Marvels, Wonders, & Surprises: 18 Reads for the Young and Young at Heart

May has arrived, and with it a brand-new roundup of staff picks for the young and young at heart! From the seasons here on Earth to the moon up above, there’s a lot to explore in this month’s recommendations. (Also, can we talk about the fact that Our Seasons folds into a globe?! So cool.) If that’s not enough, we also have a fun announcement… We’re going to host a middle grade summer reading book club! Our June selection is How to Save a Queendom by Jessica Lawson, and the author will join us for the discussion on June 13! You can register on our website for this fun summer club. In the meantime, dive on into our May staff picks; your next favorite read awaits!

Recommended by Rae Ann

Lizzy and the Cloud Cover ImageLizzy and the Cloud

I love this whimsical story about a girl and her cloud. Parallels to four-legged pets abound in this imaginative and beautifully illustrated tale.

Recommended by Chelsea

The Great Zapfino Cover ImageThe Great Zapfino

By Mac BarnettMarla Frazee (Illustrator)

I admit I am obsessed with wordless (or minimally worded) picture books. There’s so much to pore over in the illustrations, and Marla Frazee has hidden details in every single page. I also loved the message of facing your fears. This is a great book for readers of all ages.

Recommended by Rae Ann

A Home Named Walter Cover ImageA Home Named Walter

By Chelsea Lin WallaceGinnie Hsu (Illustrator)

This picture book about a house with feelings is perfect for anyone experiencing a move or any big life change. Thoughtful and sweet.

Recommended by RJ

Molly on the Moon Cover ImageMolly on the Moon

By Mary Robinette KowalDiana Mayo (Illustrator)

This is a great read-aloud full of creativity, resourcefulness, science, and siblings learning to share!

Recommended by Rae Ann

Wondering Around Cover ImageWondering Around

By Meg FlemingRichard Jones (Illustrator)

A beautifully illustrated picture book about the paths we take when we let our imagination soar.

Recommended by Madeline

Little Wonder Cover ImageLittle Wonder

By Claire Keane (Illustrator)

An adventurous picture book that traverses the depths of the ocean to the highest heavens in the skies. Every word is tenderly written as a mother’s love letter to her Little Wonder.

Recommended by Patsy

Alice Waters Cooks Up a Food Revolution Cover ImageAlice Waters Cooks Up a Food Revolution

By Diane StanleyJessie Hartland (Illustrator)

This beautiful picture book illustrated by Jessie Hartland recounts young Alice tasting delicious fresh food from her family’s garden and her subsequent university studies in France, where she discovers these simple pleasures abound. We follow Alice as her passion leads her to open a restaurant in Berkeley and create a food revolution.

Recommended by Rae Ann

The Lucky Ones Cover ImageThe Lucky Ones

Eleven-year-old Ellis Earl Brown lives in the Mississippi Delta in 1967. School is his refuge with a teacher and books that inspire him to dream. During an encounter with a famous visitor, Ellis Earl finds the courage to speak up for his family and community in this memorable story.

Recommended by Chelsea

Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone Cover ImageJennifer Chan Is Not Alone

Mallory tries so hard to teach the new girl Jennifer the cardinal rule of middle school: you have to fit in. When Jennifer goes missing, Mallory uses Jennifer’s alien hunting journals to track her down, but that means Mallory must come to terms about the reason Jennifer ran in the first place. A tender novel about friendships, middle school, and the power of an individual.

Recommended by Rae Ann

The Marvellers (Marvellerverse #1) Cover ImageThe Marvellers 

By Dhonielle ClaytonKhadijah Khatib (Illustrator)

This unique story of a magic school in the sky is sure to delight middle grade fantasy readers. The fun details of the world, the characters, and their gifts spring to life on the page.

Recommended by Madeline

Our Seasons: The World in Winter, Spring, Summer, and Autumn Cover ImageOur Seasons: The World in Winter, Spring, Summer, and Autumn

An engaging and stunningly illustrated introductory book about the seasons with easy-to-understand descriptions about winter, spring, summer, and autumn!

Recommended by Rae Ann

Frank and the Bad Surprise (Frank and the Puppy #1) Cover ImageFrank and the Bad Surprise

By Martha BrockenbroughJon Lau (Illustrator)

Frank the cat’s life is wrecked when his humans bring home a puppy in this fun chapter book. Or is it?

Recommended by Gavin, 5th grade

Packing for Mars for Kids Cover ImagePacking for Mars for Kids

Are you curious about space? You’ve probably studied about astronauts a bit in school. But – did your teacher explain what happens if a person gets sick in their helmet or misses the bag while pooping? This book tells us the things we really want to know!

