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Book Review: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez

Publisher’s description

i am not yourThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian meets Jane the Virgin in this poignant but often laugh-out-loud funny contemporary YA about losing a sister and finding yourself amid the pressures, expectations, and stereotypes of growing up in a Mexican-American home. 
 
Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents’ house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family.

But Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga’s role.

Then a tragic accident on the busiest street in Chicago leaves Olga dead and Julia left behind to reassemble the shattered pieces of her family. And no one seems to acknowledge that Julia is broken, too. Instead, her mother seems to channel her grief into pointing out every possible way Julia has failed.

But it’s not long before Julia discovers that Olga might not have been as perfect as everyone thought. With the help of her best friend Lorena, and her first kiss, first love, first everything boyfriend Connor, Julia is determined to find out. Was Olga really what she seemed? Or was there more to her sister’s story? And either way, how can Julia even attempt to live up to a seemingly impossible ideal?

 

Amanda’s thoughts

Julia is blunt, funny, sneaky, and also fairly miserable. Her sister, Olga, was recently killed and Julia feels more off-kilter than ever. She’s grieving, of course, but also intensely feeling her parents’ disappointment in her and trying to find ways to get a little breathing room, especially in respect to her judgmental and strict mother. All Julia wants to do is graduate and move to New York City to pursue her dream of becoming a writer, but it’s hard to feel like that dream could become a reality since her parents think a good daughter would be happy to continue living at home and attending community college. That’s what Olga did, and especially as far as her mother is concerned, Olga was perfect. Julia, who talks back, is unabashedly a feminist, and isn’t particularly concerned with consequences, knows she is far from her parents’ ideal. She carries that weight while trying to just live her life in spite of her grief and her increasing depression. And while Julia certainly doesn’t think she has her own life figured out, she did think she had Olga’s nailed: boring secretary who attends one class at a time and was her parents’ pride and joy. But while trying to get to know her now dead sister a little better, Julia must face the fact that she didn’t actually know her sister at all–that no one in their family did. Julia assembles clues based on her limited findings and follows them until she is able to put together a more realistic picture of who Olga was. 

 

Overall, I liked this book. Julia is a complex character. Her struggles as a first generation American teenager and as someone living in poverty are just as complex and well-drawn as she is. However, once I realized the part mental health would play in her story, I wanted more from it: I wanted it woven in throughout, instead of just kind of dropped in, and explored more fully. The plot suffers a bit from being overstuffed—not that she can’t have multiple things happening in her life at once (friends issues, grieving her sister, her first real boyfriend, mental health stuff, a trip to Mexico)—I kept wanting Julia to either really hone in on the mystery with her sister OR explore her grief and hopes for her own life more fully, something to make the plot feel tighter to me. Maybe it just needed to cover less time. At any rate, as a character-driven reader, Julia’s emotionally complicated journey held my attention even when the plot meandered. Her desire for something bigger in life as well as the reveal that people aren’t necessarily what they seem will resonate with teen readers. 

 

ISBN-13: 9781524700485
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Publication date: 10/17/2017

Book Review: Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga

When I’m reviewing books for professional publications, I stay quiet about them on social media. I’m always really excited once a review comes out to be able to talk about the book, finally! Here’s one of my most recent reviews, which originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of School Library Journal

 

 

Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga (ISBN-13: 9780062324702 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 11/07/2017)

here we are nowGr 9 Up—A deep dive into the history of a family she did not know she had shows 16-year-old Taliah Abdallat a great deal about things lost and found. Taliah has never known her father, but a few years back she began to suspect her dad was grunge god Julian Oliver (and not, as her mother, Lena, told her, just some guy back home with whom she had a fling). After sending him three years of unanswered letters, he appears while Taliah’s mother is in Paris, confirms his paternity, and whisks Taliah off to his hometown in Indiana, where his father is dying. Everything is happening so fast, and while Taliah doesn’t want to make it easy for Julian to suddenly be in her life, she is also desperate to learn the truth of her mother and Julian’s past. Taliah is a pianist and songwriter, and the two bond over music, as Taliah attempts to take her best friend Harlow’s advice and be open to letting people into her life. Julian and Taliah’s present and Julian and Lena’s past are woven together nicely, slowly revealing the full story of the parents’ romance and their falling out. Some secondary characters are underdeveloped and unnecessary, but the main characters are outstanding. The rushed ending, though not dissatisfying, leaves many unanswered questions. A music-packed look at how we grow, change, and define or redefine relationships. VERDICT This thoughtful look at finding one’s place, sometimes in the most surprising and unexpected ways, will have wide appeal.—Amanda MacGregor, Parkview Elementary School, Rosemount, MN

MakerSpace: Mixed Media Collage and Recycling Books

For a variety of reasons, libraries are just as much in the business of getting rid of books as they are purchasing them. One, having shelf space for the new means we have to get rid of the old. Many books become outdated, inaccurate, overly worn, and no longer popular. So yes, we discard books. In the Teen MakerSpace, we have been looking at ways to re-use some of these discarded books to make art. I’ve also been exploring the concept of mixed media, which I talked about some a couple of weeks ago.

