Spring Booknotes 2020

Handpicked new releases, brought to you by the staff of Elliott Bay.
 

Audiobooks available for select titles through our friends at Libro.fm.

 

Winter 2019

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Afterlife Cover Image
$25.95
ISBN: 9781643750255
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Algonquin Books - April 7th, 2020

Julia Alvarez’s first novel for adults in fifteen years casts its eyes at life and the measure of loss as time passes, all the while holding love and connection close to its heart. Protagonist Antonia, a recent widow, navigates this new state, still in dialogue with her late husband. Meanwhile, drama unfolds within the ranks of her sisters, and a young woman and man deal with undocumented status in the US. Julia Alvarez gives us a beautiful, moving story of a woman holding fast to the nobility of the soul in this fleeting thing called life. -Rick
 


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Enter the Aardvark Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9780316536158
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Little, Brown and Company - March 24th, 2020

This whirlwind of a novel catapults between modern-day Washington, DC, and Victorian England to chronicle the journeys of a haunted taxidermied aardvark as it leads its self-denying owners to truth and to ruin. It is a proper queer tragedy: confusing, alarming, hilarious, and even a bit spooky—but mostly it has heart, and it captures an experience that only haunted taxidermied aardvarks, I now understand, can communicate. Be thankful to Jessica Anthony for siphoning this story down from whatever higher plane she inhabits, and clear your calendar for an afternoon of totally engrossing reading. -Justin
 


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The Night Watchman Cover Image
$28.99
ISBN: 9780062671189
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper - March 3rd, 2020

In 1953, Louise Erdrich’s Chippewa grandfather, a factory night watchman, testified before Congress and succeeded in defeating a bill that threatened his tribe’s treaties and land. In this novel, set in his rural North Dakota community, a memorable and vibrant cast of characters emerges. Its residents’ interwoven stories reveal dreams, desires, struggles, and joys that are common to all, but portrayed here through the rich, multihued lens of Native American culture and beliefs. Erdrich’s sixteenth novel is sublime, engrossing, and enlightening; best of all, it imparts much needed inspiration. -Erica
 


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Writers & Lovers Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780802148537
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Grove Press - March 3rd, 2020

Casey Peabody is having a hard year. Her mother just died, her waitressing job is making her miserable, and she’s drowning in student debt. Oh, and she’s barely making progress on her novel. Author of the award-winning Euphoria, Lily King has created one of the most well-drawn characters I’ve read in recent memory. Witnessing Casey struggle to make sense of her life and the people in it will offer catharsis to anyone who feels like their path forward hasn’t always been clear. When I finished this book, I had to resist the urge to start it over again immediately. -Laura
 


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The Glass Hotel: A novel Cover Image
$26.95
ISBN: 9780525521143
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Knopf - March 24th, 2020

Emily St. John Mandel plunges us into a looking glass world, where “money is its own country.” It features a luxurious hotel built in the wilderness of British Columbia, at once in nature, but not of it; a Madoff-like financier who bilks investors from behind a mask of respectability; and a young Canadian woman who one day is a bartender and the next lives amongst the rich, assuming a role completely unlike her origins. A “counterlife” as one character refers to it, is what all the characters experience. What unfolds is a gripping, mysterious, and utterly mesmerizing story. -Greg
 


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Deacon King Kong: A Novel Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780735216723
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Books - March 3rd, 2020

Few writers come to mind who engage the reader in a more winning manner than James McBride, however tough the subject, be it fiction or nonfiction. His first novel since the National Book Award-winning The Good Lord Bird is a story that on the surface looks bleak, of doom foretold: what happens in a Brooklyn neighborhood in 1969 when Sportcoat, an old handyman and church deacon, up and shoots the project’s drug dealer at point-blank range. What happens is surprising, vividly limned, and richly human, with full measure given to all who walk, talk, and live in this book’s memorable, marvelous pages. -Rick
 


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Hurricane Season Cover Image
By Fernanda Melchor, Sophie Hughes (Translated by)
$22.95
ISBN: 9780811228039
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: New Directions - March 31st, 2020

This is a book about vengeful, jealous, deceitful, and perverted people—all with varying involvement in the murder of the town witch. Melchor structures the book like a hurricane: she begins with the most tangentially culpable and twists toward the truth as each narrator circularly reveals their secrets before spinning on to someone closer and closer. Sentences contract from page-long extravagances to quick jabs. Reading Hurricane Season became my own septic little secret because I regretted relishing such a repulsive read. -Ellis
 


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Weather: A novel Cover Image
$23.95
ISBN: 9780385351102
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Knopf - February 11th, 2020

