My time in this book loving community has been such a blessing. One way that comes to mind is that group members have helped me remember the title of the most meaningful book to me in my childhood (Three Knocks on the Wall), which has since been brought back into print to my great joy!
Everyone has shared so many wonderful books in the FB group- more than I could ever hope to read. I’ve also been motivated to do more reading outside of my normal picks as a reviewer than I would have done just reading for pleasure and I have discovered so many new favorites as a result!
Since we started the fb group I have shared an annual birthday list on different themes. The following are my top 40 favorite new to me reads since the founding of Reshelving Alexandria including a bonus title because it is a book I read an arc of in 2020 and I am so excited for all of you to be able to read it when it releases this year!
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Ambre’s 40 New to Her Favorite Reads:
White Fur Flying by Patricia MacLachlan- This one really hit home as it’s so full of kindness and modeled emotional intelligence plus has a child with selective mutism which I hadn’t seen in a story before.
Maybe Tomorrow? by Charlotte Agell- Oh, my heart. I didn’t really think the perfect book on grief and friendship existed until a group friend introduced me to Norris and Elba and her grief. True perfection.
Give and Take by Elly Swartz- When my dad passed, my seven year old didn’t throw anything away for a whole year. Under her bed became a collection of empty kleenex boxes and broken toys and scraps of paper. Anything he had seen or touched she didn’t want to release and I didn’t know what to do but to just grieve with her and gift her time. Reading this book now, in her teens, was so powerful for both of us as we were able to revisit that experience and finish processing it together. This is one of my top five favorite middle grade fiction books period.
The Memory of Forgotten Things by Kat Zhang- Such a cool book and unique in many ways. Having lost so many close family members and pregnancies I loved the exploration of the idea of “if I could go to another dimension in which my loved one still lived- would I” or really, even “should I?'“
Shield by Dawn L. Watkins- I had no idea that one of my favorite childhood books, Medallion, had had the world revisited and two more books written in it until the author’s stepdaughter piped up on a thread where I was recommending Medallion. I don’t think I’ve ever hit Add To Cart faster! Shield and Arrow were both excellent additions but Shield has very powerful adult characters (both parent and grandparent aged) fighting for the preservation of their culture through book preservation and integrity and just got me in the feels.
The Story of Clara Barton of the Red Cross by Jeannette C. Nolan- This Messner biography was one of the first I reviewed for the site and reawoke my love for biographies. I learned so much history and was riveted.
Edith Cavell: Nurse, Spy, Heroine by Adèle De Leeuw (Spies of the World series)- I sobbed through reading this ending aloud to my girls and then read it to anyone who would listen for a year including the poor man stuck next to me on the plane.
Teddy Roosevelt: Strenuous American by Alvin F. Harlow (a Messner biography)- Dude, Teddy lived quite the life. There’s so much parallel in this story and things that have happened politically in the past five years it was almost freaky.
Love Made Me More by Colleen Rowan Kosinski- Such a beautiful picture book of a little boy growing up and starting his own family. I’m a sentimental lady, what else can I say?
A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus- This book was the most recommended book in our group last year for good cause. I 100% believe this story has the staying power of a classic. I loved the place of hope and encouragement for the children being the library, the books, and Nora. A hard read in parts but so good.
Thunder Rolling - The Story of Chief Joseph by Helen Markley Miller- I happened to be flying over the Plains States while reading this book and ugly cried with no shame. I appreciated all the historical citing of speeches, reports, etc. to include as many actual quotes as possible and the careful declaring of “we don’t know how his personal childhood experience with xyz was but we assume it followed the customs of the tribe which were as follows.”
Not written to intentionally cause an emotional reaction such as mine. The historical facts were more than enough.
Green Ember series by S.D. Smith- These stories have been incredibly formative my my older girls and so valuable to have in our shared family vernacular as we’ve faced trials larger than I had hoped they’d have to face as children. I have seen the Hopepunk nature of these stories give strength to all three of us when we’ve needed to steel ourselves against suffering. #readitbeforeyouneedit
Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Engdahl- This is such a magical mix of sci fi interplanetary relations and medieval superstition with a dash of romance. So many amazing conversations with my eldest as we listened through this together.
