Staff Picks by Jessica
Jessica is a huge fan of fantasy and science-fiction for readers of all ages especially when paired with characters who are people of color. Any adult books she reads tend to be non-fiction or historical fiction. Make sure to check out her audiobook recomendations here!
Newest reviews are at the bottom.
Empress Tarisi has a mission and she knows the odds are against her as a Redemptor: running an empire, preparing for a trip to the Underworld, and negotiating justice, all on top of balancing love and duty. But with the help of friends new and old, hope for change is on the horizon. Author, Jordan Ifueko, comes roaring back with a story of heart, courage, and action that will delight fans of Raybearer.
- Reviewed by Jessica
Molly has swirled together an amazing story of first love, changing friends, and environmental justice with a hint of magic and mystery. Fans of The Magic Fish and Heartstopper will find this a perfect new graphic novel for the teen reader.
- Reviewed by Jessica
A fantastic thriller for teen and adult readers that will keep you at the edge of your seat. The opening scene sets the stage for heartbreak, honesty, and healing. The ending will haunt you.
Also great at a digital audiobook from Libro.fm. - Reviewed by Jessica
Moth may be a witch, but her secret power doesn't prevent her from being bullied at school. When her grandmother witch accidentally reveals a bit of forbidden magic that has the ability to change Moth, the quest to fit in begins. As the changes start to take over Moth, the question becomes where does the real-Moth end and the invading magic begin?
- Reviewed by Jessica
Readers will become a #1 fan of Chunky! Hudi doesn't see anything wrong with himself, but his doctors and parents want him to participate in sports in order to loose weight. With humor and a cheering imaginary mascot, Hudi takes on the challenge from baseball to soccer, swimming and football. With post-game interviews and play-by-play action, this is fun look at real issues involving body image, peer pressure, and being a team player. For ages 10 +.
- Reviewed by Jessica
With a swoosh and a creak, what monsters will we seek? Follow a brave young girl as she adventures in her town counting all the creatures that go bump in the night. With Gris Grimly's illustrations pairing perfectly with rhythm and rhyme, this will be the go to story time book for Halloween nights.
- Reviewed by Jessica
Action packed adventure awaits in the Discovery of Dragons! Simon is honored to be the cabin boy and sometimes assistant to the young Charles Darwin, but when a storm hits and Simon is marooned on an island not far from the Galapagos, exciting discoveries are waiting to be made.
- Reviewed by Jessica
A beautifully illustrated non-fiction book that is perfect for those kids who always ask "why?". A perfect book for teachers but also sweet enough to read every night as a bedtime story. The more often you read it, the better you will be at reading large numbers! Has a wonderfully accessible back matter page. - Reviewed by Jessica
The scientific process for kids with magical animals! The cover alone is all your young reader needs to see with this adorable new early chapter book series. Zoey with the help of her cat Sassafras and her handy Thinking Goggles uses deduction and the scientific process to find the best way to help the magical creatures that come to their door in need of care and love. Cute black and white illustrations with a helpful glossary in the back for those carefully introduced scientific words like hypothesis. My new go to recomendation! - Jessica
A perfect book for young girls that are starting middle school. Amina is trying to figure out who she is and what she stands for as she learns about friends, bullying, and what it truly means to stand up for what you believe in. Lovely coming of age story. It also has such a stunning cover. - Jessica
Clear your schedule because this is one book that you need to finish in one day. Starr has a strong voice that pulls you in to really experience her life, loss, love, family, and friendship. A powerfuly written story that is both a meaningful and timely read. - Jessica
Zivah is a healer forced to use her knowledge to hurt others and Dineas is a fighter who must now make friends with the enemy. Together, the two teens suffering at the hands of an empire are forced to set aside their differences in order to fight the enemy that surrounds them. A deep look at the ways war changes both individuals and culture. Livia is able to show a fantasy world that is sure to capture teen readers who are willing to engage in tough questions. These characters are rich with detail and complexity that will draw in fans of An Ember in the Ashes. - Jessica
Flirting failures are all Desi has ever known. But a rulebook based on the tried and true methods of Korean dramas is sure to help her catch the perfect boyfriend. A wonderful romance with a fun and relatable heroine. - Jessica
A hilarious romance told from two perspectives. One a girl who is determined to show her worth and smarts. The other a boy who believes in true love and meeting that perfect someone. What happens when the two meet? Well, coffee in the face and so much more. Great teen romance. - Jessica
A fantastic book featuring a black, female, and queer main character! This story takes you to the heart of romance as Alice explores relationships and the different ways she expresses her love of others and how those around her express their love for her. Perfect teen romance. - Jessica
Honest, down to earth, and powerful in its simplicity. This stunning letter/poem/note to self is something everyone needs to read. Easy to pick up, quick to finish, and sure to make an impression. I read it and immediately wished I had 50 copies so I could hand it out to everyone I know, plus keep one for myself. - Jessica
Reading is magic. Not just in some metaphorical sense, but in the true sense that you will experience a new and stunning world in this highly original fantasy. An amazing book that will capture any bookworm. Reminiscent of Cornelia Funke's Inkheart. - Jessica
Generation after generation, both hope and sorrow hit the two families in this story hard. Gyasi uses the episodic nature to her advantage, in a way that inspires a fevered anticipation similar to the tv show Roots. A moving work that would be a great choice for book clubs and writing classes. - Jessica
Children will be drawn in by the easily relatable animal emotions in this simple and sweet story. A great book to use as a teaching opportunity for toddlers and parents alike. - Jessica
