12 Things You Might Not Know About Grace Jones

Larry Ellis/Getty Images
Larry Ellis/Getty Images

Grace Jones has been many things during her years in the spotlight: dancehall queen, artistic muse, style icon, rebel, villainous Bond girl/henchwoman. She got her start on the runways in the 1970s, but soon Jones was on the cover of magazines, topping the U.S. dance charts with disco and R&B hits like "Pull Up to the Bumper" and "Slave to the Rhythm," and befriending and influencing major players in the art and fashion worlds. And though she once made headlines for her onstage antics and drug-fueled partying, her enduring legacy has been her commitment to individuality, her fierce personality, and her defiance of social mores.

Before she headlines Pride Island at New York City's Pride festival in June 2019, here are 12 facts you might not know about the woman The New York Times once called "a high priestess of the outré."

1. Grace Jones's age is a bit of a mystery.

Grace Jones attends a signing of her memoir in 2015.
Grace Jones attends a signing of her memoir in 2015.
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Grace Beverly Jones was born in Spanish Town, Jamaica, on May 19. As for the year, 1948 is very popular on several websites, but Jones disagrees. "They say I'm a lot older than I actually am," Jones wrote in her 2015 autobiography, I'll Never Write My Memoirs. "In the press, on the internet, they add about four years to my actual age … I don't care at all. I like to keep the mystery."

2. Grace Jones grew up in a strict, religious household.

Grace's parents were both young and strict Pentecostals (her mother was the niece of a high-ranking bishop in the church). Before she turned 6, her parents immigrated to America to build a new home. According to Jones, they left their children in Jamaica because they "believed it was for the best," since children growing up in America weren't disciplined sternly enough. Instead, Grace and her four siblings were raised by her mother's mother "and her petty, brutal husband." Known as Mas P—short for Master P; his first name was Peart—her step-grandfather was a strict disciplinarian who regularly beat Jones and three of her siblings (a fourth sibling, her sister Pam, spent these years living with their great-grandmother).

Eventually, her parents sent for their children, and a 12-year-old Grace and her siblings joined them in New York (where her youngest brother was born). Although she was a shy and scared child, Jones became a rebellious and outspoken teenager whose behavior often clashed with her religious upbringing.

3. Grace Jones was once roommates with Jessica Lange and Jerry Hall.

As a teenager, Jones began her career as a model and eventually got picked up by Wilhelmina Models. Eventually, she became frustrated by the lack of bookings and moved to Paris in 1970 to work with a brand new agency called Euro Planning. The first three models to join were Jones, Jerry Hall, and Jessica Lange. The three were roommates and fast friends, and Jones wrote that they continue to "help each other and inspire each other."

4. Grace Jones defied gender norms.

The cover of Grace Jones's 1981 album, Nightclubbing.

The cover of Grace Jones's 1981 album, Nightclubbing.

Jones is well known for embracing androgyny. Some of her most striking iconography has her hair in a flattop, her strong cheekbones and jawline sharply contoured, and her clothing tailored in the most angular way possible. "I like dressing like a guy. I love it," she told Interview magazine in 1984. "The future is no sex. You can be a boy, a girl, whatever you want."

5. Grace Jones turned down a role in Blade Runner—and immediately regretted it.

Grace Jones attends a movie premiere in 1984.

Grace Jones attends a movie premiere in 1984.

Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Jones caught the acting bug while attending Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, New York, where she was majoring in Spanish. After playing the role of "Stinkweed" in a 1968 avant-garde play written by a theater teacher she has called her first crush, Jones dropped out and bounced between Philadelphia and New York City while auditioning and piecing together work as a go-go dancer.

It was the beginning of an interesting career in film. She did a number of independent action and horror films, as well as starring in 1984's Conan the Destroyer alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger. Her most famous role was likely that of May Day in A View to a Kill (1985); Jones played a villainous assassin who seduced (then died saving) Roger Moore's James Bond.

