August Book Highlights

August has been a wonderful month of books! Thank you to everyone who has invited me to read their books this month; it has been a pleasure to read them. Below, you'll find the stories separated by target age group and alphabetized within that segmentation. I hope you'll find your next great read!

Also, if you aren't already, make sure you subscribe to my monthly newsletter, which goes out on the 15th of each month, so you don't miss another blog. These emails are a digest of great stories and include tidbits about reading and books for young people. And now, on to the highlights!

Kids (Picture Books and Early Readers)

The Adventures of Jessica Jones and Sox and Grandpa

By: Russell Irving

(Independent Request) - Nonfiction Picture Book

Jessica Jones and Sox are two Jack Russell Terriers who love going on adventures with their friend Grandpa in New South Wales, Australia. Despite their lovable personalities, these two canine companions sometimes find themselves getting into trouble and in need of rescue. This story introduces readers to a dynamic trio that spends much of its time in the natural landscape of New South Wales, participating in events that support the Aboriginal community and its surroundings. This nonfiction picture book is well suited to elementary school-aged readers and is filled with photographs of the featured locale. Please see my full review here.

When Fred the Snake Goes to School

By: Peter B. Cotton

(Independent Request) - Picture Book

This is the second installment in the Fred the snake series. In the first book, readers are introduced to Fred the snake, who is accidentally split in half by an ambulance while crossing the street. He gets stitched back together, and then settles in with a human friend in this second adventure where he gets permission to go to school. Told in rhyme with memorable, caricature-focused illustrations, elementary school-aged readers who appreciate silly stories will enjoy this unexpected series. Please see my full review here.

Maria Wants a Dog (Maria Veut un Chien)

By: Brenda Akwar

(Independent Request) - Picture Book

I love bilingual stories—especially those in both French and English—so I was enthusiastic to review this one. In this story, a six-year-old girl named Maria gets to pick out her very own dog, but she is not sure which one is right for her. After much consideration, she makes a selection that is the perfect fit. The story is presented in French and English and is geared toward a young elementary school-aged audience. Colorful, computer rendered illustrations give the book a cheerful, cartoon-like quality and are large enough to be viewed in a Storytime setting. It is an enjoyable story for children who are preparing to adopt their first pet. Please see my full review here.

My Hands are Clean…Or Are They? (Bah? Mes Mains Sont Propres!)

By: Brenda Akwar

(Independent Request) - Picture Book

Maria loves to play with her dog Kiki as they jump through puddles and chase squirrels together. But when Maria’s mother reminds Maria to wash her hands, Maria wonders how necessary that really is since her hands are already wet. A magnifying glass opens up a whole new world to Maria, emphasizing the importance of keeping her hands clean so she can stay healthy. This bilingual French/English book is a continuation of the Little Miss Maria’s World series and incorporates the illustrative style and design of other books in the collection. Please see my full review by clicking on the link below.

Mary R Lanni Review My Hands Are Clean
Download PDF • 37KB

Nutsi and Lili at Forest School

By: Emma Paidge

(Independent Request) - Picture Book

This story is one in a series of books about two squirrel friends named Nutsi and Lili. In this installment, they are preparing for their first day of forest school, and Lili is feeling nervous. Nutsi helps quell her fears, and the two discover all the wonderful things forest school has in store for them. Through cheerful illustrations and accessible narration, readers will enjoy getting to know Nutsi, Lili, and their friends and the many adventures they have together. Please see my full review here.

Nutsi and Lili in the Land of Snuggles

By: Emma Paidge

(Independent Request) - Picture Book

Nutsi is a creative squirrel, and even though he can’t read by himself yet, this does not stop him from developing imaginative stories to share with his cuddly friend Hazelnut. In this story, Nutsi brings a land of snuggly toys into existence—a cheerful place filled with friendly characters. Once a year, children can come to visit this special location, but this occasionally brings complications that must be resolved. This story reads very much like a childlike creation, which will endear it to young readers. Please see my full review here.

