NetGalley Top Reads – July

Although I fully realize there is another week left in this month, I also don’t have any plans to request or finish any other books before the 31st, so I feel fairly secure in posting this top five recap.

My NetGalley requests are eclectic; most fall in the Comics/Graphic Novel or Own Voices category. Since I am an educator, I also frequently request children’s books to preview materials that I can potentially incorporate into my curriculum. I appreciate receiving these digital reading copies in exchange for a fair review, as it allows me to preview a wide range of materials and supplement my reading choices with books not yet available at my local library.

This month, among my top five books reviewed was a phenomenal photography book about Antarctica. I know it will likely cost an arm and a leg in hardback copy but I think it’s worth every penny, and still infinitely cheaper than a trip to the southernmost place on the planet.

My words simply cannot do the photos in this book justice. The information in the captions is plentiful and the author does a good job of providing context for the many marvels featured in the pages of this book. I especially like that tourist destinations are noted; Antarctica has long been a dream destination of mine and it was enjoyable to make a visiting “bucket list” while I perused this book as I drank a cup of hot tea.

The photos are stunning and I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in this cold continent, who likes to travel, or enjoys nature photography. Lots of praise for Antarctica!

I’m also giving lots of love to a bilingual illustrated children’s book titled I Hope / nipakosêyimon, written by Monique Gray Smith, illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard, and translated by Dolores Greyeyes Sand.

Written in both Cree and English, the story is told from the vantage of an older adult (presumably grandmother but I feel like it could also be an auntie or family friend; it’s not specified who the speaker is which is nice because it leaves it open to reader interpretation), who speaks of their wishes and prayers for a younger loved one.

The language is simple, straightforward, and powerful. I recommend this book for elementary readers and above, although the message is applicable for all ages. This is the book that I wish my Nokomis (grandmother) had been able to write to me.

Having the Cree translation alongside the English text was a wonderful addition and I hope we continue to see this trend of integrating indigenous languages into slice-of-life stories and not limiting it to certain genres or the historical past.

My final stand-out read this month was the middle-grade graphic novel Ride On by Faith Erin Hicks.

Like the author, I too was a Horse Kid, with a childhood immersed in Breyer and My Little Pony toys. I devoured the “Thoroughbred” series and any book written by Marguerite Henry. The highlight of my summer were the two weeks I got to spend at Girl Scout riding camp, a rare opportunity for this city-slicker to interact with my favorite animal. When I saw this title, I was immediately drawn to it. The art style is clean and bold. Fans of Molly Knox Ostertag and ND Stevenson would probably like this comic too.

This charming middle-grade graphic novel centers on Victoria and her transfer to a new riding stable after a falling-out with her best friend Taylor. We know this from the very beginning of the story, but details that are revealed later really pack an emotional wallop.

The characters are well developed, and their interactions felt genuine and realistic. I especially enjoyed the side story about Sam, the only boy rider at Victoria’s new stable. Sam is often harassed by his brothers for his love of horses and friendships with girls, so it was really cool to see that arc play out to an incredibly satisfying conclusion. Also: hooray for acknowledging and celebrating platonic friendships; I am so happy to see more of this represented!

In conclusion, I loved this book. I blazed through it in an afternoon – it was such a pleasure to read! I recommend it to horse-lovers of all ages, as well as fans of stories about growing up, healthy friendships, strong female protagonists, and slice-of-life comics.

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