Linda M. Castellitto

All three of these gorgeous and talented authors have played pivotal roles in movies that are meaningful to fans worldwide. Their Tinseltown lives are glamorous, to be sure, but their heartfelt life stories reveal a darker side to fame, where inspirational journeys and cautionary tales collide.

★ Out of the Corner

Jacket for Out of the Corner by Jennifer Grey

Jennifer Grey knows that her life has been charmed from the beginning. As a child, her famous parents took her to holiday parties with the likes of Stephen Sondheim, Patti LuPone and Leonard Bernstein. But although she breathed in rarefied air, Grey felt lonely and lacking. The rising star of her father, Joel Grey, meant the family moved numerous times, and so many instances of starting over, with her parents largely absent, took a heavy toll.

In Out of the Corner: A Memoir, Grey writes, “I’d been so consumed by feeling abandoned that I hadn’t seen the ways I had abandoned myself.” In the decades before she reached that perspective, the actress searched—for affection, connection, approval—even as she achieved great fame.

Grey became America’s sweetheart in 1987, thanks to her indelible work as Baby Houseman in Dirty Dancing, but as she reveals with raw and moving candor, her sunny smile at the premiere belied her physical and emotional suffering. Just before the film’s debut, she and then-boyfriend Matthew Broderick were in a head-on car crash in which two people died. Even before that, her relationship with Broderick had turned toxic, and she’d had other unhealthy relationships earlier in her life. “My first drug of choice was romantic fantasy,” she writes. Other drugs followed, amplifying behavioral patterns from which she’s worked to recover—efforts she recounts with empathy for her former self and encouragement for those with similar struggles.

Grey also addresses what she calls “Schnozageddon”—when a revision rhinoplasty famously and irrevocably altered her face and professional identity—with bravery and clarity. And when she writes about dance, her prose sings with gratitude for the lifelong pursuit that’s taken her marvelous places, from Dirty Dancing to “Dancing With the Stars.” Time and again, Grey reveals herself to be tenacious and dedicated to the show going on—a fitting metaphor for a singular life, which she shares with wit, warmth and wisdom.

★ We Were Dreamers

Jacket for We Were Dreamers by Simu Liu

Simu Liu’s fans are enchanted by his previous work as a stock photo model. They loved him in the Canadian sitcom “Kim’s Convenience.” And they rejoiced when he landed the lead in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. He shares these stories and more in his engaging, uplifting memoir, We Were Dreamers: An Immigrant Superhero Origin Story.

Liu has had an incredible journey so far, but as with any origin story, it hasn’t been without painful obstacles. We Were Dreamers begins with his 1989 birth in Harbin, China, where he lived with his loving grandparents for four years. Then his parents, engineers who had moved abroad after he was born, brought Liu to Canada to join them. After so many years of pursuing a better life, they were not interested in Liu’s dreams for his own life, and they emotionally and physically abused him when he couldn’t achieve their definition of perfection.

As a young adult, getting laid off from an accounting job for which he was spectacularly ill suited brought shame but also opportunity, as Liu finally felt free to try out performing gigs, from acting to stunts to playing Spider-Man at kids’ parties. He recounts his step-by-step approach, providing a helpful blueprint for other aspiring artists who lack a supportive family or industry connections. For him, this plan worked marvelously: He obtained life-changing work as an actor in the U.S. and became an advocate for Asian representation in media in the process.

As an adult, Liu forged a truce with his parents, and he writes that “families today could learn from us and steer themselves from the same mistakes.” A compelling case for pursuing an authentic life, We Were Dreamers provides fascinating insight into a newly minted Marvel superhero who wants readers to take to the skies along with him.

★ Mean Baby

Jacket for Mean Baby by Selma Blair

Since birth, Selma Blair has struggled to unstick the labels others applied to her. As an infant, she had a sneer on her tiny face that caused neighbors and family to call her a “mean baby.” As she grew older, her mother said she wasn’t enough—pretty enough, thin enough, good enough, talented enough . . . the list goes on. And yet, as Blair writes in her painfully lovely Mean Baby: A Memoir of Growing Up, “I lived for her approval.”

Although that approval was ever elusive, Blair loved her mother. However, she had learned from her mother that if she showed she was in pain, it would only be met with laughter. So even as Blair began to experience strange sensations in her limbs, facial pain and other ailments that lasted for decades, she told herself she was fine. Fans already know where this is going: In 2018, Blair was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. As she writes with a poignant mixture of grief and relief, “There is great power in words. In an answer. In a diagnosis. To make sense of a plot you could hardly keep up with any longer.”