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As the YA Services Coordinator at my library, I don’t just build collections but I have created our Teen MakerSpace and my job involves exploring, coordinating, and implementing new projects and stations to incorporate into the Teen MakerSpace to keep it fresh, interesting, and truly educational. Lately, because of the interests of our local teens, I have been looking at some more traditional art styles, including mixed media. Mixed media involves using a variety of techniques and tools to create a single piece of art. You can use basically anything, anything at all. For it to be truly mixed media, it has to by definition include more than one type of technique, tool or medium. The final product is often some type of collage. This is the example collage that I created (we have found that our teens like to have examples to help explain the project and inspire them).

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Supplies:

  • Book pages (here I used a couple of ARCs that I have received because you can’t resell them or add them to your collection)
  • Watercolor crayons
  • Watercolor paint
  • Acrylic stamps
  • Speedball screenprinting ink
  • A brayer
  • A Silhouette Cameo vinyl cutter
  • Permanent vinyl
  • Mod podge
  • A blank canvas

The glory of mixed media is that you kind of can’t mess up. I mean, there were individual pieces that I messed up, but then I just cast them aside and tried again. I painted pages and let them dry. After they dried I stamped on them using the stamps and screen printing ink. I ripped pages up and glued them down onto my blank canvas. I mod podged the entire thing. And then after it dried I used my vinyl cutter to make my lettering and then mod podged it again. I can’t draw and I can’t even read my own handwriting, so using stamps and the vinyl cutter let me create the effect I was looking for in a way that was stylish and I could proudly hang on my wall.

The picture of Emma Watson was a black and white illustration from the book What Would She Do? 25 Trailblazing Rebel Women. I used watercolor crayons to give them color. The words themselves are from a couple of pages of other books. It is important when doing something like this that you discuss copyright with your teens. I obviously couldn’t sell this piece, but it’s hanging right now on The Teen’s bedroom wall to inspire and empower her. She’s graciously pretending that she loves it until I hang it in my Teen MakerSpace.

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Taking it to the next level:

Because we are always exploring taking our projects to the next level in the Teen Makerspace, we never end with the creation of a piece of art. We then explore what else we can do with that art, and we like to involve technology if we can. So for every piece of paper art you create, keep in mind you can do multiple things with that art. For example, you can photograph your final piece of art and mix it with digital media tools to create a new piece. Use filters, add stickers and frames and overlays. Then you can take that new creation even further: print it out and make it into a button using a button maker or print them on card stock to make note cards or postcards. With mixed media collage such as the one I made above that include other people’s images you’ll want to be very careful about copyright issues, but on the whole if you create an original piece of art there are a lot of interesting ways you can use technology to enhance it, redefine it, recreate it and redistribute it. Some of our teens our using our TeenMakerSpace to build portfolios for college and create an online following. Teen MakerSpaces aren’t just about dabbling and learning, many of our teens are using the space in powerful ways to build a name and an audience for themselves. It’s not about starting their future, it’s about the here and now. It’s pretty amazing to witness.

And remember, making doesn’t always have to be about technology. If you make something, you are a maker.

Nevertheless, She Persisted: A Nonfiction Reading List

neverthelessshepersisitedmixedmedia2017 has seen a lot of challenges for women, whether it be in regards to legislation that harms them or the necessary but difficult discussion happening in the last few weeks regarding the prevalence of sexual assault in the lives of women. As a public librarian and the mother to teen girls, and as a woman, this year has been emotionally very challenging, though at times empowering. I’ve had a lot of difficult conversations with my daughters. We began this year by marching in the Women’s March and I’m not sure yet how this year will end, but it’s important that we keep empowering our girls. Today I share with you some new and upcoming nonfiction that celebrates strong females in a variety of ways, one of them in a truly unique way.

Why We March: Signs of Protest and Hope, Voices from the Women’s March

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As I mentioned, the girls and I marched in the Women’s March in January of this year and it was a truly empowering experience. Because I work in a state then I live in, I actually marched in two. Why We March is a collection of the signs that people carried in the march sprinkled with quotes by some of the more well known women who spoke at the march including Gloria Steinem, Deb Parent (a c0-organizer), Alicia Keyes, Barbara Streisand and more. There is a brief introduction, but the book is really about the signs. (Out now from Artisan, a division of Workman Publishing Co.)

