September Book Highlights

Updated: Oct 4, 2021

September 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)

Belluna’s Big Adventure in the Sky

By: Once Upon a Dance

(Independent Request) - Picture Book

Belluna often feels different from those around her; though her balloon head offers her some benefits, like jumping higher when she makes basketball shots, it can be hard when nobody else looks like her apart from her family. One day, when she and her family are out picking apples, a storm picks up and Belluna is carried high into the sky. She must rely on her strength and resilience to find her way home once again. This latest in the canon of stories by Once Upon a Dance is a loving celebration of what makes people unique and is presented in a whimsical and memorable way. Please see my full review here.

Mama Knew a Chicken

By: R.K. Vetter

(Independent Request) - Picture Book

It is not often that people speak of friendships with chickens, but this story depicts an endearing relationship that is true to the author’s own experience. Mama loves her chicken called Ca-Ca, and they especially enjoy swinging in the rope swing together. When Ca-Ca goes missing one day, however, Mama fears the worst. Luckily, she understands enough about chickens to be patient and see what might happen if she gives Ca-Ca a little time on her own. Pen lines form the black and white illustrations of this book, creating a dynamic and memorable visual for this charming story. Please see my full review here.

Night Critters Play

By: Esseboe Kwami Nyamidie

(Reedsy) - Picture Book

This book immediately caught my eye because of the artfully crafted illustrations and the well-balanced text. Built around a poem that was originally published in 2004, this story incorporates the sights and sounds of nighttime into a lovely tapestry of auditory and visual storytelling. The rhymes and line breaks do not follow a predictable pattern, which can make reading the story aloud more difficult, but with practice, these elements add a memorable layer to the book. It is a great read for poetry-lovers of all ages. Please see my full written review here and my video review here.

Once Upon a Time…There Was a Thirsty Frog

(NetGalley) - Board Book

A group of animals shares a home beside a billabong in Australia. One day, Tiddalik the frog becomes so thirsty that he drinks all the water from the billabong and surrounding land, leaving none for his friends to enjoy. The other animals must work together to get Tiddalik to spit the water back out so everyone has enough to share. This story is a colorful reimagining of an age-old folk tale told by the Gunai/Kurnai people of south-east Australia and is a fun addition to libraries for young children.

Please see my full review here.


By: Jamie Hogan

(NetGalley) - Picture Book

Tamen lives in a big city, where artificial light obscures the night sky. Enamored with the stars, Tamen is upset that he cannot see them from his home. So, his mother packs up their car one day and they drive out beyond the edge of the city where they can be alone with the night. Captivated by the majesty of the Milky Way, Tamen is inspired to reduce his own light pollution to preserve the beauty of nighttime. This story is lovingly written and encourages readers of all ages to do what they can to reduce light pollution to preserve the dark of night. Please see my full review here.

The Tiger of Karamba

By: Viraj Govind Mahatme

(Independent Request) - Picture Book

This is the story of Tiger, the confident and fearsome king of the forest of Karamba. One day, when he is scratching his back to rid himself of worrisome fleas, he inadvertently removes his stripes, as well. Unable to ignore the ridicule of the other animals, Tiger hides in his den. Confidence is more than skin deep, however, and it takes one brave companion to urge Tiger to reconsider his feelings. This fable-like story teaches an important lesson about inner strength and is a good fit for older elementary school-aged readers. Please see my full review here.

Trick or Treat: The Story of the Switch Witch and How She Came to Be

By: Dr. Antoinette Corley-Newman

(Reedsy) - Picture Book

This is the story of a witch named Abigail, otherwise known as the Switch Witch. She loves October 31 each year because it is the only time she and her friends are permitted to cross into the mortal realm. But it’s the sweet treats she loves best, and she is determined to find a way to be able to enjoy them all year. Rich colors and expressive faces make this story a lovely and imaginative read for elementary school-aged children in anticipation of Halloween. Please see my full review here.

When a Brave Bear Fights Cancer

By: Carola Schmidt

(Independent Request) - Picture Book

Scotty the teddy bear has just received some hard news: he is suffering from Leukemia. As a young creature, many of the words and concepts associated with this type of cancer are challenging and frightening, but with the support of his family, care team, and others going through the same experience, Scotty discovers his internal strength. Uniquely designed, this book utilizes photographs of strategically posed teddy bears and Scrabble tiles to present the complexity of Leukemia to young children in an accessible way. Though this disease is difficult to navigate, this book will help families work together to understand what Leukemia is and how it is managed. Please see my full review here.