Surprisingly, before those two blockbuster films, Jones turned down the role of the replicant Zhora in Blade Runner without reading the script. At the time, she was working with the photographer and art director Jean-Paul Goude, who, Jones recalled, thought the film would be "too commercial, and I would become too Hollywood. I would become a sellout." The night after she turned down the role, she was flying to Paris and read the script on the plane. She loved the concept and changed her mind. Unfortunately, by the time her flight landed and she could call the studio, actress Joanna Cassidy had already been cast.

6. Grace Jones's first album included a Sondheim number, Édith Piaf's signature song, and "Tomorrow" from the musical Annie.

Jones began dabbling in music while she was still modeling in Paris in the mid-'70s. She released a single called "I Need A Man" on a French label in 1975; it, and the following year's "Sorry," didn't make much of a splash. But in 1977 she signed with Island Records, and producer Tom Moultan (known as the father of disco) began working on the first of three albums they did together.

Her first album, 1977's Portfolio, had a fairly unusual selection of songs. The first three tracks were disco-fied Broadway show tunes—Stephen Sondheim's "Send in the Clowns," A Chorus Line's "What I Did for Love," and "Tomorrow" from Annie. New remixes of her earlier two singles were included, as well as a new song she co-wrote called "That's the Trouble." But the pièce de résistance, as it were, was her seven-and-a-half minute interpretation of "La Vie en Rose." It became her first big international hit, and it's one she still performs live.

7. Grace Jones was a Studio 54 mainstay.

Covers of various Grace Jones albums and singles.

Jones relocated to New York City and quickly became a notorious regular at Studio 54 when it opened in 1977. In I'll Never Write My Memoirs, which she named after the opening line from her 1981 song "Art Groupie," she called herself "the wildest party animal ever" and Studio 54 was a "palace of dreams" where the beautiful people danced and partied and the fashion was as important as the music. "This was where disco became more full-on, and ballooned into the outrageous and, ultimately, the camp," Jones wrote.

Jones also discussed her extensive drug use. An advocate for trying everything at least once, she tried LSD, heroin, and "had my very first ecstasy pill in the company of Timothy Leary, which is a bit like flying to the moon with Neil Armstrong."

8. Grace Jones has a son with French designer Jean-Paul Goude, who was a constant creative partner.

Cover of Grace Jones's Island Life album

Jones met French graphic designer Jean-Paul Goude in New York, and the two began a creative and romantic partnership that resulted in some of the best work of either of their careers. "In 1977 or '78, I met Grace and it was a period of decadence," Goude told WWD in 2009. "People were still doing lots of drugs and I had been working so hard for so long and she made me part of her lifestyle, made me go out dancing at Studio 54. She became an obsession and we did everything together."

Although Goude is an often controversial figure for his portrayal of black women, Grace Jones was his most famous muse. Together, their post-modern, avant-garde imagery made Jones a visual icon—some of the most striking photographs including the image of her naked in a cage (a similar image was later used for his 1982 book Jungle Fever), her Nightclubbing album cover and her Island Life cover photo. Jones and Goude dated until 1984 and had a child, Paulo, together.

9. Grace Jones has a lifetime ban from Disney World.

Grace Jones performs in Los Angeles in 2016.
Grace Jones performs in Los Angeles in 2016.
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for FYF

Jones frequently flashes audiences or goes topless during performances, but apparently "the Most Magical Place on Earth" didn't appreciate the showmanship. During a live show at Florida's then-Downtown Disney House of Blues in 1998, Jones "pulled her top off, then proceeded to light up and smoke a doobie—on stage," according to The Orlando Sentinel. She was slapped with a lifetime ban from Disney properties.