The girls and I marching

The girls and I marching

Awesome Women Who Changed History: Paper Dolls

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As a kid, I loved paper dolls. They’re not something that my girls have ever played with, in part because they are growing up in a time of cell phones and other high tech dolls so they aren’t easy to find. So here is a creative way to introduce a new generation to some awesome, world changing women AND some good old fashioned paper dolls. Yes, really, they are paper dolls. Each doll comes with one change of outfit and some accessories. Lucille Ball comes with a couple of interchangeable facial expressions, as she should. Ruth Bader Gingsberg comes with a Supreme Court robe. Amelia Earhart comes with an airplane, obviously. Frida Kahlo comes with an artist’s palette. Susan B. Anthony comes with a votes for women sign. Well, you get the idea. There is a brief introduction to each person, so brief you may want to supplement with some additional titles from your local library. This book is inclusive and fun. It will make a great present, though not a great library purchase in general. You could use it to make some great displays though. (Out now from Adams Media)

Coming in 2018

Girl on Pointe: Chloe’s Guide to Taking on the World by Chloe Lukasiak

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I personally have very mixed feelings about Dance Moms, the show that introduced the public to Chloe Lukasiak. I’m not a big fan of using yelling, fear and the pyramid to motivate young people. And I found Abbie Lee’s treatment of these young girls to be so disgusting that I only ever watched a few episodes. Whatever my personal feelings may be, several of the young female dancers have used the platform to launch careers and platforms for themselves, which I can’t help but applaud. Here Chloe Lukasiak has capitalized on that popularity to put together this book which many tween and teen girls may be interested in.  It is a biography that includes topics like bullying and the search for self acceptance. Fans of the show will particularly be interested in this biography. (Coming January 23, 2018 from Bloomsbury Children’s Books)

Votes for Women! American Suffragists and the Battle for the Ballot by Winifred Conkling

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Coming off of one of the most contentious elections of recent history that resulted in a year that saw the walking back of a lot of women’s rights in 2017, there could not be a more timely book. Votes for Women! is a pretty comprehensive look at the American Suffragist movement. It contains a list of key primary sources (and thank you for this!), a timeline, a well developed bibliography and a comprehensive list of notes. The bibliography is broken down into books (yay!), film, manuscript collections, websites and places of interest. I mean, it is well researched and documented and pretty glorious. It is text heavy and picture light, so it’s more research and reading then some of the nonfiction we put into the hands of teens, but it’s important and comprehensive and that has value. (Coming in February 2018 from Algonquin Young Readers)

What Would She Do? 25 True Stories of Trailblazing Rebel Women

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What Would She Do? is an illustrated guide and brief introduction into 25 diverse women who have made their mark on history in some way. Some of the women included are The Trung Sisters (rebel leaders from Vietnam), Murasaki Shikibu (Japan’s first female novelist), Ada Lovelace (England’s first computer programmer), Frida Kahlo (the famous Mexican artist), and Judit Polgar (Hungarian chess master). For me, it was a mixture of women I have heard of and an introduction to some new ones. It is illustrated and contains no actual photos, so it’s not a source of pictures for those make a presentation board bio projects that teachers love to assign, but it is a very accessible introduction to a variety of meaningful women. Each section includes an introduction, a quote from the subject, and a brief “what would x do?” section. (Coming in May 2018 from Scholastic)

Karen’s Note: I used an illustration of Emma Watson from What Would She Do? to make the Nevertheless, She Persisted mixed media collage above because we are huge Harry Potter fans in this house and we’re exploring upcycling books in the Teen MakerSpace.

Friday Finds: November 17, 2017

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Diwali Exploration by Michelle Biwer

Book Review: Being Fishkill by Ruth Lehrer

Book Review: I Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina, Stacey Robinson, and John Jennings

Book Review: Kat and Meg Conquer the World by Anna Priemaza

Doing a YA Diversity Audit: Answering some follow up questions, including “What about the Conservatives?”

Post-it Note Reviews of Elementary and Middle Grade Books

Around the Web

Iceland used to have a big teenage smoking, drinking and drug problem. Now it doesn’t.

Mara Wilson Defends Millie Bobby Brown

Jason Reynolds’ writing strives to honour the ‘pain of young people’

Screen time may be affecting teen mental health — but don’t take away your kid’s phone yet

Jesmyn Ward Wins National Book Award for ‘Sing, Unburied, Sing’

 

Post-it Note Reviews of Elementary and Middle Grade Books

Now that I work in an elementary library, I’m reading a lot more titles for younger readers. Rather than review all of them like I usually do, especially as many are older, I’m going to steal Karen’s Post-it note review idea and share the titles with you that way. It’s been super interesting to me to see what the students (grades K through 5) check out. I’ve spent so long completely in the world of YA and am glad for an opportunity to work with younger readers and to read all of the great picture books, chapter books, and middle grade books I’ve missed out on!

