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Inspiration for Graduation Reads: The June Book List

For June here is a list for graduates and parents both, books about transitioning to a new chapter of life. The books can be found or reserved at any Bellevue King County Library System library.

“Oh, the places you’ll go!”, “Be the change you wish to see in the world”, “You are the leaders of tomorrow”, “Carpe Diem!”, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars”, “So, what are your plans after graduation?” (D’oh!). During the month of June, chances are you will see, hear or say one of these phrases in honor of a graduate. In that spirit, here is a list of reads to inspire or celebrate new graduates - Congratulations!

Kids

Love You Forever by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Shelia McGraw. Let's hear it for the parents! I recently attended my younger sister's graduation and I adored being part of the crowds there to show their love and support for those graduating kids. If there is one book I can think of that touches on the unconditional love of a parent for a child, this is it. The picture book follows a mother singing the same song to her son all through their lives "I'll love you forever/ I'll like you for always/ As long as I'm living/ My baby you'll be".

Instructions by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Charles Vess. This poem by Gaiman was first published in A Wolf at the Door but has since been reborn in this short book. The illustrations are gorgeous - Vess has made them as charming and whimsical as the prose. "Touch the wooden gate in the wall you never saw before" begins the poem. The reader and the quester (or are they the same thing?) are guided through a familiar landscape filled with the scraps of famous fairy-tales, folklore and old stories. I love the advice that is offered to the reader, on everything from being polite to overcoming obstacles to never losing hope.

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu. This gorgeous tale features neighbors Hazel and Jack, who have been the best of friends ever since they were six. Hazel wishes that her special friendship with Jack won't ever change, but life interferes. Hazel's father leaves and Jack's mother gets sick - so sick that her eyes are almost completely blank. Then comes the snowy day when Jack gets something stuck in his eye and he seems to forget about Hazel completely. Hazel refuses to give up on Jack and when she hears that he has disappeared into the woods with a powerful snow witch, she goes in search of him. As Hazel braves the dangers of the woods, she learns a great deal about herself and about the changing nature of friendships. Although this children's book has fantasy elements, the author writes great truths about friends and growing up.

Teens

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares. The book series looks at the changes in friendships - even the closest ones. High school friends Carmen, Tibby, Lena and Bridget find a miraculous pair of worn jeans that fit each one of them to perfection. Seeing this as a sign, the friends swear a pact of sisterhood and vow to send the pants to one another as they set off for four very different summer destinations. Although this is light fare, it's fun to watch the girls grow and change as the series progresses. The most recent book is Sisterhood Everlasting, which catches up with the four friends in their thirties.

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork. Marcelo Sandoval has something very much like Asperger's syndrome. For most of his life, he has happily gone to a special school, where he feels safe and nurtured. However, his father feels that Marcelo will benefit with time in the "real world", so he makes Marcelo work in his law firm's mailroom for one memorable summer. During this summer Marcelo learns about life, love and his own strengths, while those around him see life in the "real world" from his unique perspective. This book is an excellent coming of age story with a wonderful main character.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. This is not one of my lighter book recommendations, but very worth a read. Seventeen year old Hazel has terminal cancer. She knows her time on earth is limited. However, when she meets fellow Cancer Support Group attendee Augustus Waters she forms a relationship with him that she never could have imagined. Despite the grim premise (the main character is dying) this book is full to bursting with life. It is by turns wise, funny and unimaginably sad.

Nonfiction

College Cooking: Feed Yourself and Your Friends by Megan and Jill Carle. When I finally moved off campus and into a house with some friends, I could barely boil an egg. How I wish I would have owned a basic cookbook that was as approachable and useful as this one. Siblings Megan and Jill divide up recipes by difficulty, feeding groups of people or cheap eats. They even have suggested menus for common collegiate celebrations (toga party or Cinco De Mayo, anyone?). If you’re just starting to cook for yourself, this is an excellent volume to have in your culinary library.

This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women edited by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman. This book is one of many incarnations based on the popular NPR show of the same name. Graduation is a time where you often hear the philosophy of others quoted to you. If you’re interested in reading about the core beliefs of lesser known (but still well spoken) folks, or perhaps fine tuning your own life philosophy, you should give this series of books a try.

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. If you’re like me, you’ll get out of school and suddenly realize the immensity of all the things that you do not know. For example, if you majored in Psychology (like me), it’s unlikely you had to take in depth science or history courses. Here to take care of some of the gaps is author Bill Bryson. He presents a history of almost everything (or as close as humanly possible), from atoms to the rise of civilization. Bryson has a ready humor and an incredible talent for explaining complex ideas in a clear and understandable way. Try and get your hands on the illustrated edition if possible, and the children’s edition A Really Short History of Nearly Everything is just as good.     

Adults

Young Miles by Lois McMaster Bujold. Miles Vorkosigan is an inspirational example of overcoming incredible odds. Miles’ mother survived an attack of poisonous gas while she was pregnant with Miles. As a result, Miles growth was stunted and his bones remain incredibly fragile. Since he cannot follow in the family tradition of enlisting in the military, Miles must forge his own path. He uses a combination of brilliant intellect and sheer nerve to become one of the best commanders the universe has ever known. This series is accessible to even the sci-fi shy and continues for several books. If you want to read the story of Miles’ parents, start with Cordelia’s Honor.

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. This book is not on this list simply because the movie is coming out (OK, not entirely). Bilbo Baggins has always been a safe and staid sort of hobbit. However, when Gandalf the wizard and a bold brace of dwarves come to invite him on an adventure, he cannot resist. What follows is a great tale about stepping outside the safety of the known and becoming the hero of your own story. This book is, at its heart, about a journey. And what is graduation but a start to a journey? We at least do not have to deal with trolls, goblins...and a dragon.

The Shipping News by Annie Proulx. Quoyle has been a failure his entire life. In the wake of several devastating events (his parents deaths and his wife's death and betrayal among them) Quoyle decides to relocate to the land of his ancestors with his elderly aunt and his two young daughters. On the hard bitten coast of Newfoundland, working for a local newspaper, Quoyle miraculously manages to find a place for himself and an acceptance he has dreamed of all his life. This wonderful book is able to be both ultimately hopeful and win the Pulitzer Prize (a feat in itself, in my mind).  

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