10. Grace Jones and Andy Warhol made a scene at Arnold Schwarzenegger's wedding.

Grace Jones and Andy Warhol met during their Studio 54 days, and by the mid-'80s, they were old friends. So when they were both invited to Arnold Schwarzenegger's 1986 wedding to Maria Shriver, they decided to go together. Predictably, they were late. They flew into Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, on her private plane;Jones did her makeup during the flight and when they landed, she dressed in the airport bathroom. And then, "at the exact moment when Arnold and Maria are on their knees finishing off their special, intimate ceremony, we arrive," she wrote. "The doors noisily crack open and they turn around to see what the commotion is, and it is, guess who, Grace and Andy. Late. They didn't say anything, but you could see from the looks on their faces that they were not at all impressed." In Schwarzenegger's autobiography, he said he and Shriver "were delighted" Warhol and Jones showed up, but that "they were like gunslingers coming in through the swinging doors of a saloon in a Western movie."

11. Grace Jones hasn't seen her husband since the early 2000s.

Grace Jones performs in Sydney, Australia in 2009.
Grace Jones performs in Sydney, Australia in 2009.
Gaye Gerard/Getty Images

Grace Jones has had a number of high-profile relationships through the years—Goude, her former bodyguard-turned-actor Dolph Lundgren, stuntman and bodybuilder Sven-Ole Thorsen—but the only time she married was to a Turkish man she met in Belgium, Atila Altaunbay. In 1996, the two essentially eloped in Brazil while she was traveling for work, and then her father performed another marriage ceremony at their family home in Syracuse. Jones knew Altaunbay was a bit younger than her (at the time, she was in her mid- to late-forties), but as she wrote in her memoir, "when we did the paperwork, I found out that he was a few years younger than I thought he was … It turned out my husband was 24."

Eventually they split, but not legally. "We're not divorced," she wrote, stating that after their breakup he went back to his family, who had never approved of her. "I can't find him to get the divorce sorted."

12. You can watch her in action on her documentary, Bloodlight and Bami.

Grace Jones met director Sophie Fiennes when she profiled Jones's brother, Bishop Noel Jones, in a 2002 documentary called Hoover Street Revival about his L.A. church. They hit it off and Jones suggested they do a project together. Fifteen years and at least a dozen years worth of footage later, the two presented the documentary Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. The film—which takes its name from the Jamaican slang for the red light that glows when an artist is recording (bloodlight) and a traditional Jamaican fried cassava flatbread (bami)—got praise for showing the multiple sides of Jones, from electrifying concert footage to intimate meals with her family in Jamaica.

Bloodlight and Bami is available on Amazon Prime and Hulu.

How 25 of Your Favorite Halloween Candies Got Their Names

iStock/mediaphotos
iStock/mediaphotos

Soon, small superheroes and ghosts and all sorts of other strange creatures will be canvassing your neighborhood begging for candy. But as you pass out your wares, you can also dole out some (not terribly spooky) etymologies.

1. 3 MUSKETEERS

3 Musketeers candy bar.
Erin McCarthy

When 3 Musketeers bars were introduced in 1932, they consisted of three flavors—chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry—and were labeled "The 3 Musketeers, Chocolate, Vanilla, Strawberry. 3 bars in a package.' Eventually the vanilla and strawberry flavors would disappear, although there’s evidence that they weren't ever particularly important flavors. A 1933 Notice of Judgment from the Acting Secretary of Agriculture describes a shipment of the treats that was seized in part because "[t]he strawberry and vanilla bars had no recognizable flavor of strawberry or vanilla and the strawberry bars were also artificially colored."

2. AIRHEADS

Pile of AirHeads candy.
Jasmin Fine, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

According to Steve Bruner, who invented the name, he had heard that it takes a generation for a candy name to become part of the collective consciousness—unless it was already a commonly used word. So he asked his children, "What would you call your friend who did something silly?" and one of them came up with 'Airhead.'

3. BUTTERFINGER

Three Butterfinger candy bars.
Amira Azarcon, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

According to legend, the Curtiss Candy Company of Chicago decided to run a contest to name their new candy bar, and someone suggested 'butterfinger,' a term used in the form "butter-fingered" since the early 17th century to describe someone who lets things fall from their hands.

4. CANDY CORN

Jack-o-lantern mug full of candy corn.
iStock

In the late 19th century, confections shaped like other things were all the rage (the Candy Professor tells of children then eating candies shaped like cockroaches … for Christmas). Candy corn was invented around this time, and was a stand-out novelty product because real corn kernels—which the candy vaguely resembled—were then mainly a food for livestock, not people.

