Kat Recommends: Secret Coders by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes
Welcome to Stately Academy, a school which is just crawling with mysteries to be solved! The founder of the school left many clues and puzzles to challenge his enterprising students. Using their wits and their growing prowess with coding, Hopper and her friend Eni are going to solve the mystery of Stately Academy no matter what it takes!
Just the idea of this graphic novel series is awesome: teaching the basic principles of coding through comics. Despite being written on a very easy reading level, this book is incredibly effective at conveying complex computer science concepts. They explained binary in a single chapter! And at the end of each chapter is a puzzle for readers to solve using what they’ve just learned. Yes, the story mostly serves to carry the learning, but there is definitely character developments and at least one big twist in the story of the first book–this is a finely crafted piece of work, worthy of any reader curious about computer science.
Katie recommends: The Dark by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen
Laszlo is afraid of the dark. The dark is not afraid of Laszlo.
Laszlo lives in a house. The dark lives in the basement.
One night, the dark comes upstairs to Laszlo’s room, and Laszlo goes down to the basement.
This is the story of how Laszlo stops being afraid of the dark.
This lovely little picture book, by the delightfully twisted mind behind A Series of Unfortunate Events, tells an eerie tale, casually personifying The Dark as a sentient creature all its own. It’s not a monster, though, not really. Even though Jon Klassen’s illustrations evoke that feeling of fear and isolation in the dark, this story never gets too dark, never looses that edge of whimsy.
This is the perfect kind of picture book for All Hallow’s Read, and a great story to enjoy with younger and older family alike. Check it out in our children’s area!
Katie Recommends: First Test by Tamora Pierce
(Why two covers? Because we have gloomy, scary looking one at the library, but it is a horrible cover, so have the original as well.)
Ten years after knighthood training was opened to both males and females, no girl has been brave enough to try. But knighthood is Keladry’s one true desire, and so she steps forward to put herself to the test.
Up against the traditional hazing of pages and a grueling schedule, Kel faces one roadblock that seems insurmountable: Lord Wyldon, the training master of pages and squires. He is absolutely against girls becoming knights. So while he is forced to train her, Wyldon puts her on a probationary trial period that no male page has ever had to endure. Further set apart from her fellow trainees, Kel’s path to knighthood is now that much harder. But she is determined to try, and she’s making friends in the most unlikely places.
This book was published in 1999, but it is as relevant today as it was then. Kel’s a girl just trying to do what she loves, even though everyone keeps telling her she’s not suited for it. She has allies who support her from the start, but they are few and far between and often tend to exhibit bigotry of their own, even without being aware of it. It’s the microagressions that Pierce really nails, with people unconsciously treating Kel differently, even without trying. And Kel often not knowing if she should be mad about special treatment she’s given, or grateful.
Then there’s Kel as a character. She’s stubborn and selfless and so innocent. When Lord Wyldon speaks of her distracting the male students with her presence, she has no idea what he means. Her general lack emotional awareness is coupled with a ridiculous command of physical arts, often something she uses to protect people smaller and/or weaker than her considerable height and stature. She’s a hero in the quietest, truest sense of the term. Her series, starting with First Test, is a pleasure to read.
Tamora Pierce, for those who don’t know her, is a titan of the Fantasy YA world. Many of her books are available through our Overdrive.
Kel’s Story (aka The Protector of the Small Quartet) is all available in audio format on our Overdrive:
The first book is also in our collection at the library.
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
Cassandra is lost, alone and grieving. Her much loved grandmother, Nell, has just died and Cassandra, her life already shaken by a tragic accident ten years ago, feels like she has lost everything dear to her. But an unexpected and mysterious bequest from Nell turns Cassandra’s life upside down and ends up challenging everything she thought she knew about herself and her family.
Inheriting a book of dark and intriguing fairytales written by Eliza Makepeace—the Victorian authoress who disappeared mysteriously in the early twentieth century—Cassandra takes her courage in both hands to follow in the footsteps of Nell on a quest to find out the truth about their history, their family and their past; little knowing that in the process, she will also discover a new life for herself.
This deliciously haunting- historical fiction was written by a native Aussie, and it’s a bestseller in the UK. It features lovely imagery, sort of gothic in tone, and if you like the idea of people living in decaying castles and solving mysteries this read is for you. Secrets, suspicions, and an ending that wraps everything up perfectly–this would be a great read for any mystery fan, or reader who enjoys family intrigue or gothic literature.
Katie Recommends: Howl’s Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones
Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl’s castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there’s far more to Howl—and herself—than first meets the eye.
Sophie is a delightfully practical, down-to-earth heroine who finds herself in over her head with magical castles, incredibly powerful Witches, and one wizard’s ridiculous drama about everything that happens to him. Her and Howl’s banter is clever and sweet, building a wonderful friendship between two very, very different people. Their interactions, coupled with Jones’ lovely storytelling and character work, make even the most mundane activities seem fascinating, while giving weight to the most outlandish of events.
This is truly one of those books that can make you laugh or cry, no matter your age. A great book to read aloud as a family, or to enjoy under the covers with a lovely cup of tea.
Recommended for: readers who enjoy well-written characters, strong female leads, modern fairy tales, and stories set in the British countryside.
There’s also a movie based very loosely on the book by the spectacular Studio Ghibli. You can watch the trailer here.
Deb Recommends: The Vanishing, The Fate of Mercy Alban, and The Tale of Halcyon Crane by Wendy Web
Recently widowed and rendered penniless by her Ponzi-scheming husband, Julia Bishop is eager to start anew. So when a stranger appears on her doorstep with a job offer, she finds herself accepting the mysterious yet unique position: caretaker to his mother, Amaris Sinclair, the famous and rather eccentric horror novelist whom Julia has always admired…and who the world believes is dead.
Grace Alban has spent twenty years away from her childhood home, the stately Alban House, for reasons she would rather forget. But when her mother’s unexpected death brings Grace and her teen-age daughter home, she finds more haunting the halls and passageways of Alban House than her own personal demons.
A young woman travels to uncover a past she never knew was hers in this thrilling, modern, ghost story. A letter upends Hallie’s life. She was raised by her loving father, having been told her mother died in a fire. Her mother, Madlyn, was alive until very recently. Why would Hallie’s father have taken her away? What happened to her family thirty years ago?
These moody and atmospheric gothic dramas feature so many family secrets, twists and turns that they’re a joy to read, especially on a dark, stormy weekend. The endings are so satisfying, despite the twists and turns. A recommendation for any fan of dramas, mystery, and plot twists.
Katie recommends: Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks
Tackling Goodall, Fossey, and Galdikas in turn, and covering the highlights of their respective careers, Primates is an accessible, entertaining, and informative look at the field of primatology and at the lives of three of the most remarkable women scientists of the twentieth century.
Genres: non-fiction, graphic novel, middle grade, science, feminist heroes
A lovely biography of three very important scholars which shows just how intertwined their careers were. The delightful art brings such personality to the story, allowing for multi-page silent passages with just these scientists interacting with the apes. Combined with the smart, fast-moving narration that’s conveniently color-coded to the characters and not afraid to tell the nastier parts of living in these jungle locales (like malaria, lack of running water, poachers, and lack of contact with the outside world), this story gives a down-to-earth feel to these pioneers of science, without scaring readers off from their less than glamorous lifestyle.
Recommended for amateur scientists, animal lovers, and voracious graphic novel readers.