Juvenile Fiction Selection: Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones

Sophie Brown and her family have just inherited a farm from her great-uncle Jim.  Her father has recently lost his job, her mother is a busy full-time writer, and they have all just moved from the city and have no experience with farming.  Sophie finds a funny little chicken while exploring the farm and begins correspondence with a woman named Agnes of the Redwood Farm Supply company.  Soon Sophie is learning all she can about chickens through trips to the local library and through Agnes's letters.  Something is really different about great-uncle Jim's chickens though and more keep showing up on the farm every day, as well as the mysterious Ms. Griegson who keeps trying to steal them.  It's up to Sophie to keep her new chickens safe and to convince her parents that she is up to the task of being a chicken farmer.  Written entirely in letters to her recently deceased great-uncle Jim and beloved Abuelita, as well as to Agnes of Redwood Farm Supply this is an odd and adorable story about starting over in a new place, making friends, and supernatural chickens!  To accompany this great story are adorable illustrations of all the silly chickens.  (Grades 4-6 School Library Journal)

Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon

Castle Hangnail is in need of a master! Dark Sorceress, Evil Wizard, or Wicked Witch, it doesn’t matter. These minions just need someone to follow and to help save their “good” evil castle before it's shut down. Molly is in need of a place she can express her magic and be a witch – especially a wicked one! When this unlikely group meet, things take unexpected twists and turns. Will they accept Molly – who seems just a little too nice to be truly wicked – to be their master? Can Molly save Castle Hangnail? And what happens when the real dark Sorceress shows up to claim her castle? Find out by following Molly and her minions in this darkly adorable story. (Grades 4th – 6th)

Parent Recommendation: What a Beautiful Morning

Watching a relative change because of dementia or Alzheimer's is a difficult thing to understand. In this book, Noah loves visiting his grandparents and especially spending time with Grandpa and he doesn't understand when Grandpa begins to forget things and can no longer do simple tasks like cutting his toast. This is a tender story about change and loss and is suitable for sharing one on one or in a group.  Recommended for PreS-gr. 2

"My Mother was Nuts" by Penny Marshall

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Comedian/director Marshall writes very openly on her life experiences growing up in the Bronx, getting pregnant and married young in New Mexico, her marriage to Rob Reiner, friendship with Carrie Fisher, and relationship with Art Garfunkel.   Marshall revisits tough subjects like abortion, drugs, lack of mothering skills, and her now fading health. Great stories abound of her time spent on TV shows, movies, and her career as a movie director.  Marshall's humor is how she gets through the difficult stuff and lives with a simple motto: “try hard, help your friends, don't get too crazy, and have fun.”

All Souls: A Family Story From Southie by Michael Patrick McDonald

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In this devastatingly honest memoir Michael MacDonald, one in a family of ten, recounts his experience growing up in Southie which is one of South Boston’s public housing projects.  Described by all the residents as “the best place in the world”, McDonald has the courage to pull back this veil and tell the emotional and powerful true story.  MacDonald explores the busing riots of the 1970s, Southie’s “no snitch” culture, the loss of four of his own siblings, and the exploits of Whitey Bulgar (the town’s top gangster and father figure).  Through all of this pain and loss McDonald is still able to point out areas of hope and the strong sense of community that is still alive in Southie today.  

Romantic Outlaws: the Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley by Charlotte Gordon

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Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter Mary Shelley never knew each other.  Mary W. died giving birth to her daughter Mary Shelley.  Yet both women similarly defied convention, both became famous writers; both fell in love with brilliant but impossible authors; both were single mothers and had children out of wedlock; both broke out of the rigid conventions of their era and lived in exile; and both played important roles in the Romantic era during which they lived.

Gordon’s book examines each in alternating chapters of the two women's lives.  This might sound confusing to the reader but it is not.  She presents the facts of each woman's life in a fascinating way that feels as if this biography is a novelization.  Highly readable, highly recommended.

Inspector of the Dead by David Morrell

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In London, England 1855 social and political upheaval abound.  Local pubs and churches, once thought of as safe havens, are threatened with murder and mayhem. High-ranking officials in the British Government aren't even safe; a handful have been killed in their own homes. There have even been several failed assassination attempts on Queen Victoria.  An anarchist gang or individual is creatively and brutally killing people causing chaos throughout London.  These vivid depictions of Victorian England are in David Morrell’s captivating latest mystery, “Inspector of the Dead.” The opium-eater, Thomas De Quincey, his daughter, and a couple of newly assigned detectives return to solve the mystery in Morrell’s second book in this series. They attempt to protect Queen Victoria from any future assassination attempts and find who is causing chaos throughout London before England’s government completely collapses. As the evidence mounts, try to solve the mystery before the detectives piece together the clues!


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