September means it’s time to hit the books!
No month brings reading to mind quite like September. But why should textbooks get all the attention? Reading is essential for everyone, at every age, so here’s a quick list of good reads to ease you from sunny summer into breezy fall. As always, I highly recommend checking your local independent bookstore before resorting to an internet purchase!
Picture book: Dalia’s Wondrous Hair / El Maravilloso Cabello de Dalia by Laura Lacámara
This charming bilingual book tells the story of Dalia and what she does when she wakes one morning to find her hair has grown to towering lengths. Dalia chooses to embrace her whimsical circumstances by decorating her hair with the natural Cuban flora that surrounds her. Soon enough, her hair becomes a blossoming butterfly tree. Following this adorable story is a guide for how to create your own butterfly garden, as well as a glossary of plant and animal life native to Cuba. Both sweet and informative, this is a great picture book for any child interested in natural wonders. Ages 3+Chapter book: Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Ryan’s book tells the story of a young girl named Esperanza who has spent the first thirteen years of her life under idyllic circumstances on her family’s vineyard in Mexico. Her world is shattered when her father is murdered by banditos and she and her mother are forced to move to Depression-era California to survive. A far cry from her former privileged life, she finds herself in a world of physical labor and social discrimination. Esperanza handles her new world with impressive strength and grace. Yes, this book was written for middle school-aged children, but it is truly a delightful read for all. Ages 8+Young Adult: The Rose Master by Valentina Cano.
This gothic fantasy is perfect for young adult readers, especially those interested in romance and horror. The novel begins on Anne Tinning’s seventeenth birthday as she learns she will be leaving the only life she has ever known—that of a maid in a London household—to serve the mysterious Lord Grey in his remote Rosewood Manor. Mystery abounds in this wraithy place as Anne struggles to discover what exactly is happening in her new home. Cano’s inspirations are clear and tasteful; more versed readers will not be able to ignore the influence of Jane Eyre, Beauty and the Beast, The Picture of Dorian Gray and the like. For eerie mansions, budding romance, and a strong-willed female protagonist, this novel delivers. Ages 12+New Adult: Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende.
There is no way you have not heard of Isabel Allende, this I know. She is a much-loved and delightful author who creates worlds you want to stay in, leaving you with the dreaded ‘book hangover’ (you know, that terrible feeling when you finish a book that you’ve really enjoyed, and you don’t know what to pick up next) when you finish one of her novels. Daughter of Fortune is no exception, as it tells the saga of Eliza Sommers’ life as she develops from an orphan in Chile to an unexpected Forty-Niner during the California Gold Rush. While it’s certainly not her newest novel, it’s one of my favorites, so I thought I’d throw it out there for anyone who hasn’t encountered it yet. (Also it will be a nice way to keep busy while you wait for her next novel, The Japanese Lover, due out November of this year). Ages 17+Adult: A Cup of Water Under My Bed: A Memoir by Daisy Hernández
This new release is raw, pure, moving, relatable, honest… the list goes on and on. Hernández tells the story of her life as a Cuban/Columbian growing up in New Jersey. She frames the book through the different levels of leaving family that many children of immigrants experience: leaving through language by learning English, through education by accepting the advantages unavailable to the previous generation, and through sexuality as Hernández explores her identity as a queer woman. The writing is beautiful and heartfelt as she delves into issues of race, class, sexuality, politics, family—everything that we daughters (to whom the book is dedicated) each encounter in our lives every day.