Search on SLJ.com ....
Subscribe to SLJ
Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

#ProtectTransKids: A Reading List

ifiwasyourgirlIf I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

A new kind of big-hearted novel about being seen for who you really are.

Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school. Like anyone else, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret, and she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.

But when she meets sweet, easygoing Grant, Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she realizes just how much she is losing by guarding her heart. She finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself, including her past. But Amanda’s terrified that once she tells him the truth, he won’t be able to see past it.

Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that at her old school, she used to be Andrew. Will the truth cost Amanda her new life, and her new love?

Meredith Russo’s If I Was Your Girl is a universal story about feeling different—and a love story that everyone will root for.

 

 

graysonGracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky

What if who you are on the outside doesn’t match who you are on the inside?

Grayson Sender has been holding onto a secret for what seems like forever: “he” is a girl on the inside, stuck in the wrong gender’s body. The weight of this secret is crushing, but sharing it would mean facing ridicule, scorn, rejection, or worse. Despite the risks, Grayson’s true self itches to break free. Will new strength from an unexpected friendship and a caring teacher’s wisdom be enough to help Grayson step into the spotlight she was born to inhabit?

Debut author Ami Polonsky’s moving, beautifully-written novel about identity, self-esteem, and friendship shines with the strength of a young person’s spirit and the enduring power of acceptance.

 

 

george1George by Alex Gino

BE WHO YOU ARE.

When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl.

George thinks she’ll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte’s Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can’t even try out for the part . . . because she’s a boy.

With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte — but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.

 

 

when the moonWhen the Moon was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

Atmospheric, dynamic, and packed with gorgeous prose, When the Moon was Ours is another winner from this talented author.

 

 

what we leftWhat We Left Behind by Robin Talley

From the critically acclaimed author of Lies We Tell Ourselves comes an emotional, empowering story of what happens when love may not be enough to conquer all

Toni and Gretchen are the couple everyone envied in high school. They’ve been together forever. They never fight. They’re deeply, hopelessly in love. When they separate for their first year at college—Toni to Harvard and Gretchen to NYU—they’re sure they’ll be fine. Where other long-distance relationships have fallen apart, theirs is bound to stay rock-solid.

The reality of being apart, though, is very different than they expected. Toni, who identifies as genderqueer, meets a group of transgender upperclassmen and immediately finds a sense of belonging that has always been missing, but Gretchen struggles to remember who she is outside their relationship.

While Toni worries that Gretchen won’t understand Toni’s new world, Gretchen begins to wonder where she fits in this puzzle. As distance and Toni’s shifting gender identity begin to wear on their relationship, the couple must decide—have they grown apart for good, or is love enough to keep them together?

 

 

lizardLizard Radio by Pat Schmatz

In a futuristic society run by an all-powerful Gov, a bender teen on the cusp of adulthood has choices to make that will change her life—and maybe the world.

Fifteen-year-old bender Kivali has had a rough time in a gender-rigid culture. Abandoned as a baby and raised by Sheila, an ardent nonconformist, Kivali has always been surrounded by uncertainty. Where did she come from? Is it true what Sheila says, that she was deposited on Earth by the mysterious saurians? What are you? people ask, and Kivali isn’t sure. Boy/girl? Human/lizard? Both/neither? Now she’s in CropCamp, with all of its schedules and regs, and the first real friends she’s ever had. Strange occurrences and complicated relationships raise questions Kivali has never before had to consider. But she has a gift—the power to enter a trancelike state to harness the “knowings” inside her. She has Lizard Radio. Will it be enough to save her? A coming-of-age story rich in friendships and the shattering emotions of first love, this deeply felt novel will resonate with teens just emerging as adults in a sometimes hostile world.

 

 

some assemblySome Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen by Arin Andrews

Seventeen-year-old Arin Andrews shares all the hilarious, painful, and poignant details of undergoing gender reassignment as a high school student in this winning first-of-its-kind memoir. Now with a reading group guide and an all-new afterword from the author!

In this revolutionary first-of-its-kind memoir, Arin Andrews details the journey that led him to make the life-transforming decision to undergo gender reassignment as a high school junior. In his captivatingly witty, honest voice, Arin reveals the challenges he faced as a boy in a girl’s body, the humiliation and anger he felt after getting kicked out of his private school, and all the changes—both mental and physical—he experienced once his transition began.

Some Assembly Required is a true coming-of-age story about knocking down obstacles and embracing family, friendship, and first love. But more than that, it is a reminder that self-acceptance does not come ready-made with a manual and spare parts. Rather, some assembly is always required.Now with a reading group guide and an all-new afterword from the author!

In this revolutionary first-of-its-kind memoir, Arin Andrews details the journey that led him to make the life-transforming decision to undergo gender reassignment as a high school junior. In his captivatingly witty, honest voice, Arin reveals the challenges he faced as a boy in a girl’s body, the humiliation and anger he felt after getting kicked out of his private school, and all the changes—both mental and physical—he experienced once his transition began.

Some Assembly Required is a true coming-of-age story about knocking down obstacles and embracing family, friendship, and first love. But more than that, it is a reminder that self-acceptance does not come ready-made with a manual and spare parts. Rather, some assembly is always required.

 

 

rethinkingRethinking Normal: A Memoir in Transition by Katie Rain Hill

In her unique, generous, and affecting voice, nineteen-year-old Katie Rain Hill shares her personal journey of undergoing gender reassignment. Now with a reading group guide!

Katie Rain Hill realized very young that a serious mistake had been made; she was a girl who had been born in the body of a boy. Suffocating under her peers’ bullying and the mounting pressure to be “normal,” Katie tried to take her life at the age of eight years old. After several other failed attempts, she finally understood that “Katie”—the girl trapped within her—was determined to live.

