Books to Welcome the Warmth Back

Ava Soleibe and Jane Harig

Spring—how beautifully poetic the serendipitous season is. Roaming fields, with rabbits and foxes, and the hope of that sun behind the cloud. To truly understand the depth of the season, one must dive into stories. Stories of hope and loss. Of bitter endings and sweet beginnings. Of happiness and sadness. Of taking time to start over. To dance with the wildflowers while chanting and yelling and telling people who you are.  

When you get the chance, find that reading alcove. Climb into a tree under the shimmer protruding from the sun. Huddle by the fire while the rain pours down. Together we have compiled a list of spring books. Maybe they do not take place between the months of March through May. Maybe the focus is not some spring break gone haywire. But we have found the perfect variety of novels to add to your spring books list. Whether it be a fantasy series that ends up occupying you for hours on end, a romance that makes you crave for more content, an adventure that drives you to get up and go-go-go, or a memoir that flips your heart around, drops it, and then plays football with it all over again. Enjoy the selection of novels, and trust that a book can inspire you in ways that you may not have ever expected before. 

Jane’s Picks

You can always count yourself lucky when you find an exciting, compelling, written-like-never-before book series. Not long ago a humble story of a boy with a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead shook the world. The tale of a 12-year-old demigod stirred much excitement. And the classic fairy-tale spun story of two twins who venture into another land did not disappoint. The “golden trio” of fantasy book series – featuring the leads of Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and the Bailey twins – are novels that provide a deep love and strong fandom. Whether it be the story, the characters, the magic, or the adventure, people are drawn to these books like Peter was drawn to Neverland.  

The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer – whom you may recognize from “Glee” – settled on his favorite fairy-tale characters, pondered what would be going on in their lives years after their famous story, and put them all together in one world. Two unassuming twins, Alex and Connor, who are mourning the loss of their father, find themselves falling (literally, especially if you look at the cover) into this world. Whether it be the obnoxious Queen Red, fugitive Goldilocks, or the Evil Queen, you will find characters you recognize from the classics and new personalities that drive the story. The twins find themselves on some sort of quest, and with their guidebook, they travel through this magical land. Though the whole “fairy tale” aspect of it may turn you away from this series, it still possesses many mature themes, and its well-written plot gives readers a story to connect to. With six books in the series, diving into it is never a bad choice. Sparking companion novels and prequels, there is more to the story if you are interested. Such as the Tale of Magic trilogy, a prequel series with a darker tone but equally thrilling.  

Sometimes I find myself forgetting how simply good a book series is, until I reread it and am wrapped up in the narrative all over again. I am a big fan of books, and often find myself strongly loving a series, as many do with the works of all kinds of authors. Though “the Land of Stories” is one of many (and I wish I could write a book on all the books I love and why I love them), it still has a spot on the “favorites” list.  

Never before have I read a novel with as much genuine heart as the “Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise.” Often, I find a book gives me a feeling. Whether I liked the book or not affects that. Sometimes I will forget about a certain novel, but remember how it made me smile in parts, tear up in others, and simply want to start it over the minute it is finished. Coyote’s story is not one to forget (it helps that it is a constant reread for me). I read Dan Gemeinhart’s “The Honest Truth” many years ago and have been interested in his stories ever since. “Coyote” being fifth in his writing portfolio, it is the most recent and my favorite. Gemeinhart writes with honesty and heart, not being afraid to dive into topics like loss, grief, and all kinds of love. 

With a cast of exciting characters, Coyote’s story is one of adventure. After the loss of her sisters and mother due to a car accident, Coyote and her dad Rodeo take to the road in an old yellow bus dubbed Yager. Five years later they are still at it. Going back is a no-go for Rodeo, but when Coyote gets a call from her grandma that a park in her old hometown is being torn down, she knows she needs to get back. Coyote buried something important in that park. A box, a box of memories. A box of memories she made with her sisters and her mom. So, Coyote devises a plan to get back without Rodeo knowing. Along the way they come upon an aspiring musician trying to get back to his love, a mom and son on their own personal journey, a young teen looking for her parents’ acceptance, and a goat, a goat named Gladys. 

The story is a once-upon-a-time worth reading, and one of the most well-written books I have ever read. It is almost poetic in its bits about happiness and sadness. The connection between the characters is palpable. It is a story that you fall so deep into that when you finish you have to jerk back to reality, in some way the best way possible.  

