The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Children

When Sea Becomes Sky by Gillian McDunn

A February 2023 Read This Next! Title

When Sea Becomes Sky is a book that needs to be read spoiler free, but what I can tell you is that this is Gillian McDunn at her finest. The intersection of science and art is a perfect complement to the interpersonal relationships in the book, every single detail adds a layer and a complexity the story that makes this one to sit and think about. I love how careful McDunn is with her characters and their emotions – and the experience of her readers. Bex and her family will stay in my heart for a very, very long time.

When Sea Becomes Sky by Gillian McDunn (List Price: $16.99, Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 9781547610853, February 2023)

Reviewed by Beth Seufer Buss, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

The Kindest Red by Ibtihaj Muhammad

So often, when people are asked what they would wish for, they reply “World Peace.” In The Kindest Red, Faizah wishes for “World Kindness,” and isn’t that really the first step to world peace? This simple picture book with a big message is just perfect for families or classrooms looking to celebrate diversity and personal responsibility.

The Kindest Red by Ibtihaj Muhammad, (List Price: $19.99, Bloomsbury YA, 9780759555709, February 2023)

Reviewed by Angie Tally, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

Cinderella–with Dogs! by Linda Bailey

Everything is better with dogs, and the tale of Cinderella is no exception. Not only does Cinderella get a fairy dogmother instead of a fairy godmother, but she also gets some nice updates to her story, including a chance to suggest she gets to know the prince first instead of marrying him right away. I loved all the dogs in this book, but there are plenty of cute cats to see on each page, too!

Cinderella–with Dogs! by Linda Bailey, (List Price: $18.99, Nancy Paulsen Books, 9781984813824, February 2023)

Reviewed by Kate Storhoff, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

World Made of Glass by Ami Polonsky

World Made of Glass has the exact range of emotions tweens need and crave – sorrow, love, laughter, tears, regret – in deep swings. And more importantly, this historical fiction novel tells a story that few really know – I didn’t – about the prejudice, misinformation, and rampant fear surrounding AIDS in 1987 – told through the eyes of twelve-year-old Iris. She’s a character who experiences life-shattering circumstances beyond her control – yet with the help of her family and friends, she rises to the occasion. Our youth should read this book because it will build empathy and acceptance of marginalized groups of people, educate a new generation about the AIDS epidemic and LGBTQIA History – an area sorely under-represented in literature and inspire people of all ages to use their voices to fight for justice in their communities. As a bookseller in an indie bookstore who sees firsthand so many young adults purposefully seeking out books that provide a safe place to explore a range of emotions and tackle challenging, complex subjects, I cannot wait for this novel to do just that and find so many readers. Ami Polonsky will inspire the upcoming generation to use their voices for good!

World Made of Glass by Ami Polonsky, (List Price: $16.99, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 9780316462044, January 2023)

Reviewed by Michelle Uhlfelder, Sundog Books in Seaside, Florida

Very Good Hats by Emma Straub

My mom always wears a hat, and has passed that love on to me. Where Very Good Hats goes farther is the creativity of children to make other things hats for objects of the right scale (they missed Bugles for the fingertips, though, sticking to acorn caps). My favorite image by illustrator Bianca Gomez is the accidental soup hat — make sure your hat is empty before you put it on!

Very Good Hats by Emma Straub, (List Price: $18.99, Rocky Pond Books, 9780593529430, January 2023)

Reviewed by Lisa Yee Swope, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

What’s Sweeter by June Tate

One of my favorite picture books of the last couple years, this debut from June Tate is like a warm hug in a book. A playful book about appreciating the smaller things and slowing down, it’s quirky and cute yet modern. The illustrations are my favorite, there’s a nostalgic feeling to the drawing style that just makes this book even better and reminds me of what I grew up with. Lots of love for this tiny treat of a book.

What’s Sweeter by June Tate, (List Price: $17.99, Katherine Tegen Books, December 2022)

Reviewed by Grace Sullivan, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

Captain America: The Ghost Army (Original Graphic Novel) by Alan Gratz

Alan Gratz brings his ability to make young kids want to read to graphic novels, and it’s great! Merging an exciting story with historically accurate information on WII, any fan of history, Marvel, or ghost stories will love this book.