Blair writes about what fans may not know, too, such as her alcohol addiction that began at age 7 and surged and receded over the years. Blair also shares many thrilling Hollywood encounters, vividly conveying the profound feeling of disorientation that was her constant companion even as she starred in movies like Cruel Intentions, Legally Blonde and Hellboy; modeled for high-end fashion magazines; and developed friendships with the likes of Sarah Michelle Gellar, Karl Lagerfeld and Carrie Fisher.

Blair drew from her journals, her favorite books and her love of writing to craft this memoir, which is an elegiac contemplation of her life through the lens of a chronic illness that only recently made her past clear. For those seeking a similar sense of enlightenment, reading Mean Baby is a worthy and affecting undertaking.

Memoirs by Jennifer Grey, Simu Liu and Selma Blair reveal that even out-of-this-world stars have down-to-earth problems.

If Gary Janetti’s keenly observed memoir of his formative years, Start Without Me: (I’ll Be There in a Minute), is any indication, he’s always had a sharp eye and a sharper tongue.

That sarcastic sensibility has earned him fame and acclaim as a writer and producer for “Will & Grace” and “Family Guy,” creator of the British sitcom “Vicious” and star of the HBO Max animated show “The Prince.” Now, in this follow-up to 2019’s Do You Mind If I Cancel?, which focused on his career beginnings, the raconteur extraordinaire journeys back to his precocious childhood in 1970s and ’80s Queens, New York.

Those years had many glorious moments for Janetti, and readers will gleefully snort at his hilariously spot-on recollections. In grammar school, “The Carol Burnett Show” provided life-affirming joy. In freshman gym class, he discovered a prodigious talent for and love of square dancing. During his sophomore year, horrified by the prospect of football, he cleverly manipulated the system by spending gym periods with a guidance counselor (and drawing from soap operas to keep her hooked on his imaginary troubles). Always, movies and TV were a balm for his inability to connect with other kids and his fear of people finding out who he really was. “The things I liked, I liked too much. The things I didn’t, all other boys did,” he writes.

Some essays give insight into how things got better for the grown-up Janetti, providing moments of loveliness among the operatic complaining. For example, after a lengthy critique of destination weddings, Janetti reveals with a wink that he married TV personality Brad Goreski on a Caribbean cruise.

Start Without Me is equal parts acid and heart. It’s a collection of sardonically funny stories about a firecracker of a kid who hadn’t yet found his kindred spirits. It’s a series of entertaining tirades about life’s indignities. And it’s an engaging look at the origin story of a man who, despite years of self-doubt, has finally embraced his particular superpowers.

Gary Janetti’s keenly observed, hilarious memoir of his formative years in 1970s and ’80s Queens is equal parts acid and heart.

Malaysian author Hanna Alkaf’s Queen of the Tiles is a raw, moving exploration of complicated grief, a celebration of teenage determination and a nail-biting murder mystery set at a cutthroat Scrabble tournament in Kuala Lumpur.

At last year’s Word Warrior Weekend competition, Trina Low, the titular Queen of the Tiles, made it all the way to the final round before she slumped over her board—dead. Najwa Bakri, Trina’s best friend, has been experiencing traumatic flashbacks, depression and memory loss ever since. “It’s as if Trina’s death cracked me open, and now pieces of me keep escaping, scattering themselves everywhere,” she explains.

Seeing a therapist has been helpful for Najwa, as will be attending this year’s Word Warrior Weekend. Along with ensuring that no one will tarnish Trina’s legacy, Najwa is also intent on proving that she is still an accomplished Scrabble player in her own right. This year, it’s Najwa who will become Queen of the Tiles. 

Of course, other competitors have the same idea, setting the stage for round after round of precisely crafted, often mesmerizing gameplay. Queen of the Tiles brims with the skills a player must possess to become a Scrabble champion: sharp focus, quick thinking and a prodigious vocabulary. Every chapter opens with an esoteric word (plus its definition and Scrabble point value, natch). Alkaf builds an immersive, complex world but doesn’t stop there, layering in a compelling locked-room whodunit, too.  

