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Book Review: The Resolutions by Mia Garcia

Publisher’s description

resolutionsA heart-expanding novel about four Latinx teens who make New Year’s resolutions for one another—and the whirlwind of a year that follows. Fans of Erika L. Sánchez and Emery Lord will fall for this story of friendship, identity, and the struggle of finding yourself when all you want is to start over.

From hiking trips to four-person birthday parties to never-ending group texts, Jess, Lee, Ryan, and Nora have always been inseparable. But now with senior year on the horizon, they’ve been growing apart. And so, as always, Jess makes a plan.

Reinstating their usual tradition of making resolutions together on New Year’s Eve, Jess adds a new twist: instead of making their own resolutions, the four friends assign them to one another—dares like kiss someone you know is wrong for you, find your calling outside your mom’s Puerto Rican restaurant, finally learn Spanish, and say yes to everything.

But as the year unfolds, Jess, Lee, Ryan, and Nora each test the bonds that hold them together. And amid first loves, heartbreaks, and life-changing decisions, beginning again is never as simple as it seems.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

I shouldn’t, but of course I judge a book by its cover. It’s what stops me when I’m scrolling through online catalogs or pulling books off the shelf in a library or bookstore. Sometimes I’m wrong about a book—cover looks great and totally like something I’d love but book is meh—but sometimes the book is just as fun and cute and unique as its cover. Thankfully, that was the case for The Resolutions. I read it in one sitting.

 

Denver Latinx teens Jess, Lee, Nora, and Ryan are best friends. While still incredibly tight, it’s the middle of junior year and a they all have a lot going on in their lives. Ryan is still reeling from his breakup with Jason, Lee is struggling with whether or not to get tested for Huntington’s Disease (the disease that killed her mother), Nora is wondering if she can really handle a future that just holds going to a local college and continuing to work at her family’s restaurant, and Jess is busy, as always, taking on too many responsibilities. On New Year’s Eve, they assign each other resolutions, hoping to push each other out of their comfort zones (in a good way), encouraging each other to do the things they always talk about but never do. It’s been increasingly hard to coordinate time to all be together, and Jess hopes a project like this will help keep their bond strong. But, as you might expect, pursuing these resolutions is hardly uncomplicated, though the gentle pushes from their friends do help them discover parts of themselves they otherwise may have taken longer to know. 

 

There is so much to like about this book. Garcia’s keen ear for realistic dialogue really makes for effortless reading—it’s easy to cruise through lots of pages really feeling like you’re listening to friends talking. Including some of their text messages to each other also lends itself to that feeling. Though many of the friends are involved in romantic relationships—Ryan is recovering from his boyfriend breaking up with him, Lee is suddenly seeing someone old with new eyes, and bisexual Nora is happily dating the same girl she’s been with for a while—this is solidly a friendship story. The love and support and encouragement they offer each other is so great to see. Garcia manages to write about serious subjects, like Lee’s worries about Huntington’s Disease or Nora’s perceived lack of control over her future or Jess’s increasing and frightening panic attacks, with a light touch. These issues (and more) feel weighty and important, but maybe because of the support in their lives they also feel like things that can be conquered or achieved. As the story follows them through part of junior year and part of senior year (from one New Year’s Eve to another), we see them struggle, change, grow, and succeed in ways that feel very honest, real, and inspiring. Through it all, the bond of their friendship helps them grow up and grow together. I suspect teen readers will devour this totally satisfying look at identity, obstacles, and friendship. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

ISBN-13: 9780062656827
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 11/13/2018

Cultural Humility in Librarianship: What is it? (a guest post by Adilene Rogers)

Today we are honored to share this guest post on Cultural Humility in Librarianship by Adilene Rogers.

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As a youth services librarian, I find myself interacting with people from all walks of life. People with different interests, needs, and cultures from my own. A fact that can sometimes be a little daunting as I go through my day to day duties. As someone who works with the public, I have found that many of my colleagues look at cultural competency as a huge component of librarianship and, while I agree that cultural competency is needed in our profession, I think that not enough is said about cultural humility and how that can help us deal with some of the shortcomings that come with practicing cultural competence alone.

Cultural Humility: What Does it Take to Change the World?

Some of you may be asking, what is cultural humility and how is it different from cultural competence?  Cultural competency according to the National Association of Social Workers is defined as “a congruent set of behaviors, attitudes, and policies that enable a person or group to work effectively in cross-cultural situations; the process by which individuals and systems respond respectfully and effectively to people of all cultures”. Cultural humility, on the other hand, is a practice of self-reflection on how one’s own background, experiences, and expectations impact a situation or interaction. It is also understanding that everyone is an expert on their own identity and that an individual’s background cannot be assumed.

