stuyvesant High School. Some highlights of the day included rooms abuzz with the sounds of collaborative problem solving and a math talk in which we learned that tearing a sheet of newsprint in half, stacking the two sheets together and repeating the process 52 times would result in a stack so tall that it would stretch past the sun!  

Each winter, the MCS math team convenes on Thursday afternoons to engage in fun activities that build our mathematical thinking. Meetings are open to all students in sixth through eighth grade and alternate between hands-on activities, riveting games of SET and Ricochet Robots, and non-routine problem sets from past Mathcounts and Momathlon competitions. Our season ends just in time for Model Congress meetings to take over our Thursday time slot. Interested students have the option of attending the Manhattan-wide MathCounts competition in February and the Manhattan Momathlon competition later in the spring.

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8-9s Host Indigenous Day Celebration

Date Posted: 
Thursday, December 15, 2016

8-9s Indigenous Day

In October, the 8-9s learned about the growing movement in the United States to change Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day. Most 8-9s ended up feeling so strongly about the issue that they wrote letters to Mayor DiBlasio to request that he change the holiday in New York City. The 8-9s also decided to have their own Indigenous Day celebration to honor the first people that ever lived here.

On Thursday, December 15, the 8-9s celebrated Indigenous Day. They cooked food mostly using ingredients that Native people in this area had long ago. The kids tried to be as authentic as possible, using shells instead of knives to remove corn from the cobs to make succotash and mashing berries to make a juice. The 8-9s also made fry bread, which has come to be associated with Native American culture because it was made from the rations many tribes received on reservations. The 8-9s also made shields with native symbolism, masks and dream catchers to decorate the classroom. They enjoyed cooking, decorating, and particularly feasting!
 

 

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Jay's 2016 Holiday Shopping List for Upper School Readers

Date Posted: 
Thursday, December 15, 2016

Hello from the library! First, if you haven’t been by the library yet, please feel free to come visit us. Next, for our newest members of the Manhattan Country School community, these are the annual Holiday Shopping Lists. Several years ago, some parents asked me for recommendations for books for holiday gifts. The lists have grown and expanded to include one for grownups as well. I hope you enjoy them! Of course, if you have any questions about other books and anything else related to literature, please let me know.

“When I think about how I understand my role as a citizen, setting aside being president, and the most important set of understandings that I bring to that position of citizen, the most important stuff I’ve learned I think I’ve learned from novels. It has to do with empathy. It has to do with being comfortable with the notion that the world is complicated and full of grays, but there’s still truth there to be found, and that you have to strive for that and work for that. And the notion that it’s possible to connect with some[one] else even though they’re very different from you.”                 
—President Barack Obama

This quote came from a conversation between President Barack Obama and Marilynne Robinson, author of Housekeeping and Gilead (and one of my favorite writers ever.) The president wanted to meet her and talk to her after reading several of her books. It seems to me that this is the very essence of why reading books is critical to us as humans. It is through literature that we can find such valuable connections to the outside world and ultimately, ourselves.
    
Reading a book at a young age is essentially a social undertaking. Before a child can read, this act is usually done with a grownup. As they get a little older, children are usually reading what their peers are reading, unless of course, they have a pushy librarian! It is only when we reach our teens and then adulthood that reading a book becomes a much more solitary operation. Yet, embedded in this act is the hope of making the kinds of connections that the president was talking about—to the past, to other cultures, to information and to some possible answers and questions.

When I first took the job as librarian, I could never have imagined how being a witness to daily connections of these kinds would affect me in such positive ways. This holiday season, I truly hope that you connect with a fantastic book. Happy reading, citizens and please come visit us in the new library space!

2016 Holiday Shopping List for Lower School Readers

2016 Holiday Shopping List for Grown-Up Readers


Zahrah the WindseekerZahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor - In the Ooni Kingdom, children born dada—with vines growing in their hair—are rumored to have special powers. Zahrah Tsami doesn’t know anything about that. She feels normal. Others think she’s different—they fear her. Only Dari, her best friend, isn’t afraid of her. But then something begins to happen—something that definitely marks Zahrah as different—and the only person she can tell is Dari. He pushes her to investigate, edging them both closer and closer to danger. Until Dari’s life is on the line. Only Zahrah can save him, but to do so she’ll have to face her worst fears alone, including the very thing that makes her different. (9 and up)

Josh Baxter Levels Up by Gavin Brown - Josh Baxter is sick and tired of hitting the reset button. It's not easy being the new kid for the third time in two years. One mistake and now the middle school football star is out to get him. And Josh's sister keeps offering him lame advice about how to make friends, as if he needs her help finding allies! Josh knows that his best bet is to keep his head down and stay under the radar. If no one notices him, nothing can touch him, right? But when Josh's mom sees his terrible grades and takes away his video games, it's clear his strategy has failed. Josh needs a new plan, or he'll never make it to the next level, let alone the next grade. He's been playing not to lose. It's time to play to win. (9 and up)

The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart - Parkour practitioner Reuben Pedley has been having a hard time since his mom lost her job and they had to move to a different (and poorer) part of the city. Friendless, he spends his days avoiding the Directions, the enforcement officers of the mysterious Smoke, who runs the city. On one of these afternoons, he finds a very interesting object after getting himself stuck on a ledge while he was supposed to be at home. What he discovers crammed in the masonry of a wall is an extremely old pocket watch that he is certain is worth a large sum and might just help him and his mother leave the poor part of town. Instead, he realizes that the watch has a little bit of magic in it, which gives him a special ability. Regrettably, the Directions learn of the presence of the watch, and they will stop at nothing to bring it to the Smoke. Only Reuben and his newfound friends have what it takes to solve the mystery of the watch and save their city. (9 and up)

Hundred Percent by Karen Romano Young - The last year of elementary school is big for every kid. In this novel, equal parts funny and crushing, utterly honest and perfect for boys and girls alike, Christine Gouda faces change at every turn, starting with her own nickname—Tink—which just doesn't fit anymore. Readers will relate to this strong female protagonist whose voice rings with profound authenticity and absolute novelty, and her year's cringingly painful trials in normalcy—uncomfortable Halloween costumes, premature sleepover parties, crushed crushes, and changing friendships. Throughout all this, Tink learns, what you call yourself, and how you do it, has a lot to do with who you are. This book marks beloved author Karen Romano Young's masterful return to children's literature: a heartbreakingly honest account of what it means to be between girl and woman, elementary and middle school, inside and out—and just what you name that in-between self. (9 and up)

Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph by Roxanne Orgill - When Esquire magazine planned an issue to salute the American jazz scene in 1958, graphic designer Art Kane pitched a crazy idea: how about gathering a group of beloved jazz musicians and photographing them? He didn’t own a good camera, didn’t know if any musicians would show up, and insisted on setting up the shoot in front of a Harlem brownstone. Could he pull it off? In a captivating collection of poems, Roxane Orgill steps into the frame of Harlem 1958, bringing to life the musicians’ mischief and quirks, their memorable style, and the vivacious atmosphere of a Harlem block full of kids on a hot summer’s day. Francis Vallejo’s vibrant, detailed, and wonderfully expressive paintings do loving justice to the larger-than-life quality of jazz musicians of the era. Includes bios of several of the 57 musicians, an author’s note, sources, a bibliography, and a foldout of Art Kane’s famous photograph. (9 and up)

Welcome to Wonderland #1: Home Sweet Motel by Chris Grabenstein - Eleven-year-old P. T. Wilkie may be the greatest storyteller alive. But he knows one thing for a fact: the Wonderland Motel is the best place a kid could ever live! All-you-can-eat poolside ice cream! A snack machine in the living room! A frog slide! A giant rampaging alligator! (Okay, that last one may or may not be made up.) There’s only one thing the Wonderland doesn’t have, though—customers. And if the Wonderland doesn’t get them soon, P.T. and his friend Gloria may have to say goodbye to their beloved motel forever. They need to think BIG. They need to think BOLD. They need an OUTRAGEOUS plan. Luckily for them, Gloria is a business GENIUS, and OUTRAGEOUS is practically P.T.’s middle name. With Gloria’s smarts and P.T.’s world-famous stories and schemes, there’s got to be a way to save the Wonderland! (10 and up)

The Best Worst Thing by Kathleen Lane - Front door locked, kitchen door locked, living room windows closed. Nobody in the closet, nobody under the beds. Still, Maggie is worried. Ever since she started middle school, she sees injustice and danger everywhere—on the news, in her textbooks, in her own neighborhood. Even her best friend seems to be changing. Maggie believes it is up to her, and only her, to make everything all right. Can she come up with a plan to keep everyone safe? The Best Worst Thing is a perceptive novel about learning the limits of what you can control, and the good—sometimes even best—things that can come of finally letting go. (10 and up)

The Mighty Odds by Amy Ignatow - When a sweet nerd, an artsy cartoonist, a social outcast, and the most popular girl in school are involved in a mysterious bus accident, this seemingly random group of kids starts to notice some very strange abilities they did not have before. Artsy Martina can change her eye color. Nerdy Nick can teleport . . . four inches to the left. Outcast Farshad develops super strength, but only in his thumbs. And Cookie, the It Girl of school’s most popular clique, has suddenly developed the ability to read minds . . . when those minds are thinking about directions. They are oddly mighty—especially together. This group—who would never hang out under normal circumstances—must now combine all of their strengths to figure out what happened during the bus accident. With alternating narratives from each of the heroes, including illustrated pieces from Martina, and featuring bold female superheroes and a multicultural cast, The Mighty Odds is The Breakfast Club for a new generation. (9 and up)

The Midnight War of Mateo MartinezThe Midnight War of Mateo Martinez by Robin Yardi - A middle grade story with a smidgen of fantasy, in which the intrepid protagonist tackles new and old friendships, his sense of belonging and letting go, and the unbelievable disappearance of his beloved trike. Mateo Martinez is a fourth grader who swears that his trike was stolen by two talking skunks. His family, younger sister Mila, and new best friend Ashwin bear with Mateo's claim and believe they are dreams, because Mateo constantly dreams of being a medieval knight. From confronting bullies at school and coping with Johnny not being his best friend anymore to strengthening his friendship with Ashwin, Mateo must embark on a quest to figure out who he is, while tracking down the stinky creatures that stole his trike. In this debut novel, Yardi draws parallels between the fantasy world of talking animals and Mateo's reality of growing up and finding himself. Throughout the book, the protagonist confronts internal battles about being Mexican American but not being able to speak Spanish as well as his views of race and ethnicity and who belongs in his neighborhood and in the occupied city of Santa Barbara. (10 and up)

Compass South (Four Points) by Hope Larson - It's 1860 in New York City. When 12-year-old twins Alexander and Cleopatra's father disappears, they join the Black Hook Gang and are caught by the police pulling off a heist. They agree to reveal the identity of the gang in exchange for tickets to New Orleans. But once there, Alex is shanghaied to work on a ship that is heading for San Francisco via Cape Horn. Cleo stows away on a steamer to New Granada where she hopes to catch a train to San Francisco to find her brother. Neither Alexander nor Cleo realizes the real danger they are in—they are being followed by pirates who think they hold the key to treasure. How they outwit the pirates and find each other makes for a fast-paced, breathtaking adventure. (9 and up)

The Best Man by Richard Peck - Archer Magill has spent a lively five years of grade school with one eye out in search of grown-up role models. Three of the best are his grandpa, the great architect; his dad, the great vintage car customizer, and his uncle Paul, who is just plain great. These are the three he wants to be. Along the way he finds a fourth—Mr. McLeod, a teacher. In fact, the first male teacher in the history of the school. But now here comes middle school and puberty. Change. Archer wonders how much change has to happen before his voice does. He doesn't see too far ahead, so every day or so a startling revelation breaks over him. Then a really big one when he's the best man at the wedding of two of his role models. But that gets ahead of the story. In pages that ripple with laughter, there's a teardrop here and there. And more than a few insights about the bewildering world of adults, made by a boy on his way to being the best man he can be. (10 and up)