Thoughts unfurl against a clear sky, pressure systems build, and doom-dark clouds stack just over the horizon: welcome to the mind of Lizzie, librarian and unofficial therapist to the masses, who digs up survivalist tips and drowns her apocalyptic fears in the needs of others. The book's intuitive structure and timely, page-turning pull are reminiscent of The Friend, but Offill's deft juggling of absurdity and dread is all her own. Weather offers the odd reassurance of another rabbit beside you in the field, your bunny ears swiveling and muscles taut in the eerie calm before the storm. -Lara
 


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Vera Violet Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9781640092327
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Counterpoint LLC - February 4th, 2020

When the logging industry dries up and new money begins to flow into her small Pacific Northwest town, Vera Violet, her family, and her friends find themselves desperate, on the edge of poverty. Along with this economic and social decline comes violence, addiction, and abuse, as well as unconditional love. As her world constricts, Vera Violet escapes across the country only to discover that barriers exist everywhere and the past cannot be left behind so easily. This debut novel is a fresh glimpse into the lives of the displaced. -Tracy
 


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Docile Cover Image
$27.99
ISBN: 9781250216151
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Tordotcom - March 3rd, 2020

Docile is a deliciously troublesome debut. Though an unashamedly hot and sexy page-turner, Docile never offers the sex or wealth on display in its debt-controlled, near-future America as escapism or fantasy. Szpara isn't interested in the comfort of easy answers, even in the heat of the book's stickiest scenes, and instead takes pleasure in complicating our feelings and assumptions around sex and love, wealth and class. Szpara spins a swiftly paced morality tale that never leaves the reader hot and bothered without also dwelling on a question: what agency, if any, do we have under capitalism? -Callie
 


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How to Pronounce Knife: Stories Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9780316422130
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Little, Brown and Company - April 21st, 2020

There is true, emotional range in this short story collection, and it made me unable to put the book down. The immigrants in these stories experience a wide range of systemic issues that are ingrained in American society. Though the characters face much trauma, reprieve and joy are central and unmistakable themes in each story. Souvankham Thammavongsa reminds us of the human spirit’s resilience and gracefully commands the reader’s empathy by connecting the characters with the small, universal pleasures of life. -Katie
 


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The Knockout Queen: A novel Cover Image
$26.95
ISBN: 9780525656784
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Knopf - April 28th, 2020

The Knockout Queen reads like an episode of Shameless focused on Ian and directed by Wes Anderson. As they near adulthood, the main characters must deal with many harsh realities: alcoholic, absent, or dead parents; the pain of feeling different; their burgeoning sexuality; and life in a small-ish community. But a comedic tone lightens the story, especially when they find themselves in the center of a tragedy that rocks their community. In short, if you like angst, teenage hardships, and underlying melancholy, this book may be for you. -Rachael
 


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Run Me to Earth Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9781501154041
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Simon & Schuster - January 28th, 2020

Run Me To Earth put my emotions through their paces and left me gasping for air by the story's end. This is an elegantly composed, expansive tale about friendship, suffering, and the strength of human connection when mortality hangs in the balance. Yoon has crafted an immersive story of three orphaned friends and their desire to live fully-realized lives after they narrowly escape war-torn Laos in 1969. He asserts his mastery of storytelling with this profoundly tragic, yet hopeful tale that illuminates the strength of friendships demanding to exist in the face of unfathomable calamity. -Blair
 


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Subduction Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9781597098922
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Red Hen Press - April 14th, 2020

Kristen Millares Young has written a cymbal clash of a debut. Claudia—a Mexican anthropologist fleeing her life in Seattle after her husband and sister announce their affair— collides with Peter—a prodigal son returning to the Makah reservation for the first time since his dad’s murder to help his mother, Maggie, whose memory is failing. The messiness of Young’s characters is balanced with her meticulous research and thoughtful critique of the ways Claudia harms Maggie, her primary source. Both Young’s journalistic prowess and delight in slippery emotions shine through this novel. -Ellis
 


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Interior Chinatown: A Novel Cover Image
$25.95
ISBN: 9780307907196
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Pantheon - January 28th, 2020

Written in the style of a TV script, this engaging narrative blurs the line between the reality of life in Chinatown and the fiction of the crime drama frequently filmed there. The inhabitants of this Chinatown have no names, only the roles they play on episode after episode: Old Asian Man, Dragon Lady, or—if they’re lucky—Kung Fu Guy. Following a resident of this all-encompassing, self-contained world, Interior Chinatown plays brilliantly with racism (both external and internal), and its clever writing and good humor make for a snappy and refreshing read. -Chester
 