Indeed, the Word Warrior Weekend is upended when Najwa begins to receive anagrams via direct message from Trina’s long-inactive Instagram account. You wouldn’t think a word puzzle could seem threatening, but in Alkaf’s clever hands, the brainteasers foment unease and hint at a truly horrifying possibility: Could Trina have been murdered?

Scrabble frenemies become amateur sleuths, and everyone’s a suspect. During high-level Scrabble battles, shocking secrets are revealed and edgy suspense builds as the tiles click and slide. Readers will be guessing until the very end of this ensorcelling (15 points), sesquipedalian (26 points) mystery. 

Hanna Alkaf reveals the surprising item she kept on her desk as she wrote ‘Queen of the Tiles.’

A Scrabble tournament takes a deadly turn in Hanna Alkaf’s ensorcelling (15 points), sesquipedalian (26 points) murder mystery, Queen of the Tiles.

Malaysian author Hanna Alkaf’s Queen of the Tiles combines two irresistible elements: wordplay and murder. It’s the story of Najwa, a Scrabble whiz whose best friend, Trina, collapsed mid-game during the Word Warrior Weekend tournament a year ago. As Najwa continues to deal with her grief, she competes in her first tournament since Trina’s death, where she discovers that her friend may have been murdered—and the killer could be sitting on the other side of the Scrabble board. 

What initially sparked your interest in writing about Scrabble and the competitive Scrabble community?

I love Scrabble. Malaysia has a thriving, active Scrabble community, and as a teen, my older brother had been part of it. I remember many weekends spent ferrying him back and forth from our house to the Parkroyal Hotel in downtown Kuala Lumpur, where meets were usually held. Naturally, I ended up representing my school at a few competitions when I was in my teens as well. The strategies employed by top Scrabble players have always fascinated me, and when you combine that with my love of wordplay, Agatha Christie mysteries and teen angst, well, that’s how Queen of the Tiles was born.

The Scrabble competition in Queen of the Tiles is suspenseful and incredibly detailed. How did you research that aspect of the book? What did you learn that surprised you?

I watched many hours of Scrabble competitions, documentaries and interviews, read as much and as widely as I could on strategy and gameplay, and mapped out moves on a Scrabble board that I kept by my desk throughout the entire process. 

I am now a repository of absolutely fascinating and utterly useless Scrabble trivia. For instance, the highest scoring Scrabble word ever was played by Karl Khoshnaw in 1982: caziques, for 392 points. But Dan Stock from Ohio worked out that, in theory, the highest scoring Scrabble word possible is oxyphenbutazone, which, if the stars somehow align and all conditions on the board are just as they need to be, can get you a ridiculous 1,778 points. Yes, I am very fun at parties.

“Mysteries work best when readers can play along.”

At the beginning of each chapter, you feature a word with its definition and Scrabble point value. Did you already have words in mind for this when you began writing?

I kept a Google Doc called WORD LIST, and every time I came across a word and definition that I thought I could work into the plot—whether for the words at the beginning of each chapter, tournament scenes or Najwa’s own internal monologues—I’d note it down. 

Sometimes I needed something specific, like, “Oh, for this chapter, I need an obscure word that means ‘enemy.’” I’d open Thesaurus.com, plug the word in and find the most obscure but still relevant synonym. Then I’d cross-check it with an online Scrabble word checker to make sure it was valid and read what the official definition and point value would be. 

Najwa’s internal dialogue was harder to work through. She floats from word to word depending on the definition or how that word is tied to her memories or her analysis of other people. It’s a tricky thing to pull off, and every time I did it felt like a tiny miracle.

One of my favorite such moments happens early on in the book. Najwa’s thought process takes her from the word arenite (a sedimentary clastic rock) to clastic (composed of fragments) to fragment (to break into pieces), and that’s how she feels right in that moment: like she’s falling apart. 

The tournament aspect of the novel is thrilling on its own, but Queen of the Tiles also contains a murder mystery! Do you enjoy reading mysteries? What was challenging about plotting one yourself?

I grew up raiding my older sister’s collection of Agatha Christie novels and still go back to them as comfort reads—particularly the Poirot books. Yes, you read that right: I read murder mysteries for comfort. 

The most challenging part of it all was laying down the breadcrumbs. It’s easy to say this big reveal needs to happen in this chapter, or this plot twist goes here, but if you don’t show a logical path to get there, then you’re not really earning it. Mysteries work best when readers can play along; they’re most fun when you can go back and realize the clues were there waiting for you, and you just didn’t realize at the time that they were clues at all. 

