Staff Picks by Maureen
Maureen (shown here with her two daughters, Amelia and store manager, Jessica) is the proud owner of Once Upon A Time and is always trying to find the time to read more books after working 7 days a week at America's Oldest Children's Bookstore. She loves mysteries (she started the Adult Mystery Book Club), action-packed adventures, and the perfect picture books for story time.
This utterly charming debut by Julie Abe will win the hearts of young readers and parents alike with its tale of a semi-magical witch sent on a quest to earn her Novice Witch rank. With a “wink” to angel Clarence of It’s A Wonderful Life, who was sent to earth to get his wings, Abe’s young Eva Evergreen has her mission “to always do good”, for her adopted village of Auteri and to guard and protect the village from the all-dreaded Culling. With only a minimal amount of magic in her arsenal, she uses her strong mechanical and repair abilities to make up for what she lacks in powerful magic. Eva calls on her new found friends of Auteri in this race-to-the-finish adventure that has more story left to tell. This will be one terrific real aloud as well as an accessible tale to delight newly independent readers. Julie Abe is an author to watch!
Raybearer -- the strongest fantasy book AND debut of the fall season -- is the book that Leigh Bardugo and Tomi Adeyemi fans have been waiting for. Adventure, fantasy, magic, love and loyalty are at the heart of Tarasai’s unthinkable quest in this Nigerian-inspired tale. Epic and cinematic, this is world-building par excellence. Jordan Ifueko has herself a series opener that will knock off your socks and steal your heart. Thrilling! - review by Maureen
Abandoned and left on a desolate lawless island by her powerful sea trader father we meet teen Fable as a struggling dredger who survives cut throat life lessons by her wits and hard won mistakes. She boldly gets off the island by way of an enigmatic trading partner who has a mysterious and dangerous past. With the help of a motley crew with trust issues and enemies galore, Fable gains a family willing to take murderous risks, all the while not sure of her own raw emotions. This taut, magnetic and nail-biting adventure tale of swashbucklers on the dangerous seas will leave you breathless and anxiously awaiting the second book in the duology. - reviewed by Maureen
This heartfelt, authentically moving memoir of Somali refugees will grab your heart and not let go! Readers will be on the journey with Omar and his brother through hardship, heartbreak, multiple setbacks, but ultimately triumphing in their quest for a permanent home. This graphic novel packs an emotional wallop so be ready to take these boys into your heart!
First in a series by renowned animator Armand Baltazar, this 600 page tome is filled with over 150 full color illustrations that lend a deeper meaning to this terrific fast paced action-fantasy time mash-up with dinosaurs, robots, steam engines, pirates, WWII planes and gravity boards all coexisting along with teenager Diego and his 3 friends who fight the villians wanting to undo time. This epic novel for ages 9+ is a worthy heir to the Harry Potter series. I absolutely LOVE this book and am predicting great things for Diego's continuing story. -- Highly recommended by Maureen
A beautiful retelling of the legend of Snow and Rose, this gentle fairy tales brims with all the requisite traditions: dwarfs, missing person, enchanted forest and strange creatures. As in her highly imaginative picture books, first time middle grade novelist Emily Winfield Martin paints the sisters, Snow and Rose, as not exact opposites, but more like complimentary gears, who thrive on different aspects of the same thing. Recommended as a read-aloud, this beautifully illustrated tale will delight the young and young-at-heart! - Maureen
Wow - what a page turner! 8th grader Ryan Quinn has no idea his parents are part of a super secret "Underground Railroad"-type organization that operates in many of the world's most dangerous places. And now he must try to save both of them, with the help of some of his school friends. I loved the way debut author McGee gets inside the head of his protaganist, as well as his technogeek friend Danny. These characters ring true, the action is non-stop and fans of adventure, spy thrillers and plain fun will be eagerly awaiting the next installment. - Maureen
Readers will enjoy terrific descriptions, action-packed adventure and a superb sense of the brutality, harshness but beauty of the wintery existence that surrounds these characters. It's no wonder dogs are descended from misunderstood wolves, as the bravery and ultimate loyalty of these canines can not be refuted. As with Rooftoppers, Rundell lets readers truly inhabit her world and are fully invested in this satisfying tale. Highly reommended! - Maureen
Following 12-year old recently orphaned Joseph on his quest to get his only family back -his beloved horse Sarah- author Gemeinhart brings together race relations in the late 1800's, western lore and a clear-eyed pragmatism that, coupled with his signature action/adventure plot twists and a kindheartedness thread permeating the story, this wonderful, evocative and first rate middle grade title builds on his exceptional debut (The Honest Truth). This is an author that has clearly established himself as a must read for warm hearted, realistic adventures. - Maureen