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The Lost Book of Adana Moreau Cover Image
$26.99
ISBN: 9781335010124
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Hanover Square Press - February 4th, 2020

The Lost Book of Adana Moreau is a marvelous tale, with a great title, set during two periods of considerable upheaval and centered on the existence—or nonexistence—of the titular book. Full of musings on themes of the past and its erasure, featuring places that could be other places (though would we even know if they were?) and characters who grapple with loss in its many forms, The Lost Book of Adana Moreau offers nothing so crass as certainty. It begs to be read, digested, mulled over, reread, and discussed. -Chester
 


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Spirit Run: A 6,000-Mile Marathon Through North America's Stolen Land Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9781948226462
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Catapult - March 3rd, 2020

Spirit Run is totally unique: a travel and sports memoir synthesized with histories of indigenous labor and oppression. For Noé Álvarez—born to a family of Mexican migrant laborers shivering in the fruit warehouses of Yakima—the earth is sacred, and his epic run from Canada to Guatemala is a prayer to all the lives lived in those places, an acknowledgement of their oppression and resilience, and a political act in defiance of the society that has displaced and exploited them. Spirit Run will change the way you see the ground you live on, the apples you eat, and the history of this continent. -Justin
 


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You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780735224100
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Viking - February 4th, 2020

As the subject of many biographies, George Washington has become a man made of stone with few human qualities left. Alexis Coe, the third woman to ever write a biography about America’s first president, brings all of Washington’s hypocrisies and misjudgments to the table. Coe’s unapologetic humor and gentle mockery will captivate and encourage any reader who wouldn’t normally pick up this book. By the end, we are left with a man who lost more battles than he won, failed to do justice for the people he enslaved, and certainly never had any wooden teeth. -Katie
 


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Half Broke: A Memoir Cover Image
$25.95
ISBN: 9781324003076
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - February 4th, 2020

An alternative prison ranch in New Mexico is the backdrop for most of these stories, where horse trainer Ginger Gaffney is invited to help wrangle some of the ranch’s out-of-control equine tenants, and where she quickly realizes the immense challenge she has taken on. It becomes clear that the experiences on the ranch will be life changing for all beings involved, perhaps Gaffney most of all. She rips her heart and soul wide open in these pages, showing us how she faced her own struggles with bravery, compassion, and strength while also helping others to do the same. -Maggie


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The Falcon Thief: A True Tale of Adventure, Treachery, and the Hunt for the Perfect Bird Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9781501191886
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Simon & Schuster - February 11th, 2020

With its detailed history of obsessive egg collecting, The Falcon Thief is great for those of us who aren’t well-versed in birds. Hammer brings relevancy to the many animal protection laws that were designed to stop egg theft, poaching, and other animal abuses. He traces the history of one of the most guileless and destructive egg thieves to date and the wildlife officer who brought him, and many other egg thieves, to justice. A mix of narrative nonfiction, true crime, natural history, and biography, The Falcon Thief is a fun read for lovers of many genres! -Cody


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Wow, No Thank You.: Essays Cover Image
$15.95
ISBN: 9780525563488
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Vintage - March 31st, 2020

Ain't it just like a Chicagoan to keep it real in the age of alkaline water and spin classes? Maybe it's her Midwestern roots, or it could just be her IBS. Newly married, forty, with chronic dry skin but also often sweating? Surely now is the winter of Irby's discontent—and she doesn't hold back. Whether listing the steps involved in going out with friends like it is a funeral march or describing how she went from a broke dog-walker chasing lame guys on Myspace to publishing the first of her three books, Irby cracks wise and candid about how exhausting it is to even be a person anymore. -Brendan
 


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Thin Places: Essays from In Between Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9780374274641
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - March 3rd, 2020

In this stunningly beautiful collection, Kisner investigates our collective yearning for the divine—where do we find it, if not in religion? She writes about the membranes of “thin places”: the tenuous borders between ourselves and our struggles, perception and reality, the sacred and the profane. Within these places, she explores her queerness, examines her family’s complicated relationship with race, and finds love. Thin Places is a powerful testament to all the wonder and beauty in the world and the idea that, for many, salvation lies in the search. -Lauren
 


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The Magical Language of Others: A Memoir Cover Image
$22.95
ISBN: 9781947793385
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Tin House Books - January 7th, 2020