Captain America: The Ghost Army (Original Graphic Novel) by Alan Gratz, (List Price: $14.99, Graphix, January 2023)

Reviewed by Kelley Barnes, Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, North Carolina

Beatrice Likes the Dark by April Genevieve Tucholke

What a beautiful unfolding of sisterly love! Beatrice Likes the Dark reinforces the wisdom so difficult to impart on young hearts: It is what makes us uniquely different, that also makes us uniquely lovable. The book is sitting on my Grandma shelf–ready to share with my own darlings.

Beatrice Likes the Dark by April Genevieve Tucholke (List Price: $18.95, Algonquin Young Readers, 9781643751573, September 2022)

Reviewed by Annell Gerson, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia

What Happened to Rachel Riley? by Claire Swinarski

Reading this book made me step back, rethink my middle school days, and want to wrap my younger self in a hug. Such a tough story, told in such a way where even though the reader and the main character don’t know the full story, you know more than the main character. You are seeing their final report, not just her findings, as she is investigating.

What Happened to Rachel Riley? by Claire Swinarski (List Price: $16.99, Quill Tree Books, 9780063213098, January 2023)

Reviewed by Jamie Kovacs, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Snow Horses by Patricia MacLachlan

In the morning, the trumpets will play and the sun will rise and the new year will dawn. Tonight, however, the rhythmic crunch of the horse hooves on falling snow makes the world a magical place. Absolutely stunning illustrations and a sweet story will surely make this one a new holiday favorite for many families.

Snow Horses by Patricia MacLachlan (List Price: $18.99, Margaret K. McElderry Books, 9781534473553, November 2022)

Reviewed by Angie Tally, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

The Christmas Book Flood by Emily Kilgore

I only found out a few years ago that there is a whole holiday in Iceland celebrating books! Jólabókaflóð (yo-la-bok-a-flot) roughly translates to “Christmas book flood”. Every year Icelandic folks search the shelves for the perfect book gift to give on Christmas Eve and then they read their treasures all night often curled up with loved ones or joyfully solo! What could be more delightful??? Kilgore’s dancing text and the lively collage art of illustrator Kitty Moss make you want to join in the fun. Start a holiday tradition of your own with this perfect little book!

The Christmas Book Flood by Emily Kilgore (List Price: $18.99, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), 9780374388997, November 2022)

Reviewed by Kelly Justice, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

How We Say I Love You by Nicole Chen

How We Say I Love You reminds readers there are many ways to show love in your family. The story follows an Asian American girl through a day with her family, who show their love through actions like packing a homemade lunch or doing their best at school. This book is a beautiful way to talk about love and families with even the youngest of readers.

How We Say I Love You by Nicole Chen (List Price: $18.99, Knopf Books for Young Readers, 9780593428399, December 2022)

Reviewed by Beth Seufer Buss, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

A Pinch of Love by Barry Timms

A Pinch of Love is an adorable picture book about spreading love and overcoming hard times through baking. With diverse characters, an emphasis on community, and a colorful quirky art style that is incredibly appealing, this tender book will be perfect to share with little loved ones with a love of baking (or baked goods)!

A Pinch of Love by Barry Timms (List Price: $18.99, Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 9780711280199, December 2022)

Reviewed by Julia Lewis, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

Hooky Volume 2 by Míriam Bonastre Tur

Love love love this series! I still can’t wait to own all the volumes for my collection. Volume two expands the world even further and keeps up with its solid character development in such an engaging way!

Hooky Volume 2 by Míriam Bonastre Tur (List Price: $14.99, Clarion Books, 9780358693093, September 2022)

Reviewed by Lana Repic, E. Shaver bookseller in Savannah, Georgia

Ice! Poems About Polar Life by Douglas Florian

Brrrrfect poetry for the winter months. The poems contained in Ice! will warm the hearts of young readers with funny frozen antics of penguins, caribou, narwhals and more cold climate critters.

Ice! Poems About Polar Life by Douglas Florian (List Price: $8.99, Holiday House, 9780823452439, December 2022)

Reviewed by Angie Tally, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

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