 

Descriptions of the books are from the publisher.

 

 

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Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova

Cardinal rule #1 for surviving school: Don’t get noticed by the mean kids.

Cardinal rule #2 for surviving school: Seek out groups with similar interests and join them.

On her first day at her new school, Penelope—Peppi—Torres reminds herself of these basics. But when she trips into a quiet boy in the hall, Jaime Thompson, she’s already broken the first rule, and the mean kids start calling her the “nerder girlfriend.” How does she handle this crisis? By shoving poor Jaime and running away!

Falling back on rule two and surrounding herself with new friends in the art club, Peppi still can’t help feeling ashamed about the way she treated Jaime. Things are already awkward enough between the two, but to make matters worse, he’s a member of her own club’s archrivals—the science club! And when the two clubs go to war, Peppi realizes that sometimes you have to break the rules to survive middle school!

 

 

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Brave by Svetlana Chmakova

In his daydreams, Jensen is the biggest hero that ever was, saving the world and his friends on a daily basis. But his middle school reality is VERY different—math is hard, getting along with friends is hard…Even finding a partner for the class project is a huge problem when you always get picked last. And the pressure’s on even more once the school newspaper’s dynamic duo, Jenny and Akilah, draw Jensen into the whirlwind of school news, social-experiment projects, and behind-the-scenes club drama. Jensen has always played the middle school game one level at a time, but suddenly, someone’s cranked up the difficulty setting. Will those daring daydreams of his finally work in his favor, or will he have to find real solutions to his real-life problems? The charming world of Berrybrook Middle School gets a little bigger in this highly anticipated follow-up to Svetlana Chmakova’s award-winning Awkward with a story about a boy who learns his own way of being brave!

 

 

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A Boy Named Queen by Sara Cassidy

Evelyn is both aghast and fascinated when a new boy comes to grade five and tells everyone his name is Queen. Queen wears shiny gym shorts and wants to organize a chess/environment club. His father plays weird loud music and has tattoos.

How will the class react? How will Evelyn?

Evelyn is an only child with a strict routine and an even stricter mother. And yet in her quiet way she notices things. She takes particular notice of this boy named Queen. The way the bullies don’t seem to faze him. The way he seems to live by his own rules. When it turns out that they take the same route home from school, Evelyn and Queen become friends, almost against Evelyn’s better judgment. She even finds Queen irritating at times. Why doesn’t he just shut up and stop attracting so much attention to himself?

Yet he is the most interesting person she has ever met. So when she receives a last-minute invitation to his birthday party, she knows she must somehow persuade her mother to let her go, even if it means ignoring the No Gifts request and shopping for what her mother considers to be an appropriate gift, appropriately wrapped with “boy” wrapping paper.

Her visit to Queen’s house opens Evelyn’s eyes to a whole new world, including an unconventional goody bag (leftover potato latkes wrapped in waxed paper and a pair of barely used red sneakers). And when it comes time for her to take something to school for Hype and Share, Evelyn suddenly looks at her chosen offering — her mother’s antique cream jug — and sees new and marvelous possibilities.

 

 

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Mary Anne Saves the Day: Full Color Edition (The Baby-Sitters Club Graphix #3) by Raina Telgemeier, Ann M. Martin

When The Baby-sitters Club gets into a huge fight, Mary Anne is left to her own devices. She has to eat by herself in the school cafeteria, figure out how to make new friends, and deal with her overprotective father. But the worst happens when she finds herself in a baby-sitting emergency and can’t turn to her friends for help. Will Mary Anne solve her problems and save The Baby-sitters Club from falling apart?

Raina Telgemeier, using the signature style featured in her acclaimed graphic novels Smile and Sisters, perfectly captures all the drama and humor of the original novel!

 

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Rules by Cynthia Lord

Twelve-year-old Catherine just wants a normal life. Which is near impossible when you have a brother with autism and a family that revolves around his disability. She’s spent years trying to teach David the rules from “a peach is not a funny-looking apple” to “keep your pants on in public”—in order to head off David’s embarrassing behaviors.
But the summer Catherine meets Jason, a surprising, new sort-of friend, and Kristi, the next-door friend she’s always wished for, it’s her own shocking behavior that turns everything upside down and forces her to ask: What is normal?

 

 

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Claudia and Mean Janine: Full-Color Edition (The Baby-Sitters Club Graphix #4) by Raina Telgemeier, Ann M. Martin

Claudia and her sister, Janine, may as well be from two different planets. Claudia, who pays more attention to her artwork and The Baby-sitters Club than her homework, feels like she can’t compete with her perfect sister. Janine studies nonstop, gets straight As, and even takes college-level courses! But when something unexpected happens to the most beloved person in their family, will the sisters be able to put aside their differences?