In this first-person account, Katie reflects on her pain-filled childhood and the events leading up to the life-changing decision to undergo gender reassignment as a teenager. She reveals the unique challenges she faced while unlearning how to be a boy and shares what it was like to navigate the dating world—and experience heartbreak for the first time—in a body that matched her gender identity.

Told in an unwaveringly honest voice, Rethinking Normal is a coming-of-age story about transcending physical appearances and redefining the parameters of “normalcy” to embody one’s true self.

 

 

being jazzBeing Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings

Teen activist and trailblazer Jazz Jennings—named one of “The 25 Most Influential Teens” of the year by Time—shares her very public transgender journey, as she inspires people to accept the differences in others while they embrace their own truths.

Jazz Jennings is one of the youngest and most prominent voices in the national discussion about gender identity. At the age of five, Jazz transitioned to life as a girl, with the support of her parents. A year later, her parents allowed her to share her incredible journey in her first Barbara Walters interview, aired at a time when the public was much less knowledgeable or accepting of the transgender community. This groundbreaking interview was followed over the years by other high-profile interviews, a documentary, the launch of her YouTube channel, a picture book, and her own reality TV series—I Am Jazz—making her one of the most recognizable activists for transgender teens, children, and adults.

In her remarkable memoir, Jazz reflects on these very public experiences and how they have helped shape the mainstream attitude toward the transgender community. But it hasn’t all been easy. Jazz has faced many challenges, bullying, discrimination, and rejection, yet she perseveres as she educates others about her life as a transgender teen. Through it all, her family has been beside her on this journey, standing together against those who don’t understand the true meaning of tolerance and unconditional love. Now Jazz must learn to navigate the physical, social, and emotional upheavals of adolescence—particularly high school—complicated by the unique challenges of being a transgender teen. Making the journey from girl to woman is never easy—especially when you began your life in a boy’s body.

 

 

beyond magentaBeyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin

A groundbreaking work of LGBT literature takes an honest look at the life, love, and struggles of transgender teens.

Author and photographer Susan Kuklin met and interviewed six transgender or gender-neutral young adults and used her considerable skills to represent them thoughtfully and respectfully before, during, and after their personal acknowledgment of gender preference. Portraits, family photographs, and candid images grace the pages, augmenting the emotional and physical journey each youth has taken. Each honest discussion and disclosure, whether joyful or heartbreaking, is completely different from the other because of family dynamics, living situations, gender, and the transition these teens make in recognition of their true selves.

“Not for Everyone”: The continuing marginalization of LGBTQ literature for kids, a guest post by M.G. Hennessey

sjyalitToday we are happy to share this post from author M.G. Hennessey as part of our Social Justice in YA Lit Project. Her book, The Other Boy, came out in 2016 and is about 12-year-old Shane, who is transgender. You can find out more about the #SJYALit Project here or by searching the hashtag here at TLT.

 

 

 

RUN“The story contains many references to Bo being bisexual and an abundance of bad language, so it is recommended for mature junior and senior high readers.”

 

This dire warning was part of a review for Kody Keplinger’s book Run. Bad language aside, the implication in the review is that the mere presence of a bisexual character is reason enough to steer clear. On Tumblr, author Tristina Wright summarized it nicely by saying, “When you tell children that mentions of bisexuality in a YA book require[s] a content warning, you tell them they are something Other. That their orientation is something to be ashamed of, to warn others about, that they’re not good. That they’re wrong and unacceptable.”

 

I read a wide range of young adult literature, and never once have I been warned off a book because of heterosexual characters behaving in a heterosexual manner. This disparity exists because of the mistaken perception that LGBTQ themed books are really about sex, not personal identity. There seems to be a double standard when it comes to LGBTQ themed literature. Consider this: Wonder was not specifically marketed toward kids with mandibulofacial dysostosis, and The Crossover wasn’t simply intended for African-American children. So why are stories about LGBTQ children often treated differently?

 

Books like Run aspire to achieve the sort of mainstream acceptance that Wonder and The Crossover have. Yet all too frequently, they end up on the LGBTQ shelf in libraries and bookstores. That’s not to say that they don’t belong there, but they should also be shelved with other new releases. And that’s still rarely the case. After all, you don’t see many “People of Color” or “Differently-Abled Character” themed tables in the same stores. And the sad truth is that many cisgender, heterosexual children do not gravitate toward the LGBTQ table, because they simply don’t think it applies to them. So essentially, these books are being held back from most of the population.

 

While in the past couple of years there has been a positive move toward publishing more diverse books for kids, on a wider range of themes, this type of ghettoization remains a problem. The “We Need Diverse Books” movement has nudged the industry in the right direction, but until reviewers and other gatekeepers catch up, it remains a partial victory.

 

other boyI experienced something similar with The Other Boy, the story of a transgender boy who gets outed after living stealth. Kirkus concluded their review with, “This is the story with a triumphant-but-realistic ending that trans kids haven’t had enough of.” Frankly, I cringed. It was exactly what I’d been afraid of; that a book about a transgender boy’s struggles would be regarded as only appropriate for kids exactly like him. While I’m delighted that transgender and gender expansive kids can see themselves reflected in my main character, that’s not the primary reason I wrote the book. My larger hope was that it would provide a window into the life of a transgender boy for all kids; after all, the bullying he suffers as a result is something most of them can relate to. And being transgender is not the only challenge he confronts over the course of the story; he also has to navigate divorced parents, his first crush, and issues with his best friend. These are all struggles that should speak to the vast majority of tweens.

 

The assumption seems to be that the mainstream population isn’t interested in these types of stories; that despite the merits of a book, it doesn’t deserve a widespread audience sheerly because of its content.

 

I’d hoped we’d be past this by now, but the Run incident and my own personal experience have proven otherwise. I’d recommend that book reviewers take a moment to replace “bisexual” or “transgender” with “hetero” or “African American,” and see if it reads as offensive. If our goal is to open kids’ eyes to the wider world, to help them to understand and empathize with characters whose lives and experiences might differ from their own, then books that deal thoughtfully with those themes should be accorded the same level of respect and treatment as Wonder. “Try kindness” is not something that’s limited to one particular group; it’s something we should all aspire to. And until books with LGBTQ characters receive the same treatment as the Dork Diaries, we will not have achieved full equality.

