The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

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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

Planning Perfect by Haley Neil

This sweet romcom about a girl on the asexual spectrum who tries to plan her mom’s location wedding in Vermont without spiraling out will be just what you’re looking for as a wonderful summer read. Felicity has had a rough time of it. After the incident last year, she’s trying to get back on track with a prime position at her favorite school club. But when her mom gets engaged, she throws all her energy into planning the perfect wedding. And maybe she can connect more with a friend from the summer that she may or may not have a crush on!

Planning Perfect by Haley Neil, (List Price: $19.99, Bloomsbury YA, 9781547607495, February 2023)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia

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

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

The Talk by Alicia D. Williams

Charming black kids growing up together, neighborhood friends through the years. But as they grow and age from chubby-cheeked helpers and adventurers into young men and women, still respectful and helpful, just looking more adult, the parents and grandparents sit them down for "the talk". That not everyone will see their fun-loving enthusiasm, or a hoodie or earphones as childhood innocence by default. Briana Mukodiri Uchendu’s pastels show such expressiveness, from hugs of closeness, to silly play and gap-toothed smiles of children, to heartbreaking empathy. Now I know black families and brown families have to know about the talk, but this is a great conversation starter for people who may not need to have the talk to know that not everyone is so fortunate, and maybe that window will help them be better allies.

The Talk by Alicia D. Williams, (List Price: $18.99, Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 9781534495296, October 2022)

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

The Wolf Suit by Sid Sharp

The Wolf Suit is an absolutely charming picture book about anxiety through the eyes of a sheep in wolf’s clothing.

The Wolf Suit by Sid Sharp, (List Price: $19.99, Annick Press, 9781773217208, October 2022)

Reviewed by Michelle Cavalier, Cavalier House Books in Denham Springs, Louisiana

Brown Is Beautiful by Supriya Kelkar

I love the beauty of Brown is Beautiful. A young Indian American girl walks through nature with her grandparents, celebrating all the beauty of things that are brown – leaves and bears and canyons. The book transitions to houses and families and babies, all brown and beautiful. This is a story of joy and celebration!

Brown Is Beautiful by Supriya Kelkar, (List Price: $18.99, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), 9780374389529, October 2022)

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

The Getaway by Lamar Giles

What an incredible book! Giles rachets up the tension immediately in this story of paradise gone wrong. The staff and families living at Karloff County’s most famous resort are living happily in harmony until people start to vanish without a trace. As the world outside starts to crumble, young Jay and his friends try to find a way to get themselves and their loved ones to safety – whatever that may mean.

The Getaway by Lamar Giles, (List Price: $19.99, Scholastic Press, 9781338752014, September 2022)

Reviewed by Andrea Richardson, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

Four for the Road by K. J. Reilly

Four for the Road by K.J. Reilly is a gut-punch of a novel. Its portrayal of grief is raw and furious and heartbreaking. Following the death of his mother, Asher Hunting rotates through therapists and bereavement groups, trapped in a cycle of anger and pain. He wants nothing more than to get revenge on the drunk driver who killed his mother, but avoided jail time on a technicality. Along with an unexpected group of friends from the bereavement groups–teens Sloane and Will and 80-year-old Henry– Asher embarks on a road trip from New Jersey to Graceland in hopes of revenge and closure. Four for the Road is a moving examination of the anger that accompanies grief and the earth-shattering reality of loss. For anyone who has ever lost someone, Four for the Road holds a mirror up to the jagged edges that are left behind and validates that being in pieces is okay.

Four for the Road by K. J. Reilly, (List Price: $19.99, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 9781665902281, August 2022)

Reviewed by Charlie Williams, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

Beatrice Likes the Dark by April Genevieve Tucholke

Far and away one of my favorite picture books of the year! Beatrice Likes the Dark is a beautifully illustrated, sweet story of sisterhood. Each page is full of heart and whimsical detail. Your inner baby goth or any year-round halloween lovers in your life will need to own this one!

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

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

When You Take a Step by Bethanie Deeney Murguia

A September 2022 Read This Next! Title

Follow a trail of color through this book as you see where taking a step will lead. Each page follows a child as they explore the world. And even though everyone’s journey will be different, they can all make a difference. This book has a similar feel to Jacqueline Woodson’s The Day You Begin.

When You Take a Step by Bethanie Deeney Murguia, (List Price: $18.99, Beach Lane Books, 9781534473676, September 2022)

Reviewed by Jamie Southern, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

J.R. Silver Writes Her World by Melissa Dassori

Take a Mary Poppins-esque teacher who definitely knows more than she’s letting on, her inherited collection of seemingly magical New Yorker covers that are supposed to inspire creative writing projects, and a pair of best friends whose friendship is changing as they start middle school and you’ve got J.R. Silver Writes Her World. I loved all the little nods in here to “From the Mixed-Up Files” and the Met.

J.R. Silver Writes Her World by Melissa Dassori, (List Price: 6.99, Christy Ottaviano Books, 9780316331456, July 2022)

Reviewed by Melissa Taylor, E. Shaver, Bookseller in Savannah, Georgia

Etta Invincible by Reese Eschmann

Kids turned superheroes. A lost dog. A magical train. A friendship that can save the city. Etta Invincible, told in scenes of written chapters and comic book pages, tells the story of Etta and Eleazar as they search for a lost dog and face the overwhelming sights and sounds, quirky characters, and magical foes all in their city of Chicago.

Etta Invincible by Reese Eschmann, (List Price: $17.99, Aladdin, 9781534468375, July 2022)

Reviewed by Cat Chapman, Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida

TJ Powar Has Something to Prove by Jesmeen Kaur Deo

Powerhouse debater and soccer star TJ is considered one of the most beautiful girls at her school. But when a meme starts circulating comparing her flawless beauty to her Sikh cousin’s natural hairiness, TJ decides to ditch her hair-removal routines to show herself and the world that it’s possible to be both hairy and beautiful. The world, though, seems determined to prove her wrong — except her debate rival Charlie, who doesn’t seem to care at all. A fun, flirty story that couches a cutting criticism of societal beauty standards, handled in a way that will win over readers regardless of personal opinions.

TJ Powar Has Something to Prove by Jesmeen Kaur Deo, (List Price: $17.99, Viking Books for Young Readers, 9780593403396, June 2022)

Reviewed by Melissa Oates, 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

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