The Moth Keeper

by K. O’Neill
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Content: There’s not much to be concerned about. It’s in the Middle Grade Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

Let’s see if I can sum this one up: in this world, there is a group of people (personified animals?) who are all awake at night (they’re called the “night village”). The moon has blessed them with moon moths to help pollinate the moonflowers; it’s magic the people use to survive in the desert. The catch for all this is: one person from the community needs to hold a lantern all night and keep an eye on the moths. The current moth keeper is getting ready to retire, and Anya has chosen to take it over.

The problem is that Anya is afraid of the dark. She lost her mother in the dark and she has always wanted to be with the day people in their village. So, one day, she gives in and visits. That, unfortunately (i think?) leads to her falling asleep on her job and losing the moths. This is especially bad because the moonflowers are about to bloom, and without the moths, they will die and the night village will suffer.

I wanted to like this one. I really did. The art is lovely, and I have liked O’Neill’s other books. But, I just couldn’t get into this one. I didn’t connect with the story, and there were panels where I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on. I think there’s a good story in here, I’m just not the one to find it. This is too bad because the art is lovely.

The Ogress and the Orphans

by Kelly Barnhill
First sentence: “Listen.”
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Content: It is long, and kind of old-timey sounding. It’s probably not for every kid. It’s in the middle grade (grades 3-5) section of the booktore.

Things are amis in the town Stone-in-the-Glen. The neighbors, who used to be neighborly, are now suspicious of each other, and who didn’t really interact as a community. The orphans at the Orphan house are struggling with supplies; the community has gone back on their promise to keep them funded. And the mayor, well, he’s shiny and charismatic, but there’s something Not Right about him. And when an ogress moves in outside of town, everyone (well the mayor) decides that it’s all her fault that things seem to be going wrong.

On the one hand, if you don’t realize that this is a fable, an allegory for the United States in the past few years, you’re probably a clueless reader (or young? Will kids get this?). The fear of the Other, being hoodwinked by the shiny (and corupt), thee reteating into our own holes, and the decline of what it means to be a neighbor. It’s all there. But: Barnhill is a gifted writer, and she has spun this classic fable, this touching story about belonging, about what itmeans to be a nieghbr and a friend, and about community. The ending made me cry, the characters were super charming, and it’s a reminder that we’re not alone in this world.

It may be more for adults, but it’s still a very good book.

The Authenticity Project

by Clare Pooley
First sentence: “She had tried to return the book.”
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Release date: February 4, 2020
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Content: There is swearing, including multiple f-bombs. It will be in the adult fiction section of the bookstore.

It starts with a green notebook, with the words “The Authenticity Project” on it, that gets passed from one person — a depressed former artist named Julian — to another — a stressed cafe owner named Monica. From there, we learn their stories, their fears, and as they form a friendship and pass the book to other anonymous people, a community of people. The plot is simple: everyone needs friends, but we don’t really know how to Truly make them anymore, and maybe being honest about our Truths will help.

I’m not making it sound all that exciting, but honestly? I loved this one. I was thoroughly charmed by the relationships and the community that grew because of this book, by the lives that were changed by friendship. And yes, there is a romance in it (which I kind of called from the beginning, but was still satisfied to see happen), but mostly it’s a relationship — all kinds of relationships! — book.

It’s sweet and charming and I loved every minute of reading it.