In this beautiful, devastating memoir, poet E. J. Koh recounts a story of heartbreak, growing up, and the choices parents make. When Koh’s father is offered a job in South Korea, her parents decide to leave the teenage Koh with her older brother in California. As an adult and a translator, Koh finds a box of letters her mother wrote to her during this period and begins translating them from Korean. The result is a memory box of a memoir, which tells a story of pain and longing, but also of the beauty that can come from forgiveness and reunion. -Laura


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Conditional Citizens: On Belonging in America Cover Image
$25.95
ISBN: 9781524747169
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Pantheon - September 22nd, 2020

Novelist and critic Laila Lalami’s first book of nonfiction raises vital questions about the meaning of citizenship during an era in which the rights of citizens have become increasingly tenuous. A naturalized US citizen with roots in Morocco and California, Lalami contrasts our American civic culture of equal rights with the reality of our hierarchical, unequal society. Her thoughtful, concise, and informative book is an antidote to the amnesia, denial, and despair that feed the status quo. “What I want is freedom,” Lalami writes, “not better conditions of subjugation.” She is not alone. -Karen


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Humble Pi: When Math Goes Wrong in the Real World Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780593084687
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Books - January 21st, 2020

If you think math is boring, or you just don’t like it, this book will surprise and delight you. While math is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, Humble Pi gives real-world examples of math’s importance and impact on our lives. Matt Parker—Australian-born author, stand-up comedian, and YouTuber—provides accessible and entertaining (when not disastrous) stories that might have you looking at bridges, soccer balls, and images of crescent moons in a different way. You don’t have to understand all the math to appreciate the fact that someone out there does. -Maggie


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Oak Flat: A Fight for Sacred Land in the American West Cover Image
$30.00
ISBN: 9780399589720
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order Now
Published: Random House - November 17th, 2020

For decades, the San Carlos Apache Tribe has fought to keep their sacred land from becoming a void in the earth, and Resolution Copper has fought to mine this massive copper reserve. Oak Flat is a multifaceted story of a subsumed culture and a boom-and-bust industry. Through illustrations, interviews, and research, Redniss reckons with the myth of American exceptionalism, centering past atrocities very much in the present. Her clear-eyed reporting fascinates and infuriates, examining the personal in the political and ultimately questioning the concept of progress: to what end, and at what cost? -Emma
 


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The Sun and Her Stars: Salka Viertel and Hitler's Exiles in the Golden Age of Hollywood Cover Image
$30.00
ISBN: 9781590517215
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Other Press - January 28th, 2020

The contributions of women in Hollywood have often been dismissed within the annals of history. Donna Rifkind has written a fascinating and loving account of one such woman who was, perhaps most notably, the screenwriter for five of Greta Garbo's films (including Queen Christina and Anna Karenina). Salka Viertel, along with her husband, welcomed her fellow European artists and intellectuals such as Brecht, Schoenberg, and the Mann brothers into their home during World War II, and helped them secure work in films. It is long past time for Salka Viertel to receive her due. -Greg 
 


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My Autobiography of Carson McCullers: A Memoir Cover Image
$22.95
ISBN: 9781947793286
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Tin House Books - February 4th, 2020

This is an important book that delves into the underreported probability of Carson McCullers’s lesbian identity and the impact it had on her writing and life. It’s fittingly a relationship-based autobiography—Shapland weaves the details of her life with McCullers’s, focusing on their commonalities: queerness, chronic illness, and writing. Moreover, Shapland meticulously notes the everyday human need for belonging and independence. She invites you into a sacred, intellectual, and curious space, her words pulling you in close and whispering their gossip. -Cody
 


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Recollections of My Nonexistence: A Memoir Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9780593083338
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Viking - March 10th, 2020

Rebecca Solnit needs no introduction. As a prolific, thoughtful, and original author, essayist, and activist, what she has created with Recollections of My Nonexistence is a memoir to match. In it she recounts how punk rock, oppression, misogyny, community, and the experience of living in San Francisco for over a quarter century all ushered her into herself and taught her to write. True to her style and delightfully paced, Solnit's trajectory of her life and work presented through these collected essays makes for a nonlinear and evocative read. -Amy
 


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Uncanny Valley: A Memoir Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780374278014
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: MCD - January 14th, 2020

Anna Wiener is witty, thoughtful, and incredibly smart, which makes Uncanny Valley a truly enjoyable read—it's also completely terrifying. She chronicles her time working in Silicon Valley, detailing the tech industry's vision for the world: an unending cycle of optimized production and consumption where the pursuit of profit takes precedence over all else, be it institutionalized racism, misogyny, accelerated gentrification, massive wealth imbalance, or surveillance culture. It's like now, only bigger. When you are afraid of the future, just remember: the call is coming from inside the house. -Lauren
 