“If [Najwa] feels real to readers, then I’m grateful, because the emotions were all too real to me.”

Najwa has developed an obsession with Trina’s Instagram account, and social media plays a vital role in the story. Why was it important to you to include this in the book? 

Trina was a social media star; she had a large following and we catch glimpses of how obsessed she was with maintaining a certain image for her public. But the more we get to know Trina, the more we see how much more depth and darkness lie behind the facade. 

And it isn’t just Trina. In all instances where we see social media use in Queen of the Tiles—and we see it a lot—there’s always the underlying question of what we present to the world versus who we really are. How much is being shown, and how much is being hidden? How do you evaluate what is real when you don’t know how much is being shared and how much has been withheld?

In her grief after Trina’s death, Najwa experiences memory issues, intrusive thoughts and more. Your portrait of Najwa is so real and raw. What was it like for you to craft this moving depiction of loss and healing?

I did some research on therapy and coping mechanisms for loss, grief and PTSD, but to be honest, writing Najwa was difficult not because I couldn’t understand what she was feeling, but because I understood it too well. I mined my own memories and emotions and buried shards of my own remembered grief in Najwa; if she feels real to readers, then I’m grateful, because the emotions were all too real to me.

I loved how often Najwa refers to her therapist when she talks about what she’s been going through. Why was it important to you to include therapy as part of Najwa’s experiences and to depict her openly relying on its lessons?

In Malaysia, we’re still working on destigmatizing mental illness and therapy. I really wanted to show a Malay Muslim teen struggling with her mental health and the ways in which she reaches out, gets help, develops coping mechanisms and puts those tools in practice—all things that I think we need to work on normalizing.

Read our starred review of Hanna Alkaf’s ’Queen of the Tiles.’

You recently tweeted, “I cannot tell you what it means to me to see a hijabi on the cover of a book that has absolutely nothing to do with Muslim pain or oppression. A book where she just gets to play Scrabble and solve a mystery and be a teenage girl.” That’s such a powerful statement. What do you hope Najwa and her story might mean for teen readers?

All too often, Muslims and hijabis have to perform our pain in order for our stories to be taken seriously. And those stories are important and necessary. But they’re not all we are. The Muslim experience is varied and colorful; we contain multitudes. We should have stories that showcase all of that! Our pain and our joy and our fears and our loves and our friendships—the sum of our lives and not just one aspect of it.

What do you think draws us to word games like Scrabble, crossword puzzles or, recently, Wordle and makes us want to play them time and again?

I can only really speak for myself, but in my case, I am endlessly fascinated by language and the way that the smallest changes in letters, word choice, tone, inflection or emphasis can entirely change the message we’re trying to get across. My dedication in this book reads simply, “This one’s for the word nerds.” I might as well have said, “This one is for me.”


Author photo of Hanna Alkaf courtesy of Azalia Suhaimi.

Hanna Alkaf’s new YA novel is a murder mystery set in the cutthroat world of competitive Scrabble.

Super-close friends, a begrudgingly blended family and a passel of A-listers all contend with the scary side of wealth.

Cherish Farrah 

It’s not unusual for teen friendships to be intense, even all-consuming, but Bethany C. Morrow’s compelling and disturbing Cherish Farrah takes things to a whole new level. 

As the only Black girls in their affluent school and community, Farrah Turner and Cherish Whitman have been drawn to each other since meeting in the third grade. Although Farrah’s family lives just blocks away from Cherish’s, their lives have always been very different. Cherish’s extravagantly adoring adoptive parents are white, and they have the kind of wealth that buys them an opulent home with a triple-tiered backyard—and Cherish a privileged life that Farrah characterizes as WGS, or “white girl spoiled.” 

When readers first meet the young women, Cherish is sighing about her parents throwing a fancy party for her 17th birthday, while Farrah struggles with the foreclosure of her family’s home. The Whitmans have invited Farrah to stay with them for a bit, which is a no-brainer for Farrah. Although her internal monologues are riddled with scorn for Cherish, she considers Cherish “sometimes obtuse, often insufferably spoiled, but always mine.” 