An amazing picture book that shows the power of art. Minh Le and Dan Santat (local author!) team up to create a powerful story about family, love, and strength. All with just a few words and a lot of action on the page. I loved the way the two drawing styles came together. - Jessica
This book perfectly captures cousins, especially in mixed-race families. Reading it I was immediately brought back to the early days of interacting with my cousins and noticing the differences between their family and mine. Also reminiscent of the Caldecott Honor, When the Relatives Came. Truly a book I wish I could have had when I was growing up. - Jessica
Power Forward is the perfect story for young sports fans about balancing the ideal amount of school and play. I especially enjoyed this book because it featured a young Pakistani boy and his family going about their lives as Americans. Filled with sibling banter, school-work, home-cooked meals, and family-drama, this is a book that I would give to a young reader who wants to see themselves in a story as basketball fan or as a Pakistani-American. - Jessica
This book was a fantastic story about two kids discovering who they are and how they want to present themselves to the world. Frances is a daring seamstress who has caught the eye of Lady Crystallia a beautiful fashion trend starter. But the world doesn't know that Lady Crystallia is Prince Sebastian and Frances must decide if she wants the world to know about her work, even as it threatens to expose her friend's secrets to the world. Jen's illustrations captures the emotions of the character's so creatively. I also loved the information in the back of the book about her creative process. - Jessica
A fast-paced adventure perfect for young fantasy readers who enjoy Magic Tree House and the Zoey and Sassafras series. Zax is not happy to be dropped off at Ma's house while his Mama goes to court. This snappy, white-haired lady turns out to be a witch and asks him for his help returning some baby dragons to the magical world before they cause trouble in Brooklyn. I can't wait to see what else Zax and this cast of characters will get into next! - Jessica
A masterfully spun tale weaving together multiple voices in a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin that delves into the cost versus value of love, family, and power. Fans of a more nuanced fantasy and Novik's Uprooted will appreciate the amazing character development and detailed world. - Jessica
A well-balanced book that shows one young Chinese girl's experience immigrating with her family to California. At times funny, heart-wrenching, and innovative, this book shows the difficulties of starting over in a new country in a way that a young reader would be able to understand. A great book to open our eyes to the different and sometimes unseen ways people struggle and how we can make the world a better place by being more inclusive and willing to listen to other's stories. - Jessica
Destruction takes time. From decades to millennia, each character in Sabaa Tahir's third book has been waiting for the perfect moment to strike and the world is forever going to be changed by their revenge. Sabaa clearly planed her destruction well because I am not sure I can recover from her carefully planed betrayals, prophecies, and heart-pounding moments. This will not disappoint any long-suffering fan. - Jessica
This story captures that first date moment at the movie theater when your date touches your hand in the dark while knocking the popcorn over in the loudest way possible - its cute and exciting, but also slightly embarrassing. Sandhya has crafted another excellent teen romance about a shy and ambitious young woman trying to show the world her passion and talent. A fantastic summer read! - Jessica
Marcus Vega may look like the average bully - large, silent, and overwhelming - but inside he is just a boy too big for the quiet kids and too small to fill the shoes of his absent father. Marcus is suspended from school for protecting his brother from a bully and decides his time off would be better spent searching for answers from his father in Puerto Rico. A fast-paced journey of self-discovery about the role of family, friendship, and home. Perfect for 10 to 14. - Jessica
LA foodies, look no further. This is the perfect summer read filled with the amazing flavors and feelings only an LA summer can bring. Clara is forced to work in her dad's Korean-Brazilian food truck this summer in order to pay off some completely accidental school property damage with her long time rival. Chaos ensues. This story is so vivdly set in our city filled with freeway humor and the diversity that makes our city amazing. Highly recomend this book for laugh out loud reading. - Jessica
Saving Winslow captures an innocence and steadfast belief in miracles that are real and close at hand. Louie is determined to save the sick miniature donkey even though his past animal endeavors haven't turned out well. But he names him Winslow to show that he will survive and with the help of his family and some unexpected sources, maybe miracles can come true. A beautiful book for a family to enjoy together as a read aloud. - Jessica
A stunning story of a boy and his dog captured in shades of blue. From the bright joy of a new puppy in baby blue to the steady love of a four-legged family member in sky blue. The boy and the puppy get older together and the colors help gently bring the story to its ending that is full of new blues. For intuitive readers ages 5 to 7. - Jessica
Today's fiction, tomorrow's reality. Normal California life turns into a war-zone when the taps are turned off and Alyssa's family is torn apart by thirst as the world dries up around her. A gripping read from start to finish that hits close to home. I read it all in one night. Recommended for strong readers ages 13+. A great book to discuss in a classroom or book club. I have never been more grateful for my water bottle next to me. - Reviewed by Jessica
I am unable to put into words how much I loved this book. Each of Sandhya's pervious books are wonderful (When Dimple Met Rishi and From Twinkle, With Love). I read this book all in one night and was so happy with it that I sat down the next morning to write down my thoughts but I felt so intimidated by how much joy this book brought me. Strange to belive, but I just don't think my words would be able to describe to you the sweet happiness, quiet power, and gentle love in this story. All I can tell you is that this book will leave you grinning from ear-to-ear.