Finch's creation story of legendary gentleman detective Charles Lenox is the perfect book for Agatha Christie, Donna Leon and Louise Penny fans as the atmosphere is thick as clotted cream and with indelible characters that will become more comfortable as comfy slippers! Standout sequel to be read either before or after Finch's other Lennox books. Not to be mistaken for a cozy, but still one to enjoy with a good Earl Grey and scones. - Maureen
Swashbuckling for a new generation, Eelyn from the Aska clan lives for her fighting season with the dreaded Riki clan. This is a story when raw, physical power and ancient beliefs dictate warriors come from either sex. Family, fighting and feuding are keys to this strong debut Young has crafted of a Viking culture that may need to compromise its deeply held beliefs in order to survive. Harrowing, and bloodthirsty with a high body count, this kickass heroine surely has crossover appeal to fans of Wonder Woman. Could not put this down, your heart will be racing to the end. - Maureen
Chilling, propulsive narrative and unforgettable characters bring this wholly original take on Nazi-obsessed Germany into light as our former gymnast - turned "actress" Jewish Sarah plays strong, Aryan Ursula to rave reviews. She infiltrates a German school for party loyalist's children, where cruelty, cunning and spycraft are employed by everyone - good & evil. Relentlessly paced, this high-octane thriller will keep the pages turning and you thinking long after the book is over. Superb debut by newcomer Matt Killeen. - Maureen
This delightful family read aloud skillfully weaves empathy, compassion and family into a beautifully realized story – universal and timeless – I dare say a new classic, in the mold of Charlotte’s Web (without the talking animals). Ten-year old Louie is trying his best to save a mini-donkey, he named Winston, who was born prematurely and whose mother died giving birth. Louie’s track record is not so good at keeping animals in his care alive, but he has faith in Winslow and gives him everything he has – most especially his love. Louie is sure Winslow will survive, and uses his plight as connection to his older brother Gus’ absence serving in the army. Strong, fully developed characters come to life in Creech’s vividly, and deceptively short novel which will stay with you long after the satisfying last page. - Maureen
In this exquisite picture book, there need be only a few words - boy, boat, journey equals ........magic! In the hands of master storytellers, the brothers Fan have simply created a masterpiece where we will be transported to the mesmerizing magical wonders in this book. A true stunner! - Maureen
This propulsive sci-fi thriller is sure to be loved by Kristoff's Illuminae series fans. This novel is more intimate, though, following Eve, as she soldiers on in the robot gladiator wars by using her uber-skilled mechanical gifts to win. Trying to outrun the evil doers and give her grandpa enough meds to live, this twisty tale will surprise you up through the final page! Do not miss this. - Maureen
Readers will love meeting Natsumi, the little spirited girl who sometimes is MORE than a bit spirited! This effective marriage of Lendroth's well-plotted story and Illustrator Buriss's brightly designed drawings will surely have readers asking for multiple tellings. A true delight! - Maureen
Bright colorful pictures bursting with a diverse and glorious cast of young students, parents, & teachers framed by the repeated uplifting message of "All Are Welcome Here", this should be a mandatory 1st day of school book. - Maureen
Terrific book for a family to read aloud. This is the Palacios family's most favorite picture book! Silly indeed! - Maureen
Mr. Snore is tired and just wants a comfortable bed at the Sharemore Hotel. Encountering sleeping companions from a mouse, a pig, spiders, giraffes and even burrowing hamsters, poor Mr. Snore finally tries the 13th floor where a twist of gigantic proportions awaits! Hawkes’s playful illustrations match perfectly with the absurdity of Bradford’s delightful romp. Instant storytime classic! - Maureen
With an unforgettable lead character, an epic story line and Western details that ring true to life it rightfully will take its place next to other classics such as Lonesome Dove and True Grit. A fantastic debut from a gifted author. - Maureen
With a gentleness of wit, emotion and spot-on humor, Schmidt brings to life 6th grader Carter Jones as he navigates a tough time in his life, with the help of one Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick, who drives an eggplant-hued Bentley and gives advice, both needed and not wanted, as the Jones' family new butler. Interspersed with cricket references - "the finest game in the world" - wonderful and enlightened vocabulary fit for a proper gentleman, Schmidt tackles grief and abandonment with his signature insight, lightness and heart. As the butler says to his charges "make good decisions and remember who you are" -- Carter Jones' story will stay with you for a very long time. Highly recommended! - Maureen
Raw, gritty and acutely tuned to his community, Matt Mendez' debut blends authenticity with poignancy, heartbreak with heartfelt, this emotionally true contemporary story about 2 El Paso teens and a mom of one of the boys, will keep you riveted and engaged. Comparisons to Jason Reynolds, Matt de la Pena and Angie Thomas are accurate but Mendez is a break out star to be watched. This wallop of a tale should be handed to high school kids en masse. - Maureen
