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May Book Chat with the Youth Services Team

Posted about 4 weeks 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:  Maker Comics- Survive the Outdoors by Mike Lawrence (ages 5 and up)

Genevievre recommends: Song of Silver, Flame Like Night by Amélie Wen Zhao (ages 14 and up)

Lan’s mother was murdered in front of her by Elantian colonizers when she was just a child. Now, she spends her days hunting for clues about her mother’s murder and the secret mark she left behind, and by night, she works as a songgirl in a tea house. Zen, a practitioner of the outlawed old magic, crosses paths with Lan and recognizes that although she is unaware, she also comes from a legacy of old magic. When the Elantians take notice of Lan and attack her, Zen makes the choice to spare her life, risking his own in the process. Thus starts a perilous journey to escape and then a quest to liberate their homeland. An epic fantasy based on Chinese mythology, this book will appeal to action-packed fantasy lovers, fans of romantic slowburns, and those interested in themes such as self-discovery, resilience, and fighting back against oppression.  

Lisa recommends: Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney (ages 3-8)

My book recommendation for this month is a classic: Miss Rumphius written and illustrated by Barbara Cooney.  The story’s main character is Alice who is challenged by her grandfather that in her life she must “do something to make the world more beautiful”.  Alice grows up and lives by the sea, works as a librarian and starts traveling around the world.  As she grows older, she keeps her promise to her grandfather to make the world beautiful.  This book depicts female empowerment, diverse cultures and finding the beauty wherever you are planted. It is a story that stays with you!

Heather recommends: Front Desk by Kelly Yang (ages 8-12)

Sarah recommends:  Cranky Chicken by Katherine Battersby (ages 6-9)

From eyebrows to feet, everything about Cranky Chicken is, well, cranky. It’s always been this way. But one day, Cranky meets a friendly and happy worm who simply wants to be friends and show Cranky that maybe there’s more to life than crankiness. This book contains three stories in one – taking you on laugh-out-loud adventures with these two BFFs (Best Feathered Friends). This one is for fans of Narwhal and Jelly and The Bad Guys – with humor, sarcasm, wit, and feel-good fun. The tales of this dynamic duo are sure to warm the hearts of all ages. Pick it up today to find out why the chicken really crossed the road!

Katie recommends:  Cinnamon Bun, I Love You 1 by Amy Schwartz (ages 0-8)

This is the perfect book to read over and over with your little one. The sweet story shows a variety of caregivers interacting and playing with their babies and toddlers.  Counting and rhyming are both important early literacy skills to practice and this book gives the perfect opportunity. Your toddler can complete the rhyme on each page, all while counting to 10! While the text is simple, the illustrations also offer more things to discuss like “What sound does a bee make?” and “What pattern is on the baby’s shirt?”.

Rachel recommends:  Otherwoods by Justine Pucella Winans (ages 8-12)

River Rydell has the ability to see (and be seen by) spirits and monsters, not that anyone has ever believed them when they said as much. So, they stopped. Saying so, that is. River can’t stop seeing monsters and spirits any more than they can stop their parents from entering their room without knocking, their history teacher from deadnaming them, or creepy portals to the eponymous Otherwoods popping up. But River is afraid of just about everything, and has a strict no, nope, absolutely not policy towards heroic adventures in nightmare realms. Until a monster spirits away Avery, River’s super cool classmate-and-hopefully-friend-and-maaaaybe-something-else. Now, with the help of Xavier (a teenage spirit) and Pancakes (a cat), River needs to travel into the heart of The Otherwoods to bring Avery home.

The Otherwoods is a story about moving through your fear, and facing monsters both fantastical and mundane.

George recommends:   Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas (ages 13-18)

A great read about a trans teen named Yadriel who, not only having to deal with friends and family accepting his gender, but who also holds a secret that his community has kept for generations.  Yadriel’s Latinx community helps the dead to cross over; sometimes peacefully, but other times violently.  When one of their own community goes missing one night, Yadriel and his best friend Maritza investigate the events, which tie into other disappearances of teens in the city of Los Angeles.  To top it all off, the ghost of one of those missing teens joins the team to find out what happened to him, leading to an impossible romance for Yadriel.  A ghost and a human falling in love?  Can Yadriel make it work with his new love interest Julian?  This is a great book for tweens and teens, especially for the LGBTQ+ community.