5. DUM DUMS

Jar of Dum Dums lollipops.
Sarah Browning, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

According to the Spangler Candy Company, the manufacturer, the name Dum Dum was chosen because it "was a word any child could say."

6. HEATH BAR

Two Heath candy bars.
Erika Berlin

In 1914, L.S. Heath decided to buy a candy shop and soda fountain so his children could have a good career. Several years later, the family got hold of the toffee recipe (potential sources range from a traveling salesman to nearby Greek candy makers) that made them famous, especially after they started supplying candy to troops during WWII.

7. HERSHEY'S

Hershey's chocolate bars in a basket.
slgckgc, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Milton Hershey had worked for a few years in various candy businesses, but it was in Denver that he came across the caramel recipe that would become a massive hit. Not resting on his laurels, he learned of the new European craze for "milk chocolate" and brought it to the masses in America.

8. HERSHEY'S COOKIES 'N' CREME

Hershey's Cookies 'n' Creme candy bar.
Like_the_Grand_Canyon, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The candy bar came about in 1994, somewhere around 15-20 years after the ice cream flavor that it was capitalizing on. Where the ice cream comes from is a mystery—claimants range from South Dakota State University to a Blue Bell Creameries employee (to make matters more difficult, many versions of the story have the invention happening after a visit to some anonymous ice cream parlor that put Oreos on their ice cream, and as early as 1959 Nabisco was suggesting that crumbled Oreos in-between layers of ice cream made a great party parfait). No matter the culinary origin, the name origin is generally agreed upon—Nabisco balked at allowing ice cream companies to use their Oreo trademark.

9. HERSHEY'S KISSES

Hershey Kisses on an orange table.
Song Zhen, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Over 100 years ago, kiss was a generic term for any number of small pieces of confectionery. So when Hershey came out with their product, it was a natural generic name. As years went by and "kiss" lost this particular meaning, Hershey was able to assert control over the name.

10. JOLLY RANCHERS

Bowl of Jolly Rancher candies.
Thomas Hawk, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

When William and Dorothy Harmsen set out to Colorado, their goal was to start a small farm/ranch. Eventually, they decided to open up an ice cream parlor named The Jolly Rancher, evoking both Western hospitality and the Jolly Miller—a hotel in their native Minnesota. The story goes that as sales declined in the winter months, the Harmsens decided to add candies to their menu, which soon outstripped the popularity of all their other offerings.

11. KIT KAT

No one is quite sure where this comes from. The oldest use of the word "kit-cat" in the Oxford English Dictionary is from 1665 to describe a game more commonly known as tipcat, but this is probably coincidence. More likely is that it’s somehow related to the Kit-Cat Club of the early 18th century, which met at a place operated by a mutton pieman named something like Christopher Katt or Christopher Catling. Both he and his pies were named Kit-Kats/Kit-Cats (the prologue to the 1700 play The Reformed Wife even has a line "A Kit-Cat is a supper for a lord"), and the club took its name from either the pie or the pieman.

The jump from a gentleman's club or mutton pie to a candy is more mysterious. A popular theory is that it's related to kit-cat pictures, a type of portrait that the OED describes as "less than half-length, but [includes] the hands." But like most other hypotheses, this doesn't really work because the producer, Rowntree's, registered the name years before there was a candy to go with it, and the candy was originally known as Rowntree’s Chocolate Crisp. Most likely is that someone just liked the name.

12. LIFE SAVERS

Pile of Life Savers candies.
Erika Berlin

The name Life Savers is fairly self-explanatory—they're broadly shaped like a life saver. (Any rumors of the hole existing to prevent a choking death have no merit.)

