Miss Bookshelf USA 2020

According to the calendar, it’s May and the books on my shelves are NOT socially distancing themselves so I think that means it’s time for…

…the 5th Annual Miss Bookshelf USA. Miss Bookshelf USA

Yes, the prestigious (hehe) event when I pull all the books I read and reviewed the previous year off my bookshelves, dust ’em off, dress ’em up,  fall back under their papery story spells, and crown a tiara on top.

According to what I reviewed in Goodreads,  I read 39 books in total: 2 nonfiction, 2 anthologies, 8 adult, only 2 YA (wow! I’m surprised at this too!), 11 middle grade, 11 picture books, and 3 chapter books. It seems like while 2018 was the year of YA, 2019 was the year of middle grade.

And of those 39 contestants, my Top Ten Delegates are…

… drumroll please.

Michael McDowell’s BLACKWATER saga

Eoin Colfer’s HIGHFIRE

Erin Morgenstern’s THE STARLESS SEA

Delia Owens’ WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

Paul Rosolie’s THE GIRL AND THE TIGER

Watt Key’s BEAST: FACE-TO-FACE WITH THE FLORIDA BIGFOOT

Ursula Vernon’s CASTLE HANGNAIL

Erin Entrada Kelly’s LALANI OF THE DISTANT SEA

Gillian McDunn’s CATERPILLAR SUMMER

Natalie Lloyd’s OVER THE MOON

Whew, this is tough. I enjoyed reading all these books. Have you read any of these?

Without further ado, Miss Amity is…

… a tie! (Already? Yes, remember from last year I can do this)

CASTLE HANGNAIL and CATERPILLAR SUMMER! Both Molly and Cat hold the heart of their books by their kindness to the Castle Hangnail denizens and her shark-loving little brother, Chicken, respectively.

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Miss Photogenic is LALANI OF THE DISTANT SEA! I adored reading this lyrical Filipino folktale-inspired story, and the map and illustrations by Lian Cho really made it come alive. It was a perfect compliment to Kelly’s tale of inner strength and belief.

thStyle goes to the BLACKWATER saga! While much of this was a reread for me, it’s been since high school (so twenty-ish years ago) and the swamp monster matriarch Elinor Caskey hasn’t lost her style one bit.

thSecond Runner-Up is THE GIRL AND THE TIGER! Isha and Kala’s story had me in the feels most of the read. It’s such a beautiful book with so much growing pains between appreciating nature and economical progress, hopeful and helpless all at the same time.

9780385541213_fdaf6First Runner-Up is THE STARLESS SEA! I loved how the deeper you sank into the honeyed pages, the more connection you found. Stories wove into stories, keys opened painted doors, it was a dream of a book, much like THE NIGHT CIRCUS.

And Miss Bookshelf 2020 is… WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING! I mean, there’s a reason it’s sold 6 million copies and is on the NYT Bestseller list for over 21 months. Kya’s lyrical story of loneliness and appreciation of nature resounds with people more that ever in this time of social distancing. 9780735219090_e11a6

Thanks for playing along! Do you have a favorite book you read last year?

Earth Day Kid’s Book Recommendations

For the 50th anniversary of Earth Day this year, I wanted to come up with my top 5 Kid’s Book Recommendations. But I couldn’t whittle it down from 7 even though who comes up with a Top 7 list? Me. Someone who loves Earth Day and likes to celebrate Earth Day Every Day. Of course, due to COVID-19 our Earth Day celebrations have changed slightly. Instead of commemorating with the community at the Fairhope Pier, the kids and I participated in a 3 week, stay-at-home Pollinator Project Earth Day Challenge with the Girl Scouts of NE Kansas & NW Missouri council. It’s been fun–we’ve all learned LOTS about how important pollinators are and were lucky enough to have monarch caterpillars on milkweed in our garden. Bagel, Tickle Lemon Stripe Stripe, and Stretchy McNibbles became our backyard quarantine buddies.

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Great J-shape, Bagel! Check out my Instagram page for all stages of their metamorphosis.

