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Book Club Picks: Pachinko and Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee

Pachinko and Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee Hachette Book Group Featured Image

If you were to have a discussion about literary sensations of the last few years, one book that would certainly come up is Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. A sweeping family saga, starting in Korea at the turn of the 20th century, there are few books that have received as many commendations as Pachinko. It is a National Book Award finalist, a New York Times Top Ten Book of the Year, a finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and winner of the Medici Book Club Prize. There have been countless Pachinko book club discussions, it has been translated into over 27 different languages, and it has a rating of over four stars after 116,000 reviews on Goodreads! And when Apple launches its streaming service in the fall of 2019, it will include a series adaptation of the novel. TL;DR: Pachinko is a marvel.

And here’s something else to marvel at: Pachinko is only Min Jin Lee’s second novel. In 2007, she gave the world Free Food for Millionaires, a family epic about greed, ambition, love, and immigration. It has also achieved huge success; it was a national bestseller that landed on a lot of the end-of-the-year lists and a 2019 One Book, One New York nominee.

A few years ago, I had the fortune of seeing Min Jin Lee talk about what inspired her to write Pachinko. She told such a sad, beautiful tale about a Korean family she had read about, I don’t think that there was a dry eye in the house. It inspired me to pick up Free Food for Millionaires while I waited for the release of Pachinko, and I loved it.

If you have never read either of Min Jin Lee’s novels or would like to be inspired to read them again, allow me to tell you about each of them! I think they are both excellent and have as many similar themes and situations as they do different ones. Both novels make for great book club discussions. But which one would you pick first?



Min Jin Lee has said she is working on a third Korean saga. Until then, we have two tremendous novels—and an upcoming television show!—to tide us over.


Resources for Book Clubs:

Free Food For Millionaires Reading Group Guide

Pachinko Reading Group Guide


About Min Jin Lee:

Min Jin Lee is a recipient of fellowships in Fiction from the Guggenheim Foundation (2018) and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard (2018-2019). Her novel Pachinko (2017) was a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction, a runner-up for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, winner of the Medici Book Club Prize, and one of the New York Times’ “Ten Best Books of 2017.” Lee’s debut novel Free Food for Millionaires (2007) was one of the best books of the year for the Times of London, NPR’s Fresh Air, and USA Today. She will be a Writer-in-Residence at Amherst College from 2019-2022.

Follow Min Jin Lee:


Most of Tirzah Price’s life decisions have been motivated by a desire to read as many books as humanly possible. She began blogging at in 2007, focusing primarily on YA and children’s lit. Tirzah holds an MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, aka the closest thing to a real Hogwarts that Muggles can find. She has worked as an independent bookseller since 2011, and when not reading you’ll likely find her knitting socks and thinking about narrative structure. Follow her on Twitter: @TirzahPrice.

The Best Crime Fiction of 2018

Looking for the best crime fiction of the year?  We’ve lined up our favorite award-winning mysteries and thrillers of 2018 just for you! If you haven’t read these yet, we recommend adding them to your 2019 reading lists, too.


2018 Edgar Award for Best Novel and 2018 Anthony Award for Best Novel

2018 Edgar Award for Best First Novel by an American Author

2018 Agatha Award for Best First Novel and 2018 Anthony Award Winner for Best First Novel



2018 Lamda Literary Award for Lesbian Mystery

2018 Ned Kelly Award for Best First Crime Novel


2018 Audie Awards for Best Female Narrator and Young Adult


Enjoy these award-winning mystery and thrillers!


The Fitzgerald-Trouts

Look Out For The Fitzgerald-Trouts coverLook Out For The Fitzgerald-Trouts

By Esta Spalding

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Curriculum Subject: Family Life: Parents/Siblings/Babies, Personal Development: Conflict Resolution, Personal Development: Responsibility

Grades: 3-7


Meet the Fitzgerald-Trouts, a band of four loosely related children living together in a lush tropical island. They take care of themselves. They sleep in their car, bathe in the ocean, eat fish they catch and fruit they pick, and can drive anywhere they need to go–to the school, the laundromat, or the drive-in. If they put their minds to it, the Fitzgerald-Trouts can do anything. Even, they hope, find a real home.



Knock About With The Fitzgerald-Trouts coverKnock About With The Fitzgerald-Trouts

By Esta Spalding

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Curriculum Subject: Family Life: Parents/Siblings/Babies, Personal Development: Conflict Resolution, Personal Development: Responsibility

Grades: 3-7


Welcome to the further adventures of the plucky Fitzgerald-Trout siblings, who live on a tropical island where the grown-ups are useless, but the kids can drive. In this second installment, the delightfully self-reliant siblings continue their search for a home. This time, their pursuit will bring them face-to-face with a flood, illegal carnivorous plants, and the chance to win an extraordinary prize at a carnival. Will they finally find a place to call home?



