This atmospheric adventure will delight readers who love soft science fiction, measured reveals and romances that are written in the stars.
This atmospheric adventure will delight readers who love soft science fiction, measured reveals and romances that are written in the stars.

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Babel by R.F. Kuang

Set in an alternate Victorian Britain, R.F. Kuang’s standalone historical fantasy is an unforgiving examination of the cost of power.


Everywhere With You by Carlie Sorosiak, illustrated by Devon Holzwarth

Carlie Sorosiak and Devon Holzwarth’s flawless picture book rings with a tender truth: When you are with the ones you love, everywhere you go is home.

Everywhere With You by Carlie Sorosiak and Devon Holzwarth

Honey and Spice by Bolu Babalola

This enemies-­to-lovers romance set on a British university campus hums with Bolu Babalola’s energetic, intelligent voice.

Honey and Spice jacket

An Immense World by Ed Yong

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ed Yong’s nonfiction study of animal senses is an immersive, page-turning reading experience.

An Immense World book cover

In Love by Amy Bloom

Amy Bloom is known for examining the dynamics of intimacy in her fiction, but she has never gotten closer to the flame than in this memoir of her husband’s early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

In Love book jacket

Lolo’s Light by Liz Garton Scanlon

Liz Garton Scanlon’s compelling middle grade novel glows with empathy and understanding.

Lolo's Light by Liz Garton Scanlon book cover

Man o’ War by Cory McCarthy

This YA novel’s exploration of queer identity ferociously resists the idea that coming out is a simple or straightforward process.

Man O' War by Cory McCarthy

The Rabbit Hutch by Tess Gunty

Despite its doomed Midwestern setting, Tess Gunty’s debut novel makes storytelling seem like the most fun a person can have.

The Rabbit Hutch book jacket

Trust by Hernan Diaz

Hernan Diaz’s second novel is a beautifully composed masterpiece that examines the insidious disparities between rich and poor, truth and fiction.

Trust book cover

Winter Work by Dan Fesperman

Dan Fesperman’s intense post-Cold War mystery savvily addresses both the personal and political pressures facing an East German spy.

Winter Work book cover

Discover more of BookPage’s Best Books of 2022.

2022 brought innumerable literary wonders, but as far as the year’s very best, we’ve narrowed it down to 10 outstanding titles.
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All That Is You

Bestselling author Alyssa Satin Capucilli offers an imaginative series of rhymed metaphors for love. Her text playfully twists colloquialisms (“you’re the wide in my world”) striking on heartfelt truths rather than cloying sentimentality. Illustrator Devon Holzwarth’s vibrant artwork matches the elegance and emotion of Capucilli’s prose and elevates All That Is You from very good to breathtaking.

The Birthday of the World

A young girl’s grandfather recounts how “the world of a thousand thousand things” was created when a beam of light pierced the darkness and scattered sparks into “everyone and everything.” Author Rachel Naomi Remen adapted The Birthday of the World from a tale originally told to her by her grandfather, an orthodox rabbi. Remen writes in unadorned, moving prose about the power in finding the lights inside ourselves and others, while illustrator Rachell Sumpter’s artwork is suffused with warmth and wonder. 

The More You Give

Marcy Campbell’s deceptively simple The More You Give follows three generations of a family as they share gifts and plant seeds both literal and figurative. Campbell anchors the story in wonderful specifics (“big hugs, and bigger laughter, and the very biggest Sunday-morning pancakes”) and skillfully repeated phrases, such as the “wild and wooly caps” of acorns that each generation plants in the field surrounding their house. Illustrator Francesca Sanna’s bold colors and stylized figures enable readers to track characters as they grow from child to adult, their faces clearly expressing the love they feel for one another.

For a gift that can be enjoyed again and again, consider one of these picture books.
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The Christmas Book Flood

Winter arrives in all its glory in The Christmas Book Flood. Dating back to World War II, Jólabókaflóð (which translates to “Yule book flood”) is the Icelandic tradition of giving books to loved ones on December 24.

