April showers bring May flowers, and March brings National Reading Month. As such, The Post sat down with Sandy Public Library’s staff members to collect recommendations of books for bibliophiles of all ages.
Books for beginners
For the early readers, librarian and mother of 3 and 5 year olds Maureen Houck suggests the “Zoey and Sassafras” series by Asia Citro and “Cat Problems” by Jory John.
“(The ‘Zoey & Sassafras’ books) are really good transitional chapter books,” Houck explained. “It’s got everything a little kid wants. This girl helps magical creatures, and the books also talk about scientific method on a kid-appropriate level.”
“Cat Problems” is a picture book that follows a day in the life of a housecat.
“Anyone with an indoor cat will relate,” Houck said. “This is one we check out when we need a good laugh.”
Children’s librarian Monica Smith also recommended the picture book “Giant Island” by Jane Yolen.
It tells the tale of a sister and brother who go fishing with their grandfather and discover a secret.
“It’s got really great illustrations and a really good story,” Smith said.
Titles for teens and adults
For older readers, teens to adults, Smith had two other recommendations. One was this year’s John Newberry Medal winner, “Free Water” by Amina Luqman-Dawson. “Free Water” follows the story of a sister and brother who escape from a plantation. They are later rescued and find refuge in a hidden community of escaped slaves.
“I was pleasantly surprised,” Smith said. “It has a great story line and it did teach me about something new; these communities really did exist.”
Smith’s other recommendation may be better suited for adults, and is called “The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper” by British historian Hallie Rubenhold. The book delves into the lives, loves and hardships of these five women, focusing on their lives rather than their killer or their deaths.
“They had families, they were married and they fell on hard times,” Smith explained. “It was a very well-researched and thought-provoking book.”
For adults who appreciate a good murder mystery, Chris Wilhelmi says look no further than the “The Thursday Murder Club” series by Richard Osman.
“It’s a good series,” Wilhelmi said. “I think the books show older people in a different light. Like one was a secret agent and still very much is even though she’s in a retirement home. The way they are written is also very humorous. I think they appeal to a lot of people.”
Wilhelmi’s favorite books of the series she said are “The Bullet That Missed” and “The Man Who Died Twice.”
Delving into books that could be considered a bit heavier, Rebecca Hanset recommends “Rabbit Cake” by Annie Hartnett. The book is narrated by main character 12-year-old Elvis Babbit, as she navigates, with humor and realness, the death of her mother and its impacts on her and her family.
“It really goes into family dynamics after trauma or tragedy,” Hanset said. “It pays homage to the mom because (Elvis) recreates a cake her mother always made without her mom to inspire her family.”
Hanset added that she appreciated how the book depicted the affect Elvis’ cake baking had on her family, even though at her young age, Elvis may not have cognitively understood the depth of her actions.
As the teen librarian, Hanset also recommended a book she believes will especially be relatable for those ages 16-21, “The Chronology of Water: A Memoir” by Lidia Yuknavitch. Yuknavitch is a local author who also teaches at Mt Hood Community College, Portland Community College and Portland State University. “The Chronology of Water” is her “big break” into the literary world and, Hanset said, it is her “coming of age story.”
“It talks about coming to grip with physical and emotional abilities, sexuality and identity,” Hanset explained.
For fantasy fans, Thea Ellen suggests “The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches” by Sangu Mandanna. A book geared toward adult readers, “The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches” can meet different needs for different readers. While it was recommended to Ellen as a romance, she said “it was so much more.”
“It covers subtle social issues, that if you’re not looking for that won’t distract from the story,” Ellen explained. “It’s absolutely (a story) of found family and adorable. It’s a warm hug in book form.”
Another mystery for adults comes by recommendation from Library Executive Director Sarah McIntyre and is called “Heaven’s Keep” by William Kent Krueger.
“Heaven’s Keep” is part of Krueger’s Cork O’Connor series and follows the mystery-solving antics of Tamarack County Sheriff Cork O’Connor in a tiny town in Northern Minnesota near the Ojibwe reservation. O’Connor is part Ojibwe and part Irish, and the story provides a look into the Indigenous experience of the area, including a lot of lore.
McIntyre also suggested “Rick Riordan Presents: Aru Shah and the End of Time” by Roshani Chokshi. The Rick Riordan collection includes many different stories of differing cultures and religious backgrounds. “Aru Shah” is based in Indian mythology.
McIntyre said it is a great education on the myths and culture “with a fun adventure story” as well. “It’s fascinating.”
A timeless tale
For readers of all ages, Elaine Russell recommended the “Anne of Green Gables” series by Lucy Maud Montgomery.
“It’s a comfy winter read for me,” Russell said. “Anne of Green Gables is very character-driven, and just a cozy and nice story. It’s a classic I try to read every five years or so.”
Though Russell fell in love with reading later in life, this is her fourth read through of the series. She said she thinks of the series as enjoyable for children and adults because of the relationships depicted in the stories.
“It’s just funny the positions we get ourselves in because of human nature,” Russell explained. She added that Montgomery’s style of writing is very different than writers’ today, but still appealing, as well as “romantic and descriptive.”