Nutsi Tries to Catch the Moon

By: Emma Paidge

(Independent Request) - Picture Book

It’s nighttime, and as much as Nutsi enjoys observing the moon in the sky, he is afraid of the dark and often struggles to fall asleep. One morning, Nutsi has a fantastic idea, and he asks his friend Lili to help him find the one thing that will cure his fear once and for all. Tromping through a winter wonderland, these two squirrel friends work together to resolve Nutsi’s challenge, which is one many young readers can relate to. Please see my full review here.

There’s an Alien in the Attic

By: Colin Rose

(Independent Request) - Picture Book

When things go bump in the night, a young boy imagines immediately that the noise is being generated by an alien that has crash landed into his house. But what does the alien look like? Is it big or small? Does it have lots of eyes or many teeth? Through rhyming text and clever, detailed illustrations, the boy bravely faces any trepidation he feels to help the unknown visitor find its way home. I really enjoyed the delivery of this story; it is short and sweet, and it is an enjoyable bedtime read for children who are not afraid to wonder about what might be beyond our world. Please see my full written review here, and my video review here.

Tweens (Middle Grade)

Polar Bear and the Dragon: Dawn of an Alliance

By: Debbie Watson

(Independent Request) - Middle Grade

Twelve-year-old Whitney lives off the coast of Lake Superior with her mother, and she is ready to enjoy her long-awaited summer vacation. However, her nightmares have increased in intensity, pulling her out of the serene rest she desires. An unexpected encounter with a strange creature gives Whitney some answers, but more questions are ultimately revealed as Whitney works to embrace her role in a world she never knew existed. This unique story is a bit slow at the start, but as the action picks up, readers will be engaged in the adventure and ready for the next installment. Please see my full written review here and my video review here.

A Reason to Bury

By: C.L. Giles

(Independent Request) - Advanced Middle Grade

This is the second story in the Firestorm series and continues to follow Jazz Taylor and her friends as they navigate the turbulence of adolescence. Familiar challenges of puberty put Jazz and her best friend Blossom at each other’s throats, but dangerous circumstances force them to unite for a common goal. I appreciated how well-written this story is and the excitement of the action sequences! It is best suited to a mature middle grade or early young adult reader because of the youthful dialogue and darker, suspenseful moments. Please see my full review here.

When the Wind Speaks

By: Antoine Bandele

(Independent Request) - Middle Grade

Manny Martinez has just returned from her summer at Camp Olosa where she and her friend T.J. Young found themselves fighting for survival in the realm of the Orishas. Back home in Brooklyn, she is constantly distracted by the gaggle of siblings and cousins surrounding her—so much so that she is unable to hear the message coming to her from an Orisha named Oya. As Oya’s attempts at communication continue to be thwarted, she goes to increasing lengths to reach Manny before it is too late. This short story is a dynamic addition to the T.J. Young and the Orishas series and does a great job of setting up book two. Please see my full review here.

Teens (Young Adult)

Dragons Walk Among Us

By: Dan Rice

(Independent Request) - Young Adult

Sixteen-year-old Allison Lee loves taking photographs and dreams of becoming a photojournalist one day. However, when an unexpected attack leaves her in the hospital without her eyesight, she scrambles to make sense of the future that has been torn from her. Taking a chance on an experimental surgery, Allison soon finds that there is more to see than she ever knew before. I loved the set up of this story and I flew through the first half. The second half moved more slowly than I would have liked and I had a few important questions at the end, but overall the book is well-written and includes interesting and memorable characters. Please see my full review here.

The End of the World is Bigger Than Love

By: Davina Bell

(NetGalley) - Young Adult

I wanted so much to like this book more than I ended up enjoying it. This is the story of twin girls, Summer and Winter, who find themselves away from the rest of humanity as the world implodes around them. Told from both perspectives, their opposite natures are immediately apparent, and the writing pulled me in from the very start. However, because the story reveals information in a piecemeal fashion and neither narrator was reliable, it was a struggle for me to reach the end. Once I did, though, I was left deeply considering the story in order to determine what reality really was. Even though this wasn’t for me, it may be a great fit for the right reader. Please see my full review here.