Cultural Humility discussed on the ALA website

I work with mostly Spanish speaking communities and the number of times that librarians have told me “facts” about the communities I serve causes me great frustration. I have had teens come and tell me about teachers or librarians who claim to know them based solely on a few characteristics they have read about their culture online. We all know that teens are often unfairly judged for just being teens, now pair that with teens who have a gender identity that some may not understand, or come from a race that isn’t the dominant culture. Hiding behind the veil of just memorizing a few characteristics of cultures is detrimental in our interactions with our communities and I have seen it time and time again within our interactions. I once had an old coworker state that our latino teens are louder than our white teens because “that’s just how they are, it’s in their culture”. I had another librarian when I was teen tell me that they don’t do many teen programs because “teens don’t come. It’s just a fact.” So whether it is based on age, race or any matter of identity, there needs to be a self-awareness at what we bring to the interactions we have with our communities.

Social Work for Librarians: Cultural Humility

Cultural knowledge is not something that can be “mastered” and no matter how many lists or quantitative measures we have about a given culture unless we are from that culture we can never truly understand it. When it comes to cultural competency, we see competency as an endpoint or a formula that can be mastered if we memorize a few characteristics and often time we use those characteristics as a way to fuel our own biases. That is where cultural humility comes in, understanding where we stand with the communities we serve will help us make great strides with them. Self-reflecting has become part of my daily interactions with my teens and anyone else I come in contact with.

Cultural Humility as a Transformative Framework for Librarians, Tutors, and Youth Volunteers: Applying a Lens of Cultural Responsiveness in Training Library Staff and Volunteers

If you want to learn more wholepersonlibrarianship has a great article on cultural humility. You can also find a free webinar on the subject on ALA’s website.

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BIo: Adilene (Addie) Rogers is a bilingual youth services librarian for the Sacramento Public Library. She is a graduate of SJSU and can usually be found reviewing bilingual picture books or discussing YA books on twitter @thelatinxlibrarian

Sunday Reflections: Being a Librarian Did Not Prepare Me for Parenting a Child with Dyslexia

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When I learned I was pregnant with The Teen, my first thought was “I hope she likes Science Fiction.” I was 29 at the time and was in the final semester of my MLS program at Kent State University. At this time I had been working in YA services as a paraprofessional for almost 10 years. I was an avid reader with a strong interest in science fiction, both loves I was looking forward to sharing with my child. The Teen has always been a strong and natural reader and now that she is a teenager, we love to read and talk about YA literature. It makes my YA librarian heart happy.

Six years later I was once again pregnant, this time with Thing 2, and was thinking similar thoughts. By this time I was 35 and had been a MLS degree holding librarian for almost six years and had been working in YA services for 15 years. Little did I know of the struggle we would have in our future trying to build another enthusiastic reader.

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As Thing 2 began Kindergarten, it became clear to me that she was exhibiting some of the signs of dyslexia. Dyslexia was not something we ever talked about in library school. As a public librarian, even one studying the youth services track in an ALA certified graduate program for library science, dyslexia was not something that we talked about. I could see the signs and felt a vague feeling that something was wrong in large part because I grew up with some family members who were themselves dyslexic. But more than that, there was just something going on at an instinctual level, that parental tickle at the back of the brain that lets you know that something just wasn’t right.

In the 1st grade, these concerns grew exponentially. Thing 2 often practiced mirror writing, she would write a word correctly, it just happened to be an exact mirror image. It wasn’t just that the letters were backwards or out of order, they were written so that if you held the piece of paper in front of the mirror, they would have been correct. Each letter was backwards and the order of the letters was backwards as well. Every time I saw her write that way, my concern grew.

It was during this year that my father came to visit. Thing 2 was happy to sit next to him on the couch and read to him from her book. She would see the word was and read it as saw. He looked at me as she left the room to get another book and said, “you should have her tested for dyslexia.” Having my worries confirmed by someone else without any prompting really validated my suspicions. Later that day, she would write her sisters name in sidewalk chalk in the driveway and he would marvel at how perfectly mirror like it was.

It took The Mr. and I almost 2 years to get Thing 2 tested and confirmed. We live in the state of Texas and it is one of the few if not the only state that has a cap on what percentage of students can be diagnosed as special needs. This cap puts pressure on the schools to keep their students undiagnosed so that they are in compliance with the state standards. In addition, in the first grade Thing 2 had a pregnant teacher who would miss many months of school and the long-term substitutes were not able to start the testing process in time for her to be tested in that year. At the end of the year the principal finally met with us and said that yes she there was sufficient reason to test her, but by this time it there was only two weeks before the end of the school year and we would have to wait until midway through the next year to get her tested. The next year, we had to start the process all over.

Thing 2 now participates in a special program which has helped her learn to read, though she still struggles and finds the overall process of reading unenjoyable. It is a fight each and every day to get her to read. She knows she is behind her friends in reading and often comments about how stupid she is. She will cry, rage, scream and cry as she struggles to read. As a parent, it is heartbreaking to see. My heart aches for my child.