Allie, First at Last by Angela Cervantes - In this realistic middle grade novel, Cervantes introduces a Latina fifth grader, Alyssa, otherwise known as Allie, who is struggling to find her place and identity as the third of four siblings in a family full of successful, award-winning individuals. She considers herself a failure when compared to Harvard-bound Adriana; his soccer whiz older brother, Aiden; and his younger sister Ava, a TV commercial star. Yet this is only half of the family: Allie's mom is a news anchor, and her dad is a fireman. It seems that everyone has won trophies and completed "firsts"—even her great grandfather is famous as the only World War II recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor alive in the state. Fifth grade can be rough, filled with changing relationships and an intense self-centered focus. Allie tries, but often fails, to be understanding when a new friend's help on her science fair project is a disaster and former best friend Sarah chooses the same topic for the Kansas Trailblazer Contest. The first-person narrative captures the disquieting feelings that often accompany the preteen years, including the protagonist's insights on her language proficiency and efforts to make the right decisions. (9 and up)

When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin - Pinmei's gentle, loving grandmother always has the most exciting tales for her granddaughter and the other villagers. However, the peace is shattered one night when soldiers of the Emperor arrive and kidnap the storyteller. Everyone knows that the Emperor wants something called the Luminous Stone That Lights the Night. Determined to have her grandmother returned, Pinmei embarks on a journey to find the Luminous Stone alongside her friend Yishan, a mysterious boy who seems to have his own secrets to hide. Together, the two must face obstacles usually found only in legends to find the Luminous Stone and save Pinmei's grandmother—before it's too late. A fast-paced adventure that is extraordinarily written and beautifully illustrated, When the Sea Turned to Silver is a masterpiece companion novel to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and Starry River of the Sky. (9 and up)

Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan - Using original slave auction and plantation estate documents, Ashley Bryan offers a moving and powerful picture book that contrasts the monetary value of a slave with the priceless value of life experiences and dreams that a slave owner could never take away. Imagine being looked up and down and being valued as less than chair. Less than an ox. Less than a dress. Maybe about the same as…a lantern. You, an object. An object to sell. In his gentle yet deeply powerful way, Ashley Bryan goes to the heart of how a slave is given a monetary value by the slave owner, tempering this with the one thing that CAN’T be bought or sold—dreams. Inspired by the actual will of a plantation owner that lists the worth of each and every one of his “workers,” Bryan has created collages around that document, and others like it. Through fierce paintings and expansive poetry he imagines and interprets each person’s life on the plantation, as well as the life their owner knew nothing about—their dreams and pride in knowing that they were worth far more than an Overseer or Madam ever would guess. Visually epic, and never before done, this stunning picture book is unlike anything you’ve seen. (10 and up)

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill - Once a year in the Protectorate there is a Day of Sacrifice. The youngest baby is taken by the Elders and left in the forest to die, thus appeasing the witch who threatens to destroy the village if not obeyed. Unbeknownst to the people, Xan, the witch of the forest, is kind and compassionate. When she discovers the first baby left as a sacrifice, she has no idea why it has been abandoned. She rescues the infants, feeds each one starlight, and delivers the shining infants to parents in the Outside Cities who love and care for them. On one occasion, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight along with starlight, filling her with glowing magic. Xan is smitten with the beautiful baby girl, who has a crescent moon birthmark on her forehead, and chooses to raise her as her own child. Twists and turns emerge as the identity of the true evil witch becomes apparent. The swiftly paced, highly imaginative plot draws a myriad of threads together to form a web of characters, magic, and integrated lives. Spiritual overtones encompass much of the storytelling with love as the glue that holds it all together. (9 and up)

Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina (Young Readers Edition) by Misty Copeland - Determination meets dance in this middle grade adaptation of the New York Times bestselling memoir by the first African-American principal dancer in American Ballet Theatre history, Misty Copeland. As the first African-American principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, Misty Copeland has been breaking down all kinds of barriers in the world of dance. But when she first started dancing—at the late age of thirteen—no one would have guessed the shy, underprivileged girl would one day make history in her field. Her road to excellence was not easy—a chaotic home life, with several siblings and a single mother, was a stark contrast to the control and comfort she found on stage. And when her home life and incredible dance promise begin to clash, Misty had to learn to stand up for herself and navigate a complex relationship with her mother, while pursuing her ballet dreams. (10 and up)

Unidentified Surburban Object by Mike Jung - Chloe Cho is curious about her cultural heritage. Her parents were born in Korea but never speak of their time or families there, no matter how often Chloe asks. The only Asian American in her school, Chloe is excited when her new history teacher is also Korean, but alarmed to learn of an assignment where she needs to interview her parents to share a family story. She is finally able to convince her father to tell her one but receives an F on the assignment and is accused of plagiarism. When Chloe confronts her father, showing him a website that retells the account he claimed happened to his uncle, he must finally tell her the truth. A game-changing family secret is revealed that alters Chloe's perception of herself and the genre of the novel. Jung spends a lot of time hammering home how unwilling Chloe's parents are to speak of their past, making their secret a very welcome and original surprise and giving the novel some needed energy. Chloe's response to her parents' news ripples into every corner of her life. Furious she's been lied to, she rebels against not only her parents but her friends and teachers as well. While Chloe herself is a gifted student, the book has enough twists and humor to broaden the audience to include reluctant readers. (10 and up)

As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds - Reynolds' engaging middle grade debut stars 11-year-old African-American Genie Harris, an inveterate worrywart who considers Google his best friend, and his older brother Ernie, who is well on his way to being a cool dude (sunglasses and all). The born and bred Brooklynites are to spend a month with their grandparents in rural Virginia while their parents take a long overdue vacation and work out their marital problems. It is only after the boys are left in their grandfather's care that they realize that he is blind. They are also surprised to learn that they are expected to do chores and follow their grandmother's strict rules—and that it is possible to exist (sort of) without the Internet. While Ernie crushes on the girl who lives at the base of the hill, Genie writes down his many burning questions so he doesn't forget them and gets to know his proud and fiercely independent grandfather. Genie barrages Grandpop with questions about his past and present abilities and about the quirky aspects of the household, especially his "nunya bidness" room, his harmonica playing, and how Grandpop might not be able to see but still packs a pistol. As the languid days unfold, the boys learn about country life and the devastating loss of the elder Harris' son during Desert Storm and their estrangement from their living son, the boys' father. Grandpop Harris is a complicated, irascible character, full of contradictions and vulnerabilities, the least of which is his lack of vision. Reynolds captures the bond that Grandpop and Genie form in a tender, believable, and entertaining way, delivered through smart and funny prose and sparkling dialogue. (10 and up)

Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson - Everyone knows there are different kinds of teachers. The boring ones, the mean ones, the ones who try too hard, the ones who stopped trying long ago. The ones you’ll never remember, and the ones you want to forget. Ms. Bixby is none of these. She’s the sort of teacher who makes you feel like school is somehow worthwhile. Who recognizes something in you that sometimes you don’t even see in yourself. Who you never want to disappoint. What Ms. Bixby is, is one of a kind. Topher, Brand, and Steve know this better than anyone. And so when Ms. Bixby unexpectedly announces that she won’t be able to finish the school year, they come up with a risky plan—more of a quest, really—to give Ms. Bixby the last day she deserves. Through the three very different stories they tell, we begin to understand what Ms. Bixby means to each of them—and what the three of them mean to each other. (12 and up)

Hidden FiguresHidden Figures (Young Readers Edition) by Margot Lee Shetterly - New York Times bestselling author Margot Lee Shetterly’s book is now available in a new edition perfect for young readers. This is the amazing true story of four African-American female mathematicians at NASA who helped achieve some of the greatest moments in our space program. Soon to be a major motion picture starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner. Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules, and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space. This book brings to life the stories of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, four African-American women who lived through the civil rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War, and the movement for gender equality, and whose work forever changed the face of NASA and the country. (10 and up)

Princess Princess Ever After by Katie O’Neill - When the heroic princess Amira rescues the kind-hearted princess Sadie from her tower prison, neither expects to find a true friend in the bargain. Yet as they adventure across the kingdom, they discover that they bring out the very best in the other person. They’ll need to join forces and use all the know-how, kindness, and bravery they have in order to defeat their greatest foe yet: a jealous sorceress, who wants to get rid of Sadie once and for all. Join Sadie and Amira, two very different princesses with very different strengths, on their journey to figure out what “happily ever after” really means—and how they can find it with each other. (10 and up)

A Boy Named Queen by Sara Cassidy - Evelyn is both aghast and fascinated when a new boy comes to grade five and tells everyone his name is Queen. Queen wears shiny gym shorts and wants to organize a chess/environment club. His father plays weird loud music and has tattoos. How will the class react? How will Evelyn? Evelyn is an only child with a strict routine and an even stricter mother. And yet in her quiet way she notices things. She takes particular notice of this boy named Queen. The way the bullies don’t seem to faze him. The way he seems to live by his own rules. When it turns out that they take the same route home from school, Evelyn and Queen become friends, almost against Evelyn’s better judgment. She even finds Queen irritating at times. Why doesn’t he just shut up and stop attracting so much attention to himself? Yet he is the most interesting person she has ever met. So when she receives a last-minute invitation to his birthday party, she knows she must somehow persuade her mother to let her go, even if it means ignoring the No Gifts request and shopping for what her mother considers to be an appropriate gift, appropriately wrapped with “boy” wrapping paper. Her visit to Queen’s house opens Evelyn’s eyes to a whole new world, including an unconventional goody bag (leftover potato latkes wrapped in waxed paper and a pair of barely used red sneakers). And when it comes time for her to take something to school for Hype and Share, Evelyn suddenly looks at her chosen offering—her mother’s antique cream jug—and sees new and marvelous possibilities. (12 and up)

Merrow by Ananda Braxton-Smith - Twelve-year-old Neen has heard the stories the people of Carrick tell: "Her Pa was a drinker who'd killed Mam by mistake." "Pa married a merrow—a mermaid—and Mam went after him and drowned." "Mam lost her mind after Pa died and walked the island until she was nothing but a skeleton." But Neen believes none of these. The only tales she'll listen to are those of Skully Slevin, the island's blind fiddler, and his ma. Skully tells Neen that she has merrow blood running through her veins—the proof is in the itchy red scales that appear on her each year. The only one who doesn't tell stories is bitter Auntie Ushag—she's more concerned with day-to-day tasks that need to be done, and all she'll say is that Neen's mam left because of a broken heart. But as the girl stands on the border between childhood and womanhood, she is restless and desperate for answers, and her search for them will take her to unexpected places. The author has done detailed research on the customs and language of Carrick, and this novel perfectly captures the harshness and beauty of that culture. This exquisitely told work examines the power of stories and how a well-told tale can transcend truth and history. (12 and up)

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi - There are only three things that matter to 12-year-old Alice Alexis Queensmeadow: Mother, who wouldn’t miss her; magic and color, which seem to elude her; and Father, who always loved her. The day Father disappears from Ferenwood he takes nothing but a ruler with him. But it’s been almost three years since then, and Alice is determined to find him. She loves her father even more than she loves adventure, and she’s about to embark on one to find the other. But bringing Father home is no small matter. In order to find him she’ll have to travel through the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore, where down can be up, paper is alive, and left can be both right and very, very wrong. It will take all of Alice's wits (and every limb she's got) to find Father and return home to Ferenwood in one piece. On her quest to find Father, Alice must first find herself—and hold fast to the magic of love in the face of loss. (12 and up)

