Murder Mystery: A Review of Monsters Among Us

Monsters Among Us
Written by Monica Rodden
Published by Crown Books for Young Readers
Available now
Ages 14+

Catherine Ellers is not your typical college student home for winter break. She is reeling from a trauma she experienced just days before the end of her first semester. Her parents are worried, but she remains distant. Then, a young girl Catherine used to babysit is murdered. Rather than letting grief overcome her, she sets out to solve the murder. She enlists the help of a childhood friend and a new school acquaintance. The three go on a crazy journey to find the person who killed an innocent girl. But along the way, Catherine discovers she is not the only one keeping secrets.

Monsters Among Us is a dark and unsettling story about the reality of tragedy and the people we think we know. Rodden does an excellent job immersing the reader into the story. Using the omniscient 3rd person, her writing allows us to see the stories of all the characters, connecting us to their emotions. At times, the language can make the reader uncomfortable, which brings understanding to the seriousness of the trauma described in the book. It is not exactly a retelling of Wuthering Heights, but it has similar elements to the classic: the lengths one will go for love sometimes turn wicked. This murder mystery for young adults tells a story of pain, fear, and love, what it is like living with these overwhelming emotions, and how to face them head on.

Butler Bookshelf

This week, the Butler Bookshelf features the nonfiction read A year full of Celebrations and Festivals by Christopher Corr. This book invites you to learn about and celebrate over 90 festivals from around the world including Holi and La Tomatina. It is a fun read that enhances our knowledge of the cultures around us. For more great nonfiction reads about our world, check out the list below!

Kaleidoscope of Creatures: The Colors of Nature Explained
Written by Cath Ard and Illustrated by Greer Stothers
Published by Wide Eyed Editions
Available now!

A Year Full of Celebrations and Festivals
Written and Illustrated by Christopher Corr
Published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Available now!

What’s Inside A Flower?: And Other Questions About Science and Nature
Written by Rachel Ignotofsky
Published by Crown Books for Young Readers
Available now!

Old Enough to Save the Planet
Written by Loll Kirby and Illustrated by Adelina Lirius
Published by Harry N. Abrams
Available now!

From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves
Written by Vivian Kirkfield and Illustrated by Gilbert Ford
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers
Available now!

Try It!: How Frieda Caplan Changed the Way We Eat
Written by Mara Rockliff and Illustrated by Giselle Potter
Published by Beach Lane Books
Available now!

Bright World: A Review of The Hazards of Love

The Hazards of Love, Vol. 1: Bright World
Written and illustrated by Stan Stanley
Published by Oni Press
Available March 30, 2021
Ages 14+

Amparo knows they have to be a better person if they’re going to make their mother and abuela proud—and have a chance with their rule-following crush, Iolanthe. But where to start? They’ve already wound up with another suspension after pulling the fire alarm at school. When a smooth-talking, magical cat appears in Amparo’s window, it seems to be the key to figuring it out: all the cat needs is Amparo’s name and a drop of their blood. But then the cat steals Amparo’s body and name, and Amparo find themselves transported from Queens to a new terrifying, dizzy land called Bright World. This new world is treacherous: its economy is built on memories, and the world is full of magical creatures, all who want a taste of human flesh. When Amparo finds themselves nameless and ensnared in an indentured servitude scheme, they have to use their wiles to escape—even if it means seeking refuge with a menacing deer, El Ciervo, and taking on a new name, Fawn. The Hazards of Love is a fast-paced, delectable, creepy read. Stan Stanley’s Amparo-turned-Fawn is a wonderfully complex character, and the supporting cast are fully realized and intriguing. Stanley’s imagery, which splits its time between Queens and Bright World, is critical to the storytelling; Bright World is exactly that: filled with bright colors, as well as cars equipped with praying mantis legs rather than tires. But those bright colors are just at first glance. As Fawn gets closer to the truth of their new master El Ciervo, the images get more shadowy and steeped in noir. The panel storytelling divides The Hazards of Love into chapters, each chapter uncovering a new development in this long form mystery. The Hazards of Love is a collection of the first twelve installments of Stan Stanley’s black-and-white web comic; fans of Volume 1 can check out her website for regular updates.

Butler Bookshelf

This week, the Butler Bookshelf features The Beautiful Struggle: A memoir by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Coates describes his struggles growing up with a father who used tough love to raise him to be a proud black man in a racist society. But Coates just wanted to hang out and read comic books. His struggle to live up to his father’s expectations while also trying to be true to himself makes for a compelling memoir. For more amazing stories featuring African American protagonists, check out the list below!

The Year I Flew Away
Written by Marie Arnold
Published by Versify
Available now!

The Beautiful Struggle: A Memoir (Adapted for Young Readers)
Written by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Published by Delacorte Press
Available now!

Your Corner Dark
Written by Desmond Hall
Published by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Available now!