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During those first years when we struggled to get her diagnosed, she had teachers who would continually send home letters telling us our child was behind her peers and made helpful suggestions for us to help her be a better reader. Take her to the library, they said, as if my daughter wasn’t being raised in a library with an army of library staff. Make sure she has access to books, they said, as if she didn’t have shelves full of books, many of them signed directly to her by the authors and illustrators that I had brought home from conferences and read to her each night. Read to her each night, they said, as if I hadn’t been doing that from day one. There is an issue, I replied, please help us help her. At one point, in a moment of extreme frustration and in a rage after getting yet another note in her take home folder telling me I needed to read to her more, I looked at The Mr. and said, “do you think I should just send them a copy of my resume?” I didn’t, for the record.

The fight to get her tested took almost two years. In those two years I had to learn a lot about being an advocate and what the school process was and what a 504 plan was. It was a frustrating time in which I felt that I was failing my child, felt that I was a failure as a librarian, and worried that she would fall so far behind it would be hard for her to catch up.

As I mentioned, she now goes to a special program and has a teacher that she loves. She has made a lot of progress and we are encouraging and engaged every step of the way. But it has been hard. It’s hard to watch her struggle to read and feel discouraged. It’s hard to hear her cry and call herself stupid. It’s hard to know how to get her to read without fighting about reading and making reading an even more negative experience for her.

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I have done many things along the way to help encourage her to be a reader, all the things that I have told parent after parent who has come into my library asking for help:

1. I take her to the library.

2. I let her choose her own books.

3. If we go to the store and she asks me to buy her a book and we have the money, I never say no.

4. If she asks me to read with her or to her, I say yes.

5. We listen to audio books.

6. I don’t fight with her about the books she chooses. If she wants to read the same book over and over again, we read the same book over and over again. If she wants to read a picture book instead of a chapter book, we read a picture book. There is already enough negativity in her life surrounding the concept of reading, her father and I try not to add to or be a source of that negativity.

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We recently went to the store and I suggested that she read a copy of Love That Dog by Sharon Creech. This is a book written in verse that met the minimum number of pages for her school assignment, but many of the pages have short poems and have a lot of white space on the pages. This is only the second book she has ever finished reading and she loved it.

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My co-worker recommended she read a Branches book and selected several that she thought Thing 2 might be interested in. Thing 2 selected and read Hank, a book that is written in a special font that is supposed to be easier for children with dyslexia to read. She loved this book as well.

She currently has to read 40 books by the end of the year, 20 by December. Half of these books are supposed to be chapter books over 64 pages. She has read well over 20 books, but I’m not sure we’re going to meet the 10 chapter books requirement. I’m trying to figure out whether or not I can be at peace with that. It’s a constant struggle for me as a parent to know when I should push her and when I should accommodate her special needs.

In library school and in libraries in general, we talk a lot about reluctant readers. We usually operate from the assumption that reluctant readers simply don’t like to read, that they just haven’t found the right book for them yet. What I am learning is that people are reluctant readers for a wide variety of reasons and I think we need to change our narrative. My child is a reluctant reader because reading is a challenge for her. When she looks at the words on a page she doesn’t see the same things that I do. She literally has to decode what she sees to make sense of it and that process is physically exhausting, emotionally challenging, and not really a lot of fun. It’s work for her in ways that it isn’t for other readers.

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I have now worked in public libraries for 25 years and I have never worked at a library system that talked about working with struggling readers or, more specifically, children with dyslexia. I have seen my peers put together sensory storytimes and storytimes in sign language, but I haven’t really heard a lot of discussion about how, specifically, to help children and the parents of children navigate the world of dyslexia. Now that I feel like I’m coming to a space where I can breathe and we’ve had some successful reading moments, I want to challenge us all in the field to look at ways that we can provide better services to children and adults struggling with dyslexia.

Some of the things I recommend are:

1. Visit The Dyslexia Foundation website and learn what the basic signs are and take a look at this page which helps you understand the difference between what a dyslexic child sees on the page versus what a non-dyslexic child sees on the page.

2. Invite your local school district’s dyslexic specialist to come and do some staff awareness and training.

3. Learn about dyslexia fonts.

4. Find digital resources that you can help steer parents towards.

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5. Consider making a booklist for kids with dyslexia at various ages and stages and include books like Hank, which is written specifically for kids struggling with dyslexia in mind.

In just a few short years Thing 2 will be a teenager and people like me will be serving her in our public libraries. I wish that we talked more about ways to build a solid foundation for children like her and how to help them be successful readers in our libraries.