Skyward series by Brandon Sanderson- I don’t read much YA but a friend told me I would like this series when only book one was out and I believed her. Oh, buddy. You might now consider me a bit of a fan. The novellas area amazing and necessary so don’t skip them. I love the AI, M-BOT, and his existential crisis over what it means to be human. So much deeper thought provoking content than I expected.
Red, White and Whole by Rajani LaRocca- The first novel in verse I read to the girls while we were emotional and displaced after our fire. So richly and beautifully told and a welcome recipient of tears that we needed to cry.
Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk- This is such a beautiful and magical historical fiction. Brilliant wildcraft and interpersonal family drama set against the backdrop of forced mountain living during the Great Depression. Achingly beautiful and one I will return to again and again.
Vasilisa by M.L. Farb- I haven’t read a full length fairy tale retelling since I was a teen and I’m so glad that prep for interviewing Maria on the Stories from the Ashes podcast made me create time in my reading schedule for this one. A beautiful re-telling with twists I didn’t expect, a lovely elderly love story, and chess. Need I say more?
Minnie and Moo and the Thanksgiving Tree by Denys Cazet- Minnie and Moo innocently create disaster in their wake and I am here for it! These early readers are absolutely a hoot and I bought this one on a whim and then promptly checked out a stack from the library. Some make me laugh so hard I can’t even read them out loud which is fine because all my kids fell in love too, ages 7-16, and they read them on their own without being asked to do so.
Unspeakable: the Tulsa Race Massacre by Carole Boston Weatherford- I am so grateful for all the picture book biographies and historical event picture books that have come out in this past decade. They take very serious events that my history textbooks as a kid gave a paragraph to, at most, and flesh them out and humanize them. I am so glad my kids are growing up in a time where the lesser covered parts of history are given the coverage they deserve.
14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy- I just love humans so much and I love stories of the beautiful connectedness of humanity. I’ve read this at least ten times and still tear up every time.
Jack Zulu and the Waylander’s Key by S.D. Smith & J.C. Smith- Such a fun fantasy and it made me laugh out loud over and over! I’m excited to see where the story goes because it’s already blowing my mind.
Twenty and Ten by Claire Huchet Bishop (aka The Secret Cave)- A lovely short story about the heroics and bravery of children hiding their Jewish classmates from discovery during World War 2. Told with humor and hope to balance out the peril Twenty and Ten is great for the whole family.
The Wren and the Sparrow by J. Patrick Lewis- I’m still working out why this one has stuck with me so hard but I think it’s, again, the humanness of humans and the powerful things that connect us- in this case music. A WW2 picture book.
Adam and Thomas by Aharon Appelfeld- A beautifully told, inspired by the author’s own experiences, story of two little boys building a nest and living in a tree to hide from the soldiers during WW2. A gentle early introduction.
A Grandma for Christmas by Alta Halverson Seymour- I love stories about bringing people back into community, in this case an elderly woman on the mountain saved through “acting with wisdom and bravery while making decisions like a man” actions of a boy.
Cat Talk by Patricia MacLachlan- Delightful little cat poems that highlight the personalities and attitudes of a comical and relatable assortment of cats.
The Rough Patch by Brian Lies- An emotional look at the ugly side of grief through the gardening of an adult fox. So real and well told.
My Heart is a Compass by Deborah Marcero- This was just a delight start to finish! I love maps and legends and the detailed illustrations in this book have so much to discover! Our chiropractor added this book to their children’s waiting area after I brought it in and raved about it during an appointment. Isn’t that what everyone does at doctor appointments?
Once On A Time by A.A. Milne- The girls and I LOVED this on audio and then jumped right into using it in an online book club read aloud during the great stay home. Such a comical delight for all ages! Milne wrote it based on bedtime stories he would tell his wife. Now one of our family’s favorite books.
White Marble by Charlotte Zolotow- Have you ever read a book and immediately were transported back in time to your childhood and all the emotions, tastes, scents, sounds, and touches of a moment in time were real again? This book did that to me and does it again every time I read it. I’ve also shared it with young teen friends and they’ve greatly enjoyed it as well. (I only recommend the edition illustrated by Lilian Obligado- they make it)
Dandy by Ame Dyckman- Our family is so divided on the issue of how welcome dandelions are on our property, as I’m sure others are as well. This book is lighthearted fun and focuses on good parenting and connection. It delights me!