Uprooted: The Japanese-American Experience During World War II by Albert Marrin - The Japanese American internment during World War II is the subject of National Book Award finalist Marrin's latest historical nonfiction for adolescents. He ties together chronological events with thematic elements (how racism operated during World War II) to tell the story of this dark time in U.S. history: "Our government failed in its duty to protect the rights of everyone living in the United States." Marrin demonstrates great attention to detail in conveying the experiences of Japanese Americans who were removed from their homes and forced to live in "relocation" centers, relying on interviews, speeches, newspaper articles, and official and personal correspondence from the time period. Of particular interest is the chapter on the Yankee Samurai, Japanese American war heroes who fought bravely for the United States while their families were denied freedom at home. (12 and up)

Rebel Genius by Michael Dante DiMartino - In 12-year-old Giacomo's Renaissance-inspired world, art is powerful, dangerous, and outlawed. A few artists possess Geniuses, birdlike creatures that are the living embodiment of an artist's creative spirit. Those caught with one face a punishment akin to death, so when Giacomo discovers he has a Genius, he knows he's in serious trouble. Luckily, he finds safety in a secret studio where young artists and their Geniuses train in sacred geometry to channel their creative energies as weapons. But when a murderous artist goes after the three Sacred Tools—objects that would allow him to destroy the world and everyone in his path―Giacomo and his friends must risk their lives to stop him. (12 and up)

The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz - What is a miracle? Is a miracle what happens when, faced with murderous bandits, a teenage monk rips a leg off his donkey, beats them to death with it, then restores the donkey's leg? Or is it a miracle when a cranky innkeeper is so moved by a little girl's friendliness that he risks his life to help her and her companions flee a posse of armed knights? Maybe the real miracle happens when readers attracted to the action and violence a particular author is known for find themselves strongly invested in the moral questions that plague bandit-killing monk and friendly peasant girl alike—along with every other character they encounter, from a young minstrel/pickpocket to Louis IX. Gidwitz's tale of medieval France successfully combines the epic with the personal, aiming for that heart-stopping moment when characters readers have come to care about find themselves on a collision course with one of the great wood chippers of history—the Inquisition, agents of which are in hot pursuit of three underdog characters (and one actual dog) from the very start. It is left to the titular Inquisitor to discover the truth behind the legends that quickly rise to surround these kids. He nudges it from each of the travelers at a roadside inn, the narrative tension rising as each facet is revealed. (12 and up)

The Lost Property Office (Section 13) by James R. Hannibal - Thirteen-year-old Jack Buckles is great at finding things. Not just a missing glove or the other sock, but things normal people have long given up on ever seeing again. If only he could find his father, who has disappeared in London without a trace. But Jack’s father was not who he claimed to be. It turns out that he was a member of a secret society of detectives that has served the crown for centuries—and membership into the Lost Property Office is Jack’s inheritance. Now the only way Jack will ever see his father again is if he finds what the nefarious Clockmaker is after: the Ember, which holds a secret that has been kept since the Great Fire of London. Will Jack be able to find the Ember and save his father, or will his talent for finding things fall short? (12 and up)

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier - Catrina and her family are moving to the coast of Northern California because her little sister, Maya, is sick. Cat isn't happy about leaving her friends for Bahía de la Luna, but Maya has cystic fibrosis and will benefit from the cool, salty air that blows in from the sea. As the girls explore their new home, a neighbor lets them in on a secret: There are ghosts in Bahía de la Luna. Maya is determined to meet one, but Cat wants nothing to do with them. As the time of year when ghosts reunite with their loved ones approaches, Cat must figure out how to put aside her fears for her sister's sake—and her own. (10 and up)

Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune by Pamela S. Turner - This epic warrior tale reads like a novel, but this is the true story of the greatest samurai in Japanese history. When Yoshitsune was just a baby, his father went to war with a rival samurai family—and lost. His father was killed, his mother captured, and his surviving half-brother banished. Yoshitsune was sent away to live in a monastery. Skinny, small, and unskilled in the warrior arts, he nevertheless escaped and learned the ways of the samurai. When the time came for the Minamoto clan to rise up against their enemies, Yoshitsune answered the call. His daring feats and impossible bravery earned him immortality. (12 and up)

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge - In a time when a young woman's exterior life can be stifling and dull, Faith Sunderly's interior life is cavernous. She has a sharp mind; a keen interest in the scientific research that has made her father, the formidable Reverend Sunderly, famous; and an irresistible impulse for sneaking, spying, and skulking around. Faith's curiosity about the world around her, which she must keep hidden, is a source of personal shame and the one thing about herself she longs for people, especially her father, to notice. When the Reverend is invited to take part in an archaeological dig on the insular island community of Vane, the whole family packs up and moves with him. It doesn't take long for Faith to suspect there are darker reasons the family left London in such a hurry, and just as she's starting to put things together, her father is found dead. Setting out to prove her father's death was a murder, Faith uncovers a web of secrets the Reverend has been keeping, all centered on one of his specimens—a small tree that thrives on lies and bears a fruit that tells the truth. Faith believes she can use the tree to find her father's killer and begins feeding it lies. As the tree grows, so do Faith's lies and her fevered obsession with finding out the truth. Hardinge, who can turn a phrase like no other, melds a haunting historical mystery with a sharp observation on the dangers of suppressing the thirst for knowledge, and leaves readers to wonder where science ends and fantasy begins. (13 and up)

Hero by Perry Moore - Thom Creed tries not to disappoint his dad, a disgraced caped crusader who now toils as a factory drudge, so he keeps his gay identity and his developing superpowers under wraps. Then he secretly tries out for the prestigious League, joining aspiring heroes in villain-busting adventures that escalate alongside more private discoveries. Written in a wry, first-person voice realistically peppered with occasional slang and slurs, this ambitious first novel from a Hollywood producer doesn't entirely cohere. The alternate-reality framework is too cursory, and the more realistic strands feel overstuffed with problems, even as they incorporate many well-chosen scenes (including Thom's awkward, anonymous first pickup, which goes only as far as a kiss). Still, Moore's casting of a gay teen hero in a high-concept fantasy marks an significant expansion of GLBTQ literature into genres that reflect teens' diverse reading interests; given the mainstream popularity of comics-inspired tales, the average, ordinary, gay teen superhero who comes out and saves the world will raise cheers from within the GLBTQ community and beyond. (13 and up)

March Book 3 by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin; illustrated by Nate Powell - In the final installment in the trilogy, Congressman Lewis concludes his firsthand account of the civil rights era. Simultaneously epic and intimate, this dynamic work spotlights pivotal moments (the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama; the Freedom Summer murders; the 1964 Democratic National Convention; and the Selma to Montgomery marches) through the lens of one who was there from the beginning. Lewis's willingness to speak from the heart about moments of doubt and anguish imbues the book with emotional depth. Complex material is tackled but never oversimplified—many pages are positively crammed with text—and, as in previous volumes, discussion of tensions among the various factions of the movement adds nuance and should spark conversation among readers. Through images of steely-eyed police, motion lines, and the use of stark black backgrounds for particularly painful moments, Powell underscores Lewis' statement that he and his cohorts "were in the middle of a war." These vivid black-and-white visuals soar, conveying expressions of hope, scorn, and devastation and making storied figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Fannie Lou Hamer feel three-dimensional and familiar. (13 and up)

The Reader (Sea of Ink and Gold) by Traci Chee - Sefia knows what it means to survive. After her father is brutally murdered, she flees into the wilderness with her aunt Nin, who teaches her to hunt, track, and steal. But when Nin is kidnapped, leaving Sefia completely alone, none of her survival skills can help her discover where Nin’s been taken, or if she’s even alive. The only clue to both her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder is the odd rectangular object her father left behind, an object she comes to realize is a book—a marvelous item unheard of in her otherwise illiterate society. With the help of this book, and the aid of a mysterious stranger with dark secrets of his own, Sefia sets out to rescue her aunt and find out what really happened the day her father was killed—and punish the people responsible. With overlapping stories of swashbuckling pirates and merciless assassins, The Reader is a brilliantly told adventure from an extraordinary new talent. (13 and up)

Jay's 2016 Holiday Shopping List for Grown-Up Readers

Date Posted: 
Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Hello from the library! First, if you haven’t been by the library yet, please feel free to come visit us. Next, for our newest members of the Manhattan Country School community, these are the annual Holiday Shopping Lists. Several years ago, some parents asked me for recommendations for books for holiday gifts. The lists have grown and expanded to include one for grownups as well. I hope you enjoy them! Of course, if you have any questions about other books and anything else related to literature, please let me know.

“When I think about how I understand my role as a citizen, setting aside being president, and the most important set of understandings that I bring to that position of citizen, the most important stuff I’ve learned I think I’ve learned from novels. It has to do with empathy. It has to do with being comfortable with the notion that the world is complicated and full of grays, but there’s still truth there to be found, and that you have to strive for that and work for that. And the notion that it’s possible to connect with some[one] else even though they’re very different from you.”                 
—President Barack Obama

This quote came from a conversation between President Barack Obama and Marilynne Robinson, author of Housekeeping and Gilead (and one of my favorite writers ever.) The president wanted to meet her and talk to her after reading several of her books. It seems to me that this is the very essence of why reading books is critical to us as humans. It is through literature that we can find such valuable connections to the outside world and ultimately, ourselves.
    
Reading a book at a young age is essentially a social undertaking. Before a child can read, this act is usually done with a grownup. As they get a little older, children are usually reading what their peers are reading, unless of course, they have a pushy librarian! It is only when we reach our teens and then adulthood that reading a book becomes a much more solitary operation. Yet, embedded in this act is the hope of making the kinds of connections that the president was talking about—to the past, to other cultures, to information and to some possible answers and questions.

When I first took the job as librarian, I could never have imagined how being a witness to daily connections of these kinds would affect me in such positive ways. This holiday season, I truly hope that you connect with a fantastic book. Happy reading, citizens and please come visit us in the new library space!

2016 Holiday Shopping List for Lower School Readers

2016 Holiday Shopping List for Upper School Readers


FICTION

Another BrooklynAnother Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson - Running into a long-ago friend sets memory from the 1970s in motion for August, transporting her to a time and a place where friendship was everything—until it wasn’t. For August and her girls, sharing confidences as they ambled through neighborhood streets, Brooklyn was a place where they believed that they were beautiful, talented, brilliant—a part of a future that belonged to them. But beneath the hopeful veneer, there was another Brooklyn, a dangerous place where grown men reached for innocent girls in dark hallways, where ghosts haunted the night, where mothers disappeared. A world where madness was just a sunset away and fathers found hope in religion. Like Louise Meriwether’s Daddy Was a Number Runner and Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina, Jacqueline Woodson’s Another Brooklyn heartbreakingly illuminates the formative time when childhood gives way to adulthood—the promise and peril of growing up—and exquisitely renders a powerful, indelible, and fleeting friendship that united four young lives.

News of the World by Paulette Jiles - It is 1870 and Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence. In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna’s parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the 10-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows. Their 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Johanna has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act “civilized.” Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forging a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land.

What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell - On an unseasonably warm autumn day, an American teacher enters a public bathroom beneath Sofia’s National Palace of Culture. There he meets Mitko, a charismatic young hustler, and pays him for sex. He returns to Mitko again and again over the next few months, drawn by hunger and loneliness and risk, and finds himself ensnared in a relationship in which lust leads to mutual predation, and tenderness can transform into violence. As he struggles to reconcile his longing with the anguish it creates, he’s forced to grapple with his own fraught history, the world of his southern childhood where to be queer was to be a pariah. There are unnerving similarities between his past and the foreign country he finds himself in, a country whose geography and griefs he discovers as he learns more of Mitko’s own narrative, his private history of illness, exploitation, and want. What Belongs to You is a stunning debut novel of desire and its consequences. With lyric intensity and startling eroticism, Garth Greenwell has created an indelible story about the ways in which our pasts and cultures, our scars and shames can shape who we are and determine how we love.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead - Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned—Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted. In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor—engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom. Like the protagonist of Gulliver’s Travels, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey—hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre–Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.

