Who Wants to Be Normal?: A Review of Good Different

Good Different
Meg Eden Kuyatt
Scholastic Press
March 7, 2023
Age 8-12

Always follow the rules for “normal” people: no crying in public, smile and nod, tell people you’re “fine.” But Selah doesn’t always want to be normal. In fact, she wants to be a dragon—escaping to fly free above the chaotic world below. She is pretty good at hiding her feelings in order to fit in, until an outburst at school pits Selah against her classmates, the school administration, and her mom. This leaves poetry (and her grandfather) as her only avenues to explore her feelings when speech fails her. A chance encounter with an understanding vendor at FantasyCon opens her eyes to a new definition for her experience—autism.

Kuyatt’s novel in verse follows Selah’s journey as a burgeoning poet and her exploration of neurodivergence as an explanation for the feeling and reactions she has always thought of as weird. Selah’s perspective shifts through the novel from a longing to hide, to self-discovery, to a desire to advocate for her needs, her loved ones, and her place in the world. Harsh treatment by teachers and school administrators, and her mother’s denial of any differences, paint a lonely picture of Selah’s experience. Other caring adults in her life help lighten the tone of this story, which focuses primarily on her struggles. As narrator, Selah’s typical seventh-grade self-centeredness leaves secondary characters like her mother, grandfather, and best friend less well-defined than they could be and add to the sense of isolation. Through her own determination, Selah finds her voice and a way to work with her world instead of against it. A thoughtful endnote, detailing the author’s own autism diagnosis as an adult, places the text as both a mirror for undiagnosed kids and a potential tool for adult readers, and provides an uplifting interpretation of neurodivergence as a strength rather than problem.

An Everglades-inspired Fantasy Adventure: A Review of Into the Glades

Into the Glades
Laura Sebastian
Delacorte Press
October 25th, 2022
Ages 8 to 12

The Glades—a peaceful but magical swamp-like area filled with magical creatures—has been the home to best friends, Cecilia and Larkin, since they were young. But with the unexpected death of Cecilia’s father, Oziris, the leader of the village, the Glades has turned maliciously towards the townspeople like never before. Wrapped in anger and grief but determined to resurrect Oziris and break the curse on the Glades, Cecilia and Larkin, along with their two younger brothers, embark upon a journey through the Glades to find a powerful witch. But the potential price of such dark magic may be too much for the children to handle, along with the grief and fury threatening to consume them.

As the girls and their brothers’ journey through the Glades, Sebastian weaves in how each handles their grief, from simmering anger to calm acceptance. Tested throughout their journey, Cecilia and Larkin are challenged by their emotions, magical ability, and fear of losing each other. In the end, they have to accept each other for their bonds of friendship to endure. Sebastian uses the journey though the Glade as a metaphor for moving through the stages of grief. Details of Oziris’s death introduce a darker tone, but Sebastian balances it with subtle humor and lightheartedness from the brothers. She firmly places them as emotional support for Cecilia and Larkin while away from the rest of their grieving family members. The characters and location of the story are inspired by the author’s childhood, making it a personal story that still allows readers to immerse themselves in her experience. Into the Glades is a fantasy adventure encouraging social-emotional learning by bringing to life real issues surrounding loss and grief along with accepting change and enjoying each moment, providing a silver lining to even the darkest events.

Spooky Season Titles For All: Halloween 2022 Recommendations

Whether sweet and silly or downright terrifying, ghosts and ghouls of all ages enjoy a good spooky story. And publishers did not disappoint this Halloween season, covering the gambit from gentle introductions to Halloween traditions to dark and twisty tales of the occult. So pick your favorite candy, pour yourself a mug of cider, and settle in for a read at your preferred level of spooky.

BOARD BOOKS: For the youngest ghosties!

The Monsters on the Broom
By Annemarie Riley Guertin
Illustrated by Shauna Lynn Panczyszyn
Simon & Schuster/Little Simon
July 2022
0-3

A group of young monsters delight in a midnight flight in this bouncy Halloween celebration to the tune of “The Wheels on the Bus.” A rich and moody color scheme perfectly captures the feel of a crisp fall evening. Cheerful little monsters tour their town by broom, on die cut pages that build as they explore, leading up to a group ride and wishes for a “Happy Halloween!”

Halloween is a Treat!
By Sabrina Moyle
Illustrator Eunice Moyle
Abrams/Appleseed
July 2022
0-3

More sweet than spooky, this detail packed little book includes all the most fun Halloween traditions—costumes, candy, jack-o’-lanterns, and more! A gentle rhyme weaves together the various holiday amusements for little cats (and kids) to enjoy. Busy pages full of neon orange highlights may even include some Halloween costume inspiration.


PICTURE BOOKS: Choose your favorite—sweet or spooky?