Author Emily Kilgore’s prose is expressive and poetic. As the book opens, she describes how the “northern lights dance and curtsy across a cold, black sky.” Later, she captures the thrill of searching for the perfect book as “shoppers glide through the aisles of towering shelves.”

Though Kilgore’s text speaks in general terms, illustrator Kitty Moss’ artwork tells the story of a biracial family, focusing on the wide-eyed oldest child as she sets off on her bike to find books for her family. She explores the nooks and crannies of a bustling bookstore, and her shopping expedition becomes an enchanted adventure. Frogs jump out of a book, which transforms into an owl that flies her to a fantastical world full of castles, hot air balloons and more magical creatures.

Moss creates glowing scenes—those northern lights, a snow-covered village, a dreamy bookshop, families reading by the fire—set against dark nighttime backdrops. She incorporates scraps of paper and newsprint into her collage-style art, offering further reminders of the transportive power of reading.

Bibliophiles will revel in this stunning celebration of the written word. The Christmas Book Flood sparkles with bookish excitement on every page.

Twelve Dinging Doorbells

A girl observes the growing number of visitors who gleefully fill her home as her family celebrates the holidays in Tameka Fryer Brown and Ebony Glenn’s Twelve Dinging Doorbells, a delightfully raucous riff on “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”

Things begin calmly as the first dinging doorbell reveals a grandmotherly woman with “a sweet potato pie just for me.” Spread by spread, more friends and family arrive, and Fryer Brown’s clever variations on the cumulative rhyme will have young readers readily chiming in: “At the fifth ringing doorbell this holiday I see: BAKED MACARONI AND CHEEEEEESE! Four pounds of chitlins, three posh sibs, two selfie queens and a sweet potato pie just for me.”

Glenn’s illustrations draw readers into the festivities by playing with perspectives. Many spreads depict rooms through a bird’s-eye view as the house bursts at the seams, while other scenes allow the reader to feel as though they’re seated at the long yellow table, surrounded by plates of food. There’s so much to discover in these images, and Glenn captures plenty of action and an amusing variety of facial expressions, from sheer joy to utter annoyance.

The book follows the natural rhythm of any celebration. As the crowd of partiers begin to tire, the rhymes shift slightly; for instance, “seven brothers repping, six toddlers squealing” becomes “seven goofy men, six screeching babies.” At the 11th doorbell ding, the narrator notices with dismay that only crumbs are left on the sweet potato pie plate. Thankfully, the baker comes to her rescue in a lovely final scene. Twelve Dinging Doorbells is a stellar ode to rollicking family gatherings at any time of the year. 

Through the North Pole Snow

A white fox digging in a snowdrift falls through Santa’s roof in Through the North Pole Snow, a lovely tale whose mixed-media illustrations and quiet, wondrous tone bring to mind Eric Carle’s Dream Snow and Jan Brett’s holiday tales. Polly Faber’s text doesn’t name the white-bearded, red-sweatered man until the very end of the book, instead offering a garland of clues that start with the man’s first comment when he frees the fox from his living room ceiling: “Stuck? Now that’s a problem I understand!” 

Faber’s Santa lives a peaceful life alone in a cabin, marvelously free from all of the holiday hullabaloo. Fox watches him as the seasons change, slowly building up to Christmas Eve. The result provides children with an insider’s look at a year spent with Santa, from his long post-Christmas nap, his months of careful toy making, a flurry of wish-filled letters that fill the sky like snowflakes, the arrival of the reindeer and, at last, the loading of the sleigh. 

Richard Jones’ exquisite illustrations underscore the subdued nature of this tale, with nary a “ho ho ho” to be heard and no elves in sight. Instead, this Santa is a lone, studious worker, surrounded by nature. He even chops his own wood. And yet there’s plenty of magic in the making as his shelves fill up with handmade treasures and the reindeer are decked out in brightly colored harnesses. Families feeling overwhelmed by seasonal excess will find Through the North Pole Snow a welcome respite.

