Staff Picks

The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis

In 1901, two boys become friends in eastern Canada.  Benji is a black youth who intends to become a newspaperman.  His pal is a red-haired Irish boy named Alvin.  Alvin wants to become a scientist.  The duo met at a forensics competition. Benji has landed an apprenticeship with a local newspaper and is always thinking of his next story. Alvin lives with his father and Grandma. While exploring the woods, they encounter the “Madman of Piney Woods,” who turns out to be a Civil War veteran who has become a hermit.

El Deafo by Cece Bell

Cece was four when she got meningitis and lost her hearing.    As she prepares for school, she gets a sonic ear which is a microphone and amplifier device.  It works so well, she can even hear when her teacher goes to the bathroom. The sonic ear is a bulky box that she wears on her chest, it’s hot in summer and cold in the winter and pretty obvious.  Throughout the book, Cece really just wants a true best friend, a sidekick.  So she creates a superhero character for herself, El Deafo! 

Audrey (Cow) by Dan Bar-el

Just before Audrey’s mother was taken away on a truck to Abbott’s War, she told Audrey a story about another cow that escaped from a truck and lived in a forest. (Animals on the farm don’t know what Abbott’s War is; they just know it’s bad.)  Audrey tells this story to her farm animal friends and when news comes down that Audrey is to leave the farm, Audrey and Eddie (a sheepdog) hatch a plan.  On the day Audrey has to leave she escapes to the forest where a whole other set of problems (and friends) arise.

Paper Love by Sarah Wildman

Twenty-something Sarah Wildman stumbles across a secreted cache of photographs during the clean out of her late grandparent’s family home in New England. Sarah’s grandfather, Karl Wildman, emigrated from Vienna during the war establishing a family medical practice in Pittsfield, Massachusetts before marrying Sarah’s grandmother during the early 1940’s. These photographs, featuring a beautiful young woman and prominently signed “Your, Valy,” signal the beginning of Sarah’s odyssey to learn the story behind the woman her grandfather loved and left behind in occupied Berlin.

Get Happy by Mary Amato

Minerva has been dropping hints for months that she wants a ukulele for her sixteenth birthday.  Instead, her mom gives her a sweater.  But when she answers the door for FedEx, she receives a gift from her father - whom she hasn’t seen or heard from since she was two.  She and her friend audition at Get Happy where they will sing and perform at birthday parties, to earn money to buy the ukulele. Life starts looking up for Minerva, except that she can’t get her dad’s gift off her mind. Who is he, and why is he reaching out after all this time?

Eddie Red Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile by Marcia Wells

Edmund is an only child living in Manhattan with his parents.  He is a talented artist, and with his photographic memory, he is able to make remarkable sketches of people.  Hence, he is recruited by the police department to draw people he sees in art museums who might be part of an art theft ring. His police handler is Detective Bovano, who keeps Edmund safe during the investigation.

Mr. Max: The Book of Lost Things by Cynthia Voigt

Max is almost thirteen when his parents go to India to start a theatrical company.  The problem is, the ship they were supposed to sail on doesn’t exist.  Max needs a way to make a living after they disappear, so he starts a business solving problems and recovering items for clients. And he investigates what happened to his parents.  He uses a number of their theatrical costumes as he goes about this work around town, sometimes with comic effect.

Capture the Flag by Kate Messner

Three seventh graders, Anna, Jose, and Henry, meet when they are snowed in at the Washington, D.C. airport. They discover that each of them has a connection to the Silver Jaguar Society, a secret society dedicated to protecting the world’s artifacts. When the flag that inspired The Star Spangled Banner is stolen from the Smithsonian, the kids figure out the flag is at the airport and go after it and the thieves.

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

This first book in a new series from the author of the Legend trilogy is an imaginative dystopian thriller. Years after a blood plague devastated the population of Kenettra, killing every adult and many of the children with the sickness, the surviving children and teenagers are known as malfettos. All of the malfettos carry scars from their illness, and some emerged with unusual powers.

Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned” by Lena Dunham

Even if you’ve never heard of the hit HBO show “Girls” or its creator & star, Lena Dunham, there is much to enjoy in this collection of biographical essays. Focusing on sex, love, friendship, and work, Dunham happily shares all the details of her privileged NYC upbringing, awkward sexual encounters & her lifelong struggle with her body image. Some of the most enjoyable stories are about her mother, a well-known artist who may or may not have invented the selfie.

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