Friday Finds: November 9, 2018

This Week at TLT

tltbutton3New and forthcoming YA and MG to know about, including a middle grade debut, a dead female DJ and an epic fantasy

Cindy Crushes Programming: Hosting a Stranger Things themed Escape Room

Book Review: This Is What It Feels Like by Rebecca Barrow

Supporting our Latinx Readers

An Open Letter to the Middleton School District from Authors in the Latinx in Kidlit Community

Sunday Reflections: Looking for Hope and Finding My Superpowers

Around the Web

We Can Do Better: Rethinking Native Stories in Classrooms

‘We’re Bringing Education Back': Takeaways From The Election

How One Woman Is Teaching Homeless & Foster Care Children To Dream

 

 

New and forthcoming YA and MG to know about, including a middle grade debut, a dead female DJ and an epic fantasy

tltbutton7Books, books, and more books! My neighbors probably wonder what exactly goes on over here at the house where UPS of FedEx stops nearly every day. All of the books I get end up going back out the door in some fashion—to teen readers I know, to classroom libraries of friends, to my own school, or in giveaways. I can’t read/review every book I get, but it’s fun to be able to sift through boxes and see what grabs my attention, and to see what books will find loving new homes with the right reader. The following are the books that have arrived here in the past few weeks. I will be reviewing many of them in the upcoming months on TLT. See something you’ve already read and need to make sure I don’t skip? Or something you’re super excited to read when it comes out? Let me know with a comment here or on Twitter, where I’m @CiteSomething.

All descriptions from the publishers.

 

 

 

illusions2Illusions by Madeline J. Reynolds (ISBN-13: 9781640635630 Publisher: Entangled Publishing, LLC Publication date: 11/06/2018)

Dear Thomas,

I know you’re angry. It’s true, I was sent to expose your mentor as a fraud illusionist, and instead I have put your secret in jeopardy. I fear I have even put your life in jeopardy. For that I can only beg your forgiveness. I’ve fallen for you. You know I have. And I never wanted to create a rift between us, but if it means protecting you from those who wish you dead—I’ll do it. I’ll do anything to keep you safe, whatever the sacrifice. Please forgive me for all I’ve done and what I’m about to do next. I promise, it’s one magic trick no one will ever see coming.

Love,
Saverio

 

 

 

whispersThe Whispers by Greg Howard (ISBN-13: 9780525517498 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 01/15/2019)

A middle grade debut that’s a heartrending coming-of-age tale, perfect for fans of Bridge to Terabithia and Counting By 7s.

Eleven-year-old Riley believes in the whispers, magical fairies that will grant you wishes if you leave them tributes. Riley has a lot of wishes. He wishes bullies at school would stop picking on him. He wishes Dylan, his 8th grade crush, liked him, and Riley wishes he would stop wetting the bed. But most of all, Riley wishes for his mom to come back home. She disappeared a few months ago, and Riley is determined to crack the case. He even meets with a detective, Frank, to go over his witness statement time and time again.

Frustrated with the lack of progress in the investigation, Riley decides to take matters into his own hands. So he goes on a camping trip with his friend Gary to find the whispers and ask them to bring his mom back home. But Riley doesn’t realize the trip will shake the foundation of everything that he believes in forever.

 

 

 

thats not what i heardThat’s Not What I Heard by Stephanie Kate Strohm (ISBN-13: 9781338281811 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 01/29/2019)

What did you hear?

Kimberly Landis-Lilley and Teddy Lin are over. Yes, the Kim and Teddy broke up.

At least that’s what Phil Spooner thinks he overheard and then told Jess Howard, Kim’s best friend. Something about Teddy not liking Kim’s Instas? Or was it that Teddy is moving to Italy and didn’t want to do long distance? Or that Kim slid into someone else’s DMs?

Jess told her boyfriend, Elvis, that he needs to be on Kim’s side. Especially if he wants to keep her as his girlfriend. But Elvis is also Teddy’s best friend.

Now, Kim’s run out of school for the day. Jess is furious. Elvis is confused. And half the lunch period won’t talk to Teddy. Even the teachers have taken sides.

William Henry Harrison High will never be the same again!

 

 

spinSpin by Lamar Giles (ISBN-13: 9781338219210 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 01/29/2019)

When rising star Paris Secord (aka DJ ParSec) is found dead on her turntables, it sends the local music scene reeling. No one is feeling that grief more than her shunned pre-fame best friend, Kya, and ParSec’s chief groupie, Fuse — two sworn enemies who happened to be the ones who discovered her body.

The police have few leads, and when the trail quickly turns cold, the authorities don’t seem to be pushing too hard to investigate further. Only no one counted on Paris’s deeply loyal fans, ParSec Nation, or the outrage that would drive Fuse and Kya to work together. As ParSec Nation takes to social media and the streets in their crusade for justice, Fuse and Kya start digging into Paris’s past, stumbling across a deadly secret. With new info comes new motives. New suspects. And a fandom that will stop at nothing in their obsessive quest for answers, not even murder . . .