Latkes and Applesauce

“Long ago in a village far away,” the Menashe family is ready to celebrate Hanukkah, but their plans are foiled by a blizzard so big it seems “as if all heaven’s featherbeds had burst.” Latkes and Applesauce: A Hanukkah Story updates the text of a charming wintry tale originally published in 1989, replacing Robin Spowart’s illustrations with new artwork by Kris Easlier. 

Mama, Papa and little Rebecca and Ezra usually dig up potatoes from their garden to make latkes and pick apples from their trees for applesauce. This year, Mama notes, “the blizzard has swallowed our feast.” As the days pass, the family’s food supply dwindles, yet they continue to celebrate as best they can. 

Author Fran Manushkin’s evocative prose moves the narrative along, heightening the tension yet keeping the mood upbeat and reassuring. Excitement arrives in the form of two unexpected visitors, a stray cat and dog who delight the children but also mean more mouths to feed. “Where there’s life, there’s hope,” Papa repeatedly reminds his family. 

Kris Easler’s illustrations lend a contemporary vibe to this “long ago” family. Every spread is bathed in warmth, the glow emanating from the Menashes’ home contrasting with the deep blue of the falling snow. The family’s faces are expressive as their occasional worried glances interrupt their optimism. The kindness they show the stray animals leads to a solution to the family’s dilemma that’s a bit predictable but still rewarding. Cheerful and cozy, this edition of Latkes and Applesauce has the makings of a new classic. 

As long, dark winter nights set in, snuggle up with these sparkling festive tales.

All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir

With this story of two teens desperate to leave their small town, Tahir proves she’s just as skilled at contemporary fiction as she is at epic fantasy.

All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir

Beating Heart Baby by Lio Min

This epic tale of queer validation is an essential read for anyone searching for a blueprint of their soul.

Beating Heart Baby by Lio Min

The Epic Story of Every Living Thing by Deb Caletti

Introspective and profoundly engaged, Caletti’s new novel embraces imperfection and inspires empathy.

The Epic Story of Every Living Thing by Deb Caletti book cover

Hopepunk by Preston Norton

Norton’s stellar novel might be the most punk rock book ever written about religion and forgiveness.

I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston

The most impressive accomplishment in McQuiston’s first YA book is complicated Shara Wheeler herself.

I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston

Man o’ War by Cory McCarthy

This exploration of queer identity ferociously resists the idea that coming out is a simple or straightforward process.

Man O' War by Cory McCarthy

Nothing Burns as Bright as You by Ashley Woodfolk

Woodfolk plumbs the depths of friendship and first love—and the grief that often comes with navigating both.

Nothing Burns as Bright as You by Ashley Woodfolk

Queen of the Tiles by Hanna Alkaf

Against the backdrop of a cutthroat Scrabble tournament, Alkaf explores loss, celebrates teen determination and sets up a nail-biting mystery.

Queen of the Tiles by Hanna Alkaf

Squire by Sara Alfageeh and Nadia Shammas

This heart-pounding fantasy graphic novel is filled with silly banter and fast-paced battles.

Squire by Nadia Shammas and Sara Alfageeh

We Deserve Monuments by Jas Hammonds

Hammonds takes on two challenges—exploring the ugly legacy of racism and telling a moving love story—and succeeds at both.

Book jacket image for We Deserve Monuments by Jas Hammonds

A Year to the Day by Robin Benway

A Year to the Day is simultaneously gut-wrenching and heartening, as grief and love so often are.

A Year to the Day by Robin Benway

Discover more of BookPage’s Best Books of 2022.

By the end of a YA book, we have watched as a teenage protagonist has taken a critical step from childhood toward adulthood. In the year’s best YA novels, no two of those steps were alike except for how honored we felt to witness them.

A Comb of Wishes by Lisa Stringfellow

In her beguiling debut, Stringfellow shows how fantasy tales can be more true than ordinary life.

Different Kinds of Fruit by Kyle Lukoff

This remarkable novel will be as meaningful to today’s young people as Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret was for earlier generations.