Now, to the Top 7 list!

Picture Books

BROTHER EAGLE, SISTER SKY, illustrated by Susan Jeffers (Penguin RandomHouse, 1991) The text is Chief Seattle’s heart-tingling speech to the government when they wanted to buy his people’s (the Northwest Native American Nations) land. He believed that all life, especially the earth itself, is sacred. Absolutely gorgeous book on how all life is connected to each other.

THE FATE OF FAUSTO, written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers (HarperCollins, 2019) My first impression of this modern-day fable was that it was an odd one, but when has Jeffers ever steered us wrong? By the time I read through to the end page, I was in the feels. My boss must’ve seen the expression on my face because she asked if I was okay. It’s about a guy, Fausto, who claims everything, “You are mine” and for a bit, the flowers, the sheep, the mountains bow down to his will. But then he goes too far. This book oddly really resonates with kids–I think it’s the idea of an adult claiming ownership of everything and then a mutiny that’s appealing. I have it on this list because it cautions humanity on claiming things as ours when we really have no right to.

Chapter Book

IVY + BEAN: WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA?, written by Annie Barrows, illustrated by Sophie Blackall (Chronicle Books, 2011) I love this book in the popular series because its takes something HUGE–global warming, and breaks it down into a project that gives children agency. One of the issues with things like plastic pollution, global warming, etc, is that they’re such BIG PROBLEMS, its overwhelming. For adults as well as kids. I love how Barrows breaks it down and her author’s note in the back is not to be missed.

Middle Grade

BAYOU MAGIC, written by Jewell Parker Rhodes (Little, Brown Books, 2015) Y’all may recall this one on my blog when it won Miss Amity in last year’s Miss Bookshelf USA. It has so many things to love about it–folk magic, fireflies, Mami Wata mermaids, and a Cajun setting with an environmental twist–the BP Oil Spill. Which incidentally, just had its 10 year mark.

CHOMP, written by Carl Hiaasen (Knopf, 2012) Really, most all of Hiaasen’s novels fit the environmental theme with its conservation and respect for Florida wildlife, but this is one specifically is what Mermaid Girl picked as this year’s Earth Week read. We’re both enjoying the Florida flora and fauna fun facts and absurdity Hiaasen does so well.

Young Adult

THE GIRL AND THE TIGER, written by Paul Rosolie (Owl Hollow Press, 2019) The girl is Isha. She is sent away to live with her grandparents in the Indian countryside. The tiger is Kala, an orphaned Bengal tiger cub Isha finds in an ancient banyan grove. Together they take a journey to find a safe place for Kala to live. It gives insight on the growing pains India is struggling with by asking, do we protect the environment and animals within (because the natural world is all connected) or do we embrace a world made convenient at other’s expense? Gah, I cried at the end. Its hopeful and helpless all at the same time. Knowing that it’s based on real people, knowing that there are voices for the voiceless, really made it hit hard.

DRY, written by Neal & Jarrod Shusterman (S&S, 2019) So I haven’t finished reading this one yet but wanted to add it to the list as it realistically portrays a future we’re heading into, dealing with climate change and California droughts. Especially as we enter into a megadrought in real life. I want to include this quote about DRY from Publishers Weekly because I think it perfectly summarizes the COVID-crisis as well:

“…effective study of how extreme circumstances can bring out people’s capacity for both panic and predation, ingenuity and altruism.”

So there are my Top 7 picks for Earth Day reads. What are some of your favorites?EarthDayTop7

Something I want everyone reading this to keep in mind is while these are overwhelming issues that can get you right down in the dumps, there are always small steps YOU can take to make the world better. And these books help you find your path.

Unfortunately libraries are closed now, but if a book resonates with you that you’d like to share with your kids, consider checking in with your local indie bookshop. Most are offering curbside pick-up and our local, The Haunted Book Shop, even offers porch-side drop-off in select neighborhoods and free, local shipping (all links connect to the Haunted Bookshop or its partner, bookshop.org.)

Stay safe and 6 feet away from your neighbors but feel free to hug a tree 🙂