A fun new graphic novel for fans of The Witch Boy that follows a young girl who discovers she is a witch in the modern day. But her town has a centuries-long history of anger, resentment, and fear of these independent women with magical powers. But the witch community may not be as welcoming when compared to the town. This story looks at how to relate to history and family in a fun new way. And don't forget the talking fat black cat! - Jessica
Funny, nerdy, relatable, and honest, Frankly in Love is about a high school boy who begins a fake relationship in order to deceive his strict Korean parents about the fact he is not dating a Korean girl. With a strong sense of SoCal life, this is great for readers ages 14 and up. - Jessica
Charming! Adorable! Scrumptious! I loved the show the illustrations and text put on with the fun food costumes. A great book for picky eaters and food lovers alike! - Jessica
Coding, music, and poetry all beautifully come together in this middle-grade novel about a girl who loves music but isn't a musician. When she starts at a new school she stumbles upon the unlikely instrument of computers and friendship. This is an approachable story for readers ages 10 to 13 with a helpful glossary of words defined in the back. - Jessica
Gamers get ready! Kiera is your normal student dealing with friends, boyfriend, and school, except she is also the game developer behind a secret multiplayer online role-playing card game, SLAY. But when the game is exposed to the media, people want to tear down the safe space she has created. I loved the game play, energy, family dynamics and the few chapters told from different players perspectives. A great action packed book that can be given to so many people. For ages 13 and up. I want to SLAY! - Jessica
A gorgeous high-seas, queer, fantasy for teens! Florian, born Flora, is a young pirate trying to make enough money to escape to a safe place with her brother. Lady Evelyn Hasegawa is a high-born imperial shipped off to be a soldier's bride. Author, Maggie Tokuda-Hall is able to weave together stories of love, adventure, family, identity, and magic in a world overshadowed by a seemingly mighty colonial power. A tale worthy of the sea, her mermaids, and the witches, pirates, and soldiers who hunt the two lovers. - review by Jessica
Aimee didn't know it at the time (or maybe she did in her mystical way) but this book was written for me and all the other brown-skinned, nature-loving, quiet-questers in the world. This BEAUTIFUL package asks the reader to pick-me-up and go for a walk down memory lane where you will find essays on a diversity of flora and fauna from the dragon fruit to the narwhal and the corpse flower to the axolotl; all of which are gorgeously illustrated inside. Her writing asks everyone to find beauty and connection to the wonders that are nature's stories. - review by Jessica
Jason Reynolds and Dr. Ibram X Kendi have made the perfect NOT history book for everyone hesitant/curious/eager/desperate to learn what it means to be an anti-racist. There are dates, there are names, there are facts, but mostly there is reflection. Policies, media, moments, are all looked at in a way that traces the lines of thought to action and in-action asking us to laugh, cry, pause, rage, and fight against racist and assimilationist thought. Approachable, engaging, and necessary, this is a book that will make change. - review by Jessica
Immerse yourself in a rich fantasy world with wishes to cheat death, struggles for power, and hopes to find love. Jordan Ifueko has given us the start of a series where peace may not be as it seems and who you are vs. who the world tells you to be can have life-threatening and history-shaping consequences. One of my favorite aspects is the chants, prayers, and songs that are essential to the story and the narrator rhythmically enriches the reading. - review by Jessica
A beautiful story linking music, math, and culture through illustration and problem solving. A great addition to any classroom eager to introduce numbers with a clever character, bright art, and plentiful back matter information. - Review by Jessica
Love, grief, power, and family all come together in The Cost of Knowing as Alex struggles to live his life as a young Black man grieving over the loss of his parents and best friend. His grief must also contend with his anxiety and a mysterious power that allows him to see the future of anything he touches. When learning of an event that he would do anything to prevent, he must come to terms with the origins of his power and the consequences of his actions as a brother, boyfriend, and young Black teenager. Morris is able to dive deep into an emotionally nuanced story layering grief, masculinity, and generational trauma that will leave readers with a powerful message about regret, choice, and knowledge. A book to support with full hearts, unashamed tears, and powerful voices. - review by Jessica
A roasted marshmallow opens this delightful new friendship story. Atmospheric illustrations beautifully compliment this warm-hearted story of community and sharing. Perfect for fans of marshmallows, penguins, and of course best friends! - review by Jessica