Different Kinds of Fruit by Kyle Lukoff

A Duet for Home by Karina Yan Glaser

Never forgetting the complexities of her characters’ lives, Glaser infuses A Duet for Home with sweetness and optimism.

A Duet for Home by Karina Yan Glaser

Golden Girl by Reem Faruqi

In spare, carefully chosen words, Faruqi builds an absorbing drama that rings with authenticity and emotion.

Golden Girl by Reem Faruqi

Hummingbird by Natalie Lloyd

With exceptional style and empathy, Hummingbird addresses weighty themes in a jubilant yet realistic way.

Hummingbird by Natalie Lloyd book cover

Invisible by Christina Diaz Gonzalez, illustrated by Gabriela Epstein

This cleverly conceived graphic novel celebrates both individuality and community while transcending language barriers.

Invisible by Christina Diaz Gonzalez and Gabriela Epstein book cover

The Last Mapmaker by Christina Soontornvat

The Last Mapmaker brims with adventure, surprises and action that moves faster than a ship under full sail.

The Last Mapmaker by Christina Soontornvat

Lolo’s Light by Liz Garton Scanlon

Liz Garton Scanlon’s compelling middle grade novel glows with empathy and understanding.

Lolo's Light by Liz Garton Scanlon book cover

A Seed in the Sun by Aida Salazar

This historical novel in verse is a skillfully crafted look at the life of a child working in dangerous conditions.

Book jacket image for A Seed in the Sun by Aida Salazar

Tumble by Celia C. Pérez

Tumble movingly reminds readers that sometimes heroes (and villains) are not who they seem—both in life and in a wrestling ring.

Tumble by Celia C. Perez book cover

Discover more of BookPage’s Best Books of 2022.

It’s a complicated, amazing world out there. The year’s best middle grade books find complexity and beauty in the great wide unknown—and within the hearts of their protagonists.

Berry Song by Michaela Goade

In her debut as an author, Caldecott Medalist Goade imbues nature with an enchanting, otherworldly beauty.

Book jacket image for Berry Song by Michaela Goade

Emile and the Field by Kevin Young, illustrated by Chioma Ebinama

This impressionistic story highlights the importance of having a place to relax, roam and be yourself.

Emile and the Field by Kevin Young and Chioma Ebinama

Everywhere With You by Carlie Sorosiak, illustrated by Devon Holzwarth

Carlie Sorosiak and Devon Holzwarth’s flawless picture book rings with a tender truth: When you are with the ones you love, everywhere you go is home.

Everywhere With You by Carlie Sorosiak and Devon Holzwarth

Farmhouse by Sophie Blackall

Two-time Caldecott Medalist Blackall offers a sophisticated, openhearted ode to what truly makes a house a home.

Farmhouse by Sophie Blackall book cover

John’s Turn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Kate Berube

This wise, warm picture book explores the abundant and everyday courage of children with a light touch.

John's Turn by Mac Barnett and Kate Berube

Knight Owl by Christopher Denise

In this tale of dreams, dragons and determination, a tiny owl becomes an unexpected hero.

Knight Owl by Christopher Denise

The Legend of Gravity by Charly Palmer

This riveting rocket of a tall tale makes readers feel like they have courtside seats to an epic basketball game.

Love in the Library by Maggie Tokuda-Hall, illustrated by Yas Imamura

Based on the life of the author’s grandparents, this exquisite piece of historical fiction is a love story for the ages.

Maya’s Song by Renée Watson, illustrated by Bryan Collier

Through lyrical poems and lavish artwork, Maya’s Song creates a moving biography of Maya Angelou.

Maya's Song by Renee Watson and Bryan Collier book cover

Monsters in the Fog by Ali Bahrampour

Understated humor has never been so laugh-out-loud funny as in this perfectly paced, playful picture book.

Monsters in the Fog by Ali Bahrampour

Discover more of BookPage’s Best Books of 2022.