 

Meet M.G. Hennessey

M.G. Hennessey is the author of The Other Boy, an upper middle grade debut about a 12 yo transgender boy who is living stealth after his transition. Described by Transparent creator Jill Soloway as, “A terrific read for all ages,” The Other Boy won a spot on the Rainbow List as one of the best LGBTQ-themed novels of 2017. M.G. is an ally and supporter of the Transgender Law Center, Gender Spectrum, and the Human Rights Campaign; she also volunteers at the Los Angeles LGBT Center. She lives in Los Angeles. (She/Her)

Book Review: Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham

Publisher’s description

dreamlandSome bodies won’t stay buried.
Some stories need to be told.

When seventeen-year-old Rowan Chase finds a skeleton on her family’s property, she has no idea that investigating the brutal century-old murder will lead to a summer of painful discoveries about the past… and the present.

Nearly one hundred years earlier, a misguided violent encounter propels seventeen-year-old Will Tillman into a racial firestorm. In a country rife with violence against blacks and a hometown segregated by Jim Crow, Will must make hard choices on a painful journey towards self discovery and face his inner demons in order to do what’s right the night Tulsa burns.

Through intricately interwoven alternating perspectives, Jennifer Latham’s lightning-paced page-turner brings the Tulsa race riot of 1921 to blazing life and raises important question about the complex state of US race relations – both yesterday and today.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

That description up there does not at all capture how completely absorbing this book is. Which is good, because it also doesn’t give too much away and you’ll get to discover on your own just how compelling and unpredictable this story is.

 

Narrative duties are split between contemporary teenager Rowan, a biracial girl (her dad is white, her mom is black) in Tulsa and William, a 17-year-old in Tulsa in 1921. William is also biracial–his dad his white and his mother is Osage Indian. The bulk of the story is really William’s, though Rowan and her friend James (who is also biracial–black and Native American–and asexual) do the investigating that starting putting pieces of the mystery together. Rowan has her own story line, too—it’s just not as big as William’s. James calls Rowan out for living in a bubble. James is into social justice and immigration reform and doesn’t let Rowan get away with statements like “things are better now.” He schools her about racism, power, and privilege, leading her to taking a summer job at a clinic in an impoverished area (that’s less dangerous than just forgotten, she notes) when her other internship falls through. Here, she befriends people she otherwise wouldn’t have known. And though they are set nearly 100 years apart, it’s no surprise that the racism that drives William’s story is also a strong force in Rowan’s story. An unexpected incident propels Rowan to action—and, surprisingly, begins to weave her story more tightly with William’s.

 

William, who we follow in 1921, is sort of thoughtlessly racist, as you might expect a young boy in Tulsa, Oklahoma at this time to be. Language of the era permeates his story, with terms like “mongrel,” “half-breed,” “Negro,” and the n-word frequently used. William instigates a scene at a local speakeasy when he sees the white girl he likes hanging around with a black boy. He doesn’t think what consequences his actions may have when he and his friend lie and say he was attacked by the boy. But soon, he does start to think more about racism, and begins to look beyond the expectations of how a white boy in this era should act and think, when he meets siblings Joseph and Ruby Goodhope. William meets them at his father’s Victrola shop, where, despite Jim Crow laws, they sometimes sell to black people on the sly. And while William’s dad agrees to sell Joseph a Victrola, and even allows him to finance it, he won’t write him a receipt—he can’t risk the proof of the sale falling into the wrong hands. It’s through this sale, and the issue of the receipt, that William and the Goodhope siblings begin to interact. Young Ruby, who is irritating in that special way that pesky little sisters can be, starts to grow on William. So when things come to a head in his town and the KKK and other white citizens begin rounding up black people, killing them, and burning their neighborhoods, William’s first concern is making sure Joseph and Ruby are safe. And while we know the skeleton under Rowan’s family’s guest cottage floor belongs to someone from William’s story, we’re not sure who. Nothing is revealed quickly, and just when you think you’re sure you’ve figured it out, Latham reveals unexpected details that make you throw that theory out.

 

Maintaining two timelines with two narrators and keeping both equally interesting is not an easy task. Latham ties the stories together enough that we see parallels without being hit over the head with them. Both narrators are complicated, interesting figures, but seeing William’s emotional and intellectual journey is the far more satisfying story. Equally as satisfying is how Latham brings us to the end of the mystery. The tight pacing and action-packed, unpredictable plot make this book fly by. An author’s note at the end tells more about the race riots in Tulsa in 1921 and examines the controversial term. The note also points out a few resources for further reading. This book—a contemporary story, historical fiction, and a mystery, all at once—will have wide appeal. A gripping look at a shameful time in America’s history and (not that we need it) a reminder of how slow progress really is. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780316384933

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Publication date: 02/21/2017

#SJYALIt: Socio-Economic Diversity in YA Lit

As part of our Social Justice in YA Lit Project, we are inviting guest bloggers to share their thoughts, feelings, books, programs and more. Today, Rachael Allen and Sarah Lemon are discussing socio-economic diversity in YA lit.

I remember sitting in sophomore English and hating Holden Caufield. This kid had every advantage, but he was failing out of some fancy prep school, and we had to listen to him whine about it for 214 pages, while we jumped through academic hoops and wondered if we’d ever be able to scrape together enough for college and a ticket to a new life*. In a sea of books with middle and upper middle class main characters, I desperately wanted books about kids like me.

