The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

People & Places

Tokyo Dreaming by Emiko Jean

Tokyo Dreaming is a breathtaking story that is so vividly written you will feel like you are walking next to Izumi as she navigates imperial life. Izumi has overcome so many challenges since discovering that her father is the Crown Prince Makotonomiya Toshihito of Japan. The transition from normal small town girl to Imperial princess has been difficult. Now Izumi’s mom has joined her in Japan, and they are living the happy family life that Izumi always dreamed of with her father. When Izumi’s father proposes to her mom, everyone is thrilled for the life that is to come. Everyone, except the Imperial council who has their doubts about the match. Izumi decides she will do whatever it takes to make sure her mom and dad have their happily ever after. But what will it cost her? Her future happiest, her friends, or even the true love of her life. Tokyo Dreaming continues the story that began with Tokyo Ever After. Perfect for fans of Sarah Kuhn’s I love you so Mochi, Katherine McGee’s American Royal, or Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries.

Tokyo Dreaming by Emiko Jean, (List Price: $18.99, Flatiron Books, 9781250766632, May 2022)

Reviewed by Gretchen Shuler, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina

Hollow Fires by Samira Ahmed

Ahmed masterfully weaves together so many difficult topics that it’s hard to say what this book is about in any concise way. It’s painful, it’s beautiful, it’s haunting. It shines a light on horrific topics with sensitivity and grace and does so through the lens of two characters that are some of the most realistic I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Safiya didn’t really know Jawad, and she still felt the pain of his loss deeply. Upon finishing this book, I too feel his loss as if I knew him. I cannot remember ever reading a book so impactful, so relevant, and so emotionally gripping. If I had my way, everyone would read this book

Hollow Fires by Samira Ahmed, (List Price: $18.99, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 9780316282642, May 2022)

Reviewed by tee arnold, Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, North Carolina

Catalina Incognito by Jennifer Torres

Catalina Incognito is the first book in what’s sure to be a charming new chapter book series. Gifted with a magic sewing kit on her eighth birthday, shy and reserved Catalina learns about taking chances and trying again — and also solves the mystery of her aunt’s missing ruby. I loved the way Spanish phrases are mixed in throughout the book..

Catalina Incognito by Jennifer Torres, Gladys Jose (illus.), (List Price: $5.99, Aladdin, 9781534482784,  March 2022)

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

Keep Your Head Up by Aliya King Neil, Charly Palmer (illus.)

Everyone knows Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day. What Keep Your Head Up does even better is how do you deal with the bad in a given day and, even when a meltdown happens, how do you make good decisions going forward. I love Charly Palmer’s artwork and the expressiveness he puts in the faces and postures of his characters. even to the cloud of feeling “a little scrunchy” hovering over the kid.


Keep Your Head Up by Aliya King Neil, Charly Palmer (illus.), (List Price: $17.99, Denene Millner Books/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 9781534480407, September 2021)

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


Nour’s Secret Library by Wafa’ Tarnowska

Nour and her cousin Amir live in Damascus, playing and reading and planning a secret club when the war in Syria comes to their city. Soon they are forced to spend their nights in a basement, and during the day Amir and his friends collect the books left on the streets of Damascus. With the books piling up, Noor and Amir decide to start a secret library- a place for their friends to find hope,adventure, and comfort. The illustrations are lovely and I’m always a sucker for a board book about books!

Nour’s Secret Library by Wafa’ Tarnowska, (List Price: $17.99, Barefoot Books, 9781646862917,  March 2022)

Reviewed by Kate Towery, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

The Year We Learned to Fly by Jacqueline Woodson, Rafael López

When the world is too boring or too hard or too angry for them, a brother and sister are reminded by their very wise grandmother that somewhere in the world somebody else felt the same way. This stunningly illustrated (by Rafael López) masterpiece from Jacqueline Woodson, former Ambassador for Children’s Literature, highlights the power of the imagination and encourages young readers to believe in something, leave troubles behind, and imagine a better world.

The Year We Learned to Fly by Jacqueline Woodson, Rafael López, (List Price: $18.99, Nancy Paulsen Books, 9780399545535, January 2022)

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

Ain’t Burned All the Bright by Jason Reynolds, Jason Griffin (Illustrator)

A beautiful and unconventional book capturing what the year 2020 felt like to the youngest child of a fictional Black American family, told in three long sentences and a notebook’s worth of art. Haunting and gorgeous, the unnamed narrator’s observations speak powerfully to a wide range of emotions, from the despair felt watching the world crumble and seeing the country’s betrayal of its Black citizens, to the balm that family connections can provide in the darkest times.

Ain’t Burned All the Bright by Jason Reynolds, Jason Griffin (Illustrator) (List Price: $19.99, Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 9781534439467, January 2022)

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

Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed by Saraciea J. Fennell

These are the voices. The voices we need to hear, to represent the voices that need to be heard. This collection from fifteen influential Young Adult writers from the Latinx diaspora is the perfect launch pad for conversations and the perfect door to new ideas.

Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed by Saraciea J. Fennell, (List Price: $18.99, Flatiron Books, 9781250763426, November 2021)

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

New Year by Mei Zihan

When growing up, it is easy to focus on how far you come and how proud you are of yourself, but it is easy to forget how much your parents may miss you and long for your presence. While growing and building your own families, you inevitably separate a little from your own. This book shows readers what a parent may think while their child is off being a grown up – proud but longing for more time with them. Mei Zihan beautifully tells of Lunar New Year and the toll that the holiday season has on him without his daughter at home. Zihan demonstrates how much he misses his daughter while also respecting her growth and being proud of the woman she has become. Beautifully told and illustrated.

New Year by Mei Zihan, (List Price: Greystone Kids, 9781771647311, November 2021)

Reviewed by Stephanie Carrion, Oxford Exchange in Greenville, South Carolina


The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass

Fans of GET OUT and SAWKILL GIRLS, prepare to meet Jake Livingston. Ryan Douglass’s debut is gritty and extremely tough to read at times, but with social issues at the forefront and a hero worth rooting for, THE TAKING OF JAKE LIVINGSTON is a deep novel that holds back no punches. Queer, eerie, and heart-wrenching, Douglass takes his readers on an emotional rollercoaster through these horror events – both paranormal and real-life.

The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass, (List Price: 17.99, G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 9781984812537, July 2021)

Reviewed by Brad Sells, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

My Two Border Towns by David Bowles, Erika Meza (Illus.)

I loved that this picture book introduces young readers to the refugee crisis at the Mexico-US border in a friendly and colorful story. The story doesn’t hide the unfairness, but it ends on an optimistic note.

My Two Border Towns by David Bowles, Erika Meza (Illus.) (List Price: $17.99, Kokila, 9780593111048, 8/24/2021)

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

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