The Visiting Privilege: New and Collected Stories by Joy Williams - Joy Williams has been celebrated as a master of the short story for four decades, her renown passing as a given from one generation to the next even in the shifting landscape of contemporary writing. And at long last the incredible scope of her singular achievement is put on display: 33 stories drawn from three much-lauded collections, and another 13 appearing here for the first time in book form. Forty-six stories in all, far and away the most comprehensive volume in her long career, showcasing her crisp, elegant prose, her dark wit, and her uncanny ability to illuminate our world through characters and situations that feel at once peculiar and foreign and disturbingly familiar. Virtually all American writers have their favorite Joy Williams stories, as do many readers of all ages, and each one of them is available here.

The Fortunes by Peter Ho Davies - Sly, funny, intelligent, and artfully structured, The Fortunes recasts American history through the lives of Chinese Americans and reimagines the multigenerational novel through the fractures of immigrant family experience. Inhabiting four lives—a railroad baron’s valet who unwittingly ignites an explosion in Chinese labor, Hollywood's first Chinese movie star, a hate-crime victim whose death mobilizes Asian Americans, and a biracial writer visiting China for an adoption—this novel captures and capsizes over a century of our history, showing that even as family bonds are denied and broken, a community can survive—as much through love as blood. Building fact into fiction, spinning fiction around fact, Davies uses each of these stories—three inspired by real historical characters—to examine the process of becoming not only Chinese American, but also American.

The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson - One of the most terrifying stories of the 20th century, Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” created a sensation when it was first published in The New Yorker in 1948. "Power and haunting," and "nights of unrest" were typical reader responses. Today it is considered a classic work of short fiction, a story remarkable for its combination of subtle suspense and pitch-perfect descriptions of both the chilling and the mundane. The Lottery and Other Stories, the only one to appear during Shirley Jackson's lifetime, unites "The Lottery" with 24 equally unusual short stories. Together they demonstrate Jackson's remarkable range—from the hilarious to the horrible, the unsettling to the ominous—and her power as a storyteller.

Umami by Laia Jufresa - Deep in the heart of Mexico City, where five houses cluster around a sun-drenched courtyard, lives Ana, a precocious 12-year-old who spends her days buried in Agatha Christie novels to forget the mysterious death of her little sister years earlier. Over the summer she decides to plant a milpa in her backyard, and as she digs the ground and plants her seeds, her neighbors in turn delve into their past. The ripple effects of grief, childlessness, illness and displacement saturate their stories, secrets seep out and questions emerge—Who was my wife? Why did my Mom leave? Can I turn back the clock? And how could a girl who knew how to swim drown? In prose that is dazzlingly inventive, funny and tender, Laia Jufresa immerses us in the troubled lives of her narrators, deftly unpicking their stories to offer a darkly comic portrait of contemporary Mexico, as whimsical as it is heart wrenching.

The O. Henry Prize Stories 2016 edited by Laura Furman - The O. Henry Prize Stories 2016 gathers 20 of the best short stories of the year, selected from thousands published in literary magazines. The winning stories range in setting from Japan at the outset of World War II to a remote cabin in the woods of Wyoming, and the characters that inhabit them range from a misanthropic survivor of an apocalyptic flood to a unicorn hidden in a suburban house. Whether fantastical or realistic, gothic or lyrical, the stories here are uniformly breathtaking. They are accompanied by the editor’s introduction, essays from the eminent jurors on their favorites, observations from the winning writers on what inspired them, and an extensive resource list of magazines. Some of this year’s authors are: Marie-Helene Bertino, Robert Coover, Otessa Moshfegh and Ron Carlson.

The Mothers by Brit Bennett - The Mothers is an absorbing and powerful novel about motherhood, female friendship and finding love with a broken heart. Brit Bennett will captivate you with her characters—which are hurting, flawed and trying to navigate the unsteady transition into adulthood. Seventeen-year-old Nadia Turner has her world turned upside down when her mother commits suicide and shortly thereafter, she discovers she’s pregnant with the pastor’s son’s child. Nadia finds a safe harbor in her best friend Aubrey, but as the years go by, her past decisions invade the present, ushering in a new wave of wounds. The Mothers ambitiously tackles heavy circumstances, but the hope of these young black women and Bennett’s ability to convey the ferocity of what it means have a mother, to be a mother, and to want a mother, make this novel a resoundingly magnetic and essential read. 

Crooked HeartCrooked Heart by Lissa Evans - Paper Moon meets the Blitz in this original black comedy, set in World War II England, chronicling an unlikely alliance between a small time con artist and a young orphan evacuee. When Noel Bostock—aged 10, no family—is evacuated from London to escape the Nazi bombardment, he lands in a suburb northwest of the city with Vera Sedge—a 36-year old widow drowning in debts and dependents. Always desperate for money, she’s unscrupulous about how she gets it. Noel’s mourning his godmother Mattie, a former suffragette. Wise beyond his years, raised with a disdain for authority and an eclectic attitude toward education, he has little in common with other children and even less with the impulsive Vee, who hurtles from one self-made crisis to the next. The war’s provided unprecedented opportunities for making money, but what Vee needs—and what she’s never had—is a cool head and the ability to make a plan. On her own, she’s a disaster. With Noel, she’s a team. Together, they cook up a scheme. Crisscrossing the bombed suburbs of London, Vee starts to make a profit and Noel begins to regain his interest in life. But there are plenty of other people making money out of the war—and some of them are dangerous. Noel may have been moved to safety, but he isn’t actually safe at all. . . 

Swing Time by Zadie Smith - An ambitious, exuberant new novel moving from North West London to West Africa, from the multi-award-winning author of White Teeth and On Beauty. Two brown girls dream of being dancers—but only one, Tracey, has talent. The other has ideas: about rhythm and time, about black bodies and black music, what constitutes a tribe, or makes a person truly free. It's a close but complicated childhood friendship that ends abruptly in their early 20s, never to be revisited, but never quite forgotten, either. Tracey makes it to the chorus line but struggles with adult life, while her friend leaves the old neighborhood behind, traveling the world as an assistant to a famous singer, Aimee, observing close up how the one percent live. But when Aimee develops grand philanthropic ambitions, the story moves from London to West Africa, where diaspora tourists travel back in time to find their roots, young men risk their lives to escape into a different future, the women dance just like Tracey—the same twists, the same shakes—and the origins of a profound inequality are not a matter of distant history, but a present dance to the music of time.

Dodgers by Bill Beverly - Dodgers is a dark, unforgettable coming-of-age journey that recalls the very best of Richard Price, Denis Johnson, and J.D. Salinger. It is the story of a young LA gang member named East, who is sent by his uncle along with some other teenage boys—including East's hothead younger brother—to kill a key witness hiding out in Wisconsin. The journey takes East out of a city he's never left and into an America that is entirely alien to him, ultimately forcing him to grapple with his place in the world and decide what kind of man he wants to become. Written in stark and unforgettable prose and featuring an array of surprising and memorable characters rendered with empathy and wit, Dodgers heralds the arrival of a major new voice in American fiction.

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple - A brilliant novel from the author of Where'd You Go, Bernadette, about a day in the life of Eleanor Flood, forced to abandon her small ambitions and awake to a strange, new future. Eleanor knows she's a mess. But today, she will tackle the little things. She will shower and get dressed. She will have her poetry and yoga lessons after dropping off her son, Timby. She won't swear. She will initiate sex with her husband, Joe. But before she can put her modest plan into action life happens. Today, it turns out, is the day Timby has decided to fake sick to weasel his way into his mother's company. It's also the day Joe has chosen to tell his office—but not Eleanor—that he's on vacation. Just when it seems like things can't go more awry, an encounter with a former colleague produces a graphic memoir whose dramatic tale threatens to reveal a buried family secret. 

The Occupation Trilogy: La Place de LÉtoile, The Night Watch, and Ring Roads by Patrick Modiano - Born at the close of World War II, 2014 Nobel Prize winner Patrick Modiano was a young man in his 20s when he burst onto the Parisian literary scene with these three brilliant, angry novels about the wartime Occupation of Paris. The epigraph to his first novel, among the first to seriously question Nazi collaboration in France, reads: "In June 1942 a German officer goes up to a young man and says: 'Excuse me, monsieur, where is La Place de l'Étoile?' The young man points to the star on his chest." The second novel, The Night Watch, tells the story of a young man caught between his work for the French Gestapo, his work for a Resistance cell, and the black marketeers whose milieu he shares. Ring Roads recounts a son's search for his Jewish father who disappeared 10 years earlier, whom he finds trying to weather the war in service to unsavory characters. Together these three brilliant, almost hallucinatory evocations of the Occupation attempt to exorcise the past by exploring the morally ambiguous worlds of collaboration and resistance. Award-winning translator Frank Wynne has revised the translations of The Night Watch and Ring Roads—long out of print—for our current day, and brings La Place de l'Étoile into English for the first time. The Occupation Trilogy provides the perfect introduction to one of the world's greatest writers.

The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones - This alluring novel of friendship, love, and cuisine brings the best-selling author of Lost in Translation and A Cup of Light to one of the great Chinese subjects: food. As in her previous novels, Mones’ captivating story also brings into focus a changing China—this time the hidden world of high culinary culture. When Maggie McElroy, a widowed American food writer, learns of a Chinese paternity claim against her late husband’s estate, she has to go immediately to Beijing. She asks her magazine for time off, but her editor counters with an assignment: to profile the rising culinary star Sam Liang. In China Maggie unties the knots of her husband’s past, finding out more than she expected about him and about herself. With Sam as her guide, she is also drawn deep into a world of food rooted in centuries of history and philosophy. To her surprise she begins to be transformed by the cuisine, by Sam’s family—a querulous but loving pack of cooks and diners—and most of all by Sam himself. The Last Chinese Chef is the exhilarating story of a woman regaining her soul in the most unexpected of places.

The North Water by Ian McGuire - A 19th-century whaling ship sets sail for the Arctic with a killer aboard in this dark, sharp, and highly original tale that grips like a thriller. Behold the man: stinking, drunk, and brutal. Henry Drax is a harpooner on the Volunteer, a Yorkshire whaler bound for the rich hunting waters of the Arctic Circle. Also aboard for the first time is Patrick Sumner, an ex-army surgeon with a shattered reputation, no money, and no better option than to sail as the ship's medic on this violent, filthy, and ill-fated voyage. In India, during the Siege of Delhi, Sumner thought he had experienced the depths to which man can stoop. He had hoped to find temporary respite on the Volunteer, but rest proves impossible with Drax on board. The discovery of something evil in the hold rouses Sumner to action. And as the confrontation between the two men plays out amid the freezing darkness of an arctic winter, the fateful question arises: who will survive until spring? With savage, unstoppable momentum and the blackest wit, Ian McGuire's The North Water weaves a superlative story of humanity under the most extreme conditions.

The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore - For almost an entire generation, the Palomas and the Corbeaus have been rivals in a steadily escalating feud that is fueled by hearsay and fantasized superstitions. Both families' livelihood is dependent on their itinerant performances, from one town to the next, and both family shows have turned competitive, with the Corbeaus performing tightrope like acts in the trees and the Palomas presenting mermaid exhibitions in the natural waterways. Members of the families are born with particular marks that brand them according to their lineage. The Corbeaus have a patch of feathers at the base of their hairline, and the Palomas have a series of patterned scales. No Paloma, under any circumstance, should dare touch a Corbeau, or vice versa, for fear that this simple act could cause a potentially fatal catastrophe. This mandate does not keep Lucien "Cluck" Corbeau from rescuing Lace Paloma from a chemical disaster. That fateful moment spurred the beginnings of their star-crossed romance and forever changes the lives of the two clans. In this tale of magical realism, the magic is so deftly woven into the fabric of the story, readers might overlook the more subtle moments. 

