We all have our TBRs. I’ve got an impressive or terrifying one, depending on how you look at it. I have such wonderful folx sending me their books, and even if it takes me a while, I do want to talk these books up; hence, the Tales from the TBR feature I’ve been running. There are some truly outstanding books here, and deserve some more face time. When you’re freshening up your backlist, consider adding some of these to your carts, or, if you already have them, put them up. Let’s rock.
Henry Herz has been putting out some great stories over the years, but his 2021 book, I Am Smoke, is in a class by itself. Written in verse from the point of view of smoke, the story is part anthropological study, part scientific study. Smoke begins with a declaration: “I am Smoke. / I twirl in dark dance from every campfire”, alongside early Native Americans dancing by firelight. The thoughtful verse wanders through time, imparting wisdom and caution in equal amounts: “Even fearless firefighters dare not breathe me when battling flames”; “I cannot touch, but I can help ease pain”. Mercè López’s illustration is breathtaking; created by smoke, watercolor, and Photoshop to create haunting and ethereal images. Copious back matter provides deeper context and resources for further reading. A brilliant book on every level: if you haven’t added this one to your collections yet, you may want to look again.
I Am Smoke has a starred review from Kirkus and has been named to Evanston Public Library’s Blueberry List: Kids’ Book that Inspire Love of Nature and Action for Planet Earth; it was named to the ALA Children’s Notable Children’s Books of 2022 list, and selected for Notable Social Studies 2022 booklist. It also made Kirkus’s List of 150 Most Anticipated Fall 2021 Books.