13. MILKY WAY

Milky Way candy bar.
Like_the_Grand_Canyon, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Before 1970, Milky Way had a very different connotation. That year, headlines in newspapers across the country blared "FTC Decides Candy Bar Isn't Equal to Milk." The reason for this headline is that the FTC criticized Mars for implying in their advertising things like "Milky Way's nutritional value is equivalent to a glass of milk" and 'That it can and should be substituted for milk." (Odd nutrition claims were nothing new though—early on, Hershey’s advertised their chocolate bars as being "more sustaining than meat.")

While the galaxy certainly helped with the name, the original focus of the Milky Way was about how "milky" it was, and specifically that it was milkier than a malted milk you could get at a soda fountain.

14. M&M's

Bag of opened M&Ms.
iStock

The two Ms stand for Mars and Murrie. This Mars was Forrest Mars, the son of Mars candy company founder Frank Mars. Forrest and Frank had a falling out, which resulted in Forrest going to Europe and founding his own candy company (many years later, he would return to take over Mars, Inc after his father's death).

How he came up with the idea for M&M's is a bit mysterious (with versions ranging from wholesale ripoff to inspiration during the Spanish Civil War), but is generally related to a candy-covered British chocolate called Smarties (unrelated to the American Smarties). When Forrest Mars returned to the United States to make these candies, he recognized that he needed a steady supply of chocolate. At the time, Hershey was a major supplier of chocolate to other businesses and was run by a man named William Murrie. Forrest decided to go into business with William's son, Bruce (which long rumored to be a shameless ploy by Forrest to ensure a chocolate supply during World War II), and they named the candy M&M's.

15. MR. GOODBAR

Bowl of Mr. Goodbar candy bars.
Erika Berlin

According to corporate history, Hershey chemists had been working on a new peanut candy bar. As they were testing it, someone said "that's a good bar" which Milton Hershey misheard as "Mr. Goodbar."

16. REESE'S PEANUT BUTTER CUPS

Stack of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.
Sheila Sund, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Harry Burnett Reese started working for the Hershey Chocolate Company in 1916 as a dairy farmer, but after leaving and returning to Hershey's a few times over the following years, Reese set out on his own. His great peanut butter cup invention was supposedly inspired by a store owner who told him that they were having difficulties with their supplier of chocolate-covered peanut butter sweets.

17. SKITTLES

Bags of Skittles in a vending machine.
calvinnivlac, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Skittles originated in the United Kingdom, where "skittles" is a type of bowling, either on lawns or on a tabletop in pubs. The phrase "beer and skittles" emerged to describe pure happiness (now more commonly seen in "life is not beer and skittles"). So the name for the candy likely emerged to associate it with fun.

18. SNICKERS

Bunch of Snickers fun size candies.
iStock

The candy bar was named after the Mars family horse. The Mars family was very into horses, even naming their farm the Milky Way Farm—which produced the 1940 Kentucky Derby champion Gallahadion.

19. SOUR PATCH KIDS

Two bags of Sour Patch Kids.
Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Originally called Mars Men, the Sour Patch Kid was renamed to capitalize on the popularity of the '80s craze of Cabbage Patch Kids.

20. TOBLERONE

Close-up of a Toblerone candy bar.
Helena Eriksson, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Toblerone is a portmanteau of the candy inventor—Theodor Tobler—and torrone, a name for various Italian nougats. As for the distinctive triangle shape, it's generally credited to the Swiss Alps, but Toblerone’s UK site suggests something a little racier—"a red and cream-frilled line of dancers at the Folies Bergères in Paris, forming a shapely pyramid at the end of a show.”

21. TOOTSIE ROLL

Pile of Tootsie Roll candies.
Lynn Friedman, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The official story is that in the late 19th century, Leo Hirschfeld invented the Tootsie Roll—Tootsie coming from his daughter's nickname. But the Candy Professor has blown multiple holes in the official story, finding evidence from patents to trademark filings that show Tootsie Rolls came into existence circa 1907. And as for the Tootsie? The Candy Professor has also found that the company that applied for those trademarks had an earlier product called Bromangelon that had as a mascot the character "Tattling Tootsie." Whether this Tootsie was named after Hirschfeld’s daughter or something mysterious is still debated.