That sense of superiority is central to Farrah’s increasingly tortured thought processes. She’s long felt unseen and frequently refers to the “meticulously crafted mask” she maintains as a form of control—a word so often used it becomes a twisted mantra central to Farrah’s existence. She wants to control and manipulate her relationships and feel as special as the undeserving Cherish does every day.

But Farrah’s been slipping a bit lately. Cherish resists her guidance when she never did before. Farrah’s parents aren’t as enthused about her staying with the Whitmans as they once were. And Farrah’s been feeling ill, too, suffering nausea and dizziness as well as ominous dreams. Is she still the danger—or is she in danger? 

Morrow’s tale tips from slow-building suspense into horror as the story progresses, and she does an excellent job of illustrating the ways in which envy and power can corrode relationships and reality even as she carefully, mercilessly immerses readers in Farrah’s singularly unsettling worldview.

The Younger Wife 

Sally Hepworth’s The Younger Wife kicks off with narration by an uninvited—and unidentified—wedding guest who witnesses a distressing turn of events. Has someone been hurt on this hitherto lovely day? Why? At whose hand? 

It’s a deliciously intriguing beginning to this entertaining tale set in Melbourne, Australia. The rest of the book is mainly told from the perspectives of three 30-something women: sisters Tully and Rachel, daughters of wealthy cardiac surgeon Stephen Aston, and Heather, Stephen’s wife-to-be. 

The sisters are shocked when 69-year-old Stephen announces his impending nuptials. After all, his wife and their mother, Pamela, is still alive; Stephen recently moved her to a nursing home for dementia treatment and never mentioned any plans for a divorce until now. It’s also discomfiting that Heather is their age, and they don’t love that the couple met when Stephen hired Heather as an interior designer for the home he and Pamela shared—the home Heather will soon move into.

Plus, Pamela’s been making comments indicating that Stephen may have been abusive. In what way and to what extent, Rachel isn’t sure, and she knows it won’t help to talk to Tully, who’s even more anxious and snide than usual. Unbeknownst to Rachel, there’s more to Tully’s behavior than her disapproval of Heather: Her family is in financial trouble, but she’s too ashamed to talk about it. For her part, Rachel is also struggling with repressed trauma that has begun to resurface.

The secrets pile up and up (Heather’s got some doozies, too) as Hepworth skillfully plumbs the characters’ pasts and builds pressure in the present. She seeds their musings with tidbits that will tantalize readers as they try to discern whether people are sinister or misunderstood; what happened at the wedding; and why the heck Pamela had thousands of dollars squirreled away in a hot-water bottle. Beneath all the suspense, Hepworth’s exploration of trauma and its aftermath is sensitively and compellingly done, as is her subtle examination of the ways in which wealth—having it, wanting it, losing it—can color relationships, perspectives and self-worth. 

The Club

Wealth is practically a main character in The Club by Ellery Lloyd, aka the married British co-authors Collette Lyons and Paul Vlitos. Wealth is the arbiter of who belongs and who doesn’t, who matters and who is of no import in the world of The Home Group, a collection of exclusive membership clubs that cater to the exceedingly rich and fabulously famous. 

The newest club, Island Home—an opulent private island outside London dotted with cabins, restaurants, spas and more—is opening with a huge three-day celebration, invitations for which are highly coveted. Ned Groom, the bombastic and temperamental CEO of Home Group, hands them out with calculated glee.

The prologue reveals that a body will be found on the island after the big bash; as one of the faux Vanity Fair articles sprinkled throughout the book notes, “the party of the year turned into the murder mystery of the decade.” It’s initially unclear who’s been killed or why, but as Lloyd counts down the days leading up to the murder, it becomes evident that Ned’s an excellent candidate, although plenty of the guests are odious, too—some laughably (and murder-ably?) so. 

Working behind the scenes to wrangle the guests is an art in and of itself, one that grows more frustrating as opening day approaches. Colorful dispatches from a rotating cast of staff offer juicy behind-the-scenes details while hinting at dangerous secrets galore. There’s Jess, head of housekeeping; Annie, fixer extraordinaire; Nikki, Ned’s assistant; and Adam, Ned’s almost-as-obnoxious brother. They all have their own ulterior motives and unmet desires, a difficult state of affairs when surrounded by people who have so much yet are so ungrateful. 