The year’s best picture books reveal the power of simplicity—the perfectly placed word, the stroke of a paintbrush at just the right spot—to capture the most complex of emotions and stories. In other words, they’re exquisite.
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“Get in. Get out, No drama. Focus forward.” That’s the motto guiding Avery Anderson at the beginning of her senior year of high school, when she and her parents move from Washington, D.C., to Bardell, Georgia, in order to care for Avery’s estranged, dying grandmother. Yet Avery soon finds herself surrounded by drama in Jas Hammonds’ superb debut novel, We Deserve Monuments.

Avery’s life isn’t just in limbo from the move; she’s also fresh off a breakup with her girlfriend back home. Avery’s relationship with her grandmother, Mama Letty, isn’t all smooth sailing either. The first time they meet, Mama Letty tells Avery that her lip piercing makes her look “like a fish caught on a hook.” Avery’s mother, a renowned astrophysicist, grapples with her own relationship with Letty, who was often drunk and abusive during Zora’s childhood, while Avery and Letty eventually form a close bond.

Meanwhile, Avery gets to know the town of Bardell, where “every corner [holds] a story,” with the help of two new friends: next-door neighbor Simone, who is Black, and Jade, whose wealthy white family lives on a former plantation and owns a posh hotel in town. Yet her new knowledge only inspires more questions for Avery, including what happened to her late grandfather, Ray, whom neither Zora nor Letty will discuss. 

In We Deserve Monuments, Hammonds takes on two challenges—exploring the ugly legacy of racism in a small town and telling a moving love story—and succeeds at both. The author blends these two plot strands in a wonderfully organic fashion, and their prose is sure-footed every step of the way, with snappy dialogue so fresh that readers will feel as though they’re eavesdropping on real conversations.

Avery is an engaging, appealing narrator whose story is occasionally supplemented by short chapters of omniscient narration that efficiently fill in gaps from the past. As Avery navigates a seemingly forbidden new romance and drifts from her intention of following in her mother’s professional footsteps, readers are rewarded with a number of startling plot twists and a host of tender moments between Avery and her love interest. Just as rich are the relationships among the members of Avery’s family, especially the magnificently complex Letty.

Life, identity, love, death—it’s all here. We Deserve Monuments marks a noteworthy debut from a writer paving her own literary future. 

In We Deserve Monuments, author Jas Hammonds takes on two challenges—exploring the legacy of racism and telling a moving love story—and succeeds at both.
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Game On

Give this to a reader who has a competitive streak, whether it manifests on the field, in the classroom or at game night. 

Game On: 15 Stories of Wins, Losses, and Everything in Between highlights the importance of “playing the game” to find yourself. In each tale, characters interact with a game, from sports and video games to neighborhood pastimes and more. Many stories illustrate the thrill of competition, even as characters grapple with why rivalries and the act of winning mean so much to them. Nearly all the stories capture the central game’s emotional underpinnings, allowing characters to become closer to one another, to find courage in other aspects of their lives or to see something in a new light. 

Standout story: Gloria Chao’s “Mystery Hunt” follows two college freshmen who share an adorably nerdy passion for language puzzles as they embark on the linguistics department’s annual scavenger hunt. As they race to piece clues together, Faye’s growing friendship with her cute classmate, Pierce, inspires her to form deeper connections with other people in her life. The story’s puzzles are challenging, the emotional stakes are high, the pace is fast, and by the end of the hunt, readers will be eager for more adventures with Faye and Pierce.

—Annie Metcalf

★ Tasting Light

Give this to a reader who yearns to expand the limits of what is possible.

Every story in Tasting Light: Ten Science Fiction Stories to Rewire Your Perceptions masterfully demonstrates how powerful science fiction can be. Whether the teens in these futuristic tales are sipping coffee in a spinning city, exploring parallel universes or experiencing bold new technologies, they’re contemplating themes like race, class, disability and gender as thoughtfully as teens today, while dreaming up new and inventive ways to improve themselves and their worlds. As one character muses, “You can be a teenager and make things happen. They’re not mutually exclusive at all.”

