“Share, Big Bear, Share!” by Maureen Wright, illustrated by Will Hillenbrand
Big Bear has a huge bucket of berries and his forest friends would love to share in his bounty. Unfortunately, Bear is oblivious to the desire apparent upon the sweet, earnest faces of the other woodland critters. Young listeners will enjoy the comedic misunderstandings that arise from Bear’s poor listening skills. The repetitive refrain, “Share, Big Bear, Share” invites preschoolers to actively participate and co-narrate the story and textured, mixed-media illustrations highlight this seasonally appropriate picture book about overcoming greed. Recommended for ages 3 to 7.
“I Want That Nut!” by Madeline Valentine
This silly tale of two rodents and one big, beautiful nut, masterfully explores competing feelings of selfishness and selflessness. When a nut lands in front of Mouse and Chipmunk, each attempts to convince the other to take it until Chipmunk agrees to do so. Generosity then gives way to remorse and covetous feelings and friendship is forgotten as the two rodents take turns stealing the nut from one another until Squirrel returns to claim the treat and the friends apologize. The balance of words and pictures makes this story an ideal choice for emerging readers. This is also a perfect anecdote for children struggling with the development of social emotional skills like sharing, apologizing and being a good friend. Recommended for ages 3 to 7.
“Invictus” by Ryan Graudin
Fans of “Doctor Who,” “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Firefly” will enjoy this high-octane, literary space opera. Journey through time with 17-year-old Farway and his motley crew of thieves as they pull off black market heists and race against the clock to save the multiverse from a destructive force known as the Fade. Graudin’s world-building is not to be missed, and she successfully weaves together elements of romance, sci-fi and historical fiction. The past and future are treated with equal consideration and richly detailed. The diverse, well-developed cast adds a wildly enchanting layer to a novel that is perfect for both teen and adult readers.
“The Exo Project” by Andrew DeYoung
In the near future, Earth is dying, and the global government has developed a plan, the Exo Project, which offers a new hope for humanity. Matthew, 17, must make a choice: live out his life on a doomed planet Earth, or fund his mother’s cancer treatment by traveling across time and space to Planet H-240 to find a new home for humans. A hundred light years away, Matthew meets Kiva, a member of an alien race living on the exo-planet, and must decide whether or not to reveal the planet is capable of sustaining life. Overall, The Exo Project is a solid, thought-provoking, dystopian novel from first-time author DeYoung. This fast-paced, sci-fi tale is filled with plenty of angst and romance — making it the perfect gateway book for newcomers to the genre, and those seeking to expand their reading tastes.
“The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell: Tales of a 6’ 4”, African American, Heterosexual, Cisgender, Left-Leaning, Asthmatic, Black and Proud Blerd, Mama’s Boy, Dad, and Stand-Up Comedian” by W. Kamau Bell
Bell, a socio-political comedian and host of Emmy-nominated hit CNN docuseries “United Shades of America” and the podcast “Denzel Washington Is the Greatest Actor of All Time Period,” invites the reader to view the world through an alternative lens. He not only illuminates everyday examples of racism, but explores the intersection of racism and other forms of systematic discrimination through a collection of personal stories on fatherhood, interracial marriage and politics. These funny, sarcastic, heartfelt and somber recollections deconstruct and challenge societal perceptions of race, gender and class. Bell’s nuanced memoir is a complex and informative social critique. The audiobook version of Bell’s memoir is particularly engaging, and adds a degree of intimacy.
“The Rules of Magic” by Alice Hoffman
Hoffman returns to the mystical universe of the Owens family 22 years after her novel “Practical Magic” became a runaway bestseller. This prequel focuses on Susanna Owens’ three children — each unique, gifted and haunted by a familial curse that began in 1620. Centuries later, the Owens children journey from their home in New York City to visit their Aunt Isabelle in Massachusetts. There they unearth family secrets and discover there is something mysterious about them. They seek to escape the curse and come to realize they must find the inner strength to put their powers to use. The combination of magic, fairy-tale threads and romance is a bewitching concoction, while the focus on magical realism will please longtime readers.
— Roxanne M. Renteria, Deschutes Public Library community librarian