Raina Telgemeier, using the signature style featured in her acclaimed graphic novels Smile and Sisters, perfectly captures all the drama and charm of the original novel!

 

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Dawn and the Impossible Three (The Baby-sitters Club Graphic Novel #5): A Graphix Book by Gale Galligan, Ann M. Martin 
Dawn Schafer is the newest member of The Baby-sitters Club. While she’s still adjusting to life in Stoneybrook after moving from sunny California, she’s eager to accept her first big job. But taking care of the three Barrett kids would be too much for any baby-sitter. The house is always a mess, the kids are out of control, and Mrs. Barrett never does any of the things she promises. On top of all that, Dawn wants to fit in with the other members of the BSC, but she can’t figure out how to get along with Kristy. Was joining The Baby-sitters Club a mistake?

 

 

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A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban

Ten-year-old Zoe Elias has perfect piano dreams. She can practically feel the keys under her flying fingers; she can hear the audience’s applause. All she needs is a baby grand so she can start her lessons, and then she’ll be well on her way to Carnegie Hall.

But when Dad ventures to the music store and ends up with a wheezy organ instead of a piano, Zoe’s dreams hit a sour note. Learning the organ versions of old TV theme songs just isn’t the same as mastering Beethoven on the piano. And the organ isn’t the only part of Zoe’s life in Michigan that’s off-kilter, what with Mom constantly at work, Dad afraid to leave the house, and that odd boy, Wheeler Diggs, following her home from school every day.

Yet when Zoe enters the annual Perform-O-Rama organ competition, she finds that life is full of surprises—and that perfection may be even better when it’s just a little off center.

 

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The Grand Plan to Fix Everything by Uma Krishnaswami, Abigail Halpin (Illustrator)

Rose petal milk shakes and a world of surprises awaits Dini when her family moves to India in this spirited novel with Bollywood flair.

Eleven-year old Dini loves movies—watching them, reading about them, trying to write her own—especially those oh-so-fabulous Bollywood movies where you don’t need to know the language to get what’s going on. But when her mother reveals some big news, it does not at all jibe with the script Dini had in mind. Her family is moving to India. And not even to Bombay, which is the “center of the filmi universe” (and home to Dini’s all-time most favorite star, Dolly Singh). No, they’re moving to a teeny, tiny town that she can’t even find on a map: Swapnagiri. It means Dream Mountain, a sleepy little place where nothing interesting can happen….

But wait a movie minute! Swapnagiri is full of surprises like rose petal milk shakes, mischievous monkeys, a girl who chirps like a bird, and…could it be…Dolly herself?

Doing a YA Diversity Audit: Answering some follow up questions, including “What about the Conservatives?”

On posts, in tweets, and in my mailbox, one of the questions we – TLT – get asked a lot is “What about the conservatives?” Because we post regularly about GLBTQAI+ literature, talk about advocacy, etc., some are left with the impression that we do not care about meeting the needs of the more conservative parts of our population, which is in no way true. This question came up multiple times regarding my recent series of posts on doing a collection diversity audit.

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To begin, some background, both personal and professional: I have worked in libraries for 24 years. 4 different library systems in two different states. Personally, I am in fact a Christian. I have an undergraduate degree in Youth Ministry from a conservative Christian college. I live and work in conservative towns. I can assure you, the conservative view point is in no way under represented. In fact, doing a collection audit will help you have the factual information you need to help address these concerns.

Also, I want to address the question of what does it mean when someone says that libraries are liberal and don’t respect conservatives. By definition, public libraries should be inclusive which means they should have books on their shelves representing every point of view. That makes us default liberal, I suppose. But what do people mean when they ask about the conservative viewpoint? They could mean politically conservative, fiscally conservative, dealing with religious beliefs, or just wanting what is commonly referred to as “clean reads”. Often they mean from a Christian or political point of view, but even in non-Christian religions there are both more progressive and conservative points of view. When we talk about religion in the public library, it is vitally important that we stop operating from a Christian point of view.

Because I work with teens, I have found they are most frequently talking about 1) this concept of “clean reads” and 2) the inclusion of GLBTQAI+ literature. I’m not going to debate the basic humanity of any marginalized people, so the inclusion of GLBTQAI+ literature in a library isn’t up for debate. An individual can choose to read or not read, but a public library can not choose to buy or not buy.