Could there be a better young adult historical fiction storyteller than Stacey Lee? The Downstairs Girl rings with honesty about the plight of Jo Kwan, living in Atlanta in 1890 in an abandoned basement below an unsuspecting family that runs one of the town's newspapers. Jo becomes the unseen advice columnist "Dear Miss Sweetie" as she uses her considerable wit to answer letters - all the while working as a maid to a privileged and cruel teen. Romance, racial inequities and family squabbles all result in Lee's outstanding development into a glimpse of Atlanta's storied genteelness. This is a sure winner! - Maureen
This adventure and friendship story will pull you along happily on the journey of Annie and her posse of friends called the Scouts. Are friendships forever or can they be finite, based on outgrowing shared experiences? Debut author carefully navigates this question as 7th grade looms large on the horizon. Before that happens, Annie and her buddies get lost in caves, almost drown, get down and dirty with mounds of mud and worms, and a strange, meteor shower-sprinkling of silver dust leads to a wham-bang climax worthy of the James Patterson name! Hand this to any lover of action/adventure and watch the pages fly by. - Maureen
Just a beautiful, simply worded book about a young girl's summer on Deer Island as she starts to gently mature and have her first crush, including her first kiss. A sweet delight of a story that will surely resonate with tweens. - Maureen
Strong character development with a plot etched in mystery elements, thrillers and family relationships, this one will keep you up at night frantically turning pages. Period details from the 1940's and set in the unforgiving Alaskan wilderness prior to the discovery of oil, this creepy tale is about sisters, family, love and sacrifice and through it all, the harsh realities of nature. Be warned -- you will be "talking" with one of the characters trying to steer her one way. - Maureen
Author Adrienne Young has outdone herself with her sophomore book and "companion" to her thrilling Sky In The Deep. Although Tova, our protagonist is not a warrior, she displays remarkable strength and courage when faced with brutalities and violence. She is a Truthtongue, and has arrived-feared, loathed and condemned- as a child at a competing and very inhospitable klan. She uses the harsh realities of nature to her advantage and cast runes that go against the klan that is housing her. War is in the future and she is drawn to a strange young warrior from a competing klan, whom she does not understand. Sparks fly, along with arrows, axes and swords, in this not to be missed tale brimming with Viking-esque lore. - Maureen
Once upon a time there was a storyteller, whose stories existed in the land of many lakes – that boundless region called Minnesota, where hardy souls have made their living on the water, fertile land and in cities. This storyteller, William Kent Krueger, weaves his stories with characters so rich, so real and so human, the tale leaps off the page and buries deep into your soul. “This Tender Land” is simply a magnificent example of Krueger’s extraordinary gift as a writer. You will find it hard to put down, or even after finishing, hard to stop thinking of Odie, Albert, Mose and Emmy – your guides down the winding rivers in this book. Truly, a masterpiece. - review by Maureen
In this season of strong, brave women, Maureen's absolute favorite memoir - Rough Magic by Lara Prior-Palmer - is not to be missed. It's about Lara's naiveté in trying to win the grueling, soul-wrenching World's Loneliest Horse Race in Mongolia, with nary a thought of preparation. This is for fans of Cherly Strayand's Wild and MacDonald's H is for Hawk and is writing at it's finest! - Review by Maureen
Nielsen's always first-rate historical fiction, this one about the early 20th century Lithuanian struggle against the Cossack occupation and censorship of Lithuanian culture, traditions and banning of books, hums along at a pace which will endear action/adventure fans into turning pages. Some scary situations -- beatings, villages set on fire and constant surveillance -- make the book a better fit for at least ages 9 and up. - Review by Maureen
What a thrilling rollercoaster of a ride through THE LOOP as teenager Luka Kane waits for his execution! Definitely for those that enjoy high-wire acts, like twisty plots and enjoy turning pages lickety-split this high-octane sci-fi with a taste of dystopian will be enjoyed by Hunger Games fans that need to find their next series. Here it is! - review by Maureen
This tale will grab you, get under your fingernails and not let go so vivid are these 3 friends on a harrowing journey to save themselves. Ripped from the headlines, and extraordinary in its depiction of KIDS running from their country’s violence, depredation and hopelessness, the sometimes unspeakable events are also tempered with the hope and humanity of kind people along the way. Traveling from Honduras to the promised land of the US’s freedom and justice system, your eyes will be opened and your heart will plead for our nation to SEE these children and treat them with compassion.
Charles Finch raises the bar on his well loved gentleman Inspector Lenox character in this deeply resonant "prequel" that crosses the pond to the United States before the Civil War. As always, strong writing with characters you've gone to tea with with an added political theatre over slavery in this hard-to-put down mystery.