Happy Owl-Oween!
By Laura Gehl
Illustrated by Lydia Nichols
Abrams/Appleseed
July 2022
3-5

Owlet friends partake in all the Halloween traditions their neighborhood has to offer. Simple text, a sweet rhyme, and vibrant geometric illustrations combine to gently introduce the less-than-scary side of the holiday, helping owls of all ages to get into the spirit. Gehl includes an author’s note explaining the origins of many Halloween traditions, but it’s a bit sophisticated for all but the most precocious kindergarteners.

If Your Babysitter is a Bruja
By Ana Siqueira
Illustrated by Irena Freitas
Simon & Schuster
August 2022
3-6

A new babysitter might spell big trouble for a mischievous girl with an oversized imagination. Imagining her parents left her with a witch turns an ordinary evening into a magical Halloween adventure of broomsticks, bubbling caldrons, and ghostly castles. Spanish words and phrases are incorporated throughout, yet easily interpreted in context. Vibrant and exaggerated illustrations and inventive text combine for a unique and whimsical addition to Halloween book collections.

The Most Haunted House in America
By Jarrett Dapier
Illustrated by Lee Gatlin
Abrams
August 2022
4-8

Invited by the First Lady to play at the White House Halloween celebration, the Skeleton Drummers answer the call, entertaining both the living and the long-dead with their spooky tunes. Even when they are scared silly themselves, the show must go on, and the band plays ‘til dawn. Sepia tones mute the illustrations, adding age and mood to the images, and enhancing the drama of the event. Smiling skeletons and rhyming text tempers what could be a scarier picture book tale. An author’s note includes some of the most popular ghost stories told about the White House as well as the author’s experience playing the drums for White House Halloween party dressed as a skeleton.


Middle Grade: Just the right amount of scare factor!

Crimson Twill: Witch in the City
By Kallie George
Illustrated by Birgitta Sif
Candlewick
July 2022
7-9

Who says witches need to be spooky? Perhaps all they have to be is themselves. A trip to the big city department store—Broomingdale’s—is Crimson’s change to find just what she needs. Maybe a cat or a new hat, if she can find one that suits her. What she finds instead are friends that like her just the way she is—unique. Reminiscent of The Worst Witch in tone and language, with lovely black and white illustrations, this sweet chapter book is full of charm and charms.

Bunnicula: The Graphic Novel
By James Howe and Andrew Donkin
Illustrated by Stephen Gilpin
Based on the 1979 novel by Deborah and James Howe
Simon and Shuster/Atheneum
August 2022
8-12

Harold the dog and Chester the cat must contend with a new pet in the Monroe family home, a peculiar bunny who just might be a vampire. Chester, with Harold as trusty sidekick, investigates just what’s making all the vegetables in the house white and juiceless. And just how their new roommate might be responsible. A graphic adaptation of the original story, the varied layout and muted color scheme uphold the melodramatic nature of the novel, while keeping just the right amount of humor to keep things light.

August of the Zombie (Zombie Problems Book 3)
By K.G. Campbell
Knopf
January 2022
8-12

August DuPont has an unusual, and undead, problem—he attracts zombies. And what started as one sidekick has turned into a horde. In the final installment of this trilogy, he must finally find the Zombie Stone to lay his followers and some family secrets to rest. Moody, yet humorous, illustrations provide levity and show the zombies to be more ridiculous than ravenous. Quirky and clever, a delightful middle grade introduction to supernatural stories.

Wildseed Witch
By Marti Dumas
Abrams/Amulet
May 2022
10-14

One fit of temper and Hasani goes from a summer of fun and family (drama) to a premier finishing school for witches to hone her newfound abilities. But being the newcomer isn’t easy, especially when everyone else grew up in a magical family, and you’re starting from scratch. Dumas has created an alternative New Orleans, with all the charm and spirit of the original, and an additional spark of magic. Perfect for Harry Potter fans who will cheer for this determined and charismatic heroine of color. A tribute to learning your own balance between fitting in and standing out, and how to most gracefully be yourself.


Young Adult: From a hint of magic to downright scary!

Fraternity
By Andy Mientus
Abrams/Amulet
September 2022
13+

Scandal sends Zooey Orson from his New York high school to an all-boys boarding school full of secrets, secret societies, and not-so-secret biases. He is taken in by the Vicious Circle, a group of gay students that become his found family in their fight against very human and supernatural secrets, and an occult text that could destroy them all. Set against the backdrop of the AIDS crisis, this story of brotherhood and belonging combines episodes of LGBTQ history with paranormal thrills.

The Monarchs
By Kass Morgan and Danielle Paige
Harper Collins/Clarion
January 2022
14+

The most popular sorority on campus hides many secrets—the rules of sisterhood, details of the death of their past president, and that they are actually a powerful coven of witches. New president Scarlett and new student Vivi balance schoolwork, love interests, and battling the ancient forces of evil in this sequel to The Ravens. An atmospheric college setting and emotionally charged relationships between the sisters add substance to this fast-paced and action-packed duology closer.