I find the concept of “clean reads” to be troublesome because 1) it’s very personal, 2) it implies that other types of books are by definition dirty or less than and 3) unless a person has read every single book in their collection (and no librarian ever has or ever will), this can be a very difficult question to answer. So, what I find to be a “clean read” might be different than what the person I am talking to considers to be a clean, or let’s use the word appropriate because what they are in fact looking for is a book that is appropriate for them or their child. Doing an extensive RA interview can help answer this question, but it’s not foolproof. So I always try to add caveats and give the person I am talking to tools to do further research themselves. This includes teaching them how to use the online catalog and subject headings, finding reviews, etc.

So from the get go, the idea of how do public libraries serve and include the conservative point of view isn’t as straightforward as it is presented. Another issue with the question is that the conservative point of view often works from the standpoint that non-conservative points of view shouldn’t be in our public libraries at all, which is by the mission and definition of a public library an incorrect point of view. Many conservatives, and I know this as a member of the conservative Christian community, believe that any point of view that is contrary to their own should not be permitted because it is offensive. The public library is not there to represent only a portion of the population, it is there to serve and represent the whole, although I would argue that there are in fact some exceptions. For example, works that advocate against the basic humanity and safety of any population group would be considered hate speech and should not be purchased because they put a segment of the population at harm. My POC or GLBTQAI+ teens should be able to come safely into the public library and not have their very existence threatened by the books in my collection.

The reality is that the very thing many conservatives fear is the answer to the question of how are they being served: inclusive collections. Inclusive collections mean that conservatives, whether they be politically or religious conservatives or just readers wanting the appropriate book for them, are best served by truly inclusive collections.

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The library that I currently work at, The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, has a large, dedicated Amish fiction collection. This is, of course, in part because we serve a large Amish and conservative population. We understand our local community and work hard to meet its needs in inclusive ways. I have worked at other libraries with large Chinese and Vietnamese collections because there was a large, local Chinese and Vietnamese population. Every library works to understand and serve their local communities in a variety of ways.

I would argue, however, that building inclusive (or diverse) collections, is part of that service. For one, even if it represents a small percentage of your local population, that small percentage still deserves to be represented respectfully in their local library. Their existence is not up for debate, their worth and their rights aren’t either. Secondly, reading diversely is part of the educational value of a public library, the whole “walking in another person’s shoes” and developing compassion for your fellow human beings. We fail our local communities in that aspect of service if we don’t actively build inclusive collections. Even if you serve a local community that is 99% white and conservative, building inclusive collections is part of your mission statement, or at least it should be, because reading outside of one’s own experience is part of a holistic education experience. We are not helping our local communities become educated citizens if we neglect the reality that we live in a diverse world.

We must also never forget that what a person reads ultimately comes down to personal choice. However, our patrons can’t make choices to read diversely if we don’t provide them access to diverse collections. What they ultimately choose to read is on them, but what we provide them access to is on us. If we take away their choices because we presume to know what they want because of a set of very specific and local statistics, then we are failing our local communities.

That’s what inclusive collections are about: ACCESS and CHOICE. That is also why librarians make the statement that if you don’t find something offensive in your local public library, then they are doing it wrong. Take politics out of the mix for a moment and let’s examine another topic: baby care. Not everyone agrees on the topic of baby care. If you have had a baby or listened to people who have tried to raise babies, you will recognize the truth of this statement. Should you let a baby cry it out and sleep train or should you respond to a baby’s every cry and practice kangaroo care? You can find people who will advocate, and quite passionately, for both sides of this coin. And you should be able to find books in your local public library that represent both of these arguments. The person who bought those books might have an opinion on the matter – I certainly do – but that personal opinion doesn’t matter when building a public library collection. We buy authoritative, well reviewed books to represent all points of views. If you walk up to your religion and politics collections, you should find the same: a well balanced collection of titles that represents multiple points of view on a variety of controversial topics.

The truth is, when libraries start doing the work of actively building inclusive collections, it can seem to the majority groups that marginalized groups are taking over. This is part of the fear that comes in equality because those groups that have historically held a position of power are being asked to give up that power in the name of equality, and they almost never want to. For example, men, white cishet Christian men in particular, have historically made up the bulk of the publishing world and there has been a real push of late for publishing to include more diversity and for libraries to build more inclusive collections. And I hear the men saying, well we don’t get to have a voice any more. Which is still statistically not true. I do a diversity audit of my monthly book orders and I can categorically with facts and data prove that this is not true. And even with a very targeted attempt to build a more inclusive YA collection, a thorough audit of my YA collection also reveals that this is not true. Even with targeted, intentional purchasing, my collection is still over 70% white and over 93% straight.