I still want those books.

sjyalit

So, I was really excited when Sarah Lemon agreed to write a list of “Favorite YA’s with Socioeconomic Diversity” with me. Here are our recs:

Rachael’s Recs:

socio1DREAM THINGS TRUE by Marie Marquardt

Evan and Alma are from two different worlds, but you can’t read this book without rooting for them to be together. My favorite parts were Alma’s big, warm Mexican family, seeing her life juxtaposed against Evan’s privileged one, and the intersection of living in a lower income family and being an undocumented immigrant. I’m embarrassed to admit how little I knew about immigration before reading this book, and it’s clear Marie Marquardt is an expert. She’s also an expert at weaving all of this information into the narrative effortlessly – it’s rare to find a book that you devour that also opens your mind with every page.

socio2NO PLACE TO FALL by Jaye Robin Brown

This book has stunningly beautiful descriptions of Appalachia and characters that you won’t be able to get out of your head, but my absolute favorite part is Amber’s spirit. Sometimes it seems like all the kids who don’t have a lot of money are hard and angry and cynical – and sometimes that’s true to life, but sometimes it isn’t. Some people remain dreamers no matter the situation, and that’s why Amber was such a breath of fresh air. She’s a girl who brings brownies to travelers on the Appalachian Trail so she can hear their stories, who keeps a map tacked to her bedroom wall, who’s going to sing her way out of her small town. And I love her for it.

socio5ELEANOR AND PARK by Rainbow Rowell

The first time I read this book, I ugly cried at lunch. The second time, I knew better than to read it in public.

I love this book for so many reasons. Because Rainbow Rowell can make you feel like holding someone’s hand on the bus is everything. Because this was the first time I saw my childhood mirrored in a book, and it meant so much it made me cry. And because poor kids and misfits deserve epic love stories too.

Things that were particularly well done: Never having quite enough of anything (food, clothes, etc.). Eleanor keeps a wooden crate with fancy markers and things in the top of her closet. The idea that a crate that fruit came in is an item to be treasured is something I really connected with. Also, the idea of not wanting to share something because it’s your only nice thing. The idea that a song or a comic or a book can be the thing that gets you through because it helps you escape, even for a minute. Also, bad stepdads, and moms who sacrifice their children for a guy they just met, and wanting to get out of your house so badly, and founding members, and feeling like you carry the burden of your parents’ mistakes directly on your shoulders.

Note: For another perspective, see Ellen Oh’s critique of this book.

socio6THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexie

This book is hilarious. And very sad. Often at the same time. I loved Alexie’s voice and wit, his portrayal of life on a reservation, and the way he challenges stereotypes. Arnold such a smart, funny kid, and it was really fun to spend a book inside his head. I really liked that he wanted to use school as a vehicle to get someplace else (he gets his parents to allow him to attend a school outside the reservation). I thought the parts of the book where Arnold acclimates to the fancy high school in the next town over, feeling like you have to hide your poor, the flack he catches back home, were very well done. Also, Arnold’s thoughts about tribes and belonging and life make me want to read this book again and again and again.

morehappythannotMORE HAPPY THAN NOT by Adam Silvera

I know the Bronx is a far cry from a small Georgia town, but I feel like Adam Silvera captured a piece of my childhood with this book – the parts about spending hours and hours outside with the neighborhood kids playing games you made up (and, yeah, maybe it’s because you don’t have a lot of money, but it’s also because it’s really freaking fun). And then there’s the part where Aaron can’t afford to buy the comic. I full on sobbed reading this scene. I wanted to reach through the pages and hug him and say, “I’ve been there, buddy. It’ll be okay, I promise.” This book has important things to say about being gay in a poor community. It also has a love story that will squeeze your heart, and a twist that totally punched me in the face (I was legit embarrassed I didn’t see it coming – I am usually so good at guessing twists).

My favorite part, though, was the love between Aaron and his mother. She’s a nurse, and she works her butt off, and she’s an amazing mom. I just loved that. Because here’s a thing – good people, smart people, loving people can still be poor. I get so frustrated when the media makes all the stories with poverty have parents who are alcoholics and drug addicts and bad people who make worse decisions. And it’s not that you won’t find people like that out there in real life, but when those are the only stories we tell, it gets so easy to imagine that every person who lives their life below middle class deserves to be there because of their own bad choices, and that simply isn’t true. So, yeah, I loved Aaron’s mom quite a lot.

socio7WHEN WE COLLIDED by Emery Lord

Jonah’s story is different from the others on my list. When his dad died, his family was plunged into a completely different financial situation. This happens to lots of families for lots of reasons – divorce, death, family illness and mounting medical bills. I think it’s important to show that having a low income is not always a permanent state. I think Lord does an excellent job of painting a picture of what this change is like for Jonah and his family. Everyone had to make sacrifices. Everyone had to grow up a little faster. Jonah and his two older siblings have to become insta-adults overnight. This is a reality for so many kids – having to be an adult before your time – and I loved the portrayal of it here. Also, Jonah has a heart of gold, and the love story is amazing, and this book has beautiful and important things to say about mental health, so. Read it.

socio8SHINE by Lauren Myracle

Myracle does the South like nobody else, and SHINE is no exception. This book captures every good and every gritty piece that makes up Cat and Patrick’s rural North Carolina town – small mindedness and homophobia, moonshine, church ladies, small town politics, grandmothers who can make almost anything better, sweeping class differences, gossip, meth, and the hate crime that Cat is desperate to solve. I love that the characters are so complex – never all good or all bad – even for the characters you expect to be completely unredeemable. I also loved Cat and Patrick’s friendship.

socio9JUST VISITING by Dahlia Adler

I have a special love for books with friendships that have all the power of a love story. This is one of those books. Reagan and Victoria mean everything to each other – they’re each other’s support system in their small town. And for Reagan, who lives in a trailer park and is fighting like anything to go to college, their friendship is the thing that refills her well, that feeds her toughness. Sometimes one person believing in you is the thing that changes all the other things, and I loved how Adler painted these two girls and their relationship. I ship them harder than any star-crossed lovers.