“Have you ever wanted to live on an island filled with selfish grownups and blood-sucking iguanas hiding in a dark and mysterious forest? Me neither. But the brave and inventive Fitzgerald-Trouts have such fascinating lives that I just might reconsider–as soon as I read this glorious book again, at least twice. I salute thee, Fitzgerald-Trouts!”—Lemony Snicket, author of the bestselling series All the Wrong Questions


“Spalding’s playful tone takes the edge off the neglectful parents and dire circumstances, largely thanks to the plucky, self-reliant kids who know (rightly) they are better off on their own.” —Booklist


“The Boxcar Children meet Dahl in a Hawaii-like setting here and it’s all sorts of fun, with just enough snarkiness to add edge to the charm and wonder. A clever but subtle twist at the end adds even more amusement, and the overall effect is as pleasing as a tropical breeze.” —The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books


“A touch of Everything on a Waffle weirdness; a touch of The Willoughbys sendup; and a warm, genial, wholly original voice.” —Horn Book


“Readers will root for the spunky youngsters [and] relate to the kids’ simple desires for a normal life, complete with goldfish in bowls and room to sleep.”—School Library Journal

When The Sea Turned to Silver

When the Sea Turned to Silver coverWhen the Sea Turned to Silver

By Grace Lin

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Curriculum Subject: Adventure: Magic/Fantasy, Folk Tales/Fairy Tales/Classics: Heroes/Heroines, Family Life: Grandparents and Extended Family

Grades: 3-7


Listen to Author Interview Activities Readers Theatre Educator Guide

Pinmei’s gentle, loving grandmother always has the most exciting tales for her granddaughter and the other villagers. However, the peace is shattered one night when soldiers of the Emperor arrive and kidnap the storyteller.


Everyone knows that the Emperor wants something called the Luminous Stone That Lights the Night. Determined to have her grandmother returned, Pinmei embarks on a journey to find the Luminous Stone alongside her friend Yishan, a mysterious boy who seems to have his own secrets to hide. Together, the two must face obstacles usually found only in legends to find the Luminous Stone and save Pinmei’s grandmother–before it’s too late.


A fast-paced adventure that is extraordinarily written and beautifully illustrated, When the Sea Turned to Silver is a masterpiece companion novel to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and Starry River of the Sky.



A 2016 National Book Award Finalist


★ “Lin’s evocative language sweeps readers away, and the stories within the story are juicy and delicious.” —Booklist


★ “Lin’s stonecutter claims that storytellers ‘can make time disappear… bring us to places we have never dreamed of…feel sorrow and joy and peace’; the description is a fitting one for author-illustrator Lin herself, who has proven herself a master.” —The Horn Book


★ “The meticulous craft delivers what Lin’s fans have come to expect… This beautifully told companion to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and Starry River of the Sky offers lyrical storytelling, bringing ‘us to places we have never dreamed of.'” —Kirkus


★ “Lin’s fans will not be disappointed: she again delivers a rich interweaving of ancient tales with fast-paced adventure, fantasy, and slowly unfolding mysteries told through captivating language with beguiling similes.” —Publishers Weekly


★ “A stunning addition to a deservedly beloved set of novels; recommended for all middle grade collections.” —School Library Journal



The Adventures of Beekle

The ABeekledventures of Beekle

The Unimaginary Friend

By Dan Santat

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Curriculum Subject: Personal Development: Friendship, Adventure: Magic/Fantasy, Personal Development: Individuality

Grades: PreK-1st


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This magical story begins on an island far away where an imaginary friend is born. He patiently waits his turn to be chosen by a real child, but when he is overlooked time and again, he sets off on an incredible journey to the bustling city, where he finally meets his perfect match and-at long last-is given his special name: Beekle.


Bestselling and award-winning author and illustrator Dan Santat combines classic storytelling with breathtaking art, creating an unforgettable tale about friendship, imagination, and the courage to find one’s place in the world.



Winner of the 2015 Randolph Caldecott Medal


★ “Santat’s attention to detail in the mixed-media illustrations shares a child’s eye for laughter and movement on full-bleed spreads with strategically placed text. Gazes of wonderment, broad smiles, and changes in perspective ensure an easy transition from page to page… Like Beekle’s new friend, there’s something here that feels just right as an ‘unimaginaru’ friendship creates a joyous, recognizable bond. A terrific addition to any library.” —School Library Journal


“How does an imaginary friend feel before he’s been imagined? In Santat’s sweet, mind-bending gumdrop of a tale, Beekle lives on a rainbow-hued island, ‘hoping for his turn to be picked by a child.’ Eventually, like Max in Where the Wild Things Are, he takes to the seas and soon lands in the real world — which looks a lot like Manhattan. Though this island seems awfully drab, Beekle and his friend find each other at last. She’s everything he’s ever dreamed of, and the feeling is mutual.” —The New York Times Book Review


“Dan Santat is one of the hardest working people in the industry today. And while his immense talent was always evident, Beekle takes his artistry to a new level. The story (which is just bursting at the seams with charm) begins on an island of colorful creatures, each waiting to be imagined by a special child and thus transported to the real world…. As with all great books, Beekle has an air of inevitability about it. As if somewhere out there is an island of perfect stories just waiting for the right person to come along and imagine it into being. We should all be grateful that Santat, with his brilliant use of color and humor, was here to bring Beekle to life.” —The Huffington Post






By Patrick McDonnell

Genre: Picture Book

Curriculum subjects: Self-Discovery, Individuality, Careers

Grade: PreK-1st


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In his characteristic heartwarming style, Patrick McDonnell tells the story of the young Jane Goodall and her special childhood toy chimpanzee named Jubilee. As the young Jane observes the natural world around her with wonder, she dreams of “a life living with and helping all animals,” until one day she finds that her dream has come true.


