Fresh Spring Reads From The Children’s Hour

Spring is the season of fresh start and renewal. It’s when we plant the first seeds in the garden or tackle the big cleaning projects we’ve been putting off all year. While we might not look forward to spring cleaning, spring reading is a reason to celebrate and can offer the same refreshed feeling and sense of accomplishment, only for our brains. Diane Etherington is the owner of The Children’s Hour Bookstore in Salt Lake City, and she gives us new book recommendations, for all ages, to get everyone reading this spring.

Diane Etherington, owner of The Children's Hour Bookstore
Diane Etherington, owner of The Children’s Hour Bookstore (Photo by Adam Finkle/Salt Lake magazine)
"George and His Nighttime Friends," "Here We Are: Book of Animals," "Here We Are: Book of Numbers" & "This is a Gift For You"
Photo by Adam Finkle/Salt Lake magazine

For the Kids

George and His Nighttime Friends
by Seng Soun Ratanavanh (2021 Princeton Architectural Press)
George has trouble sleeping, but he learns to overcome his fear of the dark with the help of his new nighttime friends, a cast of adorable animals. “This is a cute story and the illustrations are just stupendous,” says Etherington. “They have to be for me to have it in the store.”

Here We Are: Book of Animals & Here We Are: Book of Numbers
by Oliver Jeffers (2021 Philomel Books)

Charming board book companions, one all about the animals we share our planet with and the other a counting book about the planets themselves. “I truly believe that it’s a good idea to buy books you like to read as much as your children, so you don’t get bored,” says Etherington. “These books are so interesting, your 2-year-old will love them, and so will you.”

This is a Gift For You
by Emily Winfield Martin (2021 Random House Books for Young Readers)

This book is billed as “a poetic tribute to the simple joys of life and nature, and a reminder that the greatest gift we have is time spent together.” Of the author and illustrator, Etherington says, “She’s a wonderful artist. A new book from her is a special event.” She adds, “It’s not so much a story as it is a celebration of you, the reader. It’s for kids, but it’s a meaningful gift to adults as well.” Etherington pulled one stanza as an example of the book’s poetry and universality, “The gift of quiet / and the gift of loud, / your hand in my hand / out in a crowd.”

"Anne Arrives: Inspired by Anne of Green Gables" & "Astrid the Unstoppable"
Photo by Adam Finkle/Salt Lake magazine

Early Readers

Anne Arrives: Inspired by Anne of Green Gables
written by Kallie George & illustrated by Abigail Halpin (2018 Tundra Books)

This is the first book in a series that imagines the early beginnings of the beloved Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables. “Darling illustrations,” says Etherington. “Perfect for an early reader in first or second grade.”

Astrid the Unstoppable
by Maria Parr (2018 Candlewick)

With energy similar to Pippi Longstocking, this is the story of a girl in a mountain village whose motto is “speed and self-confidence.” Etherington says, “An engaging cover and story. She [Astrid] is very outgoing and goes on lots of adventures.”

"BOB," "The Beatryce Prophecy," "Daring Darleen, Queen of the Screen," "Pax: Journey Home" & "Snow & Rose"
Photo by Adam Finkle/Salt Lake magazine

For Middle Readers

written by Wendy Mass & Rebecca Stead & illustrated by Nicholas Gannon (2018 Feiwel & Friends)

Livy visits her grandmother in Australia, where she is reintroduced to Bob, a strange, green creature who lives in a closet. In this tale of friendship, they try to solve the mystery of where Bob came from while keeping his existence a secret. “This book is hilarious and a lot of fun,” says Etherington, “but it’s also warm and touching.”

The Beatryce Prophecy
written by Kate DiCamillo & illustrated by Sophie Blackall (2021 Candlewick)

A princess survives a coup, escaping the castle and taking refuge in a monastery, but someone is still after her. “Everyone gets excited about her new books,” says Etherington of DiCamillo, the author of The Tale Of Despereaux, which received the Newbery Medal. “This is another excellent addition.”

Daring Darleen, Queen of the Screen
by Anne Nesbet (2020 Candlewick)

A staged kidnapping turns very real, and 12-year-old Darleen, silent film star, comes to the rescue of a young heiress. “This is a fun mystery-adventure story,” says Etherington.

Pax: Journey Home
written by Sara Pennypacker & illustrated by Jon Klassen (2021 Balzer + Bray)

A sequel to Pax, Journey Home follows the diverging paths of a boy and his pet fox, who reunite after a year apart under dire circumstances, making for a nuanced wartime story about heartbreak and finding home.

Snow & Rose
by Emily Winfield Martin (2017 Random House Books for Young Readers)

Another offering by Martin, but this one for middle readers, is a reimagined fairy-tale about “Snow White and Rose Red.” Etherington praises Martin’s original take on the story and her “beautiful illustrations.”

"The Downstairs Girl"
Photo by Adam Finkle/Salt Lake magazine

For Young Adults

The Downstairs Girl
by Stacey Lee (2019 G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers)

In the post-Reconstruction South, Jo Kuan works as a maid for a wealthy Atlanta family, but moonlights as an advice columnist, writing under a pseudonym. She challenges society’s narrow views on race and gender, and some people aren’t too happy about that. “You get to know this fabulous character as you learn about her life and the mistreatment she faces,” says Etherington.

"Klara and the Sun," "The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett: A Novel" & "The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz"
Photo by Adam Finkle/Salt Lake magazine

For Grown Ups

Klara and the Sun
by Kazuo Ishiguro (2021 Knopf)

The story is told from the perspective of Klara, an “Artificial Friend” observing strange human behavior as she waits in a store for someone to buy her. “This book raises a lot of interesting questions about artificial life,” says Etherington. “It makes for great discussion and conversation.”

The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett: A Novel
by Annie Lyons (2020 William Morrow)

An elderly woman believes she is ready to die until a little girl moves in next door and becomes entranced by the older woman. “This is a story about what happens when you care for other people and how that love can affect a giant change in others,” says Etherington. “You’ll be dying to know what’s going to happen.”

The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz
by Erik Larson (2020 Crown)

Splendid chronicles Winston Churchill’s first year in office as Prime Minister—from the Nazi invasion of Holland, Belgium through Dunkirk and London during the Blitz—as he works to keep both his country and his family together. “This book gives you a window into what happened. Things you would never know,” says Etherington. “It describes the outrageous characters in Churchill’s family and shows how people go ahead and live their lives, even as the bombs are coming.”

The Children’s Hour Bookstore

For 38 years, The Children’s Hour Bookstore has been a local purveyor of books in Salt Lake City’s 9th & 9th neighborhood in some form or another. Owner Diane Etherington, a voracious reader and book collector, started out by selling hardback children’s books. But, as more and more people started asking her, “what books have you read lately?” she didn’t want them to have to go somewhere else to buy her recommendations. Now, The Children’s Hour Bookstore sells books for all ages, as well as cozy gifts, toys and home goods (also for all ages).

898 S. 900 East, SLC, 801-359-4150

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Christie Porter
Christie Porter
Christie Porter is the managing editor of Salt Lake Magazine. She has worked as a journalist for nearly a decade, writing about everything under the sun, but she really loves writing about nerdy things and the weird stuff. She recently published her first comic book short this year.

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