April recommends:  The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colber (ages 8-12)

This book follows Alberta, a 12-year-old girl from California. She is a captivating character who is skilled at surfing; a prominent aspect of this book that I loved. The plot revolves around Alberta meeting Edie, the new and only black girl her age in their predominantly white town. The heartwarming and relatable friendship between Alberta and Edie kept me rooting for both of them throughout. The book’s handling of racism is subtle yet impactful, making it accessible for young African American readers. While the setting portrays clueless individuals, it effectively addresses racist microaggressions. Overall, I believe this book is an exceptional and engaging read for 4th, 5th, and 6th graders. It’s a wonderful middle-grade novel-a perfect ‘slice of life’ story that delves into important themes. I highly recommend it for inclusion in every public school library.

Mirissa recommends: How to Become a Planet by Nicole Melleby  (ages 9-12)

A perfect read for Mental Health Awareness Month, this book follows Pluto Timoney through a summer of coming to terms with a new depression diagnosis. As her mother struggles to cope with the changes her daughter is going through, she explores options like sending Pluto to live with her father in New York City or enlisting the help of a new school tutor. Meanwhile, a new friend enters Pluto’s orbit and the pair come up with a plan to get things back to normal. But does Pluto even know what “normal” is anymore? And does she even want it? By the end of the book, you’ll have a better understanding of Pluto’s experience and an appreciation for the entire constellation of support—flawed as some of them may be—surrounding her.

Summer recommends: My Mama is a Work of Art by Hana Acabado (ages 4-8)

This picture book is a delightful celebration of tattooed mommas. The main character loves his mother’s permanent decorations, and adoringly describes the imagery across her skin. He also celebrates the art on his neighbors, his doctor, his teacher, and even his grandparents! (This story is extra fitting for Richmonders, who are some of the most tattooed people in the nation.) He gets to come along to the shop while his mama gets more ink. The illustrations are a beautiful reminder of the uniqueness and diversity of our fellow humans. Additionally, Acabado is Filipina, making this book a great pick not only for Mother’s Day but also Asian American Heritage Month.

Nicole recommends:  This Vicious Grace by Emily Thiede (ages 13-18)

Emily Thiede’s debut fantasy novel, This Vicious Grace, is a thrilling journey through a world of magic, betrayal, and desperate survival. Alessa’s unique gift becomes both a blessing and a curse as she races against time to find a partner and save her island from impending doom. The dynamic between Alessa and Dante, her hired protector with dark secrets, adds a layer of tension and romance that keeps readers hooked until the heart-pounding conclusion. Thiede’s vivid storytelling and captivating characters make This Vicious Grace a must-read for fantasy enthusiasts craving adventure and intrigue.


This picture book is full of different types of sheep, but where is the green sheep??? I recently learned that this classic picture book from acclaimed author and early literacy advocate Mem Fox is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and it’s no surprise that it’s still going strong. The rhyming text is simple and rhythmic, and just right for building vocabulary and concepts as we encounter a variety of other sheep along the way to answering the repeating question, “But where is the green sheep?”
This is one one my favorite books to read with toddlers and preschoolers. It’s also a good pick for beginning readers due to its simple rhyming text, repetition, and clear illustrations for context clues.

Maddy recommends: A Perfectly Messed-Up Story by Patrick McDonnell (ages 2-5)

Louie is having a hard time; someone keeps messing up his story! First there’s jelly, then fingerprints, even ORANGE JUICE. Along the way, he learns that everything is just fine, even when its messy.

Kayleigh recommends: Too Many Golems by Jane Yolen & Maya Schleifer (ages 5-8)

In celebration of Jewish American Heritage Month, I recommend Too Many Golems by Jane Yolen and Maya Schleifer. This fun picture book follows Abi, a young Jewish boy who keeps accidentally getting in trouble. Abi is struggling in Hebrew school, and his latest bout of mischief turns into stealing an old, frayed scroll from the synagogue basement to practice his Hebrew with. He practices reading from the scroll so dramatically that he manages to summon not one, not two, but TEN golems! These massive clay men from Jewish folktale think they’re there to fight to protect the Jewish community, but Abi only has one real enemy…the Hebrew language. Abi and his ten golems work together to help him conquer Hebrew and grow into a confident young man!

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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