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Wilmington's Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780802128386
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Atlantic Monthly Press - January 7th, 2020

Zucchino takes an almost novelistic approach to history, presenting a lurid chapter in America’s past by anchoring it in a series of vividly rendered personality portraits and vignettes. The narrative introduces events with a compelling rhythm, continually shifting the reader's awareness of time and place to maintain tension and introduce further refinements to the historical narrative, all the while effectively expanding our awareness of how this history fits into a larger American framework that echoes in our current political environment. -Wes
 


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Homie: Poems Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781644450109
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Graywolf Press - January 21st, 2020

Homie had me working hard to keep my laughter to myself while commuting to work, and working even harder to keep joyful tears from making tracks down my face. Smith’s latest collection of poetry spills with triumphant blackness, celebrations of friendship, and the depths of human connection. These riotous, poetic works rendered me nostalgic for the friendships of my youth, as Smith's voice resonates with a vulnerability and tenderness that we can only hope to have in our most important relationships.  -Blair
 


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My Best Friend Cover Image
By Julie Fogliano, Jillian Tamaki (Illustrator)
$17.99
ISBN: 9781534427228
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Atheneum Books for Young Readers - March 3rd, 2020

Julie Fogliano and Jillian Tamaki portray the magic of new friendship faithfully: sharing trust, opening a world full of possibility, and pretending to be pickles together. Tamaki's lush, almost dreamlike illustrations are a gorgeous complement to the lyrical story Fogliano creates about the connection between two new friends. My Best Friend evokes memories of friendships from my past, as well as those I am lucky enough to currently have. It reminded me that the beauty of friendship can be found wherever one is in life. -Jacob 
 


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In a Jar Cover Image
By Deborah Marcero, Deborah Marcero (Illustrator)
$17.99
ISBN: 9780525514596
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers - January 21st, 2020

Llewellyn collects items in jars; they help him remember all the wonderful things he has seen and done. While out collecting he meets Evelyn and together they collect sublime, wonderful things like rainbows and the wind just before snowfall. When Evelyn moves away, Llewellyn feels hollow as an empty jar until he starts to collect and send jars to Evelyn far away. The whimsy of Marcero’s illustrations is like a sigh of contentment, which accompanies this testament to the power of memory and the magic of friendship. -Holly
 


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Here in the Real World Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780062698957
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Balzer + Bray - February 4th, 2020

It’s summertime and Ware dreads being sent to the boring rec center; he’d rather imagine life as a knight in the Middle Ages. When he discovers an abandoned church next door and a girl named Jolene planting a garden, his world changes profoundly. He’s a dreamer, she’s a pragmatist, but the two introverts conspire to take on an environmental challenge, finding along the way a sense of self-worth and belonging. From the author of Pax, this is a stirring tale of heroism and a lovely tribute to unconventional kids everywhere. -Erica
 


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Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9780316453691
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers - March 10th, 2020

Although it has been a few quick decades since I passed for a “young adult” (the age group for which Stamped is intended), it spoke to me loud and clear. Adapted from Kendi's National Book Award-winning Stamped From the Beginning and infused with Reynolds's well-honed ability to connect with young readers, I can only wonder at the positive impact it could have had on my rural and homogeneous formative years. Alas, Stamped is important reading for any age, at any crossroads. -John
 


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Wayside School Beneath the Cloud of Doom Cover Image
By Louis Sachar, Tim Heitz (Illustrator)
$17.99
ISBN: 9780062965387
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: HarperCollins - March 3rd, 2020

Wayside School is back in session after twenty-four years! It's good to see familiar faces like Principal Kidswatter, failed-psychologist-turned-counselor Dr. Pickle (who still cures classroom woes with hypnosis), and Miss Zarves (the nonexistent teacher of the nonexistent nineteenth floor). I always loved reading the Wayside School books to my sister during bedtime when we were young, and the school is just as zany and fun as ever. I'm thrilled to be able to return once again for more off-the-wall tales from my favorite thirty-story school. -Elaine
 


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Dragon Hoops Cover Image
$24.99
ISBN: 9781626720794
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: First Second - March 17th, 2020

There's something undeniably captivating about a good sports story. Dragon Hoops is no exception, told through the skilled illustrations of Gene Luen Yang, who himself hated sports as a kid. But as he gets to know more about the varsity basketball team at the school where he teaches, he sees the sport through the lens of a thrilling comic book story, delving fully into its drama. Yang's vibrant graphic memoir uses basketball to tackle issues of race, creative license, and the steps we take to cross unseen boundaries. -Elaine