 

 

 

stand on the skyStand on the Sky by Erin Bow (ISBN-13: 9781328557469 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 03/05/2019)

An exquisitely written, uplifting middle grade debut by acclaimed author, Erin Bow, about a young girl who defies her family’s expectations in order to save her brother and become an eagle hunter, perfect for fans of PAX.
It goes against all tradition for Aisulu to train an eagle, for among the Kazakh nomads, only men can fly them. But everything changes when Aisulu discovers that her brother, Serik, has been concealing a bad limp that risks not just his future as the family’s leader, but his life too.

When her parents leave to seek a cure for Serik in a distant hospital, Aisulu finds herself living with her intimidating uncle and strange auntie—and secretly caring for an orphaned baby eagle. To save her brother and keep her family from having to leave their nomadic life behind forever, Aisulu must earn her eagle’s trust and fight for her right to soar.  Along the way, she discovers that family are people who choose each other, home is a place you build, and hope is a thing with feathers.

Erin Bow’s lyrical middle grade debut is perfect for fans of original animal-friendship stories like Pax and Because of Winn Dixie.

 

 

all the wallsAll the Walls of Belfast by Sarah Carlson (ISBN-13: 9781684422524 Publisher: Turner Publishing Company Publication date: 03/12/2019)

The Carnival at Bray meets West Side Story in Sarah Carlson’s powerful YA debut; set in post-conflict Belfast (Northern Ireland), alternating between two teenagers, both trying to understand their past and preserve their future. Seventeen-year-olds, Fiona and Danny must choose between their dreams and the people they aspire to be.

Fiona and Danny were born in the same hospital. Fiona’s mom fled with her to the United States when she was two, but, fourteen years after the Troubles ended, a forty-foot-tall peace wall still separates her dad’s Catholic neighborhood from Danny’s Protestant neighborhood.

After chance brings Fiona and Danny together, their love of the band Fading Stars, big dreams, and desire to run away from their families unites them. Danny and Fiona must help one another overcome the burden of their parents’ pasts. But one ugly truth might shatter what they have…

 

 

 

BLOODLEAFBloodleaf by Crystal Smith (ISBN-13: 9781328496300 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 03/12/2019)
A roar of a dark and luscious epic fantasy that’s layered with heady romance, bloodthirsty magic, and ghostly intrigue—an absolutely wicked delight.Princess Aurelia is a prisoner to her crown and the heir that nobody wants. Surrounded by spirits and banned from using her blood-magic, Aurelia flees her country after a devastating assassination attempt. To escape her fate, Aurelia disguises herself as a commoner in a new land and discovers a happiness her crown has never allowed. As she forges new bonds and perfects her magic, she begins to fall for a man who is forbidden to rule beside her. But the ghosts that haunt Aurelia refuse to abandon her, and she finds herself succumbing to their call as they expose a nefarious plot that only she can defeat. Will she be forced to choose between the weight of the crown and the freedom of her new life?

 

 

Cindy Crushes Programming: Hosting a Stranger Things themed Escape Room

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Today we are debuting a new regular column that focuses on teen programming with a new TLT contributor: Cindy Shutts. She’ll be joining us on the first and third Wednesday of each month to talk teen programming. Today Cindy is sharing the basic framework for hosting a Stranger Things themed Escape Room. We’re going to assume you are familiar with the basics of Stranger Things to host this Escape Room, if not you can check it out on Netflix. Please note, there are some Stranger Things based novels coming out soon.

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To learn more about the basics of hosting an Escape Room, please check out Breakout Edu as they have basic kits that you can use as a foundation. You can also read a couple of previous posts on Escape Rooms here at TLT:

TPiB: Build an Escape Room by Michelle Biwer – Teen Librarian Toolbox

TPiB: Locked in the Library! Hosting an Escape Room by Heather Booth

Basic program premise . . .

Your teens will be “locked” in the library and in order to escape, they must unravel a mystery, find the secret codes, and “unlock” the boxes to survive or meet your end goal. Most escape rooms give participants an hour to escape.

 

Plot:  Tonight is the Hawkins Middle School Halloween Dance. The gang must save Dart’s Son and return him to the upside-down before anything bad happens in Hawkins.

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Supplies List:

You could use the Breakout Edu kit

4 number lock

3 number lock

Word lock

Key lock

Two lock boxes

Stuffed Demi Gordon or printed picture

Stranger thing Christmas light blanket or picture

Box of 80’s toys

Dungeons and Dragon character sheets and D and D dice

President Reagan picture

Old Halloween records

For any documents I used the courier font since it is similar to a typewriter font.

Instructions: I made sure I read the prompt so everyone knew what was going on. I also let them know they had two hints. I am prepared to always add one more hint later on if they need it.

Red Herrings:  I hung a picture of President Ronald Reagan like many schools would have had hanging up in classrooms in the 1980’s.  I had the Dungeons and Dragons items that mean nothing.