Sprouting Wings: The True Story of James Herman Banning, the First African American Pilot to Fly Across The United States
Written by Louisa Jagger and Illustrated by Shari Becker
Published by Crown Books for Young Readers
Available now!

Little People, Big Dreams: Prince
Written by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara and Illustrated by Cachetejack
Published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Available now!

Jump at the Sun: The True Life Tale of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston
Written by Alicia D. Williams and Illustrated by Jacqueline Alcantara
Published by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Available now!

In Memory of Mary Wilson: A Non-Review of We Are The Supremes—Friends That Change the World

We Are The Supremes—Friends That Change the World
Zoë Tucker, illustrated by Salini Perera
Wide Eyed Editions
January 12, 2021
Ages 5-8

Growing up in Metro Detroit, many a car ride started as a negotiation with my Dad. His radio was “stuck” on the golden oldies station, and we wanted to listen to—literally—anything else. Thanks to parental privilege, or poor negotiating skills, I had an early and frequent exposure to the Supremes. And it has taken quite a while for me to appreciate it.

I picked up Zoë Tucker and Salini Perera’s We Are The Supremes for a Black History Month book list. Just a week later, with the passing of Mary Wilson, I was distracted and plans changed. Their biography of the group begins when Wilson was a high school student on the east side of Detroit and just meeting aspiring singers Florence Ballard and Diana Ross. Tucker focuses on the girls’ friendship and perseverance in forming the Primettes (their original name), convincing Berry Gordy of Motown Records to sign them, and their rise to stardom against the backdrop of the civil rights movement. Tucker leaves out, or glosses over, their difficult childhoods in the Brewster-Douglas Housing Project, most of the drama surrounding the coming and going of group members, and the racism they faced as black female musicians, but does include these themes in the back matter. The vibrant and graphic digital illustrations capture the 1950s aesthetic (saddle shoes and all) and follow them into the more glamorous 1960s look they are known for.

This high level look at the making of the Supremes might not have enough detail to work as a stand-alone title in the classroom, but would make an interesting addition to a Black History Month unit or an exploration of pop culture changing racial perceptions during the civil rights movement.

Looking for a deeper dive for YA and adult audiences? Or for more information on Mary Wilson’s activism and advocacy for the right of musicians to protect their names, songs, and reputations from being used without their consent (Truth in Music legislation). She also wrote several of her own books on her life and legacy: Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme; Supreme Faith: Someday We’ll Be Together; Supreme Glamour: The Inside Story of the Original Pop Fashionistas.

Thanks, Dad, for the introduction. And thank you, Mary Wilson, for keeping the Supremes alive for all of us.

Butler Bookshelf

This week, the Butler Bookshelf features the fun and silly adventures of Zia in the picture book The Whole Hole Story. Written by Vivian McInerny and illustrated by Ken Lamug, this story follows the imagination and wonder of a little girl as the hole in her pocket gets bigger and bigger. For more great reads, check out the list below!

Rebel Daughter
Written by Lori Banov Kaufmann
Published by Delacorte Press
Available February 9, 2021!

The Mysterious Disappearance of Aidan S.
Written by David Levithan
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Available now!

The Whole Hole Story
Written by Vivian McInerny and Illustrated by Ken Lamug
Published by Versify
Available now!

In A Flash
Written by Donna Jo Napoli
Published by Wendy Lamb Books
Available now!

The Prison Healer
Written by Lynette Noni
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers
Available April 13, 2021!

Hello Jimmy!
Written and Illustrated by Anna Walker
Published by Clarion Books
Available February 9, 2021

New Beginnings: A Review of Some Other Now

Some Other Now
Written by Sarah Everett
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for Young Readers
Available February 23, 2021
Ages 14+

 

Jessi Rumfield’s life was not perfect, living with a depressed bedridden mother and busy father. But, as long as she had Mel, Rowan, and Luke (The Cohens), she was happy. They were her surrogate family—Mel, the mother she needed; Rowan, her best friend; and Luke, the boy she secretly loved (who secretly loved her back). But when Mel got sick, everything changed. Rowan started to distance himself, causing Jessi to question her place in the Cohen family. This led to one fateful night—the night Jessi lost the Cohen family forever, or so she thought. One year later, Luke Cohen returns, asking Jessi to pretend to be his girlfriend to fill his mother’s last days with happy memories. Now, Jessi must face her painful past (and the feelings she still has for Luke) or lose the chance to spend the last moments she will ever have with the woman who gave her a home.

Some Other Now by Sarah Everett explores the themes of love, loss, and the meaning of family. Everett subtly tackles the issue of race, placing Jessi (a biracial child) and the Cohens (Filipino) in the mostly white neighborhood of Winchester. Plot points focused on race, mental health challenges, and the obsession with internet culture and celebrity reflect current events and conversations. Everett takes us through Jessi’s story with alternating chapters of “Then” (the past) and “Now” (the present), skillfully connecting the chapters to one another while also ending each on a cliffhanger. There is a cohesiveness to this narrative with constant twists and turns, keeping the reader engaged in this story of painful realities, courage, and new beginnings.

