The Bookies staff picks

Each week as part of SunLit — The Sun’s literature section — we feature staff recommendations from book stores across Colorado. This week, the staff from The Bookies in Denver recommends titles for young readers of any age.

Once There Was

By Kiyash Monsef
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
April 2023


From the publisher: Once was, once wasn’t. So began the stories Marjan’s father told her as a little girl—fables like the story of the girl who sprung a unicorn from a hunter’s snare, or the nomad boy who rescued a baby shirdal. Tales of extraordinary beasts that filled her with curiosity and wonder.

But Marjan’s not a little girl anymore. In the wake of her father’s sudden death, she is trying to hold it all together: her schoolwork, friendships, and keeping her dad’s shoestring veterinary practice from going under. Then, one day, she receives a visitor who reveals something stunning: Marjan’s father was no ordinary veterinarian. The creatures out of the stories he told her were real—and he traveled the world to care for them. And now that he’s gone, she must take his place.

From Marilyn Robbins, Children’s Program Coordinator: I haven’t been this excited about a middle grade book in years. You need to read this to the kids in your life, and put it on the top of your own to-read list. It’s just not for kids. “Once There Was” is a sophisticated novel about an Iranian American girl who discovers she is an animal whisperer for mythical creatures. It is through this revelation that Marjan must search for answers for these strange creatures that live among us all.

The Applicant

By Nazli Koca
February 2023


From the publisher: It’s 2017 and Leyla, a Turkish 20-something living in Berlin, is scrubbing toilets at an Alice in Wonderland-themed hostel after failing her thesis, losing her student visa, and suing her German university in a Kafkaesque attempt to reverse her failure.

Increasingly distant from what used to be at arm’s reach — writerly ambitions, tight knit friendships, a place to call home — Leyla attempts to find solace in the techno beats of Berlin’s nightlife, with little success. Right as the clock winds down on the hold on her visa, Leyla meets a conservative Swedish tourist and — against her political convictions and better judgment—begins to fall in love, or something like it. Will she accept an IKEA life with the Volvo salesman and relinquish her creative dreams, or return to Turkey to her mother and sister, codependent and enmeshed, her father’s ghost still haunting their lives?

From Bess Maher, Event Liaison: Written by a debut author who has called Colorado home, “The Applicant” is both deadly serious and darkly funny as its main character, Leyla, tries to carve out a space for herself as an immigrant and a writer in her adopted home of Berlin. The novel explores the expectations placed on immigrants and the challenges of making a life as an artist. 

Comet Boy and the Menace from Space

By Ed Stein
$15 (paperback)

From the publisher: From award-winning cartoonist and lifelong aspiring superhero Ed Stein comes a new young adult/middle-grade adventure that answers the question: how do you keep bugs out of your mouth while flying? And why does nobody mention that in the movies?

Anyone who’s pondered how they would use superpowers will love the thrilling and funny tale of Gabe Green, a normal middle-schooler who suddenly develops amazing abilities and learns that saving the planet doesn’t get you out of doing your homework. It takes much more than superpowers to become a superhero.

From Moira Brownwolfe, Consignment: Countless readers were enamored with Ed Stein’s comics in the Rocky Mountain News, as well as his follow up strips Denver Square and Freshly Squeezed. However, they may not be aware that he wrote a lovely middle grade novel about a kid superhero. This title comes highly recommended by our staff.


The Bookies

4315 E Mississippi Ave, Denver

(303) 759-1117

As part of The Colorado Sun’s literature section — SunLit — we’re featuring staff picks from book stores across the state. Read more.

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