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Word Lock: I used the word “Spell” because it is one of the easy words you can use for the lock. I used the color code that went along with the stranger thing Christmas light blanket. Colored pieces of paper will be hidden in the room. This lock was placed on the large box.ccp5

4 Number Lock: I put some old records together and made a playlist and the order of the songs are on the records is the lock code. I ripped the printed copy so it looks like there might be more songs, but I only used these four.  This list was in the small box. The lock was placed on the large box.

Hawkins Middle School Dance Music List

  1. Witches’ Brew
  2. Monster’s Three Wishes
  3. Counting Is Wonderful
  4. The Count’s Weather Report

Code: 1437

3 Number Lock: I made secret memo from the US Department of Energy in Hawkins. I put the memo in the toys box. This lock was placed on the small box.

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US Department of Energy: Hawkins Laboratory Memo

October 15, 1985

Top Secret

Subject three is missing. We do not know where it is. It must be eliminated before it can cause damage in the town. We cannot risk any more mistakes. Nine soldiers are hunting it down. We need zero mistakes on this mission.

Code: 390

 

Key Lock: The key lock was placed on the larger box. The key was placed in the small box.

Results: This was one of my most successful escape rooms. The program completely filled up and I had great feedback from the teens. I ran two sessions of it.

For Stranger Things read-alikes, check out these lists:

 

Book Review: This Is What It Feels Like by Rebecca Barrow

Publisher’s description

this is whatThis tender story of friendship, music, and ferocious love asks: what will you fight for, if not yourself? You Don’t Know Me But I Know You author Rebecca Barrow’s next book is perfect for fans of Katie Cotugno and Emery Lord.

Who cares that the prize for the Sun City Originals contest is fifteen grand? Not Dia, that’s for sure. Because Dia knows that without a band, she hasn’t got a shot at winning. Because ever since Hanna’s drinking took over her life, Dia and Jules haven’t been in it. And because ever since Hanna left—well, there hasn’t been a band.

It used to be the three of them, Dia, Jules, and Hanna, messing around and making music and planning for the future. But that was then, and this is now—and now means a baby, a failed relationship, a stint in rehab, all kinds of off beats that have interrupted the rhythm of their friendship.

But like the lyrics of a song you used to play on repeat, there’s no forgetting a best friend. And for Dia, Jules, and Hanna, this impossible challenge—to ignore the past, in order to jump start the future—will only become possible if they finally make peace with the girls they once were, and the girls they are finally letting themselves be.

 

 

Amanda’s thoughts

I always like a story about complicated friendships. Here, in Barrow’s second book, we get just that; but it’s not just the story of why a friendship broke up, it’s also the story of how a friendship was patched back together.

 

Hanna, Dia, and Jules used to be best friends. Dia and Jules still are. They also used to be in a band together. Super tight, the girls played their mix of punk/grunge/R&B at shows and parties all around town until Hanna’s drinking problem got in the way. The book opens with them having just played a successful show, then jumps to the very end of senior year, 407 days after Hanna got sober. She’s no longer friends with Jules or Dia. The other two girls remain close, supporting each other through a break-up, a baby, and a death. We move around in time, narratively, and see their friendship in the past, see Hanna’s drinking escalate, and see Dia’s relationship with Elliot, the now-dead father of her baby. It’s easy to see how their friendship imploded, but it’s harder to see how the girls can put it back together. Enter the Sun City Originals contest.

 

Dia wants to enter the contest for a chance to win $15,000 and the opening spot for one of their favorite bands. Jules says it wouldn’t be right to enter without Hanna on drums, even though they haven’t even spoken to her in nearly two years. Reluctantly, the girls reform their band, but just their band—not their friendship. But playing together again means spending a lot of time together, and it’s hard to keep those walls up and hang on to those old hurts when they’re around each other so much, and when they’re having so much fun making music again. Dia and Jules realize they don’t even really know Hanna anymore. But can you start over being friends with someone when there’s so much baggage?

 

I loved this book for the painfully honest and authentic look at teenage friendship. The girls are all complex characters dealing with their own things. Dia has a toddler and is trying to protect her heart from falling in love and potentially losing another person. Jules is dating Autumn, a new girl at work who has never been in a relationship and isn’t sure if she’s a lesbian or bi or what. They’ve all just graduated high school and are trying to figure out what the future will bring. They’re not just trying to figure out who they are in relation to each other, but who they are in relation to many other people, and on their own. This story of trust, old wounds, rebuilding, and music is empowering and ultimately a powerful look at support female friendships. A great read.

 

Bonus: The whole time I read this, I was thinking about an amazing local (Minnesota) band that I saw last winter, Bruise Violet. I’m listening to them as I write this review. Check them out!

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

ISBN-13: 9780062494238
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 11/06/2018

Supporting our Latinx Readers

In light of recent news, we felt it would be useful to many to have a list of resources as a starting point for supporting our Latinx patrons – any of the below would be a good place to start.