Butler Bookshelf

This week, the Butler Bookshelf features Like Home by Louisa Onome. It tells the story of Chinelo, a teenage girl who loves her neighborhood and friends but is at risk of losing it all when the neighborhood becomes dangerous. Now Chinelo must fight to keep the place she calls home from turning into something she barely recognizes. For more stories on home and finding the places where we belong, check out the list below!

The Retake
Written by Jen Calonita
Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Available February 23, 2021!

You Are Always Loved: A Story of Hope
Written by Madeleine Dean & Harry Cunnane and Illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown
Published by Random House Books for Young Readers
Available February 16, 2021!

A House for Every Bird
Written by Megan Maynor and Illustrated by Kaylani Juanita
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Available February 16 2021!

The Tale of the Mandarin Duck: A Modern Fable
Written by Bette Midler and Illustrated by Michiko Kakutani
Published by Random House Books for Young Readers
Available February 16, 2021!

Like Home
Written by Louisa Onomé
Published by Delacorte Press
Available February 23, 2021!

Things Seen From Above
Written by Shelley Pearsall
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Available now!

Homecoming: A Review of On The Trapline

On the Trapline
Written by David A. Robertson and illustrated by Julie Flett
Published by Tundra Books, Penguin Random House
Ages 4-8 years
Available May 4, 2021

A boy and his grandpa, Moshom, take a trip north to visit where Moshom grew up, the trapline. “What’s a trapline?” the boy asks Moshom. A trapline is where people hunt animals and live off the land. When the pair arrive from their flight, they join Moshom’s community. Moshom and his friend greet each other by saying, “tansi,” which means “hi” in Swampy Cree. The landscape is different up north, the boy notices, unlike the city. There are houses here, but far apart. “Is this your trapline?” the boy asks. No, Moshom says, this is where we lived after we left the trapline. There is a shore behind the house, and Moshom tell his grandson how he and his brothers and sisters would swim there. The boy imagines what it would be like, swimming and playing with paper boats in the summer. Moshom takes them down a path leading to an old building, the school he went to after they left the trapline. Most of the students only spoke Cree, but had to learn English. They would sneak off so they could speak their language together. The boy imagines speaking Cree there. As they gaze at the trees, the grandson asks again, “Is this your trapline?” No, Moshom says, his trapline is far from there. They continue on to a river. Moshom and the boy climb into a motorboat, and Moshom smiles. On the river, the boy sees beaver dams and eagles. Moshom points and smiles wide, “That’s my trapline.” They pluck saskatoon berries and Moshom tells how when they were hungry, they had to find food. The boy imagines living there and doing all his chores outside. When they are about to leave, Moshom stands with his grandson at the water’s edge and holds his hand tight. As they depart, the boy asks his grandfather if he can see his trapline. Moshom says he can. The boy can, too.

This gentle and stirring picture book captures the relationship between grandfather and grandson, and the stories and experiences that connect them together. Author David A. Robertson bases this story on a trip he took with his father; his father had not seen the trapline where he grew up for seventy years. Robertson reveals the curiosity and imagination of a young child as he considers how his family lived in the past. The prose is gentle and factual, with a recurrent questioning of, “Is this your trapline?” When the pair arrives at the words, “This is my trapline,” the story leans into savoring what this place means. Julie Flett’s illustrations complement the quiet and inviting prose. Flett’s pictures use warm earth tones to convey the wonder and possibilities of the land. Horizons, grass, and water feature prominently in the imagery, as do the humans who dot the landscape. The effect is haunting and infinite, echoing Robertson’s intergenerational story. The picture book is populated with Swampy Cree language, and the back of the book includes a Swampy Cree glossary and pronunciation guide. The back matter also includes an author’s note and an illustrator’s note, where Robertson discusses his inspiration for the book, and Flett discusses her ties to Robertson and their shared Norway House Cree Nation heritage.

Butler Bookshelf

This week on the Butler Bookshelf, we have many books with interesting stories, including picture book No Buddy like a Book by Allan Wolf. It’s fun book that reminds us of the power of reading and how far our imagination can take us. For more great reads, check out the list below!

ParaNorthern and the Chaos Bunny A-Hop-Calypse

Written by Stephanie Cooke and Illustrated by Mari Costa

Published by Etch/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers

Available July 6, 2021!

Ghosted

Written and Illustrated by Michael Fry

Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers

Available now!

Can We Talk About Consent

Written by Justin Hancock and Illustrated by Fuchsia MacAree

Published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Available now!

Road Trip! A Whiskers Hollow Adventure

Written and Illustrated by Steve Light

Published by Candlewick

Available February 9, 2021!

The Star Outside My Window

Written by Onjali Q. Rauf

Published by Random House

Available now!

No Buddy Like a Book

Written by Allan Wolf and Illustrated by Brianna Farley

Published by Candlewick

Available February 9, 2021!