Sarah’s Recs:

socio10SUCH A RUSH by Jennifer Echols

It’s a principal of poverty—if you want to do something cool, you must try and weasel your way into a job that gives you access. For Leah Jones it means a job at a small, private airport until she works her way into flying advertising banners over her beach town. Leah’s home and economic situation have an impact on her life, but it’s not the story. The story is Leah gets to have a hot angsty romance. That is genuinely precious when we’re talking about books with kids in poverty. I highlighted this particular title, but many of Echol’s books involve lower to middle class protagonists. They’re smart, diverse, hilarious, and everyone gets to have hot romances. Teenage me, needed that.

socio11THE SMELL OF OTHER PEOPLE’S HOUSES by Bonnie Sue Hitchcock

This book surprised me. It has a beautiful, but sort-of snoozy cover. A beautiful, but sort-of snoozy title. I got it from the library and it sat around. Once I started reading it, I was hooked. This is an Alaskan book. Oh-so-Alaskan. Centering on four very different teens in the 1970’s, the book captures Alaska’s unique perspective by capturing the unique diversity and commonalities of the character’s experiences as Alaskans. My sister lives in Alaska, so I’m familiar with this difference every time I have to listen forty minutes of talk about the salmon run. The Native representation (“I’m Athabascan!”) is not to be devalued here, in my opinion, because it shows a broad range of families and a nuanced portrayal of non mono-lithic indigenous culture. Not just the stereotype, and not just the ideal minority. It shows modern Native families, in the minutiae of living as modern Alaskan natives. Again, poverty is depicted throughout (both white and non-white families) without being the focal point.

Note: For another perspective, see Debbie Reese’s critique of this book.

socio13THE SERPENT KING by Jeff Zentner

Being poor and religious is often like getting beat with two bats at once. As a child, having religious parents means you might not have access to things like supplemental food stamps, WIC assistance, or school lunches. It can also mean, if you are disenfranchised from your religious community, you have no alternative means of support. This is Dill’s situation. And the grace and care with which Zentner handles Dill’s situation is one that will always remain special to me. Poverty and religious issues are things easily exploited for plot gains, and Zentner resists that pitfall.

Note: Rachael jumping in to say I am in love with this book too and wholeheartedly recommend it! Even if it did break me.

socio14AFTER THE FALL by Kate Hart

I was so excited to read this book by a fellow 2017 debut author. One of my favorite things is how Raychel “on paper” is a stereotype (white, poor, southern, has a “reputation”, child of a single mother, also with a reputation, living in a trailer) and through Hart’s excellent storytelling and prose, we see a complex, dynamic individual that I recognize immediately as being of my own kind. That Raychel’s survival is not exploited is doubly important when talking about this book, due to the content of sexual assault.

socio12SALVAGE THE BONES by Jesmyn Ward

This is not a YA book, but I feel like teenage me would have needed this book, would have been broken over this book in a way all the Sarah Dessen novels in the world could have never broken me (no offense to Sarah Dessen! All the love for Sarah Dessen! How many times can I say Sarah Dessen?). The plot of this book follows a teenage girl who is grappling with the knowledge she is pregnant, while keeping track of her family (which includes their pitbull who just had puppies), as Hurricane Katrina forms and moves into their Louisiana existence. The language of this books is the language I speak—the flip between country talk and words you’ve read, can use, and can’t pronounce. There are SO. MANY. INDICATORS of authentic rural poverty here—the ramen (if you know what I’m talking about seriously, we’re friends for life), the outdoors, the boys, the relationship with your animals, and the recognition of kinship between girl and bitch. The thing that truly makes me want to classify this as crossover YA, is that it doesn’t carry the hopelessness and despair adult books often carry. Hope remains. Hope that does not depend on a change of circumstances. This book maintains that hope even until the last pages, where fate is left still unknown, the way it truly is to a fifteen-year-old girl, regardless of her present circumstances.

socio15CRAZY HORSE’S EX-GIRLFRIEND by Erika T. Wurth

My personal opinion is that this is actually darker than SALVAGE THE BONES, but this one is categorized as YA. (I know why, I just…………*shrug*). This book follows Margaritte, a seventeen-year-old Native American (Apache, Chickasaw, Cherokee, and white) looking at the cycle of poverty, abuse, despair and drug abuse without necessarily being able to escape it. The level of nuance here—in both recognizing the cycle, repeating the cycle, condemning the cycle and condoning the cycle—is so authentically real. Even when poverty itself is removed from a teen or an adult, the cycle of poverty (or abuse, etc.) is not and this book depicts that cycle so vividly, without ever quite losing hope for Margaritte. In the end, the circumstances worsen but the hope rises, which again….real for days, man. REAL. FOR. DAYS.

Given the current state of our nation, I think it’s more important than ever for us to read diverse and #ownvoices books, to plunk ourselves into the worlds of marginalized people so we can decrease our ignorance and increase our empathy. I think socioeconomic diversity is a type of diversity that is often overlooked, and my hope is that there will be more and more stories that feature these characters, stories that show a range of the spectrum of life that is not middle and upper class, and stories that show class intersected with other types of marginalization.

What books are you reading that show socioeconomic diversity? What are you hoping to see in the future?

*Before everyone gets mad, I have read THE CATCHER IN THE RYE as a grown up, and I realize I missed a few things.

Meet Our Guest Bloggers

Rachael Allen
Rachael Allen lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband, two children, and two sled dogs. In addition to being a YA writer, she’s a mad scientist, a rabid Falcons fan, an expert dare list maker, and a hugger. Rachael is the author of THE REVENGE PLAYBOOK and 17 FIRST KISSES (HarperTeen).
Sarah Nicole Lemon
Born and raised in the Appalachians, Sarah Nicole Lemon spent the first fifteen years of her life doing nothing but reading and playing outside, and has yet to outgrow either. When not writing, you can find her drinking iced coffee in a half-submerged beach chair near her home in southern Maryland. Sarah is the author of the forthcoming DONE DIRT CHEAP (Amulet, March 2017).