22. TWIX

Twix candy bar.
iStock

The meaning behind Twix has been lost to time (and marketing). But the general consensus is that it's a portmanteau of twin and sticks (stix), or possibly twin and mix.

23. TWIZZLERS

Bag of Twizzlers candy.
iStock

Another term where the true origin is unknown, but it’s certainly related to the word twizzle, which dates back to the 18th century. One of the definitions the Oxford English Dictionary gives is "To twirl, twist; to turn round; to form by twisting."

24. YORK PEPPERMINT PATTIES

Two York Peppermint Patties
Barb Watson, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The popular patties were originally created by the York Cone Company out of York, Pennsylvania, which made ice cream cones before going all in on their new invention. As for the "Peanuts" character Peppermint Patty, Charles Schulz said that the name inspiration was "A dish of candy sitting in our living room." But as the York version was still regional at the time, the inspiration was probably a different peppermint patty.

25. BABY RUTH

Pile of Baby Ruth mini candy bars.
Erika Berlin

A debate for the ages. Otto Schnering named the bar after either Ruth Cleveland, daughter of President Grover Cleveland (whose New York Times obituary said, "She was known to the Nation as 'Baby Ruth' while she was a child in the White House") or Babe Ruth, the famous baseball player. While Baby Ruth was a very popular name (and not just for Presidential daughters. An actress at the time of the candy bar’s introduction was known as "Baby" Ruth Sullivan), Babe Ruth proponents point out that Cleveland’s daughter died in 1904, around 17 years before the candy was introduced. But claims of a recently discovered court document has Schnering answering under oath the question "When you adopted the trade mark Baby Ruth…did you at that time [take] into consideration any value that the nickname Babe Ruth…might have?”

Schnering responded, "The bar was named for Baby Ruth, the first baby of the White House, Cleveland, dating back to the Cleveland administration…There was a suggestion, at the time, that Babe Ruth, however not a big figure at the time as he later developed to be, might have possibilities of developing in such a way as to help our merchandising of our bar Baby Ruth."

12 Quirky Books for Imaginative Kids

Simon & Schuster
Simon & Schuster

Though childhood classics like A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh and Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are never truly go out of style, each year brings a new cache of funny and fantastical books that will feed the expanding imaginations of young readers everywhere. From a self-conscious sewer monster who wants to make friends to a gluttonous dinosaur who gobbled up Christmas, this guide has the perfect quirky story for every kind of kid on your holiday gift list.

1. Rumple Buttercup // Matthew Gray Gubler ($9)

This whimsical tale about a self-conscious sewer monster is written and illustrated by Criminal Minds star, and king of quirk, Matthew Gray Gubler. While cute characters and a simple message about embracing your individuality make it a great gift for very young kids, its absurdist humor makes it a laugh-out-loud read for older kids and adults, too.

Buy it: Amazon

2. President Taft Is Stuck in the Bath // Mac Barnett ($8)

president taft is stuck in the bath
Candlewick/Amazon

Mac Barnett’s good-natured retelling of William Howard Taft’s infamous (though unconfirmed) bathtub blunder teaches children two things. One, history is far from a tedious list of names, dates, laws, and battles. And two, even the most stately world leaders have embarrassing moments.

Buy it: Amazon

3. It’s Only Stanley // Jon Agee ($15)

it's only stanley book
Dial Books/Amazon

When strange noises wake the Wimbledon family at night, they assume their dog Stanley is cleaning or fixing something; in reality, Stanley is transforming their house into a rocket ship that will carry them to an alien-inhabited planet. Fans of The Secret Life of Pets and Phineas and Ferb’s Perry the Platypus will love this rhyming read-aloud (and surely wonder what their own pet is up to when they’re not around).

Buy it: Amazon

4. Frankie Sparks and the Big Sled Challenge // Megan Frazer Blakemore ($6)

frankie sparks and the big sled challenge
Aladdin/Amazon

Third-grade inventor Frankie Sparks is back for the third book in her STEM-inspired series, and this time, she’s about to learn that the hardest part about creating a competition-winning sled is less about sled-building and more about team-building. Great for elementary school kids who love to create anything—be it art or architecture—as well as anyone who’s ever had to work on a group project.

