“Dear Evan Hansen,” by Val Emmich with Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

Light Up Your Winter with Stories

Island Readers & Writers, a nonprofit based in Southwest Harbor, strives to instill a love of reading and learning among children living in coastal Maine. The organization shared a few of the many books on its “Light Up Your Winter with Stories” list. To learn more, visit islandreadersandwriters.org.


“Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World,” by Ashley Herring Blake (Grades 4-7)

Storms are a theme in this tone-perfect tale about 12-year-old Ivy, who loses her home to a tornado, the attention of her parents to new twin brothers, and finally the notebook where she keeps her most closely held secret. Added to the tempest already roiling inside her are feelings she doesn’t understand for a girl in her class. Could it be a crush?

Deftly written and perfectly paced, this novel of first love and family love is tender, feisty and relatable — just like its heroine.

                    — Melinda Rice


“Dear Evan Hansen,” by Val Emmich with Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Grades 9 and up)

This novel debuted this fall after the success of the Broadway musical of the same name. This is an excellent study of the complex connections between two teen boys, Evan and Conner, who are both on the periphery of their high school’s society: Evan suffers from anxiety and cannot connect with his classmates, and Conner is a lonely bully.

Each narrates their own perspective on life and interactions with their friends and families. The resulting story of deceit and redemption is compelling. In the process, the reader learns about the demons that often plague a bully, and the importance of interpersonal relationships. In places, the narrative features strong language, but the story is very well told.

                     — David Evans 


“Saving Fiona,” by Thane Maynard (Grades 1-3)

This is the true tale of Fiona, a baby hippopotamus that became an internet sensation after she was born prematurely at the Cincinnati Zoo in 2017.

Fiona’s story of perseverance in the face of many obstacles is both inspiring and adorable. Real photographs from her life are used to enlighten young readers about the round-the-clock effort it took for zoo workers to keep Fiona alive and thriving. Animal and biology lovers will be fascinated by the facts and details presented, and no one will be able to resist Fiona’s sweet face!

— Taylor Mace


“When You Grow Up to Vote,” by Eleanor Roosevelt with Michelle Markel; illustrated by Grace Lin (Grades 1-7)

Eleanor Roosevelt’s original 1932 text is updated with new material and fun illustrations. Written in 1932, the same year her husband was elected president of the United States, the beloved first lady explains to children in the simplest terms how government works at all levels. It is a very clear overview with the timeless emphasis on the importance of every person’s civic duty to vote and would make a great gift for a child’s collection or a classroom.

— Mary Beth Dorsey

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