The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Juvenile Fiction

Do You Speak Fish? by DJ Corchin

What do you do when no one will talk to you? When a young man wants to talk to the bee he gets mad because the bee won’t talk back. The bee chases him. He continues on to the lion who also won’t say hello. He gets mad again. Why is everyone so rude. The tree isn’t rude. The tree says hello and teaches the boy how to talk to new friends in their own language. Soon they are all sharing stories and bringing joy to each other. Great lessons.

Do You Speak Fish? by DJ Corchin, (List Price: $17.99, Sourcebooks Explore, 9781728219226, October 2021)

Reviewed by David Lucey, Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, North Carolina

Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna by Alda P. Dobbs

I read this Fourth of July weekend which was the perfect book to give me a different perspective on what America means to a family fleeing a war-torn country in search of a better life. Dobbs’ great-grandmother inspired this heart-wrenching, incredible story of 12 yo Petra Luna’s “barefoot dreams” of learning to read and write and protecting her family. I loved the earnest determination and bravery of Petra, her closeness with her 2 younger siblings, and how her abuelita taught her to listen to the natural world to survive the harsh desert conditions to make their way to the U.S. border. It was such a beautiful mix of mythology and holding tight to dreams. The war brutality was presented realistically–the danger wasn’t glossed over, but instead presented in a child-thoughtful way. I learned so much about a time in history that I didn’t know much about. My 10-year-old daughter and I highly recommend!

Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna by Alda P. Dobbs, (List Price: 17.99, Sourcebooks Young Readers, 9781728234656, September 2021)

Reviewed by Candice Conner, The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, Alabama

Boogie Boogie, Y’all by C. G. Esperanza

Art is all around us. In the sky, the trees, the faces of our neighbors, and also sometimes in the graffiti sprayed on buildings, trains, and streets. The art world was changed forever by graffiti artists Basquiat and others and graffiti artists were masters of appreciating the beauty and joy all around us. This original book is rhyme and poetry and beauty in motion and is the perfect family read-together.

Boogie Boogie, Y’all by C. G. Esperanza, (List Price: 18.99, Katherine Tegen Books, 9780062976222, August 2021)

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

The Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess by Tom Gauld

Count on me to fall in love with a quirky fairy tale any day of the week. But I mean, what in the world cannot be achieved by a girl who becomes a log when she’s asleep, her robot brother, a sweet family of beetles, and a clever witch? I adore this graphic novel-style picture book full of sibling love and weird vibes that manages to feel cozy-classic and totally brand new at once.

The Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess by Tom Gauld, (List Price: 18.99, Neal Porter Books, 9780823446988, August 2021)

Reviewed by Cristina Russell, Books & Books in Coral Gables, Florida

Amelia Erroway: Castaway Commander: A Graphic Novel by Betsy Peterschmidt

Any headstrong, capable, smart kid who is misunderstood by adults will see themselves in Amelia Erroway. Amelia is a brilliant girl who wants to follow in her pilot father’s footsteps–against her father’s wishes. When her first attempt at piloting takes her off course, she is introduced to a curious place and a family of people who know she can do whatever she puts her mind to. Peterschmidt’s world is as immersive and entrancing and alien as Treasure Planet, Avatar, and the like, and her story is one to behold.

Amelia Erroway: Castaway Commander: A Graphic Novel by Betsy Peterschmidt, (List Price: 26.99, Graphix, 9781338186147, August 2021)

Reviewed by Cat Chapman, Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida

Vampenguin by Lucy Ruth Cummins

A day at the zoo for the Dracula family provides the perfect cover for Junior to engage in a penguin switcheroo. Hilarious and adorable, with illustrations that tell as much of the story as the words themselves.

Vampenguin by Lucy Ruth Cummins, (List Price: 17.99, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 9781534466982, July 2021)

Reviewed by Elese Stutts, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Hardly Haunted by Jessie Sima

Jessie Sima has once again found the direct line to my heart – this time through a personified “haunted” house! This sweet story about a house that is worried about being haunted will resonate with readers who are finding ways to be comfortable in their own skin.

