Joy's Top 10 Books That Moved Me

Here are ten books that have stuck in my brain this year. Most of them are children’s books. If you’re not reading children’s lit, you should be. Kidlit authors are (in my humble opinion) far more dedicated than much of adult lit to representing the full spectrum of the world and the people in it. Also, even the most literary of kidlit generally has a plot, which I can’t say for all adult literary fic. Not that a slice of life fic with no discernable scaffolding other than stream of consciousness is a bad thing. I just prefer a narrative arc. Don’t start emailing me about this. My colleagues know my thoughts. They know I’ve spent much of the pandemic gobbling cozy mystery series where each book has this pleasant reset and someone always says, “Oh wow. Who knew? Nothing bad ever happens in Cozy Cove” when someone is murdered by chapter two.  

But I digress, although only slightly. Here are ten books I’ve had deep thoughts about this year. I highly recommend all of them!

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People Love Dead Jews: Reports from a Haunted Present By Dara Horn Cover Image
Unavailable from Brazos Bookstore
ISBN: 9780393531565
Availability: OUT OF PRINT - Not Available for Order
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - September 7th, 2021

A searing and sometimes darkly funny set of essays on anti-Semistism that is a must read for everyone. There’s also a podcast that’s equally brilliant called Adventures with Dead Jews. Dara Horn is a brilliant scholar with a keen sense of both history and the absurd.

All These Bodies By Kendare Blake Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062977168
Availability: Unlikely to Be Available
Published: Quill Tree Books - September 21st, 2021

When the ‘bloodless murders’ come to a small town in the 1950s, the sheriff’s son finds himself in the midst of the investigation. And the blood-soaked survivor he meets that one fateful night? She may not be what he thinks. Think: vampires meet Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood.

One Last Stop By Casey McQuiston Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250244499
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: St. Martin's Griffin - June 1st, 2021

This one’s a love story with a time slip. What if you saw the girl of your dreams on the NYC subway? What if she’d been stuck there since the 70s? What would you do to be with your true love? Romantic and wonderful. Think Kate and Leopold meets LGBTQ fiction.

The Adventure Is Now By Jess Redman Cover Image
ISBN: 9780374314712
Availability: BACKORDERED
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) - May 4th, 2021

Milton P. Greene has had the worst school year ever. All he wants to do is hide in his room all summer and play his handheld game but his parents send him to Lone Island with his eccentric scientist uncle. Milton P. Greene is about to have the best summer of his life. Maybe. This is a happy, wonderful middle grade novel that will leave you cheering.

The House That Wasn't There By Elana K. Arnold Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062937063
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Walden Pond Press - March 30th, 2021

A boy named Alder and a girl named Oak. Two families with a connection that will slowly reveal itself. Stir in magic universal mysteries, time-portal kittens, and knitting, and you’ve got a heartwarming classic of a middle grade novel by one of the best authors writing today. 

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Vampenguin By Lucy Ruth Cummins, Lucy Ruth Cummins (Illustrator) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781534466982
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Atheneum Books for Young Readers - July 20th, 2021

This picture book is for everyone. An infinitely clever ‘switcheroo’ as the Dracula family visits the zoo and baby Drac and baby penguin change places -- and no one notices... except the reader! The clever narration tells one story and the clever illustrations tell the real story. Love. Love. Love.

Inside Cat (Brendan Wenzel) By Brendan Wenzel (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Brendan Wenzel (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9781452173191
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Chronicle Books - October 12th, 2021

Exquisitely and whimsically illustrated, Wenzel follows the perspective of a cat peering at the world outside its window. Simple yet profound. A picture book for all ages.

Amos McGee Misses the Bus By Philip C. Stead, Erin E. Stead (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Philip C. Stead, Erin E. Stead (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9781250213228
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Roaring Brook Press - November 23rd, 2021

Zookeeper Amos is back again in this follow up to Stead’s Caldecott winning A Sick Day for Amos McGee. This time Amos misses the bus and loses his hat, but the faithful zoo animals are there to help. The illustrations by Stead’s wife Erin E. Stead are simply stunning. Kind and gentle -- a perfect balm these trying times. 

Zorrie By Laird Hunt Cover Image
ISBN: 9781635575361
Availability: Unlikely to Be Available
Published: Bloomsbury Publishing - February 9th, 2021

Spare and moving and wonderful, Laird Hunt’s Zorrie is nuanced and layered. If like me (see my intro above) you like your literary-ish fiction with a plot line, you will love this story of a woman named Zorrie whose life unfolds against the backdrop of historical events from the Depression on up over the decades. Filled with hope and tenacity and longing.

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Pablo By Rascal, Rascal (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Rascal, Rascal (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9781776573240
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Gecko Press (Tm) - May 4th, 2021

Pablo is a chick about to hatch from its egg. The book is lovely and clever, the artwork swoony. I bought this one for my four-year-old grandson. We read it together, he loved it, and I said, “Hey. Since Pablo the chick eats a croissant and drinks some hot chocolate to get ready for hatching, why don’t I take you to Starbucks and we’ll split a croissant and sip some hot chocolate?” So we do just that, and he says, “I’m thirsty,” so I get him an ice water and say “Sip it slowly,” but of course he sucks down 12 ounces. If you’re a parent you know where this is going. Back to the car (his mother’s car because I’m babysitting and that’s where the car seat is) I buckle him in and as soon as I click that belt tight I hear a stomach gurgle. I try to unbuckle him. Not fast enough. Luckily his mother is a smart woman and keeps a change of clothes and cleaning supplies in the trunk. But still. You should all buy Pablo

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