THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY by Laura Shovan. Everything you've read about this book is true: 18 distinct voices, deep issues handled with a light touch, nice use of various forms of poetry. I read it in one sitting and particularly loved reluctant writer Katie McCain. Congratulations, Laura, on a lovely debut!
SWEET HOME ALASKA by Carole Estby Dagg. Just like Carole's first novel (which I STILL think about often) THE YEAR THEY WERE FAMOUS, this book swept me into its characters and adventure. With a nod to the Little House books, there is something really compelling about our determined pumpkin-growing heroine. And as someone who was forced to relocate many times as a child, I could really relate to the struggles of starting a new life in a strange land. More books, please, Carole!
TRU & NELLE by G. Neri. As an Alabamian, I have long been exposed to the lore of the friendship between Truman Capote and Nelle Harper Lee. In this fictional rendition, the two young odd-ball creatives have all the adventures you'd expect. The text is easy to read and enjoyable.
RAYMIE NIGHTINGALE by Kate DiCamillo. Yes, I'm a Kate fan. One of my favorite books ever is THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE. This one did not tug the heartstrings for me as that one (or WINN DIXIE! Or DESPEREAX! Or FLORA & ULYSSES), but it's still clearly Kate and not to be missed.
THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE by Janet Fox. I know Janet from way-back when we were in the Tenners, a group of debut children's book authors and have long enjoyed her historical fiction YA novels. She brings the same amazing sense of time and place to this novel and ups the ante with a creepy, mysterious house with ghosts and a chatelaine. (Don't know what a chatelaine is? I didn't either!) This is keep-you-up reading at its best!
HOUR OF THE BEES by Lindsay Eagar. This one captivated me from the first page. I love how the author describes the desert landscape and there were many instances while reading that I just flat-out loved a phrase or sentence. Gorgeous writing. And the story is about friendship and belongingness and the value of our families and small moments and where we come from. Really lovely.