Kate DiCamillo. What a name. What an author. I have been a fan since I was young, forever loyal to her novel “Because of Winn-Dixie.” Kate DiCamillo writes with ease and commitment. With honesty and perfect portrayal. Her stories tell the journeys of characters with utter and bitter realness. She is not afraid to hide the scary stuff, because in real life, the scary stuff does not hide. Choosing one of her novels to place under the “Spring Books” title was a no-brainer. The story of “Raymie Nightingale” being our final decision was a choice based on its summer setting (what better to get you excited for summer than a summertime book read in spring?), classic characters, and wonderful plot. 

Raymie Clarke, whose father used to work at Clarke Family Insurance (before he left Raymie’s mother for a dental hygienist), has decided to enter the Little Miss Central Florida Tire Contest. That way she can get her picture in the paper and maybe her father will come back. Enter Louisiana Elefante and Beverly Tapinksi, two girls Raymie meets at her baton twirling lesson. Louisiana lives with her eccentric grandmother, and with long blonde hair filled with bunny barrettes, she is a whimsical and loyal companion. Beverly doesn’t care for the nonsense of Louisiana, and while her end goal is to sabotage the Little Miss Central Florida Tire Contest, she still finds herself befriending Raymie as well. 

Whether it be riding in shopping carts, rescuing cats, speeding through stop signs, or reading about Florence Nightingale, the adventures of the trio are endless. The connection between the characters is real, and the coming-of-age story continues in “Louisiana’s Way Home” and “Beverly, Right Here.”  

Winner of the Newberry Medal in 1978, an undisputed classic amongst all ages and generations, and a story that made hearts swell until horribly torn when least is expected. “Bridge to Terabithia” by Katherine Paterson. Adapted back in 2007 into a film starring the likes of Josh Hutcherson (“Hunger Games,” anyone? Anyone?) and Anna Sophia Robb (an abundance of fun family flicks), the story is one many know or remember.  

The novel is small in size but big in importance. Our story begins with young Jesse Aarons, who is set on being the fastest kid in the fifth grade, but to the class’s surprise, Leslie Burke enters, who speeds past her classmates and passes Jesse as well. Leslie is strong-willed, friendly, and a little different than anyone Jesse has met before. The friendship that forms between the two unlikely heroes is strong and heartfelt. Together, they create the magical land of Terabithia, where Jesse and Leslie are the kings and queens. Defying bullies, building kingdoms, and getting to be themselves, adventuring with each other out in the forest where no annoying sisters call tell Jesse what to do, no parents making him feel bad. It is just him and Leslie, dancing along to nature, art, and everything else that the forest has to offer. Tragedy strikes, grief becomes ever-present, and themes of love and loss echo throughout the story. Prepare yourselves, the story is not one to miss.  

A classic story of boy and animal is alive and present in “Pax” by Sara Pennypacker. Peter is coerced into letting his pet fox, Pax, into the wild, with the separation being heartbreaking and real. The rest of the story unravels, switching between the third person omniscient perspectives of Peter and Pax, while war rages on and Peter is sent to live with his grandfather. He then runs away, and what enters is his coming-of-age story of boy finding his fox. Pax, alone for the first time, is learning things about himself and the outdoors he never could have imagined. It is a beautiful story, capable of having your attention for a full day, cover to cover. The soul of the book is a narrative of peace. 

Sometimes humans need a quick story to make their heart swell. One where they can sit in the big comfortable chair in their living room and not get up until the final page has been turned. Once read it can be passed along from hand to hand, thrown from backpack to backpack, bookshelf to bookshelf, the story absorbed by many minds alike. A simple story, with lovable characters, is one you can find in Alice Oseman’s graphic novel “Heartstopper.” Oseman has a collection of novels featuring characters that may overlap from one book to another. But the main focus in “Heartstopper” is a genuine, feel-good story of a high school romance. The story is bright, happy, and charming. The illustrations are wonderous. The characters are full of joy and warmth. Kind and quiet Charlie Spring meets BFG (that’s big friendly giant, for you) Nick Nelson, popular rugby player and warm-hearted boy. Together they jump through the hoops of high school (or secondary school, really, as the books are British). Whether it be facing the ones who are a little less than kind, constant confusion of feelings and discovering oneself, or simply withholding a friendship that becomes so much more than a friendship in the midst of it all. Read the following three volumes, and check out the show on Netflix that is, what I would say, the definition of a feel-good show.  

