When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons by Julie Fogliano
I recently weeded my library’s poetry section so I can tell you for a fact there are A LOT of books out there with seasonal poems for children. However, absolutely none of them compare to this stellar new collection by Julie Fogliano. I love Fogliano’s previous two picture books, And Then It’s Spring and If You Want to See a Whale. This is similar in tone but the poetry is just so, so good. Each poem is titled simply with a date. It starts and ends with the same poem at the beginning of Spring, March 20. Each poem is so evocative of a particular moment in time. You feel you are there with the smell of blossoms in the air, or the feel of the sand at the beach between your toes, or the silence of the snow falling out your window. Fogliano has an amazing gift for rhythm and pairing sounds in fantastic ways. For a small sample, here is the poem titled august 10: “just one seagull flying by/water/water/green grass/sky” Sigh. Reading this is just a beautiful exploration of the sounds of language and the passing of the seasons. My vote for Newbery this year is on this one for sure.
The Wild Robot by Peter Brown
This is a really delightful little book. It is the perfect chapter book for second through fourth graders. It has short chapters and lots of really great black and white illustrations. This is Brown’s first chapter book, he has previously written picture books (lots of great ones, many also have a theme of wildness). Roz is a robot in a crate on a cargo ship. In a shipwreck, Roz is the only robot to survive and she lands on a little island populated with lots of animals but no people. Over time she befriends the animals and learns to survive in the wild. It is a really fun friendship story, survival story, animal story, and robot story all in one. It is a perfect readaloud and I am definitely putting it on my list of books I want to read to my toddler in two or three years.
Illuminae by Amie Kaufmann and Jay Kristoff
More science fiction and artificial intelligence, but much darker and for a teen audience. This is my number one could not put down book of the year! I also read the sequel Gemina this year and it was just as thrilling. I don’t even want to get into a plot summary to spoil it for you. It is a really thick book but the story reads super fast because it is told through emails and chat transcripts and other ways full of interesting typography and things you have probably never seen in a book before. Seriously, just flip through the pages and you’ll see what I mean. It is. So. Cool. This book has everything. Fleeing spaceships, viral zombies, artificial intelligence, secret plots, hacking, and on and on. I can guarantee that once you start you will not be able to put this one down.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
I read this in August and I already knew it was my favorite book of the year. That has not changed. This might be in my top ten favorite books of all time. It’s that good. Once again, we have science fiction but this one is a more literary post-apocalyptic story. What really stands out about this book is the characters and the way their lives are connected across time and distance in small ways and large. A virus has wiped out most of the population of the earth. Twenty years later the few survivors have formed tribes and some places are safer than others. We follow a group of traveling performers in one timeline (the after) and there are two other timelines that follow during the immediate aftermath of the virus and the life of an actor before the virus. It sounds disjointed but it is beautiful the way the storylines come together. This is a novel about art and love and what it means to be human. I loved every minute of it.
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
Atul Gawande is a surgeon and author. This book is a very important book and one that everyone should read. Gawande examines death and the way death is treated in the medical field. What is the goal of medicine when it comes to dying? What is the cost of prolonging life by any means necessary? Gawande makes a very compelling case for talking with your loved ones about their end of life wishes and addressing those difficult questions we would rather avoid. In many cases end of life care should be focused on quality of life rather than extending life. We really need to have a conversation about dying in our culture, and Gawande does an amazing job starting that conversation for us. This is an amazing book and I highly recommend it.