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Book Review: Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake

Badger is a badger who does Important Rock Work. He likes quiet, order, and no interruptions. Skunk is a skunk who needs a place to stay. He likes chickens, preparing (and eating!) big, delicious breakfasts, and gazing at the moon. So, when Aunt Lula, who owns the brownstone where Badger does his Important Rock Work, learns that Skunk is a skunk without a home, it seems obvious – Badger will be getting a roommate.

When Skunk shows up at the brownstone, Badger (who has not yet taken the time to read Aunt Lula’s letter about his new roommate) is Not Pleased. When it seems obvious Skunk is not a sales skunk, and is not going anywhere, he offers Skunk his special Guest Closet for the night – the second floor bedroom is occupied by his collection of empty boxes of all sizes – and is sure things will sort themselves out. Skunk, however, is determined to make things work with his new roommate, no matter how prickly he might be (or how noisy the rock tumbler is) and sets out with great enthusiasm to win Badger over.

Newbery honor author Amy Timberlake pairs up with Caldecott medalist Jon Klassen for a marvelous tale of friendship, found family, a Rocket Potato, and a large assortment of chickens. Funny, heartwarming, and just the right size to savor in one sitting, Skunk and Badger is a perfect for reading aloud, reading on your own, and sharing with friends and family of all ages!

Book Review: The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix

When Susan Arkshaw moves to London shortly after her 18th birthday in the spring of 1983, she expects to find work in a pub, cheap lodgings, get acclimated before her art program begins in the fall, and begin looking into the mystery of who her father is. Instead, she finds herself in the middle of what seems to be a supernatural sting operation when a young man bursts into her uncle Frank’s apartment, sticks a silver hatpin into him, and he dissolves into a pile of sand. This admittedly odd series of events is quickly followed by the young man, who calls himself Merlin, pulling out a large revolver and dispatching an enormous louse making its way up the stairs before leading Susan through the window on a mad rooftop escape dash. Followed out of the apartment by a mysterious, super-creepy fog, she finds herself in Highgate Wood in the middle of the night, treading back and forth on the Old Road with Merlin, trying not to look at the creature in the fog, and trying to get some answers.

In this case, though, answers lead to more questions. Merlin is a bookseller, of the left-handed variety (there are also right- and even-handed booksellers, in case you were wondering!), part of an ancient group that keeps the New World separate, safe, and happily oblivious to the Old World lying just beneath. Unfortunately, Susan seems to be the focus of a great deal of Old World interest – which Merlin believes is probably related to her unknown father. Together with his sister, Vivien, the three set out to solve the mystery of Susan’s parentage. With only a faded library reading room ticket, a silver cigarette case, and a small list of possible names mentioned by her mother over the years, they don’t have a lot to go on – but as the supernatural stakes grow ever higher, Susan, Merlin, and Vivien find themselves in a race for their lives.

Garth Nix is a fantasy powerhouse all on his own, but the best way I can think of to describe this clever, laugh-out-loud, fast-paced novel is Terry Pratchett meets Susan Cooper, with a little Neil Gaiman and Dr. Who thrown in for fun. Chock full of old legends, bookshops, incredible magic, chase scenes, weird British food (Google stargazy pie!), and all things London, this is exactly the book I needed to get me out of a serious pandemic reading stall-out. I also have it on good authority that the audio book is amazing, so it would also be a good companion on a fall color weekend drive to the pumpkin patch, as well as reading well into the night curled up under cozy blanket with a cup of hot tea. No matter how you choose to enjoy it, The Left-Handed Booksellers of London is sure to make your October a little lighter!

Book Review: One Summer Up North by John Owens

Sometimes, you discover a book that is all kinds of serendipity! This lovely, wordless picture book follows one girl’s trip to the Boundary Waters with her parents. Adventure with them through Minnesota’s own unique wilderness area as they paddle, portage, camp, fish, forage (mmmmm… wild blueberries!), and stargaze. Watch for wildlife too – there are all sorts of hidden surprises on each page!

Having just returned from a week up north in the BWCA, Minnesota author illustrator John Owens’s book felt just as perfect and peaceful as an evening spent watching the sun go down and the stars come out in all that inky vastness of sky. Each page took me right back to one of my favorite places in the world – that lo-o-o-ng portage, those funny mergansers, and those soft, misty mornings on the water. For anyone who dreams of pines and aspen, loon calls echoing over the water, and a warm campfire and a good meal at the end of a long paddle, One Summer Up North is a must-savor by adventurers of all ages!