Keep What Remains

By: Carrie Beamer

(Independent Request) - Young Adult

This is the story of an emerging teen named Megan who finds her life changing in leaps and bounds as she prepares to enter high school. With her best friend Tessa at another school and her mother and father separated, Megan must learn to balance increasing responsibility with the varied desires of adolescence. When Tessa introduces Megan to a boy named Jason, her life changes yet again as she falls into her first love story and the challenges that come with it. This story reads easily, feeling like a Harlequin novel with teenage protagonists. A clear and emotional plot line keeps readers engaged throughout, encouraging them to empathize with the many real-world struggles the characters face. Please see my full review here.

Redemption Summer

By: Payne Schanski

(Independent Request) - Young Adult

This book is a continuation of the story initiated in The Ghost of Five Mile Creek. JB is ready to start his summer, finally released from his rocky freshman year of high school. He has big plans, but they are derailed when he learns he must work a summer job in order to help his mom pay their endless stack of bills. Through hard work and relationships with others, JB discovers his inner strength as he determines whether he will remain in the small town of Bellview or aim for bigger things. Though I found this book to be slow at the start, by the end I appreciated JB’s growth and transformation as he becomes a more confident, independent young adult. Please see my full review here.


By: S.J. Moquin

(Independent Request) - Young Adult

This is exactly the kind of book my sixteen-year-old self would have loved to read. It is the story of Gwelle Airda, a girl who has lived her entire life on the starship Deliverance before being among the first settlers on the planet Varax. Her childhood best friend Raiden is also there, but Gwelle isn’t quite ready to forgive him for breaking a promise a couple of years earlier. An adventure takes the two adolescents beyond the borders of the Nova-Zera settlement, putting their lives in jeopardy while reminding them of the depth of their feelings for one another. This sci-fi YA novel is great for readers who appreciate a blend of action and romance in a futuristic world. Please see my full review here.


By: Miles Watson

(Blackthorn Books) - YA/Adult

The Freefolk, like their neighboring communities, love the traditions that have guided their lifestyle for generations. One day, a stranger by the name of Seelenmord finds his way to the Freefolk’s village, bringing with him a truth that contradicts much of the belief system they hold dear. As the winter months drag on, more citizens consider Seelenmord’s words, and many of them make decisions that challenge their very existence. This short story is well rounded and thought provoking, causing readers to consider their world differently after its conclusion. Please see my full review here.

The Strider and the Regulus

By: Tricia D. Wagner

(Reedsy) - Early Young Adult

This is the story of thirteen-year-old Swift, the youngest of four brothers. He is feeling the pressure to perform, as his father Justus is beginning to press Swift into a career that will lead to a comfortable life. But Swift is drawn to adventure, specifically to a famed treasure said to be hidden off the Welsh coast. As Swift begins to learn sailing skills alongside his more experienced kin, he demonstrates skills that will serve him well into adulthood. I enjoyed the easy readability of this story as well as the strong messages of following one’s heart. It is a great short novel for readers transitioning from middle grade to young adult literature. Please see my full review here.


By: Scott Rhine

(Independent Request) - Young Adult

This is the second book in the Conventicle series and continues Isa Morris’ exploration of her innate skills and talents. When angry non-Sensitives attempt to thwart the efforts of Isa and her fellow witches, Isa begins to require more protection than she ever has before. Working with the adults around her, Isa develops her skills and leadership ability to help her people and bring them peace. I found this book to be well written, but it did not follow as clear a story arc as the first novel. Nonetheless, readers who enjoyed book one will appreciate how easily they can return to Isa’s world in this story. Please see my full review here.

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