POETRY

Collected Poems: 1950-2012 by Adrienne Rich - The collected works of Adrienne Rich, whose poetry is “distinguished by an unswerving progressive vision and a dazzling, empathic ferocity” (New York Times). Adrienne Rich was the singular voice of her generation and one of our most important American poets. She brought discussions of gender, race, and class to the forefront of poetical discourse, pushing formal boundaries and consistently examining both self and society. This collected volume traces the evolution of her poetry, from her earliest work, which was formally exact and decorous, to her later work, which became increasingly radical in both its free-verse form and feminist and political content. The entire body of her poetry is on display in this vast volume, including the National Book Award–winning Diving Into the Wreck and her prize-winning Atlas of the Difficult World. The Collected Poems of Adrienne Rich gathers and memorializes all of her boldly political, formally ambitious, thoughtful, and lucid work, the whole of which makes her one of the most prolific and influential poets of our time.

Look: Poems by Solmaz Sharif - Sharif's astonishing first book, Look, asks us to see the ongoing costs of war as the unbearable loss of human lives and also the insidious abuses against our everyday speech. In this virtuosic array of poems, lists, shards, and sequences, Sharif assembles her family's and her own fragmented narratives in the aftermath of warfare. Those repercussions echo into the present day, in the grief for those killed in America's invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and in the discrimination endured at the checkpoints of daily encounter. At the same time, these poems point to the ways violence is conducted against our language. Throughout this collection are words and phrases lifted from the Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms; in their seamless inclusion, Sharif exposes the devastating euphemisms deployed to sterilize the language, control its effects, and sway our collective resolve. But Sharif refuses to accept this terminology as given, and instead turns it back on its perpetrators. "Let it matter what we call a thing," she writes. "Let me look at you."

GRAPHIC NOVELS

The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew - Meet Charlie Chan Hock Chye. Now in his early 70s, Chan has been making comics in his native Singapore since 1954, when he was a boy of 16. As he looks back on his career over five decades, we see his stories unfold before us in a dazzling array of art styles and forms, their development mirroring the evolution in the political and social landscape of his homeland and of the comic book medium itself. With The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye Sonny Liew has drawn together a myriad of genres to create a thoroughly ingenious and engaging work, where the line between truth and construct may sometimes be blurred, but where the story told is always enthralling, bringing us on a uniquely moving, funny, and thought-provoking journey through the life of an artist and the history of a nation.

Black Panther: One Nation Under Our Feet (Book 1) by Ta-Nehisi Coates - A new era begins for the Black Panther! MacArthur Genius and National Book Award-winning writer Ta-Nehisi Coates (Between the World and Me) takes the helm, confronting T'Challa with a dramatic upheaval in Wakanda that will make leading the African nation tougher than ever before. When a superhuman terrorist group that calls itself The People sparks a violent uprising, the land famed for its incredible technology and proud warrior traditions will be thrown into turmoil. If Wakanda is to survive, it must adapt—but can its monarch, one in a long line of Black Panthers, survive the necessary change? Heavy lies the head that wears the cowl!

NONFICTION

The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land In-Between by Hisham Matar - When Hisham Matar was a 19-year-old university student in England, his father was kidnapped. One of the Qaddafi regime’s most prominent opponents in exile, he was held in a secret prison in Libya. Hisham would never see him again. But he never gave up hope that his father might still be alive. “Hope,” as he writes, “is cunning and persistent.”

Twenty-two years later, after the fall of Qaddafi, the prison cells are empty and there is no sign of Jaballa Matar. Hisham returns with his mother and wife to the homeland he never thought he’d go back to again. The Return is the story of what he found there. It is at once an exquisite meditation on history, politics, and art, a brilliant portrait of a nation and a people on the cusp of change, and a disquieting depiction of the brutal legacy of absolute power. Above all, it is a universal tale of loss and love and of one family’s life. Hisham Matar asks the harrowing question: How does one go on living in the face of a loved one’s uncertain fate?

Other-Wordly: Words Both Strange and Lovely from Around the World by Yee-Lum Mak - Words and definitions beloved by the author and representing 18 languages are arranged from one to three per page, accompanied by watercolor illustrations in subdued tones of russets, grays, greens, and browns. Smack-dab in the middle, “smultronställe” has a solo gig: “lit. ‘place of wild strawberries’; a special place discovered, treasured, returned to for solace and relaxation; a personal idyll free from stress or sadness.” A blonde, white girl rests among grasses and strawberries, and a bouquet of strawberry fruits and blossoms decorates the opposing page. The book’s first words evoke dawn, and near the end are nocturnal and love-related words. In between are words and phrases with other themes, ranging from practical to philosophical and from nouns to adjectives. The many people populating the pages have pleasant, if generic, features; skin and hair types are reasonably diverse, though white figures predominate. Many of the words evoke humorous art, as in the pairing of the Japanese words “tatemae” and “honne,” or pretended versus true beliefs; one shows people in an elevator presenting a careful face to the world, while the other depicts the same people on a balcony, demonstrating “what a person truly believes.” 

First BiteFirst Bite: How We Learn to Eat by Bee Wilson - In First Bite, award-winning food writer Bee Wilson draws on the latest research from food psychologists, neuroscientists, and nutritionists to reveal that our food habits are shaped by a whole host of factors: family and culture, memory and gender, hunger and love. Taking the reader on a journey across the globe, Wilson introduces us to people who can only eat foods of a certain color; prisoners of war whose deepest yearning is for Mom’s apple pie; a 9-year-old anosmia sufferer who has no memory of the flavor of her mother’s cooking; toddlers who will eat nothing but hotdogs and grilled cheese sandwiches; and researchers and doctors who have pioneered new and effective ways to persuade children to try new vegetables. Wilson examines why the Japanese eat so healthily, whereas the vast majority of teenage boys in Kuwait have a weight problem—and what these facts can tell Americans about how to eat better. The way we learn to eat holds the key to why food has gone so disastrously wrong for so many people. But Wilson also shows that both adults and children have immense potential for learning new, healthy eating habits. An exploration of the extraordinary and surprising origins of our tastes and eating habits, First Bite also shows us how we can change our palates to lead healthier, happier lives.

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl: A Memoir by Carrie Brownstein - From the guitarist of the pioneering band Sleater-Kinney, the book Kim Gordon says "everyone has been waiting for" and a New York Times Notable Book of 2015-- a candid, funny, and deeply personal look at making a life—and finding yourself—in music. Before Carrie Brownstein became a music icon, she was a young girl growing up in the Pacific Northwest just as it was becoming the setting for one the most important movements in rock history. Seeking a sense of home and identity, she would discover both while moving from spectator to creator in experiencing the power and mystery of a live performance. With Sleater-Kinney, Brownstein and her bandmates rose to prominence in the burgeoning underground feminist punk-rock movement that would define music and pop culture in the 1990s. They would be cited as “America’s best rock band” by legendary music critic Greil Marcus for their defiant, exuberant brand of punk that resisted labels and limitations, and redefined notions of gender in rock.

My Lost Poets: A Life in Poetry by Philip Levine - In prose both as superbly rendered as his poetry and as down-to-earth and easy as speaking, Levine reveals the things that made him the poet he became. In the title essay, originally the final speech of his poet laureate year, he recounts how as a boy he composed little speeches walking in the night woods near his house and how he later realized these were his first poems. He wittily takes on the poets he studied with in the Iowa Writing Program: John Berryman, who was his great teacher and lifelong friend, and Robert Lowell, who was neither. His deepest influences—jazz, Spain, the working people of Detroit—are reflected in many of the pieces. There are essays on Spanish poets he admires, William Carlos Williams, Wordsworth, Keats, and others. A wonderful, moving collection of writings that just adds to our knowledge and appreciation of Philip Levine--both the man and the poet.

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly -Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space. Among these problem-solvers were a group of exceptionally talented African-American women, some of the brightest minds of their generation. Originally relegated to teaching math in the South’s segregated public schools, they were called into service during the labor shortages of World War II, when America’s aeronautics industry was in dire need of anyone who had the right stuff. Suddenly, these overlooked math whizzes had a shot at jobs worthy of their skills, and they answered Uncle Sam’s call, moving to Hampton, Virginia and the fascinating, high-energy world of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory. Even as Virginia’s Jim Crow laws required them to be segregated from their white counterparts, the women of Langley’s all-black “West Computing” group helped America achieve one of the things it desired most: a decisive victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War, and complete domination of the heavens. Starting in World War II and moving through to the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement and the Space Race, Hidden Figures follows the interwoven accounts of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden, four African-American women who participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes. It chronicles their careers over nearly three decades as they faced challenges, forged alliances and used their intellect to change their own lives, and their country’s future.

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow - Few figures in American history have been more hotly debated or more grossly misunderstood than Alexander Hamilton. Chernow’s biography gives Hamilton his due and sets the record straight, deftly illustrating that the political and economic greatness of today’s America is the result of Hamilton’s countless sacrifices to champion ideas that were often wildly disputed during his time. “To repudiate his legacy,” Chernow writes, “is, in many ways, to repudiate the modern world.” Chernow here recounts Hamilton’s turbulent life: an illegitimate, largely self-taught orphan from the Caribbean, he came out of nowhere to take America by storm, rising to become George Washington’s aide-de-camp in the Continental Army, coauthoring The Federalist Papers, founding the Bank of New York, leading the Federalist Party, and becoming the first Treasury Secretary of the United States. Historians have long told the story of America’s birth as the triumph of Jefferson’s democratic ideals over the aristocratic intentions of Hamilton. Chernow presents an entirely different man, whose legendary ambitions were motivated not merely by self-interest but by passionate patriotism and a stubborn will to build the foundations of American prosperity and power. And never before has there been a more vivid account of Hamilton’s famous and mysterious death in a duel with Aaron Burr in July of 1804.

Chernow’s biography is not just a portrait of Hamilton, but the story of America’s birth seen through its most central figure.

Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson - This lushly illustrated history of popular entertainment takes a long-zoom approach, contending that the pursuit of novelty and wonder is a powerful driver of world-shaping technological change. Steven Johnson argues that, throughout history, the cutting edge of innovation lies wherever people are working the hardest to keep themselves and others amused. Johnson’s storytelling is just as delightful as the inventions he describes, full of surprising stops along the journey from simple concepts to complex modern systems. He introduces us to the colorful innovators of leisure: the explorers, proprietors, showmen, and artists who changed the trajectory of history with their luxurious wares, exotic meals, taverns, gambling tables, and magic shows. Johnson compellingly argues that observers of technological and social trends should be looking for clues in novel amusements. You’ll find the future wherever people are having the most fun.

Sing for Your Life: A Story of Race, Music and Family by Daniel Bergner - Ryan Speedo Green had a tough upbringing in southeastern Virginia: his family lived in a trailer park and later a bullet-riddled house across the street from drug dealers. His father was absent; his mother was volatile and abusive. At the age of 12, Ryan was sent to Virginia's juvenile facility of last resort. He was placed in solitary confinement. He was uncontrollable, uncontainable, with little hope for the future. In 2011, at the age of 24, Ryan won a nationwide competition hosted by New York's Metropolitan Opera, beating out 1,200 other talented singers. Today, he is a rising star performing major roles at the Met and Europe's most prestigious opera houses. Sing for Your Life chronicles Ryan's suspenseful, racially charged and artistically intricate journey from solitary confinement to stardom. Daniel Bergner takes readers on Ryan's path toward redemption, introducing us to a cast of memorable characters—including the two teachers from his childhood who redirect his rage into music, and his long-lost father who finally reappears to hear Ryan sing. Bergner illuminates all that it takes—technically, creatively—to find and foster the beauty of the human voice. And Sing for Your Life sheds unique light on the enduring and complex realities of race in America.

