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Pirates Vs. Cowboys by Aaron Reynolds

I love this picture book! When the pirates (all sea creatures) show up in Cheyenne (to bury booty, of course) inhabited by ranch animal cowboys, they quickly realize that neither speak the others' language. Things really heat up until the world's only pirate cowboy shows up and helps them get past their differences. A great read aloud!

 

 --Reviewed by Katie of Books Inc. Palo Alto

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benamin Alire Saenz

This book had me curious when it swept the ALA awards with 3 wins and this book definitely deserves all of them and more. Aristotle (or Ari) and Dante don't obviously have much in common except their Mexican heritage, but somehow manage to become good friends. Ari is an angry teen coping with the ghost of his older brother and his father's time in the Vietnam War while Dante is openly expressive and has an easy family relationship. That friendship is cemented when Ari saves Dante from a hit and run getting
injured in the process. When a friend risks his or her life to save yours, how does that friendship change? And when Dante comes out as gay, how does that affect the friendship?  Saenz writes a lovely exploration of friendship and love - love of one's self, love between a parent and child and love between friends. His prose is lyrical and portrays a depth of emotion that transcends the page. This easily is one of my favorite reads of this year and it's not even halfway to the end of the year yet!

If you like A.S. King's Ask the Passengers, I would definitely recommend you give this a try!

- Reviewed by Connie of Books Inc. Opera Plaza

Take Me Out to the Yakyu by Aaron Meshon

Just in time for baseball season! This adorable book follows a young boy and his love for baseball. Both of his grandfathers - one from America and the other from Japan - love the sport, which means this lucky kid gets to watch baseball games on two opposite shores. The languages and mascots might be different, but it doesn't change the love of the game. With bright, fun illustrations that are still highly informative (and are great for finding the similarities and minor differences in both countries), this is a definite home run. Perfect for young baseball fans and for pops and grandpas who aren't sure what book to read to their kids and grandkids. For ages 2-6. --reviewed by Robbin of Compass Books in SFO

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

It's easy to dismiss this book because on the surface the structure and execution are quite frankly whimsical: a gay high school student never needs to come out to his friends because he lives in the sort of town where his homosexuality was diagnosed to little fanfare in elementary school. In fact, the LGBTQ experience here is more the rule and everyone else the exception. But like with most Young Adult novels, "Boy Meets Boy" can't be dismissed just because it seems naïve at first glance. In fact, the world portrayed here isn't the world as it "should be" per se -- David Levithan is only stating a plain truth: that we all want to love, and be in love, and neither act is the domain of a singular orientation.

Reviewed by Joe of Books Inc. Opera Plaza

PEANUT by Ayun Halliday and Paul Hoppe

If you have readers who are looking for more graphic novels like Raina Telgemeier's SMILE and DRAMA, then PEANUT is a perfect choice. Set in high school, but can be read by 12-13 year-olds as well- just be advised there are a few sexual conversations that take place. This realistic graphic novel focuses on Sadie and her doomed quest to become popular by faking a peanut allergy. Everyone can relate to the feeling of starting in a new place and hoping to become a new person too, cooler and smarter and without any former hang-ups. Sadie is no different. But she actually tries to make it work, by faking an extreme peanut allergy. She even orders a special ID bracelet and makes a point of telling everyone at her new school. It works, at first, and she even meets a super cute guy who has his own way of standing out-he doesn't have a cell phone! Sadie starts to settle into her new world, but her lies get harder to keep up with, and when she causes a major event at school because everyone thinks she ate a peanut, everything finally comes spilling out and Sadie has to start all over, but this time she can't hide her past from anyone. Sweet and relatable, Ayun Halliday's text is authentic and engaging. Ultimately, like many graphic novels, this one feels rather slight, but girls will still gobble up this story of a girl just like them. Paul Hoppe's spot-on illustrations are rendered in grey-blue with pops of hot pink on Sadie's outfit. With dynamic panels and tons of teenage expressiveness, each character comes to life as a unique and memorable friend. Here's hoping we'll be seeing more strong graphic novels like this for middle grade readers!

--Reviewed by Julie of Books Inc. Laurel Village

Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Ah, traveling. You are always absolutely at the right age for it. But let's face it -- sometimes, you go traveling and you're not entirely sure if you're "good" at it. Enter sheltered Jewish-American, introverted good girl Allyson, traveling Europe with a group of other high school seniors. It should be an excellent time for an 18-year-old girl about to embark upon her college years when she gets back home. But Allyson isn't actually having fun. She's doing her best to make everything "worth it", but it's difficult when it feels like she's on this trip to keep her parents happy.

Everything changes when she goes to an underground performance of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night in London, where she meets the handsome Willem, and sparks fly. Taking a huge leap of faith, Allyson becomes "Lulu" and does things she'd never do as Allyson -- including going off to Paris with Willem for one day. In what becomes the most perfect day of her life, everything works out for best...except for the part where she wakes up the next morning and Willem is gone, leaving her alone in Paris. She spends the next year feeling listless, and her once-excellent grades take the hit. Eventually, she finds that to mend the hole in her heart, she must return to Paris to break free of the shackles of her scripted life. She goes back looking for Willem, but in the end, as cheesy as it is, she finds herself. A surprisingly excellent bildungsroman showing a different type of growth that many of the quiet young adults could be afraid of, this is something I'd recommend to those traveling or studying abroad and are unsure if they're doing the right thing. (John Green himself recommended this, so if you don't believe me, believe him!)
 
To be followed by Just One Year, detailing Willem's events after he and Allyson are separated. And I am so excited that I want to cry.

--Reviewed by Robbin of Compass Books in SFO Terminal 2.

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