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April Book Chat with the Youth Services Team

Posted about 1 month ago by Lisa Wiertel

Welcome to the another installment in our series of blog posts featuring children’s books we’re currently loving! “Book Chat with the Youth Services Team” features one book recommendation from each of our Youth Services team members. We cover a variety of books from fiction to non-fiction, picture books to chapter books, graphic novels and more! We hope that this month’s reading recommendations get you excited about some awesome new books we’ve added to our collection as well as some oldies but goodies. Enjoy!

Beth recommends:  Grandmas Are The Greatest by Ben Faulks (ages 2 and up)

Genevievre recommends: Bright Red Fruit by Safia Elhillo (ages 13-18)

In celebration of both National Poetry Month and Arab-American Heritage Month, I recommend Bright Red Fruit, a novel in verse by Safia Elhillo. Samira, a 16 year old Sudanese-American girl, growing up in Washington DC, has a reputation as a boy crazy “bad girl” even though she’s never even been kissed. Because of these rumors, her traditional mother grounds her and prevents her from going out to parties with her friends or dressing like an American teenager. With nowhere to go, Samira turns to an online poetry forum as an outlet for her emotions and frustrations, and in doing so she meets and falls for Horus, a 25 year old poet in the slam poetry scene. Interwoven with the story of Persephone, Hades, and Demeter, this novel tackles tough themes of coming of age, relationships with family, cultural identity, finding your own voice, grooming and vulnerability, freedom of expression, and resilience. If you’re a fan of books like The Poet X, this one’s for you!

Lisa recommends: The Salamander Room by Anne Mazer (ages 0-8)

Brian finds a bright orange salamander and brings him home.  This starts a back and forth conversation with his mother on what he will need to provide for his salamander if he is to live in Brian’s room.  Brian answers each question his mother poses as his room turns into the perfect forest habitat for him and his salamander.  The simple prose of the author and the illustrations by Steve Johnson are inviting and sweet. I love this book for its ability to be suited for a wide range of ages. It can be read to babies and toddlers, but can also foster further conversations with preschoolers and school-age children. If your child loves the outdoors, they will love this book!

Heather recommends: Rain! by Linda Ashman  (ages 4-8)

We all know the saying: April showers bring May flowers! Love it or hate it, April is often one of the rainiest months of the year, and some people are better at seeing the fun in this soggy season than others. Rain! by Linda Ashman features both types of people, contrasting the joy of a young boy pretending to be a frog on a rainy day with a grouchy old man who is no fan of the rain. As their paths cross, will this adorable frog-boy be able to change the old man’s tune? Sparse text gets the point across while also allowing readers to focus on the detailed illustrations reflecting city life on a rainy day, adding a layer of charm to an already charming rainy day story.

Sarah recommends: Plant The Tiny Seed by Christie Matheson (Ages 2-5)

April brings so many occasions and themes to celebrate – Spring, gardening, weather, Earth Day, insects, and more! My pick for this month is a book that explores all of these topics in a fun, engaging way. Plant The Tiny Seed is an interactive picture book that invites readers to tap, clap, wave, and more to help tiny seeds bloom into beautiful flowers. This book teaches young children about the lifecycle of a seed and showcases many garden friends like bees, birds, and butterflies. You’ll also explore weather and gardening. With bright watercolor art and lots of movement to get those wiggles out, this book is a crowd pleaser for all ages!

Madison recommends: Sitti’s Bird by Malak Matar (ages 8-11)

Recently a friend asked me for age-appropriate book recommendations about the current conflict in Palestine, and luckily RPL has Sitti’s Bird by Malak Matar in the collection. Sitti’s Bird is a beautifully written and heartwarming story that captures the essence of family, tradition, and resilience. Set against the backdrop of Palestinian culture, the book follows the journey of a young girl named Muna who discovers a sense of connection and comfort through her grandmother, Sitti’s, cherished canary. Readers watch as Muna discovers her own unique gift and uses it to bring joy to her community during a frightening time. The book not only sheds light on the importance of heritage and the bonds between generations but also explores themes of loss, hope, and the power of small acts of kindness. For readers age 8 – 11 years old, Sitti’s Bird is a charming story that leaves a lasting impression on the reader.

Katie recommends:  Miguel’s Community Garden by JaNay Brown-Wood (ages 3-7)

Miguel is trying to pick sunflowers for a garden party, but he isn’t sure where to find them. He needs your help! Young children will have fun pointing out a variety of colors and learning fruit and vegetable vocabulary. This book is very interactive and encourages discussion between children and their grownups. Plus, it’s a perfect book to read to get ready for the Spring gardening season!


