Top picks for young readers

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Give your little readers a break from school work this fall by grabbing one of these recommended titles at your local library. From middle school drama, to explorations into friendship, race and identity, these books offer an array of opportunities to get your child reading for fun.

Book picks from Kirsten Rose, Children's Librarian at the David and Joyce Milne Public Library, Williamstown

- "Best Friends," by Shannon Hale. This graphic novel (the sequel to her earlier graphic memoir "Real Friends") perfectly encapsulates the friendship drama of sixth grade and how difficult those years can be for everyone. Hale struggles with anxiety and with questions of who was really her friend and the result is a terrific portrait of the middle school years.

- "You Are My Friend: The Story of Mister Rogers and His Neighborhood," by Aimee Reid. This lovely picture book biography of Fred Rogers is just as gentle and sweet as his show was. This book tells Mr. Rogers' story while showing the origin of some of the best life lessons he is famous for.

- "If Pluto Was a Pea," by Gabrielle Prendergast. This picture book does a fantastic job of showing the relative sizes of the planets (and Pluto!) in our solar system, using common everyday objects to illustrate. This book would be a great tool to start demonstrating to children how vast and enormous our universe really is.

Book picks from Samantha Cesario, Children's & Youth Services Supervisor, Berkshire Athenaeum, Pittsfield

Picture books:

- "Why?" by Laura Vaccaro Seeger. Ages: birth to 8. Rabbit is curious, Bear is patient, and fall is slowly slipping into winter. Beautiful watercolor illustrations combined with a sweet friendship make this a wonderful choice for reading together. For caregivers who have endured a child's why phase, this book is reminder that it's OK to not have all the answers, that the love and support of another can be comfort enough even when things are changing.

- "Here and Now," by Julia Denos. Ages: birth to 8. This book is an introduction to mediation and mindfulness through simple prose and relatable scenes. Denos encourages readers to open their senses to each moment of their day, to notice the details of the events that are happening around them. More narrative than instructional, a complex topic for youths is transformed with gentle illustrations into a soothing bedtime read.

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- "The Scarecrow," by Beth Ferry. Ages: birth to 8. It's a lonely life for scarecrow, at least until an unlikely friend falls from the sky. Illustrating the power of friendship found in surprising circumstances, this titles also celebrates the joy of helping others. Rhythmic, rhyming text coupled with lush seasonal scenes create a tale to share over a cup of apple cider and some pumpkin pie.

Middle Grade Fiction

- "For Black Girls Like Me," by Marima J. Lockington. Ages: 10 and up. Adopted as an infant, 12-year-old Keda has spent her life fielding intrusive inquiries from folks who don't understand a black girl with a white family. Now forced to make a family move from Baltimore to Albuquerque, Keda is feeling more isolated than ever. Complicating things further, she and her sister are left as caregivers for their mentally ill mother when their father leaves for tour. A character driven exploration into race, identity and the impact of parental mental illness on children, this is an important work for all.

- "Wildfire," by Rodman Philbrick. Ages: 8 to 12. Sam is at a summer camp in Maine when he finds himself in the midst of a raging wildfire. Leaving the safety of the evacuation buses to retrieve his forgotten phone, Sam is left to survive on his own. During his escape, he comes across 14-year-old Delphy in a similar predicament. Working together the teens fight to escape the inferno closing in on them. Know a reluctant reader? Hand them this title. Fast paced, suspenseful and at times humorous this is sure to keep them reading to the end.

- "Guts," by Raina Telgemeier. Ages: 8 to 12. Following up "Smile" and "Sisters," Telgemeier has created another deeply relatable middle-grade memoir. After a terrible stomach bug, Raina develops an intense phobia to vomit, setting off a spiral of anxiety not at all helped by the regular turmoil of middle grade life. Humor and highly expressive illustrations are used to make a tough topic more accessible to a middle grade audience. Old and new fans of Telgemeier will find much to love here.

- "The Crossover," (Graphic Novel) by Kwame Alexander. Ages: 10 and up. Alexander's Newbery Medal winning novel, "The Crossover," gets a graphic novel make over. A tale of high school twins on and off the court, the book expertly weaves love, loss and the bond of family together to create an entirely captivating narrative. Told through a highly energetic novel in verse, the fast passed rhythm of this story will carry readers right to the end. The vivid illustrations and stylistic choices only enhance an already stand-out work. Even the most reluctant of readers won't be able to put this down.

Young Adult

- "The Revolution of Birdie Randolph," by Brandy Colbert. The summer before her junior year gives 16-year-old Birdie more than she expected. Planning on intense SAT prep classes and work at her mother's beauty salon, Birdie finds herself dealing with much more. With a forbidden romance and family secrets, this coming-of-age story could have fallen into familiar tropes. Instead, Colbert gives readers well-developed characters and a story line worth sticking around for. Hungry for more works like "The Hate U Give"? Add this to the top of your to be read pile.

- "His Hideous Heart," edited by Dahlia Adler. Perfect for the start of the spooky season, this collection of Edgar Allan Poe retellings keeps the creeps with a modern twist. Highly diverse in gender, race, identity and sexuality with strong feminist themes throughout, these stories bring Poe's works in to the 21 st century. Poe's original tales are included at the end giving readers an opportunity to compare the versions.


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