Like Lloyd’s debut, People Like Her, The Club is a clever murder mystery that provides thrills and gasps galore, as well as a pointed and clear-eyed cautionary tale about the downsides of money and fame. Is all the jockeying for power and catering to terrible people (while, one assumes, trying not to get murdered) worth it? Membership in The Club has its perils right alongside its privileges.

While money may not necessarily be the root of all evil, privilege certainly leads to peril in three exciting thrillers from Bethany C. Morrow, Sally Hepworth and Ellery Lloyd.

Anna Hibiscus

Atinuke (Too Small Tola, Catch That Chicken!), the acclaimed Nigerian-born author of Anna Hibiscus, is an accomplished traditional oral storyteller. In this illustrated chapter book, it’s easy to see why: Using straightforward yet elegant prose, she creates a sweetly moving and eminently memorable young protagonist.

Anna is a bright, active girl who lives with her grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings and parents in a sprawling compound in a big, bustling city in Nigeria. The compound is a wondrous place with unusual architecture, lush gardens, fragrant mango trees and goats and chickens. There is always someone to play with, talk to or even—when the cheerful noise and spirited bickering of such a busy home becomes overwhelming—hide from for a little while. 

Each of Anna Hibiscus’ four self-contained chapters begin the same way: “Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa. Amazing Africa. In a country called Nigeria.” This refrain highlights Anna’s pride in her identity and her homeland. In Atinuke’s quartet of tales, readers are drawn into Anna’s “amazing” world, where they join her on a trip to the beach, meet her supercool auntie who lives across the Atlantic Ocean and learn what it’s like to sell oranges on the street. Anna is smart and engaged in her family’s life, and each story showcases different ways to express love and understand new perspectives. 

Although Lauren Tobia’s illustrations are done in pen and ink with a gray wash, the people and events she depicts always have a feeling of cheerful vibrancy. Mischievous children tumble across the pages, and framed snapshots (complete with little pieces of scrapbook tape) capture scenes of Mother’s life growing up in Canada, where she met and married Father as he visited one summer.

Whether they share Atinuke’s stories aloud with a grown-up or pore over them quietly by themselves, emerging readers will find much to enjoy and discover as Anna and her family impart wisdom and wit, blend the contemporary with the traditional and revel in having fun together.

The Puffin Keeper

Sometimes we’re lucky to have a special person enter our lives and become an emotional touchstone, a beacon of light during dark times. In The Puffin Keeper , lighthouse keeper and artist Benjamin Postlethwaite becomes such a figure for young Allen Williams.

At first, it’s because Ben rescues 5-year-old Allen, his recently widowed mother and 28 other passengers from a shipwreck near Ben’s lighthouse on the Scilly Isles, then gives Allen a painting to keep. Later, it’s because memories of Ben’s heroism and kindness resonate through Allen’s life, especially when the boy longs to escape his difficult circumstances. At his strict grandfather’s house, Allen lives in terror of being rapped on the hands with his cruel governess’ ruler, and at boarding school, he is forced to run cross-country as punishment for repeated attempts to run away. 

Allen discovers that he loves running and, inspired by Ben’s painting, also develops his own artistic talents. He even paints the envelope of a letter he sends to Ben, but Ben doesn’t reply. Finally, teenage Allen decides to make a “journey of exploration” to the lighthouse. He reunites with Ben, who never forgot him, and the arrival of an injured puffin at the lighthouse augurs new beginnings for humans and birds alike. When Allen must eventually make a far more perilous journey, thoughts of Ben and the puffin help him once more. 

The Puffin Keeper is an emotional tale of people and creatures who forge joyful bonds, endure storms and carry on. As Michael Morpurgo’s  affecting story makes clear, Allen is a touchstone for Ben as well, in a sweet reminder that we may affect others more than we ever realize. 

The emotional impact and classical feel of illustrator Benji Davies’ artwork are just right for this book. Many illustrations’ sepia tones hint at days gone by, while roiling seas rise up in ominous hues of gray and blue. Davies’ depictions of human characters are nicely expressive, and the puffins are both accurate and adorable. 

Morpurgo is no stranger to crafting appealing and meaningful tales. The award-winning British author has written more than 100 children’s books, with War Horse being perhaps the best known among them. In an afterword, Morpurgo reveals a personal connection to the real-life figure who served as inspiration for the character of Allen, a historical tidbit that sheds warm light on an already luminous story.

Families come in all shapes and sizes. These lovely books for emerging readers explore how our families enrich and bring joy to our lives.

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