Rachel recommends:  Fiona’s Luck by Teresa Bateman (ages 6-9)

Fiona is living through a very unlucky time in long ago Ireland. Why is it such an unlucky time? Because the king of the leprechauns has gathered up and hoarded all the luck in the land in a chest! Fiona may not have luck, but she has the brains to pretend to have enough luck to trick the king into releasing the luck he’s hidden away. When the greedy leprechaun king demands that Fiona give her luck to him, Fiona insists that she has no luck. The king creates a series of tests for her to prove it. If she’s lying about not having luck, he gets her luck. If Fiona is telling the truth, she gets a wish worth exactly the amount of luck she actually has: nothing. A wish worth nothing isn’t anything a person can use to save the land! Or is it?

April recommends:  Big and Small and In-Between by Carter Higgins (age 5-8)

Big and Small and In-Between is a picture book aimed at children aged 5 to 8, delving into life’s everyday moments to explore the lasting impact of experiences and the spectrum of emotions, from the significant to the subtle. This innovative book is segmented into four sections, each prefaced with a unique paper cutout or fold that hints at the upcoming page. Subsequent spreads invite readers to immerse themselves in universally recognizable experiences, with accompanying artwork that transforms each page into a delightful surprise. Through a clever interplay of white space, detail, color, and text, the illustrations skillfully frame, wash, twist, and sparkle, creating captivating visual journey. “Big and Small and In-Between” is a poignant, beautifully crafted book that captivates with its beauty, unexpectedness, and touch of mystery.

Mirissa recommends: Moonlight by Helen V. Griffith  (ages 4-8)

This picture book uses metaphor and simile to create a cozy tale. Rabbit is excited for the moon to rise, but he’s too tired. When the moon finally begins to shine down on the sleepy meadow, rhyming text describes how it appears to coat everything it touches with a warm and buttery glow—including Rabbit’s vegetable dreams. The illustrations carry on this imagery, casting everything in a soft, yellow halo. While the metaphor might be lost on younger readers, the sweetness and dreaminess won’t be, making it a perfect spring bedtime read.

Summer recommends: Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein (ages 9-12)

Because April is National Poetry month, I’ve chosen to highlight one of my favorite poetry collections from my youth. Where the Sidewalk Ends is a modern classic, featuring Shel Silverstein’s trademark wit, charm, and delightful illustrations. The volume opens with “Invitation:” If you are a dreamer, come in, / If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, / A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer… and goes on to tell the stories of Melinda Mae, Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout, Captain Hook, and more. Sidewalk is also celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, a perfect reason to check out a copy. Kids and adults alike will enjoy this fun collection of poetry.

Joan recommends: Born Reading: 20 Stories of Women Reading Their Way into History by Kathleen Krull and Virginia Lohhagen; Illustrated by Aura Lewis (AGES 8 – 12)

“Girls who read become women who lead,” write the authors of this collective biography profiling 20 extraordinary women who have changed the world. The 20 profiles- each 3-4 pages long and written in an upbeat, attention-grabbing style- include influential women in STEM/STEAM, politics, literature, sports, and more. They are organized by birthdate, beginning with Cleopatra, and ending with Marley Dias. Don’t forget to check out the extras in the back of the book. You’ll find Feminist Fun Facts, More Girls with Books (short bios of another 32 notable women), Activities to Keep Reading (ideas for bookish activities to spread the joy of reading), as well as a thoughtful list of resources. In addition to the easy to read, interesting, and inspiring stories that make up the collection, I appreciated its format, which makes it very easy to put down and pick back up when you’re ready for more.

Maddy recommends: Dread Nation: Rise Up by Justina Ireland (ages 14-17)

The Civil War ended when the dead rose. Jane has been raised as an Attendant, but this isn’t the life she wants. When families start going missing from her town, Jane is caught up in dangers she could not imagine. The dead are the least of her worries. This book is perfect for readers who like historical fiction with a twist. It’s fun, engaging, and will leave you wondering what is going to happen next.

Kayleigh recommends: The Moth Keeper by K. O’Neill (ages 8-12)

This sparse, atmospheric graphic novel tells a story of a young girl named Anya who has just taken on the responsibility of becoming the Moth Keeper, spending her nights guarding the Moon-Moths that pollinate the magic Night-Flower tree that her whole village relies on to survive. But the more lonely nights Anya spends with the Moths, the more the vast emptiness of the night begins to wear on her, making her long for the warmth of the day, no matter what cost to her or her village. Sometimes heartwarming, sometimes eerie, The Moth Keeper tenderly explores loneliness and community and darkness and warmth with limited texts but gorgeously colored illustrations that tell an emotional and evocative story.

Well, readers, that’s a wrap! Check back again next month for some more fabulous reading recommendations. Until then, happy reading!

Lisa Wiertel

Lisa Wiertel is a Youth Services Librarian working out of the Westover Hills branch. She is a native of Buffalo, NY (Go Bills!), but Virginia has been home for a long time. She is a mixed media artist, long distance hiker, and a nature lover. She loves books where she can explore her love of history that also challenge her way of thinking.

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