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Note to Shelf: June 8th Edition

We know this has been a tough few weeks. At Darien Library, our mission is to enrich, educate, and inform our community. We are here to assist you and your families as we make sense of the current unrest. The Library has created resources for children, teens, and adults on racial and social justice. We encourage everyone to explore these and other online resources.

We have some good news—we'll begin curbside pick-up on June 15th. Visit our website for more details as they become available.

We look forward to continuing this conversation with you through the books we're reading this week, which you can explore below.

Also check out our Powerful Memoir and Biography for extra reading inspiration.

Jill

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the e-Audiobook edition of Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Written in the form of a letter to his teenage son, the story is narrated by the author himself with a poetic and metrical cadence. Coates shares his experience and insights into the current racial climate, building from his personal reality of growing up in Baltimore as an African-American male. He raises provocative questions while intellectually engaging the listener. Although some may be put off by his forthright tone, Coates’ rendition of his life in Baltimore rings true. I highly recommend this book for everyone, even if it takes you out of your comfort zone.

Barbara M.

I wasn’t sure I was going to like Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid because it started with such magnified stereotypes, but it became more interesting as I continued reading. Alix Chamberlain, an influential blogger, is a mother with two young children. One night her babysitter, Emira, who happens to be a young black woman, is questioned about being at a local market late at night with a white child. A stranger videotapes the confrontation and then gives Emira a copy. Since she needs to keep her job, Emira does nothing with the video; however, she does develop a relationship with the man who videoed the incident. What happens next is unpredictable. Not only did the book get more interesting but there were twists and turns which left me wondering whose ‘truths’ to believe. This is a compelling story about racial prejudices and profiling in all its guises.

Nevine

When a coworker recommended The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi I was intrigued by the culturally rich setting. Set in Jaipur, India in the 1950s, the novel centers on Lakshmi, a henna artist who builds herself an amazing business drawing unique henna designs for rich women. She also provides folk remedies using exotic spices, herbs, and seeds to heal all kinds of ailments. From her poor and humble beginnings, we follow Lakshmi as she makes her way up through society and faces obstacles imposed on her by the cultural norms of the era. Her struggles are compounded by the sudden appearance of her younger sister, who she never knew, and a husband from whom she ran away when she was fifteen. Despite the many hurdles she faces, she never stops fighting to become an independent woman.

I loved how the author immersed us in the traditions of an intriguing culture, with vivid and colorful descriptions of the different foods, clothes, smells, and sounds. I could literally see Lakshmi meticulously grinding cardamom seeds and rose petals into a magical blend, creating a burst of colors and aromas.

This historical fiction is heartfelt, engaging, and enchanting in all regards.

Note to Shelf, Teen

Mia

To celebrate our One Book, One Community selection of Frankenstein, why not pick up this beautiful biography of Mary Shelley, Mary’s Monster by Lita Judge?

Through gorgeous watercolor illustrations paired with free verse, this unique book follows Shelley’s incredible story. The young writer’s life was filled with darkness, tragedy, and death, and this biography will give you insight into the mind that brought the most famous fictional monster to life. Before diving into Frankenstein, grab all the behind-the-scenes knowledge you can to make the reading experience even better!

Note to Shelf, Junior

Kate

When star student Mattie finds herself playing Romeo opposite her crush in the eighth grade production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, she’s equal parts thrilled and terrified. Gemma Braithwaite may be new to school, but she’s got it all: brains, looks, personality, an amazing British accent - and, of course, Mattie’s devotion. As things become increasingly more dramatic, will Mattie learn to take the lead both on and off stage?

Author Barbara Dee is a master at writing smart, complex kids facing real-life challenges, and her skill is fully on display here. One of my favorite realistic fiction titles currently on shelves, I’d recommend Star-Crossed to fans of Raina Telgemeier and Erin Entrada Kelly.

Looking for more realistic fiction recommendations for 8-12 year olds? Check out this booklist full of great titles!

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