Buy it: Amazon

5. The Pigeon HAS to Go to School! // Mo Willems ($10)

the pigeon has to go to school
Hyperion Books/Amazon

Mo Willems’s original pigeon book was Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, a thoroughly riotous, award-winning tale about a pigeon trying to convince readers to let it drive the bus when the bus driver asked them not to. In the latest story, the headstrong pigeon pivots to something it very much does not want to do—go to school. It sends a message about the value of doing things you don’t want to do, but, most importantly, it’s also really funny.

Buy it: Amazon

6. The Glass Town Game // Catherynne M. Valente ($11)

the glass town game
Simon & Schuster/Amazon

Catherynne M. Valente spins a riveting fictional tale from the true story of Charlotte, Emily, Anne, and Branwell Brontë’s childhood in a Yorkshire parsonage, where they passed the time dreaming up an intricate fantasy land populated with toy soldiers. In Valente’s novel, the fantasy land comes to life, complete with whale-sized flies, Champagne flutes that play music, and fire-breathing porcelain roosters, and the siblings must use all their wit and imagination to figure out how to get home. It’s a little like Alice in Wonderland meets The Chronicles of Narnia, and perfect for fans of both.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Lambslide // Ann Patchett ($13)

lambslide
HarperCollins/Amazon

The internationally bestselling author of Bel Canto and Commonwealth is just as clever when it comes to writing for kids. In Lambslide, a group of lambs mistakenly hear lambslide instead of landslide and begin a farm-wide campaign for an actual slide for lambs. With quaint illustrations, endearing characters, and an engaging plot, this is the type of book that ends up in the family for generations.

Buy it: Amazon

8. The Book With No Pictures // B.J. Novak ($9)

The Office alum B.J. Novak turns storytime into a full-fledged comedic performance with The Book With No Pictures, a book filled with nonsense words and phrases like blork and blaggity blaggity, which the reader has to read aloud. For parents, it’s a blueprint for embracing their silly side. For kids, it’s a chance to see their parents not seem so parental.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Spencer’s New Pet // Jessie Sima ($14)

spencer's new pet
Simon & Schuster/Amazon

The author of Not Quite Narwhal returns with another adorable story, this time about a boy who must avoid sharp objects in order to protect his balloon-animal pet dog. The mostly black-and-white illustrations (except for the dog, which is red) give Spencer’s New Pet a refreshingly old-fashioned feel, and the tale itself is sweet, evenly paced, and timeless.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Serafina and the Black Cloak // Robert Beatty ($8)

serafina and the black cloak
Disney-Hyperion/Amazon

When children begin disappearing from the Biltmore Estate, Serafina, who secretly lives in the basement, knows the culprit is a mysterious man in a black cloak who prowls the corridors at night. This novel has everything a quality middle-grade fantasy needs, including secret passageways, a forbidden forest, unknown magic, and a scrappy heroine. And the chills and thrills don’t stop at the end—it’s the first in a series of four (so far).

Buy it: Amazon

11. The Dinosaur That Pooped Christmas // Tom Fletcher and Dougie Poynter ($18)

the dinosaur that pooped christmas
Aladdin/Amazon

This jolly, strange story about a ravenous pet dinosaur who gobbles up all of Christmas is hilarious enough on its own—and perhaps even more so when you consider that it was written by British punk rockers Tom Fletcher and Dougie Poynter from the band McFly.

Buy it: Amazon

12. This Is a Taco! // Andrew Cangelose ($16)

this is a taco
Lion Forge/Amazon

A high-spirited, unique squirrel named Taco provides color commentary on regular squirrel facts in This Is a Taco!, a book that is much more than a factual guide to squirrels. In it, Taco embellishes, acts out, and sometimes completely changes the facts to be truer to his personal experience as a squirrel, which involves being opinionated and eating lots of tacos.

Buy it: Amazon

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