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One of the questions I get asked repeatedly when I talk about my collection audit and the journey I have taken to build a more intentional and purposeful YA collection is about community push back. I have worked in two fairly conservative communities and have experienced book challenges in both. This is where it’s important that we have up to date collection development policies and make sure that we have trained our staff, and trained them well, to talk about the role of the public library and the value of inclusive collections to our patrons. And if we truly have built inclusive collections, then we should be able to say, “this book may not have been for you, but we have others in our collections that may fit your needs, let me help you find those.”

The truth is, building inclusive collections isn’t about excluding anyone, it’s about including everyone.

Doing a YA Collection Diversity Audit: Understanding Your Local Community (Part 1)

Doing a YA Collection Diversity Audit: The How To (Part 2)

Doing a YA Collection Diversity Audit: Resources and Sources (Part 3)

Diversity Audit Outline 2017 with Sources

Book Review: Kat and Meg Conquer the World by Anna Priemaza

Publisher’s description

ra6For fans of Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything, Emery Lord’s When We Collided, and Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl,Anna Priemaza’s debut novel is a heartwarming and achingly real story of finding a friend, being a fan, and defining your place in a difficult world.

Kat and Meg couldn’t be more different. Kat’s anxiety makes it hard for her to talk to people. Meg hates being alone, but her ADHD keeps pushing people away. But when the two girls are thrown together for a year-long science project, they discover they do have one thing in common: They’re both obsessed with the same online gaming star and his hilarious videos.

It might be the beginning of a beautiful friendship—if they don’t kill each other first.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

katKat is new to Alberta and starting grade 10. Being the new girl is extra hard for Kat, who has anxiety and panic attacks. She tries to stay off everyone’s radar, ducking quickly through halls and hiding out in the library during lunch. At least in the library, she can play Legends of the Stone, her favorite game. Online is where she feels comfortable.

Meg is an extremely charismatic extrovert who has ADHD and has bounced around between friends and is currently mostly friendless. She’s one of only a few black kids in school, chatters nonstop, doesn’t do well in her classes, and is into skateboarding and watching LumberLegs play Legends of the Stone on YouTube.

The two pair up for a science project and, while it’s clear their styles of working (or not working, in Meg’s case) are not going to mesh easily, they bond over LumberLegs and LotS. Meg makes sure they start hanging out, not just getting together to work on their science project, and they start playing LotS online together, too. Meg is a lot for Kat to handle—she’s erratic, wants to make Kat socialize more, and just so full of frantic energy. Kat loves order, predictability, pro/con lists, and hiding out alone. Neither girl reveals her diagnosis to the other, though thanks to the symptoms of ADHD and anxiety, it’s pretty obvious. But not talking about the different ways their brains work and how that affects them makes their friendship all the more complicated, muddying up communication and making for hurt feelings. They have such different goals and concerns. Kat would like to win the science fair, keep playing online with the few people she feels comfortable text chatting with, and be friends with Meg but also be left to her own devices as far as being social. Meg desperately wants to go to LotsCON, to find people in her life who stick around (struggling to figure out friends, her boyfriend, and her relationship with her ex-stepdad), and just be herself without also feeling so bad about who and how she is.

 

I don’t presume to actually know what it’s like to live with ADHD. BUT, my son has ADHD, so I do have a fairly good grasp on what it looks like, if not necessarily what it feels like. This story is not really about the ins and outs of ADHD or anxiety/panic disorder. Kat mentions a counselor who didn’t really help her. Meg is on medication. That’s about the extent of any medical/therapy discussions. But, this story is very much about the day-to-day experiences of both ADHD and anxiety. Meg’s inability to focus, to follow through, to live up to her potential, to complete assignments, to remember details, to think through impulsive choices all ring very true. And, as someone who enjoys the roller coaster of fun that is anxiety disorder and panic attacks, I can definitely say that all seems legit, too. Though their friendship isn’t necessarily easy, it is genuine, and more than anything, that’s what this story is about—finding true friendship and showing your real self to someone else. The alternate narration lets readers into the heads of both girls, really showing how they feel about themselves and their lives. While coincidence brings them together and a shared fandom kicks off their friendship, it’s their deep affection for one another and their eventual honesty that really cements their relationship. A fun book about conquering your fears and finding friendship when your own brain sometimes feels like your worst enemy. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

ISBN-13: 9780062560803
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 11/07/2017

Book Review: I Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina, Stacey Robinson, and John Jennings

Publisher’s description

alfonsoAlfonso Jones can’t wait to play the role of Hamlet in his school’s hip-hop rendition of the classic Shakespearean play. He also wants to let his best friend, Danetta, know how he really feels about her. But as he is buying his first suit, an off-duty police officer mistakes a clothes hanger for a gun, and he shoots Alfonso.