A Bowl Full of Peace: A True Story by Caren Stelson- A picture book biography on a family and their lives before, during, and after the bombing of Nagasaki. Gut wrenching yet so full of hope, peace, and love.
The Boy, the Bird & the Coffin Maker by Matilda Woods- “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.” That’s how I feel about this book. I read it over a year ago and still haven’t written a recommendation. This beautifully told story about death and dying and finding the will to live again is also one of the few books for children I’ve read to handle the fear and panic felt by those who have fled domestic violence in a way I felt wasn’t too intense for also protecting innocence. This is truly an achingly beautiful tale and would make a wonderful read aloud.
The Tall Woman by Wilma Dykeman- I struggle to find mother characters in older fiction where the special needs children are still in the home and aren’t viewed as “less than”. What these women faced while their men were away fighting the Civil War and then all the hardships afterward navigating a new world and men with broken bodies and/or minds- these females are inspiring.
Rules for a Knight by Ethan Hawke- I never thought I would enjoy, let alone recommend, a book by a movie star yet here we are! This book is a non-stop barrage of truth bombs. The first time I read it was on audio with my thirteen year old while driving to and from dance. Once I caught her on her phone and paused the book to ask her why she was distracted. “I’m not distracted! I’m taking notes!” Poor girl almost got in trouble for commonplacing quotes about an area of her character we had recently been discussing! Currently listening through again with her and the 16 year old. Sometimes I have to pause it just so I can chew on an idea myself.
Once Upon A Saturday by Edward Fenton- Someone please reprint this. Please? I absolutely love this book. It absolutely transports you to the 1950’s, it has cats that can talk… or can they?… mysterious visitors from far away lands, a misunderstood artist, and a bold mother who doesn’t stand by and let her kids think being a bigot is acceptable behavior no matter how the neighbors behave. I also think the way the racial issues of the time are handled with the children are so unique and excellently done. Please, reprint it.
Histories of Earth series by Steven J. Carroll- Hands down, these are the most woefully underknown series I know of and this year, as a group, I propose we change that! Book one has two female leads and sets the stage, book two time jumps 50 years and focuses on them, their husbands, an 11 year old grandson and a female friend. The next two books age up with the cast and add another boy and girl to the mix. We’ve recorded a podcast episode with the author and I can’t wait for you to hear it! These fantasies are for anyone who has loved any of the following: The Chronicles of Narnia, The Wingfeather Saga, The Green Ember Series, The Happy Hollisters, The Boxcar Children, Edith Nesbit’s books, The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic by Jennifer Trafton, The Neverending Story, 100 Cupboards by Wilson, Wilderking series, Swallows and Amazons, A Wrinkle in Time- you get the idea. The audiobooks are insanely enjoyable!
Mr. Hermit Miser and the Neighborly Pumpkins by Christine Noble Govan- Another book restoring someone to community. I’ve got a thing for grumpy old neighbors, especially ones who get humbled! So glad Smidgen Press republished!
Hanna’s Cold Winter by Trish Marx- A tear jerker. A based on a true story tale of how the hippos were saved at the Budapest zoo when food ran short during a world war in winter.
Tales of Hibaria: The Awakening by Jamin Still- These short stories are beautifully told and stunningly illustrated. I’m so looking forward to the full length novel release! You can learn more in our interview with the author.
*BONUS TITLE: The Red Door (coming soon!) by Rachel Lulich- I can’t even tell you how excited I am about this one! The girls and I were beta readers while we were displaced from the fire. It was such a welcome distraction! I loved the story but the author wasn’t readily able to find a publisher when she was finished so she shelved it and went on to self-publish other projects. I was so disappointed for all of you who I wanted to share it with!
When I read about Bandersnatch Books accepting manuscripts last February I pitched them to Rachel and she submitted and was signed! Hooray!
I am so glad the wait is almost over and that this lovely cover by Oliver Allison was revealed this week in time to share with you all! I’ll be sharing more about the story over the next few months so be ready!
-Middle Grade fantasy/dystopian
Here’s last years list of the most 39 influential books in my life:
I'm excited to read many new books from this list over the coming year. Thank you for the recommendations!