South Branch Staff Picks Category: Fiction

Cat Knit by Jacob Grant

Cat Knit book coverCat Knit by Jacob Grant is tale of friendship, love, loss, betrayal. and understanding– all told from the perspective of the cat aptly named “Cat.” Cat’s best friend is cozy Yarn, until Yarn is suddenly transformed into an unfamiliar foe. In the tradition of Harry the Dirty Dog in the story No Roses for Harry!, Cat does not appreciate the unwanted gift of an itchy sweater (once Cat’s friend Yarn). However, Cat, also like Harry, discovers that a previously hated gift can turn into something better than expected. The simple textual narrative of Cat Knit is carried by the bright and expressive illustrations of Cat. His big, green eyes say more to the reader than any dialogue could. This silly story is fun for both children and parents alike.

If you liked Cat Knit, you should read Little Bird’s Bad Word, another story by Jacob Grant offering children a lesson through whimsical pictures. If you’re looking for more cat classics, Archie Snufflekins Oliver Valentine Cupcake Tiberius Cat by Kate Harnett delivers beautiful imagery paired with a thorough appreciation for our feline friends.

Written by: Anique

The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (La breve y maravillosa vida de Óscar Wao) by Junot Díaz is a fascinating mix of genres and styles, combining fiction, non-fiction, history, science fiction and fantasy that reflects the extremes and absurdity of life under the regime of the dictator of the Dominican Republic, Rafael Trujillo, who ruled the country with extreme cruelty from 1930 until he was assassinated in 1961.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao tells the story of multiple generations of the León and Cabral family and the fukú, or curse, that followed them from their grandfather’s generation to the present day. The story focuses on Oscar, an aspiring writer whose love life is non-existent and who aspires to lose his virginity in an attempt to prove to himself and the world that he is a true Dominican male. The story shifts back and forth between the present and the past, with multiple literary and historical footnotes for those unfamiliar with science fiction-fantasy and/or the history of the Dominican Republic. The story of Oscar and the fukú that follows his family is a fascinating story on its own, and interwoven in the history of the DR, the story draws the reader in even more, as the personality and outrageous acts of violence committed by Trujillo seem even more like they should be a work of fiction than the story of Oscar’s family itself.

In spite of its complexity, the essential story is easy to follow and draws you in with sympathetic, complex characters. You find yourself turning the pages, waiting to see what catastrophic event will fall over the family next and hoping that by the end, somehow the family will find a way to finally rid itself of the fukú, as the DR finally rids itself of Trujillo.

If you like this book, you might also want to try How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez or Por estas calles bravas by Piri Tomas.

Written by: Rachel

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La breve maravillosa vida de Óscar Wao por Junot Díaz es una mezcla fascinante de géneros y estilos que combina la ficción, la no ficción, la historia, la ciencia ficción, y la fantasía y refleja lo absurdo y extremo de la vida bajo el régimen del dictador de la República Dominicana, Rafael Trujillo quien gobernó el país desde 1930 hasta que fue asesinado en 1961.
La breve maravillosa vida de Óscar Wao cuenta la historia de múltiples generaciones de la familia León y Cabral y el fukú, o maldición, que les siguió desde la generación de su abuelo hasta el momento actual. La historia se centra en Óscar, un aspirante a escritor, cuya vida sentimental es un fracaso y que aspira a perder su virginidad para probar a todo el mundo que es un verdadero macho dominicano. La historia alterna entre el presente y el pasado, con múltiples notas al pie de la página tanto literarias como históricas para los que no conocen bien la literatura de ciencia ficción o fantasia y/o la historia de la República Dominicana. La historia de Óscar y el fukú que le sigue a su familia es una historia fascinante en sí, y entremezclado en la historia de la República Dominicana, la historia capta al lector aún más, a medida que la personalidad de Trujillo y las atrocidades que cometió parecen más ficticias que la historia de la familia de Óscar en sí.
 
A pesar de su complejidad, la historia básica es fácil de seguir y te capta la atención con personajes complejos que inspiran simpatía en el lector. Te encontrarás pasando las páginas, esperando para ver la próxima catástrofe que caerá sobre la familia y esperando que para el final, la familia encontrará como sea una forma de deshacerse del fukú, al igual que la DR por fin se deshizo de Trujillo. 
Si le gustó este libro, sugerimos también De cómo las muchachas Garcia perdieron el acento por Julia Alvarez o Por estas calles bravas por Piri Tomás. 
Por Rachel

The Siren by Kiera Cass

The Siren title pictureImagine having the ability to speak, yet being forbidden from doing so in public! Could you live for 100 years like this?

This is the life of Kahlen, and she is fine with it. She even understands her duty to the Ocean, and why things have to be this way.

The Ocean understands her, loves and protects her from the overwhelming guilt that comes from each singing.

However can the Ocean protect her from the way only true love can hurt? How much will Kahlen sacrifice, will she sacrifice love itself?

Each Siren has her own story and each of them has to live with the stringent rules the Ocean sets, but they all have to come together and sing until they manage to quench the hunger that steers inside the Ocean.

This book is like: Storm & Salt by Kendall Kulper, Wake by Amanda Hocking, and Dreamology by Lucy Keating

Written by: Maria R.

The Book of Unknown Americans

Book of Unknown Americans coverThe Book of Unknown Americans, by Cristina Henriquez, is a novel written as a series of interconnected stories, each of which could stand on its own. The book tells the story of several immigrant families from Panama, Mexico, Nicaragua and Latin American countries who end up in Delaware. The stories are told in first person and are narrated by different members of the same family. We learn their backstory, what brought them to the United States, and in some cases a little about how they got here, as well as getting a vivid picture of what life here is like for them, living as immigrants in a country with a culture and language so distinct from their own and one in which immigrants are not always openly welcomed.

The families all live in the same apartment complex, owned by another immigrant, and their lives are at once interconnected and often isolated, each family with its own challenges and obstacles to overcome. The core of the stories involve a family who comes to the US to provide educational opportunities to their daughter, who was brain damaged in an accident, and her relationship with the son of another tenant. At the same time, Henriquez interweaves this story with that of the other tenants, who face language barriers, economic hardship, and discrimination, among other challenges.
Hernandez’s writing draws you into the lives of her characters and you feel their disappointments and frustration and their small moments of joy as well. When I finished the book, I was left hoping there would be a second book so I could continue following their stories.
Written by: Rachel L.

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

The Crossover cover imageThe Crossover by Kwame Alexander is a book popping up on a lot of different school summer reading lists. For some students, reading is the last thing they want to do when school is out. It can be hard to get your student to read when the nice weather is calling their name. We get it. However, if you’re given a choice on which books to read, this is a great one for students who don’t like to read.

This book is unlike any book I’ve read before. Written completely in verse, there are no more than 50 words on a page. So, just by looking at the pages it doesn’t seem all that bad. It’s a super quick read and the subject matter is very tangible and realistic.

We’re following a pair of twins who are obsessed with basketball, and sometimes girls. Sometimes things are great – you’re winning all your games and you’re getting A’s in all your classes. However, there’s always those times when you’re mom starts making weird dips trying to get you healthy, you’re fighting with a best friend, or your mind just isn’t in the game.

If you like this book, you’ll enjoy Kwame Alexander’s other book Booked, Planet Middle School by Nikki Grimes, and Rocket Man by Jan Coates.

Written by: Megan Y.