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Dalai Lama & Archbishop Desmond Tutu - Nobel Peace Prize Laureates His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have survived more than 50 years of exile and the soul-crushing violence of oppression. Despite their hardships—or, as they would say, because of them—they are two of the most joyful people on the planet. In April 2015, Archbishop Tutu traveled to the Dalai Lama's home in Dharamsala, India, to celebrate His Holiness's 80th birthday and to create what they hoped would be a gift for others. They looked back on their long lives to answer a single burning question: How do we find joy in the fact of life's inevitable suffering? They traded intimate stories, teased each other continually, and shared their spiritual practices. By the end of a week filled with laughter and punctuated with tears, these two global heroes had stared into the abyss and despair of our time and revealed how to live a life brimming with joy.

The Archbishop has never claimed sainthood, and the Dalai Lama considers himself a simple monk. In this unique collaboration, they offer us the reflection of real lives filled with pain and turmoil in the midst of which they have been able to discover a level of peace, of courage, and of joy to which we can all aspire in our own lives.

Footnotes from the World’s Greatest Bookstores: True Tales and Lost Moments from Book Buyers, Booksellers and Book Lovers by Bob Eckstein - From beloved New Yorker cartoonist Bob Eckstein comes this New York Times bestselling collection of paintings and stories from some of the world’s most cherished bookstores. The collection of 75 evocative paintings and colorful anecdotes invites you into the heart and soul of every community: the local bookshop, each with its own quirks, charms, and legendary stories. The book features an incredible roster of great bookstores from across the globe and stories from writers, thinkers and artists of our time, including David Bowie, Tom Wolfe, Jonathan Lethem, Roz Chast, Deepak Chopra, Bob Odenkirk, Philip Glass, Jonathan Ames, Terry Gross, Mark Maron, Neil Gaiman, Ann Patchett, Chris Ware, Molly Crabapple, Amitav Ghosh, Alice Munro, Dave Eggers, Garrison Keillor and many more. Page by page, Eckstein perfectly captures our lifelong love affair with books, bookstores, and book-sellers that is at once heartfelt, bittersweet, and cheerfully confessional.

Kurosawa’s Rashomon: A Vanished City, A Lost Brother, and the Voice Inside His Iconic Films by Paul Anderer - A groundbreaking investigation into the early life of the iconic Akira Kurosawa in connection to his most famous film―taking us deeper into Kurosawa and his world. Although he is a filmmaker of international renown, Kurosawa and the story of his formative years remain as enigmatic as his own Rashomon. Paul Anderer looks back at Kurosawa before he became famous, taking us into the turbulent world that made him. We encounter Tokyo, Kurosawa’s birthplace, which would be destroyed twice before his eyes; explore early 20th-century Japan amid sweeping cross-cultural changes; and confront profound family tragedy alongside the horror of war. From these multiple angles we see how Kurosawa’s life and work speak to the epic narrative of modern Japan’s rise and fall. With fresh insights and vivid prose, Anderer engages the Great Earthquake of 1923, the dynamic energy that surged through Tokyo in its wake, and its impact on Kurosawa as a youth. When the city is destroyed again, in the fire-bombings of 1945, Anderer reveals how Kurosawa grappled with the trauma of war and its aftermath, and forged his artistic vision. Finally, he resurrects the specter and the voice of a gifted and troubled older brother―himself a star in the silent film industry―who took Kurosawa to see his first films, and who led a rebellious life until his desperate end. Bringing these formative forces into focus, Anderer looks beyond the aura of Kurosawa’s fame and leads us deeper into the tragedies and the challenges of his past. Kurosawa’s Rashomon uncovers how a film like Rashomon came to be, and why it endures to illuminate the shadows and the challenges of our present.

Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary Oliver - “In the beginning I was so young and such a stranger to myself I hardly existed. I had to go out into the world and see it and hear it and react to it, before I knew at all who I was, what I was, what I wanted to be.” So begins Upstream, a collection of essays in which revered poet Mary Oliver reflects on her willingness, as a young child and as an adult, to lose herself within the beauty and mysteries of both the natural world and the world of literature. Emphasizing the significance of her childhood “friend” Walt Whitman, through whose work she first understood that a poem is a temple, “a place to enter, and in which to feel,” and who encouraged her to vanish into the world of her writing, Oliver meditates on the forces that allowed her to create a life for herself out of work and love. As she writes, “I could not be a poet without the natural world. Someone else could. But not me. For me the door to the woods is the door to the temple.” Upstream follows Oliver as she contemplates the pleasure of artistic labor, her boundless curiosity for the flora and fauna that surround her, and the responsibility she has inherited from Shelley, Wordsworth, Emerson, Poe, and Frost, the great thinkers and writers of the past, to live thoughtfully, intelligently, and to observe with passion. Throughout this collection, Oliver positions not just herself upstream but us as well as she encourages us all to keep moving, to lose ourselves in the awe of the unknown, and to give power and time to the creative and whimsical urges that live within us.

Game Changers: The Unsung Heroines of History by Molly Schiot - Based on the Instagram account @TheUnsungHeroines, a celebration of the pioneering, forgotten female athletes of the 20th century that features rarely seen photos and new interviews with past and present game changers including Abby Wambach and Cari Champion. Two years ago, filmmaker Molly Schiot began the Instagram account @TheUnsungHeroines, posting a photo each day of a female athlete who had changed the face of sports around the globe in the pre-Title IX age. These women paved the way for Serena Williams, Carli Lloyd, and Lindsey Vonn, yet few today know who they are. Slowly but surely, the account gained a following, and the result is Game Changers, a beautifully illustrated collection of these trailblazers’ rarely-before-seen photos and stories. Featuring icons Althea Gibson and Wyomia Tyus, complete unknowns Trudy Beck and Conchita Cintron, policymaker Margaret Dunkle, sportswriter Lisa Olson, and many more, Game Changers gives these “founding mothers” the attention and recognition they deserve, and features critical conversations between past and present gamechangers—including former U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team captain Abby Wambach and SportsCenter anchor Cari Champion—about what it means to be a woman on and off the field. Inspiring, empowering, and unforgettable, Game Changers is the perfect gift for anyone who has a love of the game.

Nonstop Metropolis by Rebecca Solnit - Nonstop Metropolis, the culminating volume in a trilogy of atlases, conveys innumerable unbound experiences of New York City through 26 imaginative maps and informative essays. Bringing together the insights of dozens of experts—from linguists to music historians, ethnographers, urbanists, and environmental journalists—amplified by cartographers, artists, and photographers, it explores all five boroughs of New York City and parts of nearby New Jersey. We are invited to travel through Manhattan’s playgrounds, from polyglot Queens to many-faceted Brooklyn, and from the resilient Bronx to the mystical kung fu hip-hop mecca of Staten Island. The contributors to this exquisitely designed and gorgeously illustrated volume celebrate New York City’s unique vitality, its incubation of the avant-garde, and its literary history, but they also critique its racial and economic inequality, environmental impact, and erasure of its past. Nonstop Metropolis allows us to excavate New York’s buried layers, to scrutinize its political heft, and to discover the unexpected in one of the most iconic cities in the world. It is both a challenge and homage to how New Yorkers think of their city, and how the world sees this capital of capitalism, culture, immigration, and more.

Jay's 2016 Holiday Shopping List for Lower School Readers

Date Posted: 
Monday, December 12, 2016

Hello from the library! First, if you haven’t been by the library yet, please feel free to come visit us. Next, for our newest members of the Manhattan Country School community, these are the annual Holiday Shopping Lists. Several years ago, some parents asked me for recommendations for books for holiday gifts. The lists have grown and expanded to include one for grownups as well. I hope you enjoy them! Of course, if you have any questions about other books and anything else related to literature, please let me know.

“When I think about how I understand my role as a citizen, setting aside being president, and the most important set of understandings that I bring to that position of citizen, the most important stuff I’ve learned I think I’ve learned from novels. It has to do with empathy. It has to do with being comfortable with the notion that the world is complicated and full of grays, but there’s still truth there to be found, and that you have to strive for that and work for that. And the notion that it’s possible to connect with some[one] else even though they’re very different from you.”                 
—President Barack Obama

This quote came from a conversation between President Barack Obama and Marilynne Robinson, author of Housekeeping and Gilead (and one of my favorite writers ever.) The president wanted to meet her and talk to her after reading several of her books. It seems to me that this is the very essence of why reading books is critical to us as humans. It is through literature that we can find such valuable connections to the outside world and ultimately, ourselves.
    
Reading a book at a young age is essentially a social undertaking. Before a child can read, this act is usually done with a grownup. As they get a little older, children are usually reading what their peers are reading, unless of course, they have a pushy librarian! It is only when we reach our teens and then adulthood that reading a book becomes a much more solitary operation. Yet, embedded in this act is the hope of making the kinds of connections that the president was talking about—to the past, to other cultures, to information and to some possible answers and questions.

When I first took the job as librarian, I could never have imagined how being a witness to daily connections of these kinds would affect me in such positive ways. This holiday season, I truly hope that you connect with a fantastic book. Happy reading, citizens and please come visit us in the new library space!

2016 Holiday Shopping List for Upper School Readers

2016 Holiday Shopping List for Grown-Up Readers


A Squiggly StoryA Squiggly Story by Andrew Larsen - What happens when you have a story but you're not sure how to write it down? Larsen introduces a boy as he struggles to write a story, even though his sister tells him it's easy. The feeling of frustration at not being able to form letters, the excitement of reading a story aloud to the class, and the just-a-little-bit bossy older sister will all be relatable elements to young readers. The title is illustrated in a graphic novel-style, with speech bubbles and boxes for different images on some pages. The palette of greens, beiges, pinks, yellows, and blues is cool, and the simply drawn cartoon characters are stylized but expressive. The boy and his sister and the students in the boy's class are illustrated with a wide variety of skin tones, giving this volume an inclusive feel. (Ages 4-7)

Bunny Slopes by Claudia Rueda - Time to tackle the bunny slope! Shake to help Bunny make it snow, tilt to help Bunny ski down the slope, and turn to help Bunny escape a cliff in his path. Is there any obstacle Bunny can't conquer? Bringing grins and guffaws with each turn of the page, readers will find Claudia Rueda's innovative bookmaking as entertaining as the twists and turns of a ski slope—and as satisfying as a cozy cup of hot cocoa. (3-6)

Little Penguins by Cynthia Rylant – Snowflakes? Many snowflakes. Winter is coming. So begins this ever-so-simple story. As the snow starts to fall, the excited penguins pull out scarves, mittens, heavy socks, and boots, and Mama helps them bundle up. But when it’s time to go out, one timid penguin decides to stay home. Filled with waddling baby penguins, playful text, and delightful illustrations, this book feels like a young picture-book classic in the making. (4-7)

Can One Balloon Make An Elephant Fly? by Dan Richards – Dan Richards teams up with celebrated artist, Jeff Newman, to share a funny and vibrant picture book about how powerful a child’s imagination can be…with a little encouragement. Evan asks a simple question, “Can one balloon make an elephant fly?” At first, his mother is too busy to answer. But when she takes the time to play the game with her son…magic happens. (4-7)

The Airport Book by Lisa Brown - Follow a family and the youngest member's favorite sock monkey through all the inner and outer workings of an airport. In a book that is as intriguing as it is useful and entertaining, we follow a family on its way through the complexities of a modern-day airport. From checking bags and watching them disappear on the mysterious conveyor belt, to security clearance and a seemingly endless wait at the gate to finally being airborne. But wait! There's more! The youngest family member's sock monkey has gone missing. Follow it at the bottom of the page as it makes a journey as memorable as that of the humans above. (5-7)

