A touching story about grief. Losing someone is never easy and often we never know what to do with those feelings. Cape shows us the beauty of remembering someone we’ve lost and how through remembrances we can find some peace.
Cape by Kevin Johnson, (List Price: 18.99, Roaring Brook Press, 9781250840509, June 2023)
Reviewed by Keeshia Jacklitch, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Ghost stories around the fire are almost requisite activities at most summer camps, but what if you realized that the monsters at your camp were actually your fellow campers? That’s just what happens to Sylvie in this hilarious slightly spooky summer sleepaway tale that’s the perfect read for a long summer night.
Monster Camp by Sarah Henning, (List Price: 17.99, Margaret K. McElderry Books, 9781665930055, May 2023)
This is the story of Johannes, a wild dog who lives in the park. He runs his round because he is the Eyes for the keeper of the Equilibrium. He decides one day to gain a greater purpose and free his friends the bison. Though for children, I think this story would be enjoyed by anyone who has ever run and felt faster than the sun. Johannes is absolutely endearing, arrogant, feral, and free. Above all else, he’s free and wonderful. I found myself elated with every triumph and breathless with every close call. I loved it and was in tears by the beauty of the writing at the end. I absolutely cannot wait to recommend this to everyone I know. "To be alive is to go forth. So we go forth." Don’t let Johannes slip by you! He’s faster than light, so it might be hard.
The Eyes and the Impossible by Dave Eggers, (List Price: $18.99, Knopf Books for Young Readers, 9781524764203, May 2023)
I still fondly remember the summers spent with my cousins; playing at the beach, board games, sharing secrets under the covers, and of course the ice cream. Growing up my favorite person in the entire world was my older cousin Michael. And I always worried that the next time we saw each other, he would have forgotten me and all the memories I treasured. But just like Michael and I, Dhruv and Ravi understand each other. This book wonderfully captures the whimsy of childhood summers, the distance that comes from being apart, and the moments that matter.
Summer Is for Cousins by Rajani LaRocca, (List Price: 17.99, Abrams Books for Young Readers, 9781419757334, May 2023)
Reviewed by Jamie Kovacs, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Just like Tabor’s wonderful Mel Fell, his newest picture book Simon and the Better Bone is a delight that plays with the very format of a book itself. A whimsical retelling of an Aesop fable, Simon gets into an argument with his reflection and soon learns where jealousy can lead. Vibrantly illustrated and simply told, Simon and the Better Bone is a perfect read-a-loud book!
Simon and the Better Bone by Corey R. Tabor, (List Price: 19.99, Balzer + Bray, 9780063275553, May 2023)
Reviewed by Caleb Masters, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Ziggy is just a regular kid. Well, a regular kid who encounters talking coyotes, singing frogs, prophesying snakes, truth-telling horses, a very interesting Grandma, and Nunnehi- spirits who protect those of Cherokee descent. Funny, sad, wise, and jam-packed with adventure, Ziggy’s story, The Storyteller, may be the very best book you’ll read in 2023.
The Storyteller by Brandon Hobson, (List Price: 17.99, Scholastic Press, 9781338797268, May 2023)
Magical and imaginative, this autobiographical picture book follows a young girl’s explorations under the sea as she observes marine life and our critical need for marine conservation. I loved that Mother of Sharks features a Hispanic woman in STEM!
Mother of Sharks by Melissa Cristina Márquez, (List Price: 19.99, Penguin Workshop, 9780593523582, May 2023)
Leeva at Last is the reason I will recommend "kids" books to people of any age. Such a charming, feel-good story of a girl named Leeva, and the journey she goes on to change her community. The illustrations and Sara Pennypacker’s delightful humor tie this precious, yet important book together. Reading this made me feel like a kid again, I cant wait for everyone to enjoy this magical book.
Leeva at Last by Sara Pennypacker, (List Price: 19.99, Balzer + Bray, 9780063114425, March 2023)
Any child who has ever been teased will relate to this delightful picture book about a young girl who at first feels embarrassed for being perceived as different and then learns to celebrate her own uniqueness. It also has lovely themes of family and friendship. Interestingly enough, my name Jill inspired a very similar schoolyard rhyme as the one that Anjali experiences in the story.
Always Anjali by Sheetal Sheth, (List Price: 18.99, Random House Books for Young Readers, 9780593648834, April 2023)
A Choose your own adventure graphic novel with ZOMBIES!!! Can a book actually get more fun than this? Sure to be a hit with graphic novel fans looking for a little something new, What Happens Next may actually be that young readers are clamoring for the next book in this fun new series.
What Happens Next?: Talent Show Troubles by Jess Smart Smiley, (List Price: 12.99, First Second, 9781250889263, April 2023)
A dinosaur book about art, narrated by the dinosaur. Warm and measured, it becomes an instruction manual of sorts, while ultimately transforming into a tribute to an artist, by a dinosaur. Actually, the whole book is by an incredibly good author/artist (not a dinosaur, yet).
The Artist by Ed Vere, (List Price: 18.99, Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 9780525580874, April 2023)
Reviewed by Jilleen Moore, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi
“If I had a dollar for every writer who told me of their childhood love for the d’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths…what is it about that book?
Everyone has an illustration that’s stuck with them. For me, it’s the kraken rising up out of the ocean. And for a lot of people it was one of our first exposures to really old stories and a deep, continuous mythology. They’re unapologetically complex, internally referential, and ask a lot of young readers, visually and narratively. When you work hard to enjoy something at a young age, it leaves an impression.” ―Kiyash Monsef, Interview, Horn Book
What booksellers are saying about Once There Was
When Marjan’s father is mysteriously murdered, she discovers he was a veterinarian to the kinds of mythic creatures in the stories he once told her…and she inherited his power to care for beasts like griffons and gnomes herself. Once There Was is an emotionally rich, beautifully told story, full of adventure, mystery, and magical realism, with great Iranian-American representation, about the paradox of living—wonder and responsibility, grief and connection—that I’d love for readers of all ages to enjoy and engage with.
―Megan Bell, Underground Books in Carrollton, Georgia | Buy from Underground Books
I absolutely loved the writing in this book. Not overly stylized fantasy– well-grounded in relatable language and situations, not “high fantasy”. The relationships are tender and sweet and cover everything from friendships, to parent/caregiver, to romantic. The plot develops well, the ending is satisfying without being twee. The character development is spot on and I’ve never met a unicorn more fascinating! Monsef’s gentle treatment of the traumatic effects of grief and loss are beautiful.
―Elisa Forshey, Givens Books & Little Dickens in Lynchburg, Virginia | Buy from Givens Books & Little Dickens
Marjan is having to deal with a lot for a teenager — her mom died years ago, leaving her with a strained relationship with her dad…but now her dad’s died suddenly, too, and Marjan has to keep his veterinary practice up and running in addition to her schoolwork and basic necessities. Then Marjan finds out that her dad wasn’t just a vet, that the mythical animals from the stories he told her are real, and he would treat them when needed — and now Marjan has inherited that responsibility, as well. It’s a responsibility that Marjan isn’t sure she wants, but she decides to at least see what it’s all about. And her life changes, sometimes for the worse, sometimes for the better, but ultimately in the ways she needs. A story that will appeal to both middle-grade and young adult readers who love myths, about discovering the missing parts of yourself — whether you know they’re missing or not, and whether or not you want them.
― Melissa Oates, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina | Buy from Fiction Addiction
About Kiyash Monsef
Kiyash Monsef is an Emmy Award–nominated producer and director; a writer of short stories, videos, comic books, and games; and a designer of innovative conversational and voice interface experiences. Once There Was is his first novel.