Hardly Haunted by Jessie Sima, (List Price: 17.99, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 9781534441705, July, 2021)

Reviewed by Chelsea Stringfield, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

Listen by Gabi Snyder

The message of LISTEN is one for all ages – when all you hear is noise, stop, close your eyes, and listen to everything waiting to be heard. Gabi Snyder’s lesson starts on a busy city street but goes beyond just noisy times to remind us the importance of listening for feelings like our friends’ emotions and how we are feeling inside. Stephanie Graegin’s illustrations are a gentle, perfect accompaniment to the text. This would make the perfect book for a storytime or lesson centered on mindfulness.

Listen by Gabi Snyder, (List Price: 17.99, Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 9781534461895, July 2021)

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

The Okay Witch and the Hungry Shadow by Emma Steinkellner

What an awesome sequel! So much of the first was about Moth learning her history, but this new installment is more about learning herself, which I adore. Her mom’s romantic subplot is also a great addition, and the added strength of the three Hush women is a sight to behold.

The Okay Witch and the Hungry Shadow by Emma Steinkellner (List Price: $12.99, Aladdin, 9781534431485, 7/6/2021)

Reviewed by Amber Brown, Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, North Carolina

Measuring Up by Lily LaMotte, Ann Xu (Illus.)

My daughter and I loved this graphic novel about a girl who moves to Seattle from Taiwan. Like many immigrant stories, this one had multiple examples of the prejudices immigrant children can experience. Cici made friends, but there were times they thought they needed to speak slowly to her (they didn’t), that her lunch was gross (because it wasn’t “American”), and there were multiple times when people referred to her as Chinese and didn’t bother to remember her correction to “Taiwanese.” Cici’s struggles to both fit in as well as maintain her delight in her culture came through in the pages. My daughter, six, loved the cooking aspects and the story segued into a good discussion about culture and identity.

Measuring Up by Lily LaMotte, Ann Xu (Illus.) (List Price: $12.99, HarperAlley, 9780062973863, 10/27/2020)

Reviewed by Jenny Luper, Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, North Carolina

The Last Rabbit by Shelley Moore Thomas

The Last Rabbit has the heart of The Velveteen Rabbit with the mischief of Peter Rabbit. It is sure to be a new classic for children of all ages! This is the beautifully told story about a little rabbit, the last of four sisters, trying to find her path in life while realizing family is all around.

The Last Rabbit by Shelley Moore Thomas (List Price: $16.99, Wendy Lamb Books, 9780593173534, 2/9/2021)

Reviewed by Olivia Schaffer, The Bookshelf in Thomasville, Georgia

When the World Was Ours by Liz Kessler

A vividly poignant story sure to leave an impact. The harrowing journeys of Leo, Elsa, and Max left me near tears and ripping through every page. Beautifully, beautifully written.

When the World Was Ours by Liz Kessler (List Price: $18.99, Aladdin, 9781534499652, 5/18/2021)

Reviewed by Asia Harden, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

Unsettled by Reem Faruqi

I love a good novel-in-verse! This book is perfect for any young reader who has arrived at a new school and does not fit in with their new classmates. Nurah’s family has moved from Pakistan to Peachtree City, Georgia, so we get to see her tackle her culture shock and overcome her shyness in order to stand up not only for herself but for others in need.

Unsettled by Reem Faruqi (List Price: $16.99, HarperCollins, 9780063044708, 5/11/2021)

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

Ground Zero by Alan Gratz

Alan Gratz, historical fiction go-to for middle school, has moved from WWII to more contemporary times with his newest novel Ground Zero. Told from the viewpoint of two teens on opposite sides of the globe, Gratz reframes the 9/11 story for the eyes and ears of young readers. This one is sure to be an instant bestseller.

Ground Zero by Alan Gratz (List Price: $17.99, Scholastic Press, 9781338245752, 2/2/2021)

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

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