Goodnight Everyone by Chris Haughton - From the creator of Shh! We Have a Plan comes a mesmerizing bedtime tale of a forest settling into slumber and one little bear trying to stay awake. The sun is setting, and everyone in the forest is getting sleepy. The mice, rabbits, and deer all give great big yawns as they snuggle up with their families for the night. But someone isn't sleepy just yet. Little Bear thinks he can stay awake a bit longer. Can he do it? Chris Haughton's bold and vibrant illustrations will captivate little ones eager to stay up just a teeny bit longer, while sweet depictions of animals cozying up in their beds for the night will soon have them yawning off to a dreamland of their own. (4-7)

Billions of Bricks: A Counting Book About Building by Kurt Cyrus - Grab a hard hat and all your tools, and get ready for a construction adventure in counting! This clever, rhyming picture book leads readers through a day in the life of a construction crew building with bricks. A brick may seem like just a simple block, but in groupings of 10, 20, and more, it can create many impressive structures, from hotels to schools to skyscrapers. Billions of Bricks from Kurt Cyrus is a terrific introduction to counting in quantities for children. (5-7)

A Family Is A Family Is A Family by Sara O’Leary - When a teacher asks the children in her class to think about what makes their families special, the answers are all different in many ways—but the same in the one way that matters most of all. One child is worried that her family is just too different to explain, but listens as her classmates talk about what makes their families special. One is raised by a grandmother, and another has two dads. One is full of stepsiblings, and another has a new baby. As one by one, her classmates describe who they live with and who loves them—family of every shape, size and every kind of relation—the child realizes that as long as her family is full of caring people, her family is special. A warm and whimsical look at many types of families written by award-winning author Sara O’Leary, A Family is a Family springs to life with quirky and sweet illustrations by Qin Leng. (5-8)

More-igami by Dori Kleber - A creative young boy with a passion for practicing origami finds a surprising source of encouragement on his diverse city block. Joey loves things that fold: maps, beds, accordions, you name it. When a visiting mother of a classmate turns a plain piece of paper into a beautiful origami crane, his eyes pop. Maybe he can learn origami, too. It’s going to take practice—on his homework, the newspaper, and the 38 dollars in his mother’s purse . . . Enough! No more folding! But how can Joey become an origami master if he’s not allowed to practice? Is there anywhere that he can hone the skill that makes him happy—and maybe even make a new friend while he’s at it? (4-7)

Real Cowboys by Kate Hoefler - In Kate Hoefler’s realistic and poetic picture book debut about the wide-open West, the myth of rowdy, rough-riding cowboys and cowgirls is remade. A timely and multifaceted portrayal reveals a lifestyle that is as diverse as it contrary to what we've come to expect. (4-7)

The Cat From Hunger Mountain by Ed Young - In a place called Hunger Mountain there lives a lord who has everything imaginable yet never has enough. To satisfy his every desire, he hires builders to design the tallest pagoda; a world-famous tailor to make his clothing from silk and gold threads; and a renowned chef to cook him lavish meals with rice from the lord's own fields. What more could he possibly want? Yet when drought plagues the land, Lord Cat is faced with his first taste of deep loss, he ventures down the mountain and what he discovers will change his life forever. Rendered in exquisite mixed-media collage, Caldecott Medalist Ed Young's deceptively simple fable is a deeply affecting tale about appreciating the value of treasures that need not be chased. (5-8)

Wings by Christopher Myers - Ikarus Jackson, a new boy on the block, surprises his neighbors one day by flying above the rooftops with his "long, strong, proud wings." People start to whisper, though, and soon those whispers turn to taunts, disdain, and finally even dismissal from school. One quiet girl, someone who knows loneliness herself, doesn't think the winged boy is strange. She runs through the streets, searching the clouds for her exiled schoolmate, only to find a policeman yelling at him to get down from the edge of a building where he perched with the pigeons: "Could the policeman / put him in jail for flying, / for being too different?" She musters her strength to tell the laughing onlookers to leave him alone, and she tells her new friend "what someone should have long ago"—that his flying is beautiful. Christopher Myers, who illustrated the Coretta Scott King Honor Book Black Cat and the Caldecott Honor Book Harlem shines in this simple, lovely tribute to individualism, encouraging his young readers to dare to fly too close to the sun despite the warnings of the mythological Icarus.

The Pancake King by Phyllis LaFarge - Henry Edgewood loves making pancakes. He makes them every day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and everyone in town knows his are the best. But when fame and fortune knock on the door, in the form of a TV appearance and an invitation to the White House, Henry, then far from family, friends, and school, learns that there's a lot more to pancakes than mixing flour, eggs, and milk. This revised edition of the 1971 classic is a humorous reminder to keep our eyes on what's most important, and it is sure to capture the fancy of anybody who's found themselves focused single-mindedly on a pursuit or passion and lost perspective of their priorities. (6-8)

Make Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy - In a town that is dismal and austere, Mira offers her neighbor her joy—art. After Mira hands out some of her paintings, a muralist takes notice of her work. Eventually Mira, the muralist, and the diverse community come together to make their town a beautiful work of art. López's illustrations dominate the landscape of the book and depict the characters' movements in a painterly style. Warm colors portray the community's efforts to brighten their neighborhood and contrast with the more muted tones used to depict the desolate cityscape. The illustrations are rendered with acrylic paints on wood, along with digital tools to layer photos and other objects to create Mira's neighborhood. The prose feels somewhat distant from the charming artwork and themes. The narrative was inspired by an actual event, as noted in the back matter, but the text does not fully transmit the heartwarming story of the powerful influence of art.

Mouse and MoleMouse and Mole: A Winter Wonderland by Wong Herbert Yee - Yippee! It is a winter wonderland! What better day for Mouse and Mole to go sledding, whirl around on ice skates, and build snowmen together? But Mole does not want to go outside. Too cold! Too windy! He prefers to stay as snug as a bug in a rug inside his nice, warm bed. Mouse is lonely. Ice skating and sledding just aren’t as fun for one. Then she gets an idea…a Sno-Mole might do the trick! Mole won’t be needing his hat or scarf or mittens…or will he? Sometimes even best friends want to do different things. But at the end of a cold winter’s day, it's nice to know that your best friend will be there waiting for you, with warm mittens and all. (5-8)

Cakes in Space (A Not-So-Impossible Tale) by Phillip Reeve - Get ready for killer cupcakes! Deadly donuts! And an outer space adventure with illustrations on almost every page. Astra’s family is moving—to a whole new planet. And what does any kid need on moving day? Snacks! But when Astra asks her spaceship’s computer to whip up the ultimate dessert, it makes cakes so amazing that they come to life. Now these cake-monsters are destroying the ship! Can Astra and her robot friend stop them in time? Or are these terrible treats a recipe for disaster? (5-7)

Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea by Ben Clanton - Narwhal is a happy-go-lucky narwhal. Jelly is a no-nonsense jellyfish. The two might not have a lot in common, but they do—they love waffles, parties and adventures. Join Narwhal and Jelly as they discover the whole wide ocean together. A wonderfully silly early graphic novel series featuring three stories. In the first, Jelly learns that Narwhal is a really good friend. Then Narwhal and Jelly form their own pod of awesomeness with their ocean friends. And finally, Narwhal and Jelly read the best book ever—even though it doesn't have any words...or pictures! (5-8)

The Water Princess by Susan Verde - With its wide sky and warm earth, Princess Gie Gie’s kingdom is a beautiful land. But clean drinking water is scarce in her small African village. And try as she might, Gie Gie cannot bring the water closer; she cannot make it run clearer. Every morning, she rises before the sun to make the long journey to the well. Instead of a crown, she wears a heavy pot on her head to collect the water. After the voyage home, after boiling the water to drink and clean with, Gie Gie thinks of the trip that tomorrow will bring. And she dreams. She dreams of a day when her village will have cool, crystal-clear water of its own. Inspired by the childhood of African–born model Georgie Badiel, acclaimed author Susan Verde and award-winning author/illustrator Peter H. Reynolds have come together to tell this moving story. As a child in Burkina Faso, Georgie and the other girls in her village had to walk for miles each day to collect water. This vibrant, engaging picture book sheds light on this struggle that continues all over the world today, instilling hope for a future when all children will have access to clean drinking water. (6-9)

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas - The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles, who lives alone atop a hill, has a job of the utmost importance. It is his task to open any bottles found at sea and make sure that the messages are delivered. He loves his job, though he has always wished that, someday, one of the letters would be addressed to him. One day he opens a party invitation—but there’s no name attached. As he devotes himself to the mystery of the intended recipient, he ends up finding something even more special: the possibility of new friends. (7-10)

Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis by Jabari Asim - Critically acclaimed author Jabari Asim and Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator E. B. Lewis give readers a fascinating glimpse into the boyhood of Civil Rights leader John Lewis. John wants to be a preacher when he grows up—a leader whose words stir hearts to change, minds to think, and bodies to take action. But why wait? When John is put in charge of the family farm’s flock of chickens, he discovers that they make a wonderful congregation! So he preaches to his flock, and they listen, content under his watchful care, riveted by the rhythm of his voice. (6-10)

The Princess and the Warrior: A Tale of Two Volcanoes by Duncan Tonatiuh - Award-winning author Duncan Tonatiuh reimagines one of Mexico’s cherished legends. Princess Izta had many wealthy suitors but dismissed them all. When a mere warrior, Popoca, promised to be true to her and stay always by her side, Izta fell in love. The emperor promised Popoca if he could defeat their enemy Jaguar Claw, then Popoca and Izta could wed. When Popoca was near to defeating Jaguar Claw, his opponent sent a messenger to Izta saying Popoca was dead. Izta fell into a deep sleep and, upon his return, even Popoca could not wake her. As promised Popoca stayed by her side. So two volcanoes were formed: Iztaccíhuatl, who continues to sleep, and Popocatépetl, who spews ash and smoke, trying to wake his love. (6-10)

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy - Get to know celebrated Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—in the first picture book about her life—as she proves that disagreeing does not make you disagreeable! Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has spent a lifetime disagreeing: disagreeing with inequality, arguing against unfair treatment, and standing up for what’s right for people everywhere. This biographical picture book about the Notorious RBG, tells the justice’s story through the lens of her many famous dissents, or disagreements. (6-10)

A Poem for Peter: The Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the Creation of The Snowy Day by Andrea Davis Pinkney - The story of The Snowy Day begins more than 100 years ago, when Ezra Jack Keats was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. The family was struggling Polish immigrants, and despite Keats’s obvious talent, his father worried that Ezra’s dream of being an artist was an unrealistic one. But Ezra was determined. By high school he was winning prizes and scholarships. Later, jobs followed with the WPA and Marvel comics. But it was many years before Keats’ greatest dream was realized and he had the opportunity to write and illustrate his own book. For more than two decades, Ezra had kept pinned to his wall a series of photographs of an adorable African-American child. In Keats’s hands, the boy morphed into Peter, a boy in a red snowsuit, out enjoying the pristine snow; the book became The Snowy Day, winner of the Caldecott Medal, the first mainstream book to feature an African-American child. It was also the first of many books featuring Peter and the children of his—and Keats’—neighborhood. (6-10)

Who Built That? Bridges: An Introduction to Ten Great Bridges and Their Designers by Didier Comille - In this latest addition to his popular Who Built That? series, Didier Cornille presents ten of the most important bridges in the world, from the Brooklyn to the Golden Gate; from the first in cast iron to the longest in concrete; from small footbridges to the tallest in the world. Cornille introduces each engineer or architect and the main concepts of their work through charming step-by-step drawings and accessible text. Who Built That? Bridges is a fun primer for children of all ages interested in learning about these incredible structures and the engineering and design concepts behind each one. (6-10)