Ava’s Picks

“Bravey” by Alexi Pappas is for everyone. Pappas demonstrates that we all deserve to have different phases and facets of our lives. She is an Olympian, an artist, and now with the recent release of her memoir, “Bravey,” she is an author. Pappas poetically narrates her own incredible mental health journey that takes place over the course of childhood on. The catalyst event was Pappas’ mother committing suicide, which propels Pappas, her brother, and her father into an unexpected time of growth. This book is organized into essays, rather than chapters, with titles such as “Jerry Seinfeld” and “Four memories of my mother,” and they poignantly illustrate how someone like Alexi Pappas, who lives a seemingly perfect existence chasing her literal Olympic-sized dreams, still grapples with life’s curveballs. The raw, unflinching accord of a unique coming of age deals with mental health so forgivingly, there is such an auroral tone of hope consistent throughout Pappas’ darkest time and healing process. This is a book I did not know I needed, but I am forever grateful for. Pappas emphasized the importance of seeking out mentors in her life for lack of a mother figure, and projects the lessons she has learned into “Bravey,” such as befriending pain and cultivating ambition. This book’s relevance to the season of spring arises from the overarching theme of self-reinvention. 

“Knives Out” meets the Cinderella story trope in “The Inheritance Games” by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. Newly released in 2020, all 400 pages of this young adult mystery novel are drenched in intrigue. $46.2 billion is what it took to change Avery Grambs’ life. Tobias Hawthorne, a man whose existence she was unaware of until one fateful will reading, has left virtually nothing to his family and everything to Grambs. Along with an unfathomable sum of cash, Tobias Hawthorne left her in possession of Hawthorne House, a sprawling manor, home to the disinherited Hawthorne family, including Tobias’ grandsons, there is Nash, who is never without his cowboy boots and savior complex. Grayson, whose unfaltering loyalty to the Hawthorne name convinces him Avery Grambs is a bonafide con woman, Jameson, driven by the singular intention of solving what he believes to be his grandfather’s final game, and Xander, who knows more about scones than you do. Grambs came from rock bottom, and the key to a life of security and society of the highest can be hers when one stipulation is fulfilled: She must live in Hawthorne House for one year. Within, the secret passageways, the tricks, and the Hawthorne family members only convince her further that she was chosen as the heir to the Hawthorne fortune for a reason. This book’s brief chapters and exceedingly fast storyline make it accessible for all types of readers. It is the embodiment of the phrase “time flies when you are having fun.” The plot twists are incessant and you cannot help but try and solve the mystery yourself. 

Chase Andrews has been murdered. All signs point to Kya, the “Marsh girl” who has raised herself in the marshes of North Carolina and become a subject of speculation in the small town nearby. Despite the rumors, Kya is resilient and self-sufficient, drawing life lessons from the flora and fauna that surrounds her. “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens is formatted in dual timelines; Kya’s coming of age and the investigation of Chase’s death. Fluid throughout is an ode to the wonders of the natural world, with bewitching nature writing. This story is hauntingly beautiful, and thematically discusses independence versus human connection.  

Spring is prosperous and bright. It is the season of verdant landscapes and sunshine through trees. Hence why two classic stories are forever among the list of necessary springtime reads: “Emma” by Jane Austen and “Anne of Green Gables” by L.M Montgomery. In Jane Austen’s primary work of comedy, Heroine Emma Woodhouse, described in the famous words “handsome, clever, and rich,” is a revolutionary Regency era woman, in the sense that she vowed never to marry, and instead takes it upon herself to matchmake the rest of the world. It is a flirtatious, imaginative story, that begs to be read during the warmer months. “Anne of Green Gables” is exuberant, floral, and full of life. Anne has become a blueprint for all adventurous girls who defy status quos, stand up for what they believe in, or just find themselves in scrapes from time to time. A story about new beginnings, the theme of rebirth is ever-present, “Everything is made new in the spring. Springs themselves are always so new, too. No spring is ever just like any other spring. It always has something of its own to be its peculiar sweetness”.  

This season of rejuvenation is one that beckons us all to bask in its novelty. Grasp the power of vulnerability from Coyote’s spirit, find clarity among Raymie’s endeavors, or stay awhile among the reeds in the marshes of North Carolina. Armed with an exhilarating book and a view of the bright side, adventure will not be amiss this spring.