One of the world’s most inspiring women, Dr. Jane Goodall is a renowned humanitarian, conservationist, animal activist, environmentalist, and United Nations Messenger of Peace. In 1977 she founded the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), a global nonprofit organization that empowers people to make a difference for all living things.

With anecdotes taken directly from Jane Goodall’s autobiography, McDonnell makes this very true story accessible for the very young– and young at heart.



A 2012 Caldecott Honor Book

A Charlotte Zolotow Award Winner

A New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book


★ “This remarkable picture book is one of the few that speaks, in a meaningful way, to all ages.” –Booklist


★ “McDonnell’s book is… inspirational.” –The Horn Book


★ “Children will appreciate McDonnell’s original format and take heart that interests logged in their own diaries might turn into lifelong passions.” –Kirkus Reviews


“McDonnell’s concentration on [Goodall’s] childhood fantasies carries a strong message to readers that their own dreams – even the wildly improbable ones–may be realizable, too.” –Publishers Weekly


“[A] tender homage… engaging… an appealing and satisfying introduction to a well-known scientist and activist.” –School Library Journal

Dave the Potter

Dave The Potter

By Laban Carrick Hill

Illustrated by Bryan Collier

Genre: Non-Fiction Picture Book

Curriculum Subjects: African American Heritage, Poetry

Grade: PreK-1st

 2011 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award 

2011 Caldecott Honor Book

Dave was an extraordinary artist, poet, and potter living in South Carolina in the 1800s. He combined his superb artistry with deeply observant poetry, carved onto his pots, transcending the limitations he faced as a slave. In this inspiring and lyrical portrayal, National Book Award nominee Laban Carrick Hill’s elegantly simple text and award-winning artist Bryan Collier’s resplendent, earth-toned illustrations tell Dave’s story, a story rich in history, hope, and long-lasting beauty.


Download Educator Guide


★ “The volume is a visual feast, packed with contemporary photographs, reproductions, magazine covers, and posters, and enhanced by an interesting design. Together, the words and images bring this extraordinary period to life.”
 —School Library Journal






The Lion & the Mouse

The Lion & The Mouse

By: Jerry Pinkney

Genre: Picture Book

Curriculum Subjects: Folk/Fairy Tales: Animals, Folk/Fairy Tales: Principles

Grade: p-1


Download Educator Guide


In award-winning artist Jerry Pinkney’s wordless adaptation of one of Aesop’s most beloved fables, an unlikely pair learn that no act of kindness is ever wasted. After a ferocious lion spares a cowering mouse that he’d planned to eat, the mouse later comes to his rescue, freeing him from a poacher’s trap. With vivid depictions of the landscape of the African Serengeti and expressively-drawn characters, Pinkney makes this a truly special retelling, and his stunning pictures speak volumes.



Winner of the 2010 Randolph Caldecott Medal


★ “Pinkney’s soft, multihued strokes make everything in the jungle seem alive, right down to the rock.” –Booklist


★ “A classic tale from a consummate artist.” –School Library Journal


★ “A nearly wordless exploration of Aesop’s fable of symbiotic mercy that is nothing short of masterful.” –Kirkus


★ “Pinkney has no need of words; his art speaks eloquently for itself.” –Publishers Weekly





The Village Of Round And Square Houses

village fo roundThe Village of Round and Square Houses

By Ann Grifalconi

Genre: Picture Book

Curriculum Subject: Folk Tales/Fairy Tales/Classics: Africa, Social Studies: Europe/Asia/Africa

Grades: PreK-1st


The village of Tos is like no other village in the world, for in this village the women live in round houses and the men live in square ones. The story of how this came to be is told from the point of view of a young girl who grew up there.

Ann Grifalconi’s bold, dynamic art and rhythmic storytelling recreate this world and make The Village of Round and Square Houses a perfect book for reading aloud.

Saint George and the Dragon

Saint George and the Dragon

By Margaret Hodges, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman

Genre: Picture Book

Curriculum subjects: Adventure: Knights/Dragons, Folk/Fairy Tales: Heroes/Heroines

Grade: P-1

1985 Caldecott Medalist


Retells the segment from Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, in which George, the Red Cross Knight, slays the dreadful dragon that has been terrorizing the countryside for years and brings peace and joy to the land.




★ “[The illustrations] glitter with color and mesmerizing details.” — Publisher’s Weekly