 

More on Hunger and Poverty at TLT

Hunger and Poverty

Additional Sources:

Social Mobility:

Cycles of Poverty:

How Poverty Affects Schools:

Book Review: The Time Museum by Matthew Loux, a guest post by Callum (age 10)

If you follow me on Twitter (@CiteSomething), then you’re familiar with my extremely entertaining 10-year-old son, Callum. He’s a big fan of graphic novels and recently has started pulling books out of my TBR pile. It’s fun to get book mail and have so much of it either appeal now to him or know it will soon. He’s excited to write his first review post for TLT. I suspect we’ll see more from him in the future. He’s already been on the cover of a magazine and on an episode of The Longest Shortest Time (episode 50, “Mom, It’s Time We Had The Talk”). He loves when people react to stuff I tweet about him. He says it all adds to his “fame.” Have I mentioned he’s super entertaining and loves attention? Anyway, here’s his review.

Publisher’s description

time-museumThe internship program at the Time Museum is a little unusual. For one thing, kids as young as twelve get to apply for these prestigious summer jobs. And as for the applicant pool . . . well, these kids come from all over history.

When Delia finds herself working at the Time Museum, the last thing she expects is to be sent on time-traveling adventures with an unlikely gang of kids from across the eons. From a cave-boy to a girl from the distant future, Delia’s team represents nearly all of human history! They’re going to need all their skills for the challenge they’ve got in store . . . defending the Time Museum itself!

 

 

Callum’s thoughts

Plot:

There’s this girl named Delia and she starts out at school pretty much. It’s the last day of school. They go to her uncle’s house and her parents say they’re going to go to the store or something like that. They go to take her brother to a pool. She’s busy being a nerd and looking at moss and mold and sees an extinct bird. She chases it and catches it. Then she sees a gate in front of her. It says it’s a time museum. She says gates are made for being opened, right? Delia holds the bird and goes in there. There’s like aliens and weird slug-humans and stuff. When she walks into the building, she sees her parents there. She says, “What are you guys doing here?” They’re like, oh, she finally found it! Found what? They say, we’ve been hiding this from you for a while. It was hard to hide! Delia wonders where her brother is. He’s at the gift shop. She goes in to search for him and finds that her uncle owns the museum.

 

Her uncle and her talk for a while about how he hid it and he tells her about all sorts of stuff about the museum. He makes her come with him. There’s another girl they meet. She’s from the way way future from Tokyo. Her name is Michiko. They become close friends even though they’ll have to be rivals in something fancy for the museum. The next day Delia goes to get a thing done on her so she can speak pretty much any language. They have to travel through time to finish these trials to complete this task thing.

 

First they go to the Cretaceous period and meet a creepy man, called The Grey Earl, who gives them a stone and says it’s a good luck charm. She walks away to save friends from dinosaurs and after the trial they get in trouble for being off task and nearly getting eaten by three T-Rexes. They do some more trials. They go to London for the final trial. That stone that guy gave her starts to glow and there’s a huge split in the sky—stuff is being sucked up in the sky. They all take cover. She goes through the portal in the sky then she sees that guy in there, The Grey Earl. They have a conversation and he asks how she got there. She shows him the stone that he gave her. She leaves the portal and runs to friends and the portal stops.

 

The ending is she’s off with her friends and telling them about the museum. Her fancy watch starts to glow. Delia runs around the corner and a friend follows her, but she’s just gone. Delia teleports into the museum. She crashes into a portrait that is half covered. She sees that The Grey Earl is one of the founders of museum. The back says there will be a book two.

 

Other things:

I liked the cool electronics that they used.
I liked that they travel through time to other periods and places.
The art was really good.
The story was kind of fast-paced and kept my attention.
It’s cool that it’s a girl main character.

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781596438491

Publisher: First Second

Publication date: 02/21/2017

Series: Time Museum Series, #1

Book Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas + Giveaway

Publisher’s description

hate-uInspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, Angie Thomas’s searing debut about an ordinary girl in extraordinary circumstances addresses issues of racism and police violence with intelligence, heart, and unflinching honesty. Soon to be a major motion picture from Fox 2000/Temple Hill Productions.

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

hate u

 

If you routinely read my book reviews here, you might be thinking, dang, does she just LOOOOOVE every single book or what? Yes and no. Yes, I generally really like every book I review here. No, I don’t love all books. I’m in the fortunate position to get a ton of books sent to me to consider reviewing for TLT. I am under no obligation to review any title (as opposed to, say, reviewing for SLJ, where I review whatever I’m sent and may not end up liking the book). If I start something and it’s not for me, I ditch it. Unless I really have something to say about a book that I don’t like, I’m not going to waste my time reading it or reviewing it. Because why.

 

All that’s to say, here comes another gushing review.

 

This book is so important. It’s also so good, but it’s SO IMPORTANT. And I’d say it’s timely, but violence against black people—specifically police violence against black people—is not a new thing. So the story feels very “ripped from the headlines,” but the damn headlines never change. The names of black people murdered by police officers pile up and you know that list is only going to get longer. So yeah, this book feels very of right now—but “right now” is actually a pretty long period of time. It’s things like the mentions of Twitter, of increased media attention on protests and victims’ stories, Tumblr, and other very contemporary things that make it feel like it’s happening RIGHT NOW, right this very second. Again, chalk that up to the fact that the date might change, but the story never does. Plenty of 90s references (thanks to Chris and Starr’s love of Fresh Prince and her parents’ interests and influence) help add to the feel of being timely and timeless all at once. This book will age well, and I write that while heaving a big sigh, because, again, in real life, the damn story never changes.

