November 2020 Staff Picks

Adults | Teens | Children's Chapter Books | Children's Picture Books

Closer to the Ground: An Outdoor Family’s Year on the Water, In the Woods, and at the Table
by Dylan Tomine
Long before Covid-19 disrupted the availability of food and other necessities to our local stores, author Dylan Tomine decided that he wanted for himself – and more importantly, his children – a life closer to the source of their sustenance. The reader joins the Tomine family for four seasons on Bainbridge Island in Washington as they dig for clams, fish for salmon, hunt for chanterelles, and tend a garden. From there the family moves to the kitchen to turn nature’s bounty into mouthwatering meals.  There are many practical benefits to this way of life – self-sufficiency, a healthier diet, etc.  My sense, though, is that Tomine really wants the reader to see the intangible rewards of living this way. Like every parent, he is painfully aware of the time slipping through his fingers as his children grow before his eyes. This approach to living is a way to slow things - even if just a little - while also instilling in his children a sense of love and gratitude for everything that the natural world has to offer.

Braving It: A Father, a Daughter, and an Unforgettable Journey into the Alaskan Wild              
by James Campbell
Wisconsin author James Campbell first took readers to Alaska in The Final Frontiersman (2004), which tells the story of Campbell’s cousin, Heimo Korth, a native of Appleton who set out for Alaska in the 1970s as part of the “Back-to-the-Land” movement. Most of the modern homesteaders eventually returned to civilization, but Heimo remained in the Alaskan bush, making a life with his wife and daughters hunting, fishing, and trapping in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. When the time comes for Campbell to return to Alaska, his young daughter is eager to join him on this trip of a lifetime. Campbell naturally wants to protect his daughter from danger, but at the same time is eager to share his love for the Alaska wilderness with his oldest child and give her the opportunity to test herself. The story that ensues is the best kind of family drama, one that is filled with love, trust and lots of adventure!

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World
by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu
The publishing world offers a nearly endless assortment of books the promise happiness, but none quite like this. This work, based on a face-to-face meeting of these two wise and holy men, features their insights on the path to happiness and fulfillment drawn from decades of struggle against exile and oppression, as well as from their respective faith traditions. Their advice is both timely and timeless. It is simple and yet deeply profound. They gently guide the reader first through a discussion on the nature of joy and then explore the obstacles to joy. Finally, they outline the eight pillars of joy: perspective, humility, humor, acceptance, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, and generosity. This is ancient wisdom that our modern world desperately needs to hear shared by two men who delight in each other’s company. When their five days together comes to an end these old friends are sorry to part. Readers, too, will be sorry to say goodbye, but the lessons learned will stay with them far beyond the book’s final page.               

Clap When You Land
by Elizabeth Acevedo
Camino Rios lives in the Dominican Republic and looks forward to her father’s visits every summer. But on the day his plane is supposed to land, the airport is full of crying people. Meanwhile in New York, Yahaira Rios has just learned her father has died in a plane crash on his way to the DR. As if Camino and Yahaira’s grief isn’t enough to process, they are about to learn about their Papi’s secrets…and of each other. This lyrical novel is beautiful, emotional, and intense, and will be hard to put down.  

Little White Lies
by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
If you enjoy shows like Pretty Little Liars, Gossip Girls, Riverdale, and drama, drama, drama, this is the book for you. Eighteen-year-old auto mechanic Sawyer Taft’s life has been a struggle with her flakey single mom, so when her estranged grandmother unexpectedly shows up and offers her $500,000 to move in with her and participate in debutante season, she agrees. But while searching to discover her father’s identity, Sawyer learns high society is full of secrets and her family isn’t the only one with skeletons in the closet. 

Tyler Johnson Was Here
by Jay Coles
When twins Marvin and Tyler go to a party, they weren’t expecting harmless fun to turn into a shooting followed by a police raid. And when Tyler doesn’t come home, it’s up to Marvin to find him. But when Tyler is found dead, a video leaked online tells an even more chilling story: Tyler was shot and killed by a police officer. This is a book for fans of The Hate U Give, but instead of focusing so much on social justice, this one deals more with processing the grief of losing a loved one. 

Children: Picture Books

When the Babies Came to Stay
by Christine McDonnell
The babies came from all over. Only the librarian can take them home. The whole island helps raise them.
Families don’t always look alike and where we are going is more important than where we came from.
This wonderful lighthearted fairytale brings a message of how love and generous spirit is all it takes to make a family.

Katy Did It!
by Lorianne Siomades
It seems like Katy, the katydid, can’t do anything right. To make matters worse, her little brother follows behind her shouting, “Katy did it! Katy did it!” But when some ants have troubles of their own, it’s Katy to the rescue! This lively book is picture perfect.

The World Needs More Purple People
by Kristin Bell
Are you a purple person? Purple people bring their family, their friends and their communities together. A purple person is an everyday hero! Are you up to the task? Penny Purple will lead you through the steps. Get ready to be silly, exercise your curiosity, use your voice and be inspired!

Children: Chapter Books

Beezus and Ramona
by Beverly Cleary                                                                                                                                     
Beezus struggles with liking her little sister who always seems to be creating chaos and disorder but can she still find a way to be a good big sister to her? A humorous depiction of the difficulties of sisterhood. Perfect for independent chapter book readers or to read aloud as a family.

Stella By Starlight
by Sharon Draper                                                                                                                                      
Stella lives in the segregated South. The Ku Klux Klan has reappeared and Stella, her family and her community must learn to be brave together.

Little Women
by Louisa May Alcott (Classic Starts Ed.)                                                                                      
Enjoy following the adventures of the March sisters as they experience the joy and disappointments of growing up, ever guided by their loving parents. This simpler version captures all the charm and warmth of the original.