Spells for Lost Things
By Jenna Evans Welch
Simon and Schuster
September 2022
12+

Willow’s mom dragged her to Salem to sort out a family inheritance. Mason is in Salem with a foster care placement. And they both want to be nearly anywhere else. Drawn together by the mystery of Willow’s family history, they are kept together by a growing connection. YA romance with a dash of witchcraft combine for a charming story of finding family and finding yourself. Welch weaves in the thread of wanderlust that ties all her novels together, with Willow and Mason exploring all the lore and kitsch Salem, Massachusetts have to offer as they learn about life, family ties, and each other.

More Than “Goode” Enough: A Review of The Glass Witch

The Glass Witch cover art

The Glass Witch
Lindsay Puckett
Scholastic Press
October 18, 2022
Age 8-12

Adelaide Goode is the youngest in a family of cursed and complicated witches, doomed to feel she is not magic enough, thin enough, or “Goode enough.” About to be left with her grandma for the summer, Addie clings to her mother in a snap decision that unleashes the curse, turns her bones to glass, and makes her the target of a witch-hunting spirit. Only by accepting herself and connecting with her family’s magic, or kindred, can she save herself, her family, and her town from shattering.

Challenged by low self-esteem and fear of abandonment, Addie uses tween snark and extraordinary baking skills as a shield against her fears. Puckett weaves heavy themes of body image, bullying, and family tension with more whimsical notes of a Halloween Pageant, delicious food imagery, and brave rescue rabbits to keep the tone light and the pace lively. And the addition of a fearless and monster-obsessed new friend, Fatima, makes for the perfect foil for Addie and her ideal companion in a magical crisis. Secondary adult characters begin in a less-defined manner but shine in a conclusion that sees Addie find her self-worth while learning about her family and her place in it.

Friendship, family, and magic combine in this lighthearted story of self-discovery and acceptance.

Butler Bookshelf


In the urban fantasy novel The Whispering Dark, Delaney Meyers-Petrov is a Deaf college student with a peculiar connection to the afterlife. When she’s offered a spot at an elite university program that trains students to slip between parallel worlds, she’s excited for an opportunity to prove herself and show others that she isn’t as fragile as they think.

Check it out, along with the other titles we are featuring below!

Haven: A Small Cat’s Big Adventure
Written by Megan Wagner Lloyd
Published by Candlewick Press
Available August 16th!

I Was Born for This
Written by Alice Oseman
Published by Scholastic Press
Available October 18th!

Something About Grandma
Written and Illustrated by Tania de Regil
Published by Candlewick Press
Available August 9th!

A Synagogue Just Like Home
Written by Alice Blumenthal McGinty and Illustrated by Laurel Molk
Published by Candlewick Press
Available August 9th!

The Whispering Dark
Written by Kelly Andrew
Published by Scholastic Press
Available October 18th!

Butler Bookshelf

In The Tower of Life by Chana Stiefel and illustrated by Susan Gal, after Yaffa Eliach has to escape the Nazis during WW2, her hometown is destroyed. President Jimmy Carter reaches out to Yaffa and asks her to help build a holocaust memorial. She decides to make the memorial out of found photographs instead of bricks; it becomes what will be called the Tower of Life.

Check it out, along with the other titles we are featuring below!

Catalina Incognito: Off-Key
Written by Jennifer Torres and Illustrated by Gladys Jose
Published by Aladdin
Available Today!

Freestyle
Written by Illustrated by Gale Galligan
Published by Graphix
Available October 18th!

I am Ruby Bridges
Written by Ruby Bridges and Illustrated by Nikkolas Smith
Published by Orchard books
Available September 6th!

Monsters Play… Counting!
Written and Illustrated by Flavia Z. Drago
Published by Orchard books
Available Now!

This is Our Place
Written by Vitor Martins
Published by Push
Available November 1st!

The Tower of Life: How Yaffa Eliach Rebuilt Her Town in Stories and Photographs
Written by Chana Stiefel and Illustrated by Susan Gal
Published by Scholastic Press
Available October 4th!

Should Revenge Be Served at All?: A Review of Sweet and Sour

Sweet and Sour cover art

Sweet and Sour
Debbi Michiko Florence
Scholastic
July 26, 2022
Age: 8-12

Mai, budding birder and BTS stan, and her parents have always spent idyllic summers with family friends in small-town Mystic, Connecticut. Until two summers ago, when their son and Mai’s BFF, Zach, betrayed her and the friends suddenly moved to Japan. Now the trip is back on and Mai is unhappily headed from west coast to east with a new BFF, Lila, and years of built up anger. When Zach, so changed from two years away, wants to pick up their friendship right where he thinks they left it, Mai must decide how to handle her hurt feelings (not well), whether to hang onto a grudge she may have outgrown (not fun), and how to be a better friend to new friends and old.