Outside: A Guide to Discovering Nature by Maria Ana Peixe Dias and Ines Teixeira do Rosario - Even if we live in the city, nature is still all around us: clouds and stars, trees and flowers, rocks and beaches, birds, reptiles or mammals. What are we waiting for? Let's jump off the couch and begin exploring! Created in collaboration with a team of Portuguese experts, this book, which won the coveted Bologna Regazzi award, aims to arouse your curiosity about fauna, flora and other aspects of the natural world. It includes suggestions for activities and many illustrations to help the whole family get started, leave the house, and go out to discover—or simply admire—the amazing world that exists outdoors. (7-10)

The Green Ember (Book 1) by S.D. Smith - Heather and Picket are extraordinary rabbits with ordinary lives until calamitous events overtake them, spilling them into a cauldron of misadventures. They discover that their own story is bound up in the tumult threatening to overwhelm the wider world. 
Kings fall and kingdoms totter. Tyrants ascend and terrors threaten. Betrayal beckons, and loyalty is a broken road with peril around every bend. Where will Heather and Picket land? How will they make their stand? A captivating story with sword-bearing rabbits, daring quests, and moments of poignant beauty, The Green Ember is a tale that will delight and inspire young readers to courage and creativity. (7-10)

Dory Fantasmagory: Dory, Dory, Black Sheep by Abby Hanlon - Ever since Dory met Rosabelle, a real true friend whose imagination and high spirits match her own, school has been pretty good. But now the class is learning to read, and it's proving to be a challenge for Dory. While Rosabelle can read chapter books in her head, Dory is stuck with baby books about a happy little farm. Dory wishes for a potion to turn her into a reader but things don't go as planned. Suddenly, a naughty little girl who looks an awful lot like Dory's imaginary nemesis, Mrs. Gobble Gracker, shows up. And a black sheep leaves the pages of the farm book to follow Dory to school. It really needs her help—this seems like a job for a superhero! And it would help if she knew how to read. (6-8)

A Boy and a Bear in a Boat by Dave Shelton - A boy and a bear go to sea, equipped with a suitcase, a comic book, and a ukulele. The bear assures the boy that they are traveling a short distance and it really shouldn't take very long. But then they encounter "unforeseeable anomalies": turbulent stormy seas! A terrifying sea monster and the rank remains of The Very Last Sandwich. The odds are pitted against the boy and the bear and their boat. Will the Harriet, their trusted vessel, withstand the violent lashings of the salty waves? And will anyone ever answer their message in a bottle? (6-9)

All About Sam by Lois Lowry - At last Sam, Anastasia Krupnik's irrepressible little brother, gets a chance to tell his own story. From his first days at the hospital, through his Terrible Twos, to his first days at nursery school, we see what Sam is really like. But things are never quite like they seem. In the delivery room, Sam's first words, "Don't drop me," are heard only as "Waaaaahhhh!" And even though he has a perfectly logical explanation for flushing his sister's goldfish down the toilet, no one understands. From training pants to moving day to nursery school, Sam continually tries to unravel the mysteries of the world at large, facing each crisis and adventure head on and responding with his own brand of humor, candor, and naive insight. (7-10)

Juana & LucasJuana and Lucas by Juana Medina - Juana loves many things—drawing, eating Brussels sprouts, living in Bogotá, Colombia, and especially her dog, Lucas, the best amigo ever. She does not love wearing her itchy school uniform, solving math problems, or going to dance class. And she especially does not love learning the English. Why is it so important to learn a language that makes so little sense? But when Juana’s abuelos tell her about a special trip they are planning—one that Juana will need to speak English to go on—Juana begins to wonder whether learning the English might be a good use of her time after all. Hilarious, energetic, and utterly relatable, Juana will win over los corazones—the hearts—of readers everywhere in her first adventure, presented by namesake Juana Medina. (7-10)

Book Uncle and Me by Uma Krishnaswami - Every day, 9-year-old Yasmin borrows a book from Book Uncle, a retired teacher who has set up a free lending library next to her apartment building. But when the mayor tries to shut down the rickety bookstand, Yasmin has to take her nose out of her book and do something. But what can she do? The local elections are coming up but she’s just a kid. She can’t even vote! Still, Yasmin has friends—her best friend, Reeni, and Anil, who even has a black belt in karate. And she has grownup family and neighbors who, no matter how preoccupied they are, care about what goes on in their community. Then Yasmin remembers a story that Book Uncle selected for her. It’s an old folktale about a flock of doves trapped in a hunter’s net. The birds realize that if they all flap their wings at the same time, they can lift the net and fly to safety, where they seek the help of a friendly mole who chews a hole in the net and sets them free. And so the children get to work, launching a campaign to make sure the voices of the community are heard. (7-10)

Fuzzy by Tom Angleberger and Paul Dellinger - When Max—Maxine Zelaster—befriends her new robot classmate Fuzzy, part of Vanguard One Middle School’s new Robot Integration Program, she helps him learn everything he needs to know about surviving middle school—the good, the bad, and the really, really, ugly. Little do they know that surviving seventh grade is going to become a true matter of life and death, because Vanguard has an evil presence at its heart: a digital student evaluation system named BARBARA that might be taking its mission to shape the perfect student to extremes! With a strong female main character that will appeal to all readers, Tom Angleberger and Paul Dellinger’s new novel offers readers a fresh take on robots. Fuzzy will find its place in the emerging category of bestselling books featuring robots, including Jon Scieszka’s Frank Einstein series and James Patterson’s House of Robots. (8-12)

The Illustrated Compendium of Amazing Animal Facts by Maja Säfström - An artfully playful collection of unexpected and remarkable facts about animals, illustrated by Swedish artist Maja Säfström. Did you know that an octopus has three hearts? Or that ostriches can't walk backward? These and many more fascinating and surprising facts about the animal kingdom (Bees never sleep! Starfish don't have brains!) are illustrated with whimsical detail in this charming collection. (7-12)

LouLou and Pea and the Mural Mystery by Jill Diamond - Lou Lou Bombay and Peacock Pearl have been best friends since first grade. Every Friday afternoon, they get together in Lou Lou's backyard garden for their PSPP (Post-School Pre-Parents) tea party. They chat about school, discuss Pea's latest fashions, and plot the weekend's activities. But all plans go out the window when a series of small crimes crop up around El Corazón, their quaint and quirky neighborhood, right before the Día de Los Muertos procession. First, Pea's cousin's quinceañera dress is tragically ruined. Then Lou Lou's beloved camellia bush, Pinky, suffers a serious blow. And that's just the beginning! When clues start to appear in El Corazón's outdoor murals, the best friends join forces, using Lou Lou's floral expertise and Pea's artistic genius to solve the mysteries. (7-10)

Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke - Jack might be the only kid in the world who's dreading summer. But he's got a good reason: summer is when his single mom takes a second job and leaves him at home to watch his autistic kid sister, Maddy. It's a lot of responsibility, and it's boring, too, because Maddy doesn't talk. Ever. But then, one day at the flea market, Maddy does talk―to tell Jack to trade their mom's car for a box of mysterious seeds. It's the best mistake Jack has ever made. In Mighty Jack, what starts as a normal little garden out back behind the house quickly grows up into a wild, magical jungle with tiny onion babies running amok; huge, pink pumpkins that bite; and, on one moonlit night that changes everything…a dragon. (7-10)

A Long Pitch Home by Natalie Dias Lorenzi - Ten-year-old Bilal liked his life back home in Pakistan. He was a star on his cricket team. But when his father suddenly sends the family to live with their aunt and uncle in America, nothing is familiar. While Bilal tries to keep up with his cousin Jalaal by joining a baseball league and practicing his English, he wonders when his father will join the family in Virginia. Maybe if Bilal can prove himself on the pitcher’s mound, his father will make it to see him play. But playing baseball means navigating relation-ships with the guys, and with Jordan, the only girl on the team—the player no one but Bilal wants to be friends with. A sensitive and endearing contemporary novel about family, friends, and assimilation. (8-12)

The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer - Alex and Conner Bailey's world is about to change, in this fast-paced adventure that uniquely combines our modern day world with the enchanting realm of classic fairy tales. The Land of Stories tells the tale of twins Alex and Conner. Through the mysterious powers of a cherished book of stories, they leave their world behind and find themselves in a foreign land full of wonder and magic where they come face-to-face with the fairy tale characters they grew up reading about. But after a series of encounters with witches, wolves, goblins, and trolls alike, getting back home is going to be harder than they thought. (7-12)

Like Magic by Elaine Vickers - This sweet middle grade novel featuring a diverse cast of characters proves that friendship can be just around the corner. For three 10-year-old girls, their once simple worlds are starting to feel too big. Painfully shy Grace dreads starting fifth grade now that her best friend has moved away. Jada hopes she’ll stop feeling so alone if she finds the mother who left years ago. And Malia fears the arrival of her new baby sister will forever change the family she loves. When the girls each find a mysterious treasure box in their library and begin to fill the box with their own precious things, they start to feel less alone. But it’s up to Grace, Jada, and Malia to take the treasures and turn them into something more: true friendship.

The Way Things Work Now by David MacCaulay - Explainer-in-Chief David Macaulay updates the worldwide bestseller The New Way Things Work to capture the latest developments in the technology that most impacts our lives. Famously packed with information on the inner workings of everything from windmills to Wi-Fi, this extraordinary and humorous book both guides readers through the fundamental principles of machines, and shows how the developments of the past are building the world of tomorrow. This sweepingly revised edition embraces all of the latest developments, from touchscreens to 3D printers. (8-12)

The Most Important Thing: Stories about Sons, Fathers, and Grandfathers by Avi - One of the most beloved writers of our time presents seven short stories exploring the vital ties between fathers and sons. Luke sees the ghost of his father but can’t figure out what Dad wants him to do. Paul takes a camping trip with the grandfather he’s just met and discovers what lies behind the man’s erratic behavior. Ryan has some surprising questions when he interviews his prospective stepfather for the job. In a compellingly honest collection of stories, multiple-award-winning author Avi introduces seven boys—boys with fathers at home and boys whose fathers have left, boys who spend most of their time with their grandfathers and boys who would rather spend time with anyone but the men in their lives. By turns heartbreaking, hopeful, and funny, the stories show us boys seeking acceptance, guidance, or just someone to look up to. Each one shines a different light on the question "What is the most important thing a father can do for his son?" (8-12)

Garvey’s Choice by Nikki Grimes - Garvey’s father has always wanted Garvey to be athletic, but Garvey is interested in astronomy, science fiction, and reading—anything but sports. Feeling like a failure, he comforts himself with food. Garvey is kind, funny, smart, a loyal friend, and he is also overweight, teased by bullies, and lonely. When his only friend encourages him to join the school chorus, Garvey’s life changes. The chorus finds a new soloist in Garvey, and through chorus, Garvey finds a way to accept himself, and a way to finally reach his distant father—by speaking the language of music instead of the language of sports. This emotionally resonant novel in verse by award-winning author Nikki Grimes celebrates choosing to be true to yourself. (8-12)

Unidentified Suburban Object by Mike Jung - Chloe Cho is curious about her cultural heritage. Her parents were born in Korea but never speak of their time or families there, no matter how often Chloe asks. The only Asian American in her school, Chloe is excited when her new history teacher is also Korean, but alarmed to learn of an assignment where she needs to interview her parents to share a family story. She is finally able to convince her father to tell her one but receives an F on the assignment and is accused of plagiarism. When Chloe confronts her father, showing him a website that retells the account he claimed happened to his uncle, he must finally tell her the truth. A game-changing family secret is revealed that alters Chloe's perception of herself and the genre of the novel. Jung spends a lot of time hammering home how unwilling Chloe's parents are to speak of their past, making their secret a very welcome and original surprise and giving the novel some needed energy. Chloe's response to her parents' news ripples into every corner of her life. Furious she's been lied to, she rebels against not only her parents but her friends and teachers as well. While Chloe herself is a gifted student, the book has enough twists and humor to broaden the audience to include reluctant readers. (9-12)

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