Tweens (Middle Grade)

Crow: The Four

By: Vishnu Pinnaka

(Independent Request) - Middle Grade

Four twelve-year-olds in New York City happen to share both a birthday and a crow-shaped birthmark, but other than that, their lives are mostly ordinary. However, when mysterious strangers appear to whisk them away to a distant planet called Magia, they learn their lives are more dramatic than they could have ever imagined. This fantasy adventure is imaginative and engaging, and though the writing could benefit from an increase in maturity, it is a promising start for a young author. Please see my full written review here and my video review here.

The Deep End of Life

By: Benjamin K. Hewett

(Reedsy) - Middle Grade

As the youngest child of divorced parents, eleven-year-old Marley is still struggling with the separation two years later. Joining the local swim team is supposed to help, but Marley’s fear of the murky deep end and the monsters potentially hiding there does more to enhance her anxiety than quell it. With the help of a kind therapist and unlikely friends, Marley builds the confidence she needs to face her fears and take her place in the world. This concise, well-written story is a great fit for middle grade readers who have ever felt smothered by their lives and are looking for a way back to the light. Please see my full review here.

Raven Heir

By: Stephanie Burgis

(NetGalley) - Middle Grade

This is the story of Cordelia, one of a set of twelve-year-old triplets whose magic permits her to transform into any animal at will. She does this at the drop of a hat, anytime her life becomes too overwhelming or confining, much to the chagrin of her mother and siblings. When invaders threaten their protected abode, Cordelia finds herself in an unexpected position as she and her triplet siblings strike out to rescue both their family and their home. This straightforward fantasy story is built upon a unique and compelling framework and includes just enough support for newly confident middle graders to read it successfully. Please see my full review here.

The Secret of the Snallygaster

By: Rishi Piparaiya

(Reedsy) - Middle Grade

The Lander family has the unique and wonderful opportunity to travel the world together, and siblings Tara and Neil love joining their parents wherever their work takes them. In this story, the family travels to Washington, D.C., where they find a mysterious letter that leads to a series of clues left behind by their late Great Uncle Eugene. Together, they must decipher the riddles before time runs out. Much like The Da Vinci Code, the presentation of this story educates about history and culture while engaging readers in an enjoyable mystery. Please see my full written review here and my video review here.

Teens (Young Adult)

An Audience for Einstein

By: Mark Wakely

(Independent Request) - Mature Young Adult

The possibilities science holds are boundless, and humans have always desired to extend their lives. Put these two truths together, and the result is this chilling sci-fi thriller about a desperate scientist compelled to discover a way to successfully transplant one’s memories into a younger recipient to ensure a longer life. Questions of worth and morality are found throughout this novel, and readers will be on the edges of their seats as they endeavor to discover what happens to each character as a result of this daring experiment. Please see my full review here.

Both are True

By: Reyna Marder Gentin

(Independent Request) - Adult

I don’t often include adult literature in my TBR list, but I appreciate Reyna Gentin’s writing style and was enthusiastic to read this new story. It focuses on two flawed characters, Jackie and Lou, whose lives wind their way in and out of one another as the two determine where their trajectory is ultimately going to take them. Many additional characters and situations are woven into the narrative, as well, and readers will find themselves contemplating the complexity of love from various angles. Well written and engaging, this is an enjoyable selection for adult readers. Please see my full review here.

Night Swiftly Falling

By: Tricia D. Wagner

(Independent Request) - Emerging Young Adult

This novella is a companion to The Star of Atlantis and The Strider and the Regulus, both also written by Tricia D. Wagner. It chronicles the fateful day that tore the friendship between eight-year-olds Ash and Swift apart, leading to a competition that will span several years. Concise, yet profound, this is an important inclusion to the series and is one that will help answer lingering questions for readers who have enjoyed the other two books. Please read my full review here.

The Polar Bear and the Dragon: Dream Jumper

By: Debbie Watson

(Independent Request) - Emerging Young Adult

This is the second story in The Polar Bear and the Dragon series, and it picks up shortly after the first book ends. Whitney and Edward learn more about their newfound skills as they enhance their bond and become more independent protectors of Aiden, the young dragon prince. Engaging action sequences blend with views of wholesome relationships to create an enjoyable story for emerging young adult readers. Please see my full written review here and my video review here.

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