Told from Mai’s point of view, Debbi Michiko Florence perfectly captures the 13-year-old voice with swings from light to moody, petulant to kind. The text is sprinkled with good and bad memory flashbacks, labeled sweet or sour, providing the backstory of Mai and Zach’s childhood and the racist incident that fractured their bond. Mai’s journey from sadness to anger to letting go is choppy and full of tween uncertainty. But her moments of introspection and insistence on standing up for yourself and your friends, whether it be from anti-Asian hate, bullying, or on matters of consent, keep her character from verging into the self-centered and vengeful. With wise words from friends, she learns to process her feelings rather than bury them and how to both forgive and ask for forgiveness. The relationships between Mai and Lila, Zach, and a new friend Celeste provide powerful examples of different types of friendships and illustrate the value of each. A secondary storyline, featuring Mai’s parents and their perceived inability to handle her big emotions, could have been better developed, but lends import to the central theme of communicating one’s feelings. Mai’s complicated emotions add both sweet and sour notes to the narrative of this summer adventure exploring the complexities of friendship, memory, growing up.

Butler Bookshelf

A couple of our staff members visited ALA this week, (if you’d like to read more about the event head over to our blog post on it https://wordpress.com/post/butlerspantry.org/34939) so we are featuring some of the books that we brought home from the trip! Slip by Marika McCoola and Aatamja Pandya follows Jade who is on her way to a summer art incentive when her best friend, Pheobe, attempts suicide. Jade must deal with her feeling if she doesn’t focus completely on Pheobe, does that mean she is abandoning her.

Check it out along with the other titles we are featuring below!

Everyday Hero MachineBoy
Written by Irma Kniivila and Tri Vuong
Published by SkyBound Comet
Available Sept 13th!

Magically Maximus
Written by Kiki Thorpe and Illustrated by Laura Catrinella
Published by Disney Hyperion
Available Now!

My Second Impression of You
Written by Michelle I. Mason
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing
Available Sept 20th!

The Orphan Keeper
Written by Camron Wright
Published by Algonquin Young Readers
Available Now!

A Scatter of Light
Written by Malinda Lo
Published by Dutton Books
Available Oct 4th!

Slip
Written by Marika McCoola and Aatmaja Pandya
Published by Algonquin Young Readers
Available Now!

Butler Bookshelf

Written by Kristen Bell & Benjamin Hart and illustrated by Daniel Wiseman, The World Needs More Purple Schools is the sequel to The World Needs More Purple People, teaching kids how to celebrate their individuality while also being part of a group! Follow Penny and her friends as they take the lessons they learned in the original and move them to the classroom!

Check it out along with the other titles we are featuring below!

The Clackity
Written by Lora Senf
Published by Athenium
Available Now!

Crimson Twill: Witch in the City
Written by Kallie George and Illustrated by Birgitta Sif
Published by Candlewick Press
Available July 12th!

The Little Bear
Written and Illustrated by Nicola Killen
Published by Simon and Schuster Books For Young Readers
Available Now!

Mum, Me, and the Mulberry Tree
Written by Tanya Rosie and Illustrated by Chuck Groenink
Published by Candlewick Press
Available July 19th!

One Hundred Saturdays: Stella Levi and the Search for a Lost World
Written by Micheal Frank and Illustrated by Maira Kalman
Published by Avid Reader Press
Available September 6th!

The World Needs More Purple Schools
Written by Kristen Bell & Benjamin Hart and Illustrated by Daniel Wiseman
Published by Random House Children’s Books 
Available Now!

Butler Bookshelf

My Name Is Jason. Mine Too. Our Story. Our Way. by Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin is the shared memoir of two great creators and best friends who happen to have the same name. Follow their story of meeting in New York and becoming the artists they are today.

Check it out along with the other titles we are featuring below!

Bad Things Happen Here
Written by Rebecca Barrow
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Brooks
Available Today!

Jigsaw: Mystery in the Mail
Written and Illustrated by Bob Graham
Published by Candlewick Press
Available July 12th!

Leila: The Perfect Witch
Written and Illustrated by Flavia Z. Drago
Published by Candlewick Press
Available July 12th!

McTavish on the Move
Written by Meg Rosoff
Published by Candlewick Press
Available July 12th!

My Name Is Jason. Mine Too. Our Story. Our Way.
Written by Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin
Published by Atheneum Books For Young Readers
Available Today!

The Other Side of the River
Written by Alda P. Dobbs
Published by Sourcebooks Young Readers
Available September 6th!