When Alfonso wakes up in the afterlife, he’s on a ghost train guided by well-known victims of police shootings, who teach him what he needs to know about this subterranean spiritual world. Meanwhile, Alfonso’s family and friends struggle with their grief and seek justice for Alfonso in the streets. As they confront their new realities, both Alfonso and those he loves realize the work that lies ahead in the fight for justice.

In the first graphic novel for young readers to focus on police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement, as in Hamlet, the dead shall speak—and the living yield even more surprises.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

What a phenomenal graphic novel. I was completely wrapped up in the world of Alfonso and the ancestors for this story, alternately cheering for activism and hope and crying for injustice and discouragement.

Alfonso is feeling pretty good about life. He loves playing his trumpet, acting, attending his arts high school, being a bike messenger, and flirting with Danetta. The best thing in his life, though, is that his father, who has been incarcerated Alfonso’s entire life, is being released, finally exonerated of a crime he did not commit. But while out shopping for a suit to wear to meet his father, Alfonso is shot and killed by a white off-duty cop. Once dead, Alfonso joins a group of ghosts on a train. These ghosts are the ancestors who are seeking justice and rest. Alfonso learns about their lives and the ways they were killed by police while also going to see scenes from his past as well as what he’s missing in the present. Alfonso is able to see how his parents are coping, to follow the white police officer who killed him, and to see how his name lives on in the media, the justice system, and the many large protests that spring up after his death. An Ancestors Wall at the end lists the names of victims of police violence. This look at the prison industrial complex, the Black Lives Matter movement, police brutality, and the various systems of violence and oppression that have always existed in this country is devastating and important. 

 

ISBN-13: 9781620142639
Publisher: Lee & Low Books, Inc.
Publication date: 10/15/2017

Book Review: Being Fishkill by Ruth Lehrer

beingfishkillThis book will rip your heart right out of your chest. Several times. Literally.

Publisher’s Book Description:

Fishkill Carmel fends for herself, with her fists if need be — until a thwarted lunch theft introduces her to strange, sunny Duck-Duck and a chance for a new start.

Born in the backseat of a moving car, Carmel Fishkill was unceremoniously pushed into a world that refuses to offer her security, stability, love. At age thirteen, she begins to fight back. Carmel Fishkill becomes Fishkill Carmel, who deflects her tormentors with a strong left hook and conceals her secrets from teachers and social workers. But Fishkill’s fierce defenses falter when she meets eccentric optimist Duck-Duck Farina, and soon they, along with Duck-Duck’s mother, Molly, form a tentative family, even as Fishkill struggles to understand her place in it. This fragile new beginning is threatened by the reappearance of Fishkill’s unstable mother — and by unfathomable tragedy. Poet Ruth Lehrer’s young adult debut is a stunning, revalatory look at what defines and sustains “family.” And, just as it does for Fishkill, meeting Duck-Duck Farina and her mother will leave readers forever changed.

Karen’s Thoughts:

This book was sent to me by Amber Keyser who contacted me and said, “I read the most spot on book about poverty and I think you need to read it.” And she is not wrong, the depiction of poverty in this book is so accurate and is just one of the ways in which this book will rip your heart right out of your chest. Fishkill Carmel lives in abject poverty: she steals food to survive, hordes food for the lean times that will be coming – and they are always coming back, and fights over SNAP cards. This isn’t the we only have $150 in the bank until payday poverty that many people live with (which is real and also horrific), this is the scraping change out of the couch cushions to try and keep the lights on during the cold winter nights poverty. This is hunger pains and naive social workers and empty fridges and clothes and shoes that don’t fit because you HAVE to make do with what you can find at the thrift store poverty that society likes to turn its back to. It’s real and raw and difficult to read, especially if you have been there, but it’s oh so important.

So after barely surviving for most of her life, Fishkill meets Duck-Duck Farina, who has a mom and a pretty pink bedroom and three square meals a day who decides to be Fishkill’s friend. Well, technically she decides to admit Fishill into her “gang”. Duck-Duck is an intelligent young girl who watches way too much procedural TV and wants to be a lawyer when she grows up. Her constant lawyer talk is amusing. Duck-Duck and her mother take Fishill in, both figuratively and later literally when things get complicated.

At the end of the day, this is a book about friendship, and it’s quite a moving one. I loved these girls and their journey, though at times it is truly difficult to read because life is life and no one is spared hardship, least of all Fishkill. Seriously, heart ripped right out. Multiple times. Because that is what life is like for people like Fishkill, glimmers of hope amidst an agonizing parade of hardship, but only if you haven’t built your walls up so thick that you can’t even see the possibility of hope in the future.

This book will move readers. You will sit with it, in both tears of agony and joy. Your heart will swell, get ripped out, swell, repeat. I highly recommend it. Publishes November 14th 2017 by Candlewick Press

TLT: Teens and Poverty in YA Lit