A rich, deeply memorable debut from Aussie Charlotte McConaghy, Migrations tells multiple stories of a young woman, the Arctic Tern species and the slowly changed world without birds, fish and most other animals. Weaving in and out of Franny’s life is her complicated past life, her unorthodox marriage to ornithologist Niall and her constant self-doubt possibly bordering on madness. Set in Ireland, the Arctic and in the grand oceans of the world, the soothing calm, the violent storms and the vastness of the earth’s water ways also act as characters in this unforgettable, lyrical and beautifully crafted story. Be ready to stay with the book’s characters well beyond the final sentence. Stunning!
Fussy young Lola the flamingo wants to explore away from her flamingo family, and so, after dilly-daillying herself away, she proceeds to eat brightly colored food that turns her feathers into a multitude of colors. Her pleading parents try to convince her that eating shrimp will be in her best interest. And, eventually, Lola finds that shrimp are delicious! With colors bursting across the page, Rivera brings Lola's story to glorious life. Interesting backmatter will intrigue young readers. Perfect storytime book! - review by Maureen
Mindy Mejia owns the space of taut, tightly woven plotted thrillers and Strike Me Down is just that. Contemporary Twin Cities-locale, with fitness/MMA brand called Strike, Mejia's forensic accountant Nora Trier is to find a multi-million dollar company thief. The multiple perspectives Mejia employs circles this edge of your seat tale and then doubles back to throw you in a new direction. Wow -- this is one stunning thriller. - review by Maureen
Isla Morley's The Last Blue takes place mainly in 1937 and a bit in the 1970s and is about Havens, a struggling photographer and his reporter sent by Roosevelt to document America’s working class. They are sent to Appalachia and encounter elusive-for-a-reason siblings who are Blue people. The photographer is instantly smitten, falls (literally) head over heels for Jubilee and tries to keep quiet about these folks in the hollers who are “different”. This historical fiction novel indicates clearly the depths of hatred some “right-colored” people have for people who are “different” (poverty, upbringing, skin color) from themselves but is finally, a luminous love story, with Havens learning to let go as Jubilee learns to stand up for herself. When I slow down my reading as I enter the last chapters of a book, I just want to stay within this book’s “walls” and not escape to the real world. - reviewed by Maureen
A delightful, contemporary fiction for sisters everywhere by our favorite Satellite sister – Lian Dolan, The Sweeney Sisters will make you laugh, cry and chortle with recognition of your own family and its foibles (I sure did, coming from a family of 5 children). How three adult sisters become four is pure Dolan, as she captures family dynamics with a knowing nod to her own. And even those who grew up as only children will want to join the Sweeney family of Connecticut. This heartfelt and affecting novel will be one to pass on to your sisters! - reviewed by Maureen
This debut sparkle's with well written characters, family dynamics gone awry and a deeply embedded Kansas location that is normally not written about. The only -too-real mother/daughter relationship is fraught with misunderstandings and hard won truths. How Mandelbaum handles a bone weary, obsessed and depressed woman on the verge of losing everything -- her home, her daughter, her animals and the entire sanctuary - is writing at its best. Surely, a writer to watch! - reveiw by Maureen
Never reading Paul Tremblay before, I wasn't sure what to expect. OMG! was this intense, thrilling, horrific and way too timely - in other words, could not put it down. However, I did not read it under the covers, but with all my lights on to tell myself........it's only a book.......it's only a book. Mr. Toad's Wild Ride on steroids. - review by Maureen
Great adventure tale about 13-year old Francie as she survives in the Oregon wilderness – alone – for nearly 2 weeks after her family gets lost on a road trip from British Columbia to the Grand Canyon. After both parents – separately – go opposite ways trying to find help, Francie calls up all her wits, ingenuity and luck to endure harsh elements, animal encounters, lack of food & water and her own, sometimes raw, emotions. Readers will be rooting for Feisty Francie in this fast paced, can’t-put-down survival story. - Review by Maureen
This fantastic series opener about Indigenous foster kids set in Canada - - will creep into your soul, thump thump thump, like a beating drum or eagle wings taking flight or your pounding heartbeat – in this Narnia-inspired fantasy . 13 year old Morgan has seen it all as she has bounced around after a succession of failed foster homes since very early childhood. She reluctantly has agreed to her foster parents to help watch 12-year old new foster child – Eli – as he navigates middle school, where she comes to discover his amazing drawing talent. As kids tend to do when bored, they enter the attic at home that has an unexplained painted-over doorway, and whoosh…….in comes the cold, frost and snow from beyond. Joseph’s drawing of a winter forest has come alive including talking and walking squirrels, fishers and bears, among other animal elders. - review by Maureen