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.

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgewick-

A stranger comes to a remote island to try and discover the truth about a mysterious flower that may be keeping the world's rich young. Instead, he finds himself regressing through the history of the island; stories and people somehow cropping up time and time again. With shades of Patrick McGoohan's The Prisoner, to Oscar Wilde's more melancholy fairy stories, to Nordic sagas, this book is beautifully sparce. A great quick read! Ages 14+
--reviewed by Steven of Books Inc. Palo Alto

The High-Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate by Scott Nash

Talking birds with hats! Air pirates! Sword fights!

This very handsome hardcover edition with engaging ink and watercolor illustrations by the author will make a fine gift for a backyard naturalist who loves stories of swashbuckling derring-do. Comparable to Brian Jaques' Redwall series with language accessible for a 9 year old, or strong 8. The coming-of-age/ bird-out-of-the-nest aspects of the story will appeal to older kids and the whole family will enjoy the high adventure. There is a clever balance between imaginative, unique world-building and accurate ornithological details. As an lifelong scholar of fantasy literature and an avid birdwatcher, this book seemed especially written for me, but I hope other readers will share my appreciation of this cunning blend of Roger Tory Petersen and Robert Louis Stevenson.

--Reviewed by Chris of Compass Books in SFO

The Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald

Adenville, Utah, it's 1896 and that great state has just joined the Union. Nestled in a small town is a genius of cunning and style. Known to the unsuspecting adults of the town as plain, old Tom. He is feared and respected by the children as, "the Great Brain." Tom is a con-man par excellence. If there is a deal to be done and a penny to be made, Tom will do it. His tale is told by his hapless middle brother.

This often overlooked old friend from 1969 is perfect for 3rd to 6th grade readers. Especially those boys who don't care for fantasy.

--Reviewed by Elizabeth of Books Inc. Alameda

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

Vera Dietz lost her best friend Charlie-- so why is he appearing to her at all the wrong times? What ensues is a beautiful tale of loss and redemption. While there are touches of romance, and plenty of school drama to go around, the real gem of this narrative was held for me in the burgeoning relationship between Vera and her emotionally distant, yet caring father.

I loved ASK THE PASSENGERS by King, and so I had to read more of her work. And I'm so glad I did. King has nailed the magical realism genre in way that is so authentically teen that it hurts my mind. In a good way. Told with King's signature sense of humor, depth, intelligence and honesty, this novel has affirmed my goal of reading EVERY BOOK A.S. King has ever written. And I hope you do, too. (ages 13+)

--Reviewed by Maggie, Books Inc. Children's Department Director

Imogen: The Mother of Modernism and Three Boys by Amy Novesky

Ms. Novesky gives us another picturebook biography of a fascinating female artist (Georgia in Hawaii; Me, Frida)...this time celebrating photographer Imogen Cunningham who spent much of her life in San Francisco. A lovely introduction to a ground-breaking talent. Will be a good addition to any Women's History Month reading list in March.

--Reviewed by Summer of Books Inc. Laurel Village


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