Recommended by Chelsea

I Kissed Shara Wheeler: A Novel Cover ImageI Kissed Shara Wheeler: A Novel

On the cusp of graduation, being named valedictorian, and escaping her small town, Chloe Green is counting down the days. That is, until her academic rival Shara Wheeler kisses her and then disappears, leaving only pink envelopes in her wake. Full of wit, charm, and heart, I Kissed Shara Wheeler fits perfectly into the pantheon of contemporary YA.

Recommended by RJ

Queen of the Tiles Cover ImageQueen of the Tiles

A girl drops dead at a competitive Scrabble tournament, and one year later the question still remains: Was it an accident, or murder? Her former best friend must find out the truth before it’s too late. One of the best mysteries I’ve read in ages, a sensitive exploration of grief and friendship, AND a fascinating look into a niche competitive subculture. This book is basically perfect, and you should read it now.

Sprout Book Club: May Selection

Little Houses Cover ImageLittle Houses

The May 2022 Sprout Book Club selection is Little Houses by Kevin Henkes and Laura Dronzek.

A girl visits her grandparents at their house on the beach where they collect seashells that are also little houses. The lyrical text paired with the stunning paintings in this picture book make it a beautiful read aloud treasure you will want to read year round.

Early praise for the book:

“Henkes and Dronzek create a story about a child . . . whose visit to a grandparents’ small beach house allows time for wondering and questioning. The grandparents’ quiet, affirming presences allow their grandchild space to contemplate. For now, though, the child treasures a collection of shells, little houses. Henkes writes with quiet grace that avoids preciousness, while Dronzek’s acrylic seashore-centered spreads capture one person encountering the natural world with curiosity and reverence.” –Publishers Weekly

“Curiosity and wonder about nature are explored, this time through a family trip. As they walk the beach, the child studies the shells and considers the creatures that once lived in them. Vibrant acrylic illustrations depict these little houses in multiple colors, sizes, and shapes. Her grandparents encourage her to explore her surroundings, inspiring her to want to learn more. Returning to her own house, the girl takes some of the treasures along, understanding that she, too, is part of the wonderful wider world.” –Booklist

Sprout Book Club is the book subscription box for picture book lovers. Every month members will receive a first edition picture book. Set up a subscription for yourself or buy a gift membership for your favorite picture book lover for 3, 6, or 12 months. 

Spark Book Club: May Selection

Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor Cover ImageZachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor

The May 2022 Spark Book Club selection is Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor by Xiran Jay Zhao.

Zack feels out of place as the only Asian student in his town in Maine. He makes friends through his favorite augmented reality game that spawns mythical creatures from folklore. When a real creature threatens Zack and his mom, he finds a connection to the first emperor of China and gains magical powers. This action-packed story of a gamer who goes on a true quest is for readers of funny books mixed with adventure.

Early Sparks for the novel:

“Levels up legendary Chinese heroes and folklore into a thrilling adventure with video game appeal.” – Kirkus

“Culture and technology clash as Zachary Ying takes adventure to a new level!” – Kwame Mbalia, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor is an edge-of-your-seat adventure that has you laughing on one page and cheering on the next. Zach is a gamer turned hero who goes on an epic quest across the globe only to find his greatest strength within. More, please!” – James Ponti, New York Times bestselling author of City Spies

Spark Book Club is the first editions club for middle grade readersEvery month members will receive a first edition middle grade novel — plus a letter written by the author especially for club members. Makes a great gift for the independent reader! Sign ups are available for 3, 6, or 12 months.

ParnassusNext: May Selection

The Agathas (An Agathas Mystery #1) Cover ImageThe Agathas

The May 2022 ParnassusNext selection is The Agathas by Kathleen Glasgow and Liz Lawson.

Alice Ogilvie and Iris Adams are classmates, but not friends. When Alice’s ex-best friend is found dead, she teams up with her tutor to find the killer using the guidance of the works of Agatha Christie.

Early praise for the novel:

“The mystery thrills and gratifies thanks to escalating stakes and devastating reveals.” —Publishers Weekly

“A generous dollop of homage to the grande dame of mystery plus buckets of clues and conundrums to savor.” —Kirkus

“Part Agatha Christie, part Veronica Mars, and completely entertaining.” —Karen M. McManus, #1 New York Times bestselling author of One Of Us Is Lying

ParnassusNext is the book subscription box for YA lovers. Every member of ParnassusNext receives a first edition hardcover of each month’s selected book, signed by the author. There is no membership fee to join — and no line to stand in for the autograph. Not only will you have one of the best YA books of the month when it comes out, you’ll have it straight from the author’s hands, with an original, authentic signature! Set up a subscription for yourself or buy a gift membership for your favorite YA reader for 3, 6, or 12 months.