Latinx in Kid Lit

13 YA Novels By Latino Authors Everyone Needs To Read

15 Latinx Authors You Really Need To Be Reading Right Now

LATIN AMERICAN YA BOOKS: A YOUNG ADULT READING LIST

8 YA Books With Latino Protagonists We Wish We Had As Teenagers

5 Latina Young Adult Authors You Need on Your Radar

23 YA and Middle Grade Books To Honor Hispanic Heritage Month

 

An Open Letter to the Middleton School District from Authors in the Latinx in Kidlit Community

Last week we learned that educators from the Middleton Heights Elementary School had celebrated Halloween by dressing up as the border wall and in racist stereotypes.  Images were shared far and wide on social media. If you aren’t familiar with the incident, you can find some information about it here:

https://www.idahostatesman.com/news/local/education/article221015995.html

Over the weekend, I was approached by one of my favorite authors, Jenny Torres Sanchez, and asked if TLT could post the following open letter to the Middleton School District in hopes that members of the Latinx authors in the Kidlit community could make an attempt to counter the hate that was on display last week in this school district. We at Teen Librarian Toolbox are happy to post this open letter and hope that you will all read and share it widely. The best way to counter hate and bias is by speaking love, and these authors are offering to do just that. I sincerely hope that the Middleton Heights School District will take these authors up on their generous offer in an effort to undo the damage that these teachers have done to children who are developing their view of self and others and their place in our world.

IMG_0884 (1)

Superintendent of Schools

Middleton School District

5 South Viking Avenue

Middleton, ID 83644

 

November 5, 2018

Dear Superintendent,

We are a group of award-winning Latinx children’s and young adult authors. We are writing to you to express our love and concern for the children of Middleton Heights Elementary School. While we are disheartened and dismayed by the decision of staff to wear offensive and racist Halloween costumes, we are also writing to extend a generous offer, an offer of compassion that we hope you will see it in your heart to accept.

Children, their welfare, their education, and the shaping of the world, is our business. Many of us are or were educators in addition to being authors for children and young adults. To hear that the children at Middleton Heights Elementary School were subjected to this offensive behavior by the very people they trust and look to for education and guidance was beyond disappointing. And we feel such a drastic offence requires drastic measures to remedy.

While your teachers should know better, their actions show they do not. While we question their intentions at wearing such, in your words, “clearly insensitive and inappropriate” costumes, we are willing to accept your conclusion that they had no “malicious intent.” However, their poor decisions also clearly embraced close-minded and hateful thinking. And worse, modeled it for young impressionable minds.

All of your students deserve better than this. We are sure this was painful and confusing for many of them, and especially for Latinx students. Not only are they subjected to this kind of thinking outside of their school, but now within their school too, a place where they should feel secure and loved. Not excluded.

We take you at your word that you would like to learn from this and change. In that spirit, we would like to help you.

We are extending an offer to visit your school. We would like to talk to your students and staff about the richness of our culture. To show a positive and realistic representation of the very people this costume depicts as one-dimensional beings and implies should be kept out. To show that there is no danger in opening our hearts and minds to ALL people and displaying empathy and love to all mankind.

To this end, we propose a school visit where we will:

  1. Give a presentation to a general assembly where we will give motivational speeches to inspire students to accept, love, and respect each other as we build community in our country.
  2. Read excerpts from our books—books which we created to help children understand and treat others with love and compassion.
  3. Speak to and support your faculty and staff in a meet and greet apart from the general assembly.
  4. Bring and donate books by Latinx authors to enhance your classroom and school libraries.

We implore you to take us up on our offer. We are eager to visit your school and hope you will welcome us.

 

Most sincerely,

Jenny Torres Sanchez

Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Angela Cervantes

Reyna Grande

Erika L. Sanchez

David Bowles

Diana Lopez

Carmen Tafolla

Jennifer Cervantes

Isabel Quintero

Lulu Delacre

Yamile Mendez

Christina Diaz Gonzalez

Xelena Gonzalez

Lilliam Rivera

Lidia Gil

Pablo Cartaya

Celia Perez

Meg Medina

Aida Salazar

Hilda Burgos

Emma Otheguy

Anna Meriano

Debbie Reed Fischer

Julissa Arce

Full Circle Literary Agency

Sunday Reflections: Looking for Hope and Finding My Superpowers

Hope

For me, it’s been in short supply since around this time two years ago.

hope1

As a survivor of sexual violence, I woke up devastated in the early morning hours after the election to hear that our nation had elected a man who openly advocated sexual violence to the office of president. Even more so, I was devastated to learn that it was fellow Christian brethren who had chosen to do so. I had spent months leading up to the election wondering why my fellow Christians weren’t speaking out about this man’s violence towards and statements about women. Every day of silence I felt my hope seeping out of my pores.

As the growing incidents and speech regarding misogyny, racism, bigotry, anti-semitism and hate for the marginalized and the poor have increased, I have felt a growing lack of hope swell within me. This lack of hope started to sink into despair, darkness, fear and extreme anger towards my fellow Christians who had spent years preaching one thing and were now openly endorsing something that did not and does not in any way align with the teachings of Jesus. But then I found hope in the writings of John Pavlovitz.