 

You can read the summary up there if you need to see the gist of the story, but I’m guessing you’ve already read or heard about it elsewhere. This book is all over the place, and rightfully so. I am rarely speechless, but this book left me just wrung out. Thomas puts you right there with Starr and does not hold back. The characters absolutely leap off the page, pulling the reader right in to every single person’s piece of the story. There is not a character who doesn’t feel well-developed and vital to this novel. Thomas gives readers a LOT to think about as we follow Starr’s story. What does it mean for Starr to live in Garden Heights, a predominately black neighborhood marked by drugs and gangs, but go to school at nearly all-white Williamson Prep? How does she code switch as she bounces between her two worlds and who does she show her actual self to? What does it mean for her that her boyfriend is white? How does casual racism play a role in her school life? Why would her family choose to stay in Garden Heights so long when they are financially able to leave if they wanted to? Why would someone sell drugs? Or join a gang? How do you leave that life? And on and on. There is so much to consider, so much that makes this more than just some simple look at the fallout from the death of a black boy at the hands of a white cop. 

 

There’s so much more I could tell you about–Starr’s wonderful and supportive family, the complex interactions between gang members (and ex-gang members), the way you will be cheering out loud when Starr finally finds her voice and begins to speak out about what happened–but the bottom line of all of it is this: This book is profound. It is important. It manages to be funny and devastating at the same time. This intense look at systemic racism, police violence/accountability, and the lives of people affected by both needs to be read by everyone. EVERYONE. It’s only February, but I’d go so far as to say that this is probably the most important book of 2017. 

 

Because we at TLT find this book to be so important and want to help it reach more readers, we are giving away five copies when it comes out. Head on over to the Rafflecopter to enter. Contest ends Friday, February 24. Five winners. US ONLY. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

ISBN-13: 9780062498533

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publication date: 02/28/2017

Book Review: The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera

Publisher’s description

educationPretty in Pink comes to the South Bronx in this bold and romantic coming-of-age novel about dysfunctional families, good and bad choices, and finding the courage to question everything you ever thought you wanted—from debut author Lilliam Rivera.

Things/People Margot Hates:
Mami, for destroying her social life
Papi, for allowing Junior to become a Neanderthal
Junior, for becoming a Neanderthal
The supermarket
Everyone else

After “borrowing” her father’s credit card to finance a more stylish wardrobe, Margot Sanchez suddenly finds herself grounded. And by grounded, she means working as an indentured servant in her family’s struggling grocery store to pay off her debts.

With each order of deli meat she slices, Margot can feel her carefully cultivated prep school reputation slipping through her fingers, and she’s willing to do anything to get out of this punishment. Lie, cheat, and maybe even steal…

Margot’s invitation to the ultimate beach party is within reach and she has no intention of letting her family’s drama or Moises—the admittedly good looking but outspoken boy from the neighborhood—keep her from her goal.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

Puerto Rican Margot, who can’t escape her childhood nickname of Princesa, is not thrilled to be spending the summer working at her family’s supermarket in the South Bronx. She had hoped to spend the summer in the Hamptons with her prep school classmates, popular Serena and Camille. That plan fell apart when her parents discovered she stole their credit card and charged a bunch of clothes. Margot, a social climber who’s more than just a little arrogant when we meet her, can’t believe Papi expects her to do actual work while at the supermarket. While there, she meets Moises Tirado, a young community activist who helms a table outside of the store working on getting signatures for a petition to stop a housing complex from being torn down and replaced by high-end condos. Though Margot is drawn to Moises, she looks down on him. Her snooty school friends would never approve. Margot isn’t interested in learning about gentrification or any of the other social justice issues Moises is into. She’s appalled by where he lives. He’s working on his GED. Margot’s family is relatively well off (they are “rich adjacent”) and she’s seen as “the great brown hope” for her family, the one who will become a doctor or a lawyer. Her mother warns her that people are judged by the company they keep, but she can’t help but continue to be interested in Moises.

 

But an “inappropriate” crush and a summer stuck working at a grocery store turn out to be the least of Margot’s worries as a whole bunch of family secrets, stress, and denial finally come to the surface and demand to be dealt with. She’s forced to really reckon with the feeling that she just doesn’t fit in anywhere and start to sort out who it is she wants to be. While many of the secondary characters are rather undeveloped, Margot is complicated and flawed. She makes mistakes and is often insufferably self-absorbed. I wish rather than seeing so many subplots, there would’ve been less going on, but had more pieces explored more in-depth (like her friendships, especially with her former best friend, or more about Moises’s activism and past). The vivid setting and many issues make this a fast read about family, identity, and culture that will appeal to many, including reluctant readers. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

ISBN-13: 9781481472111

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers

Publication date: 02/21/2017

Middle School Monday: Short Stories + Book Covers = Creativity

MSM1

I love short stories. I love them as a reader* and I’m excited at their potential for us as librarians. Short stories give us an accessible way into ELA classrooms with a bite-sized unit that we can connect to the curriculum by exploring figurative language, plot devices, or vocabulary. Using excellent short story collections like Flying Lessons (Oh, 2017) or Open Mic (Perkins, 2013) are a double—and necessary—win as we can introduce #ownvoices authors into the classroom…and the literary canon.

From Open Mic, I’ve been reading Under Berlin by G. Neri with both 7th and 8th grade classes. Under Berlin is a warm, engaging short story in verse that underscores issues of prejudice in a humorous and unexpected way.

It takes us only one class lesson to read [with some background discussion on the city of Berlin]. During the next class, we move to designing book covers.

Bor-ing, you may be thinking. Perhaps you’ve been including the option of creating book covers as a culminating project choice on your novels for years.

I’m standing by this lesson! Here’s why—and why I was excited about how this lesson worked.