Standout story: Junauda Petrus-Nasah’s “Melanitis” begins in the middle. What’s a FAN, and why is it a big deal that another one has been murdered by police? To give away more would spoil the experience: As narrator Amari processes the unfolding news, so do we. Petrus-Nasah takes a classical sci-fi theme—the perils of scientific overreach—and applies it to the disparity between joyous Black energy and the dangers of being Black in a white-dominated society. The result is daring and devastating.

—Jill Ratzan

Eternally Yours

Give this to a reader who is smitten with all things magical, mysterious and macabre.

In Eternally Yours, editor Patrice Caldwell collects 15 paranormal romance stories that feature supernatural suitors ranging from ancient immortals to undead high school students. Many of the tales have contemporary settings, their speculative elements intertwined with familiar teenage concerns like part-time jobs and parties. These realistic details—and the often relatable protagonists—give the collection a grounded core that allows readers to truly connect with larger-than-life dramas such as hunting vampires or making out with mermaids. This anthology will sweep romance-minded readers away into one otherworldly love story after another.

The standout story: Marie Rutkoski’s dreamlike “Bride-Heart” follows a teenage waitress caught up in the ominous affections of a wealthy older man. As it becomes clear that there is far more to the rich stranger than anyone suspects, a test of agency, control and subtle magic unfolds. Rutkoski crafts an atmosphere of creeping dread as she upends many paranormal romance tropes. Her tense, twisty tale will keep readers guessing all the way to the end. 

—RJ Witherow

Generation Wonder

Give this to a reader who knows exactly what they’d do if they woke up with superpowers. 

Many of today’s most successful superhero stories were dreamed up long before current teenage readers were born. The 13 tales in Generation Wonder: The New Age of Heroes introduce brand-new, contemporary superheroes across a range of genres, from comical adventures to fast-paced thrillers. In a clever touch, each story opens with an illustration in the epic style of a comic book cover by artist Colleen Doran. Diverse, imaginative and entertaining, these stories prove that extraordinary heroes can truly come from the most ordinary circumstances.

The standout story: In Nulhegan Abenaki author Joseph Bruchac’s “Ordinary Kid,” Leonard is a Native American teen just trying to survive high school—and figure out how to use his newly acquired superpowers, of course. After an encounter with a mysterious entity called Crow, Leonard becomes telekinetic and gains an “uncanny ability to sense when someone [is] picking on someone else.” He decides to use his powers to disrupt his town’s drug trade before turning his attention to an even more dangerous target. Leonard’s self-deprecating humor and hunger for justice call to mind such well-known superheroes as Captain America and Spiderman. 

—Hannah Lamb

Teens will discover whole new worlds within the short stories of these four anthologies.
Review by

Vega is a girl with stars on her skin. Her mother created the tattoos when Vega was small, knowing that one day she would take up the mantle of the last Astronomer. Vega has never left their valley and knows only the safety of her mother’s cottage. But her mother is dying from a sickness that has claimed much of the world’s population, and twin stars have appeared in the sky, signifying that Vega must fulfill her duty: to find the Architect and go to the sea.

Vega is unprepared for the dusty, desperate world outside the valley, where branded men called Theorists hunt her mercilessly, believing she holds the key to a cure for the sickness. She is rescued by a girl named Cricket, who leads her to Noah, a mysterious, secretive boy with green eyes. Together, the three of them set off across the desert, guided by ancient stories and starlight. But as the twin stars move along their orbital path, Vega knows that time is running low.

A Wilderness of Stars is an atmospheric adventure romance that pulls from a constellation of genres as author Shea Ernshaw crafts a world that seems both familiar and alien. Full of ghost towns and outlaws, much of the setting feels straight out of a Western, but without the identifiable geography of the American West. Ernshaw employs a similar tactic with the novel’s temporal scope, giving enough clues to place the story in a far-off future where our current technologies are considered ancient myths, but no real specifics about when the story takes place. 

Ernshaw’s narrative relies on intentional ambiguity and the slow unspooling of secrets, which is sometimes effective and other times frustrating. Many characters hold their cards close to their chests, and as a consequence, Ernshaw often writes around plot points rather than through them. Although her writing can be dense, readers who appreciate a focus on romance will enjoy the time she spends lavishing Vega and Noah’s love story with florid prose. 

