Off the Shelf: What’s new in children’s literature?

Many of you may have gone on vacation this summer, but I was at Camp Read-a-Lot! It is just what it sounds like: a spot for people who read a lot! Teachers and librarians gathered at the Mankato State University Library and talked about books for kids. Prior to the event, I had the opportunity to read a dozen newly released books. Perhaps one of them will beckon you to visit the New Ulm Public Library’s Children’s Room.

“Lord of the Mountain,” by Ronald Kidd, is the story of 13-year-old Nate Owens and his love of science and song, which both go against the beliefs of his father, a tent revival preacher. The year is 1927. The location is the segregated town of Bristol on the Tennessee/Virginia state line. The music of the Carter family, the issues of racism and religion and coming-of-age all blend together in this wonderful story. I was hooked from the very beginning to the bittersweet end.

“Echo’s Sister,” by Paul Mosier, is uplifting and encouraging, despite the fact that it all circles around childhood cancer. Echo finds out her little sister has cancer when her father picks her up from her first day at her new school. She is dealing with friendships old and new, family dynamics and academic expectations, along with the looming health issues. Along the way she discovers friendship in unlikely places and an amazingly supportive community. I thought the author did a great job of telling the story from Echo’s point of view!

The Fedeler family lived in the New York Public Library in the early 1900’s. “The Story Collector” by Kristin O’Donnell Tubb takes the reader on a variety of adventures with the children of that family as they look into mysterious sounds and night activities in the huge building they called home. This is based on the real life of Viviani Joffre Fedeler and her two brothers. This step back in time was refreshing and sweet.

A frightening “documentary fiction” from current times was “Illegal” by Eoin Colfer. Twelve year-old Ebo and his older brother leave their village in Niger for the city of Agadez and then put their lives in the hands of human traffickers as they travel by boat to Italy. The author makes the fear and danger very realistic. I would recommend reading this book with children in order to have discussions about some of the options and choices that face so many people in our world today.

Another example of running away is in the Young Adult book “A Heart in a Body in the World” by Deb Caletti. The main character, Annabelle, has witnessed a deadly shooting and she runs across America to escape the constant thoughts that haunt her. As her footsteps pound the pavement, she processes the trauma and sends a message to others. Social media, an understanding grandfather, and a new friend all play important roles in this story. The author reveals more and more details about the event as the story goes on and the reader begins to understand how powerful the perpetrator is in Annabelle’s life.

Crossing from one world into another happened in two other new books that I read. “The Lighthouse Between the Worlds” by Melanie Crowder and “Explorer Academy: The Nebula Secret” by Trudi Trueit both feature young boys who have lost their mothers. Both find strange connections and go on fantastic adventures to solve the mysteries of their missing moms. Science fiction and fantasy combined to keep me turning pages right to the end!

I also read “Magicians of Elephant County” by Adam Perry which had me laughing at the larger-than-life magic that happened in a small town. There was nothing believable about this book! Similarly, “Ernestine Catastrophe Queen” by Merrill Wyatt is about a young girl who goes to great lengths to see a zombie. Her totally unrealistic life in the MacGuillicuddie House for Retired Artists will bring multiple smiles to anyone who reads this book.

Three other titles that I would recommend all deal with friendship. “Tight,” by Torrey Moldanado, is set in New York City. Bryan needs to decide who he wants to spend time with. One “friend” puts pressure on him to take risks and cause trouble. The other is happy reading comics and drawing superheroes. “Ana Maria Reyes Does Not Live in a Castle” by Hilda Burgos is about a talented, educated family from the Dominican Republic living in New York City. The story is told from the perspective of the second oldest child as she finds her gifts and where she fits. “The Wind Called My Name” by Mary Louise Sanchez is set in Wyoming during the Great Depression. Ten- year-old Margarita educates her teacher and the whole town about the difference between Mexico and New Mexico. All of these gave me insights into cultures different than my own.

These new titles will join the old ones on our library shelves this fall. Sign up for Wowbrary to have all of the new release titles that come to our library sent to your e-mail. It’s free, it’s user friendly and it’s designed for you! Visit and click on Wowbrary to sign up.