  1. Individual short stories typically HAVE NO cover, so there is a completely blank slate. Students have no preconceived version of what the cover for a short story should look like.
  2. We began by looking at a sampling of covers from books I brought to the classroom. What did they have in common? What was the book ‘selling’? Which covers were the most successful? Why were some author names SO BIG? We talked about images. Fonts. Colors.
  3. To create our covers, we used Google Drawings, which I think sells itself short with its own name. I told my students to think of it as Google Design instead. After a lightning quick tutorial [The best way to learn a digital tool? Play with it yourself.], each student got to work. I mean, play.
  4. The finished covers were fascinating. Besides an obvious affinity for the Permanent Marker font and atmospheric subway photos, the covers were structurally different. Most focused on the setting, but I loved how several students were intent on finding a family or female teen [the narrator] to include on the cover that was reflective.
  5. My favorite part? The students who I felt had the strongest covers were not students who usually were receiving top grades in ELA. While I displayed all the covers, I separated the strongest covers under a Bestseller List tag.

UB_list

We need to continually provide alternate access points for students to connect with literature and language besides simply writing about it afterwards [or annotatingshudder]. Hopefully, this mini-project worked in this way. In fact, every time I do a short story with students, I think I will include this activity, at the very least as an option for a culminating mini-project. The options for digital tools are vast. [Canva would be an exciting choice.]

*I grew up despising short stories. They were so depressing! Recent collections have changed my views on the format. Please don’t only use the short stories we were taught in school. [Another, bigger shudder.] Go get a class set of the wonderful Flying Lessons instead!

I’m Julie Stivers at @BespokeLib—have a great week!

Friday Finds: February 17, 2017

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: Muslim Voices

Middle School Monday: Spy on History Blog Tour and Giveaway

Book Review: American Street by Ibi Zoboi

Dr. Bully, a guest post by M.G. Hennessey

Everything, Everything Movie Trailer is Here!

TPiB: 3 cheap and easy after school programs

#SJYALit Hello, I’m Your Social Justice Librarian, a guest post by Perlita Payne

Book Review: We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

Around the Web

12-Year-Old Marley Dias Signs Book Deal To Write Kids Activism Guide

21 YA Books For Black History Month

Young Adult Author Nina LaCour on Why You Shouldn’t Talk Down to Your Readers

Philip Pullman to Release First Volume in New ‘Book of Dust’ Trilogy

The 2016 Cybils Winners!

 

 

Books for Trying Times: A Resource List compiled by members of KidLit Resists!

aram kim

Art by Aram Kim Available for use here http://ow.ly/d/5Q4v

Today’s list of resources is brought to you by the members of KidLit Resists! We’re a Facebook group for members of the KidLit community (authors, illustrators, editors, youth librarians, booksellers, and others who create and support picture books, MG books, and YA books) who wish to organize against the current administration’s agenda and support those communities targeted by the administration.

 

If you have other resources to suggest, please put them in the comments or tag me on Twitter, where I’m @CiteSomething.

 

 

 

KidLit Resource List – Books for Trying Times
Compiled by members of the KidLit Resists! Facebook page

 

Lists of recommended books

 

Jane Addams Peace Award books (1953 – present) “The Jane Addams Children’s Book Award annually recognizes children’s books of literary and aesthetic excellence that effectively engage children in thinking about peace, social justice, global community, and equity for all people.”

 

35 Picture Books for Young Activists (from All The Wonders)

 

BOOK LIST: PICTURE BOOKS ABOUT MUSLIM OR MIDDLE EASTERN CHARACTERS (from Lee & Low Books)

 

8 Empowering Middle Grade Novels for Kids Interested in Social Justice (from Barnes & Noble)

 

KitaabWorld: South Asian and diverse children’s books

 

The Brown Bookshelf: United in Story

 

AMELIA BLOOMER PROJECT: RECOMMENDED FEMINIST LITERATURE FOR BIRTH THROUGH 18

 

Refugee picture books (on Pinterest)

 

20 BOOKS ABOUT REFUGEE & IMMIGRANT EXPERIENCES (from All The Wonders)

 

EMPATHY: STEAD’S COMMON THREAD (from All The Wonders)

 

STORIES ABOUT REFUGEES: A YA READING LIST (from Stacked)

 

Activist biographies (YA)

 

TEN YOUNG ADULT BOOKS THAT REFLECT THE US IMMIGRATION EXPERIENCE (from Nerdy Book Club)

 

Books That Respect Kids with Unique Abilities (from All The Wonders)

 

Girl-empowering Books (from A Mighty Girl)

 

We Need Diverse Books

 

Penny Candy Books: A Mission Becomes a Moral Directive (from Publishers Weekly)

 

Teaching Tolerance – a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center

 

30 Of The Best Books To Teach Children Empathy (from TeachThought)

 

19 books to help children find hope and strength in stressful times: A librarian’s list (from The Washington Post)

 

13 Books to Teach Children About Protesting and Activism (from GeekMom)

 

Books inspiring activism and tolerance

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Their Great Gift: Courage, Sacrifice, and Hope in a New Land by John Coy, photos by Wing Young Huie

March (trilogy) by John Lewis (Author), Andrew Aydin (Author), Nate Powell (Artist)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: I dissent by Debbie Levy

The Seeds of America Trilogy by Laurie Halse Anderson

Child of the Civil Rights Movement by Paula Young Shelton

This Side of Home by Renee Watson

Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo

The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

What Does It Mean To Be Kind? by Rana DiOrio

The Hunt (coming in 2/17) by Margaux Othats

A Gift From Greensboro by Quraysh Ali Lansana, illustrated by Skip Hill

Ambassador by William Alexander

Fred Korematsu Speaks Up by Laura Atkins and Stan Yogi, illustrations by Yutaka Houlette

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle

 

Recommendations for preschool storytime

A Chair For My Mother and sequels by Vera B. Williams

More, More, More Said the Baby by Vera B. Williams

A is for Activist and Counting on Community by Innosanto Nagara

The Bus for Us by Suzanne Bloom

Whoever You Are by Mem Fox

Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation by Edwidge Danticat, illustrated by Leslie Staub

Jacqueline Woodson’s picture books

Kadir Nelson’s picture books

SPPL