Overall, A Wilderness of Stars will delight readers who love soft science fiction, measured reveals and romances that are written in the stars.

This atmospheric adventure will delight readers who love soft science fiction, measured reveals and romances that are written in the stars.
Review by

As the sun sets and a full moon rises, three children venture outside, ostensibly to find their runaway dog but mostly to frolic in the nocturnal world beyond their gate. Author Dianne White and illustrator Felicita Sala’s Dark on Light is lyrical, charming and wonderful. 

White’s text is more like a poem than a straightforward story. In lieu of lengthy descriptions, she creates a vivid world through concise statements that form rhymed couplets: “Silent the owl. Still the night. / Dark the meadow beneath its flight.” Once every four lines, the couplets resolve by using the book’s title as a refrain. This repetition, along with the text’s soothing, cohesive meter, lends Dark on Light the mood of a calming lullaby. It calls to mind the way we feel compelled to whisper among shadows, to hush our voices as we explore the realm of nighttime. It’s magical and awe-inducing, but never eerie or foreboding. 

Sala’s illustrations do much of the narrative work. We see the children run through flowery fields, traipse through a forest, turn cartwheels in the grass and eventually find their dog and make their way home to bed. Sala’s artwork has a classical look, with soft shapes and muted hues that are familiar, joyful and full of life. And while night is often a source of fear for children, Sala’s dark forest is beautiful and deep, populated with gentle, curious creatures, including a doe and her fawn, a fox and a squirrel nestled in the hollow of a tree. Enchanting details—the Canis Major constellation highlighted in the starry sky, a teddy bear peeking out from under a bed—give readers a further sense of security. This is a safe book for imagination and dreams. 

Everything about Dark on Light makes it perfect for cozy time or bedtime. Actually, everything about Dark on Light makes it just about perfect. 

Night can be a source of fear for children, but soothing text and joyful, lively artwork give this picture book the feel of a calm, reassuring lullaby.

Two years after his mother dies of breast cancer, high school junior and amateur photographer Jamison Deever decides to channel his grief into a photography project. At a street corner he could see from his mother’s hospital window, Jamison photographs whoever happens to show up at 9:09 p.m., the exact time at which his mother died. 

Initially, Jamison simply wants to honor his mother’s memory, but when he creates a website and begins uploading his work online, the photos garner attention, both local and national. A popular girl named Kennedy exploits Jamison’s talent in the hope of kickstarting a modeling career, while another girl named Assi, who is dealing with her own loss, butts heads with Jamison in English class. Friendship—and then something more—grows between them. As Jamison’s photography inspires others to embark on their own 9:09 projects, he begins to understand the transformational power of expressing his grief. 

As author Mark H. Parsons was drafting The 9:09 Project, his mother was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, and she died before the book was published. Through Jamison, Parsons offers a strikingly honest and moving depiction of loss, grief and healing. As the novel opens, Jamison is adrift, struggling with the reality that life after the death of a loved one doesn’t come with a road map. Instead, he must find his own path, apart from but alongside his supportive sister, father and friends. 

Parsons’ first-person narration is spare and never weighed down by heavy descriptions, focusing instead on Jamison’s thoughts from moment to moment. This strong internality adds to the novel’s appeal as Jamison undertakes a journey through grief, which, sooner or later, every reader must also experience. Not every teen who has suffered a loss will be ready for the raw emotions Parsons captures here, but when they are, the novel’s honesty will likely be a comfort.

In The 9:09 Project, author Mark H. Parsons draws on personal experience to craft a strikingly honest depiction of loss, grief and healing.

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There’s no shortage of Jane Austen retellings. But it’s safe to say that none of them are quite like Ibi Zoboi’s modern-day reimagining of Pride and Prejudice. Zoboi, whose prior novel, American Street, was a finalist for the National Book Award, continues her exploration of the complexities of American neighborhoods through a love story worthy of the legacy of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy.

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