Sometimes soon after the election, I found a blog post by Pavlovitz that expressed a Christian regret that felt familiar to mine. Here was a man of faith, a minister, openly questioning the Christian church’s support of the current president. He spoke specifically about why victims of sexual violence had felt betrayal, a betrayal I felt and continue to feel deep in my bones. He called out the Christian church’s silence on growing racism and anti-Semitic speech. He openly challenged the Christian church’s support of Trump as president. He is bold, brash, and speaks directly to my own concerns.

Pavlovitz represents the type of Christianity I feel called to. A Christian faith that asks us to truly love our neighbor, to give to the poor and support the hurting, to welcome the other because the Imago Dei is in every human being. Reading the online blog of this man and several other progressive Christian women – including Jen Hatmaker, Rachel Held Evans, Sarah Bessey and others – helped me to reclaim my Christian faith. You see, I had been told for so long that I couldn’t call myself a Christian if I didn’t support x, y or z that I started to believe it, even though x, y or z didn’t align with Scripture. I was hurting and lost and Pavlovitz was one of the writers that helped me find myself again and to reclaim the Christian label that was an important part of my identity.

A few weeks ago, Simon and Schuster tweeted about an upcoming book called Hope and Other Superpowers: A Life-Affirming, Love-Defending, Butt-Kicking, World- Saving Manifesto, and I was anxious to read the newest book by this fellow Christian whose blog had helped put me back on solid ground. And I really needed a little bit of hope as mid-term elections approach. The people at Simon and Schuster were kind enough to send me an advanced copy and it did not disappoint.

hope2

When I began reading Hope, my family was sitting in the living room with me. I kept reading sentences out loud to them and feeling so inspired, I just started from the beginning again and I began reading the book out loud to my husband and two children. I didn’t read the entire thing out loud to them, but I have shared with them several passages and have encouraged them to read it.

Here’s another thing you need to know about Pavlovitz: One of my best friends in the world is an atheist. Even he follows Pavlovitz and reads his blog, because Pavlovitz is inspiring, challenging, respectful, welcoming and factual. I was stunned when I discovered that we were both reading and being inspired by this same writer, especially because Pavlovitz does not hide or downplay his beliefs in any way. He is firm in his faith while being holistic and welcoming.

One of the metaphors running through this book is that of the superhero. Like many of us, Pavlovitz was obsessed with superheroes as a child and has thought long and hard about what kind of super powers he would want and why. But in Hope, Pavlovitz reminds us that we can all be superheroes. It doesn’t even have to be in big, splashy ways. Opening your home up to a stranger for dinner. Saying a kind word. Speaking up and out for truth. We all have our own super powers, we just have to find out what they are and then boldly use them for good.

Being a huge Avengers and Wonder Woman fan, I really appreciated the underlying theme of super heroes with super powers as a call to action. It works for me, though it will not work for everyone. I have a friend who hasn’t seen any super hero movies and finds the concept quite simply stupid, so even though she would agree with the main points of this book, she would find the ongoing superhero metaphor tedious and ham fisted. I love her any way.

Hope and Other Superpowers is the book we need for right now. Actually, it’s the book we needed two years ago. And in many ways I fear that right now is too late, but later is better than never. In some ways, it breaks my heart that this book is coming out on the same day as the mid-term elections as I feel it could have inspired a lot of people preceding the elections. And I fear that we will need it more than ever after the mid-term elections depending on the outcome. Although to be honest, we always need hope, and though I personally feel this book is coming out too late, too late is definitely better than never.

Pavlovitz did not disappoint with this book. It challenged, it inspired, and it calls us all to action. Some of the qualities he discusses, in the stories of superheroes of course, are compassion, sacrifice, courage, humor, humility, honesty, kindness, creativity, persistence, wonder and gratitude. He talks about archenemies and kryptonite, the self-doubt and other crippling things we have picked up along the way that stop us from seeking out our inner super-hero. He reminds us all that every hero has an origin story and that along the way there are moments of failure and regret.

operation bb

I loved reading this book. I needed Hope and, as I often do, I found that hope in the pages of a book. This past month, Thing 2 and I have been hard at work on a project that she asked me to help her do called Operation BB: Books in Backpacks. It takes time, it takes money, and it takes space in our home in which I can’t stand clutter. But when she came up with the idea, there was something in me that wanted to help her and wanted to help her succeed. We started the project before I started reading this book, but reading it reminded me that not only as her mother, but as a compassionate human being, helping her do this project was the exact right call. I could have shrugged her off with concerns about time and money, both real concerns. And we have relied on the kindness of friends and strangers to help this project be successful. But every moment that she is engaged and supported, she is being given a building block of hope and a chance to find her super power and ways that she can make a difference. She felt a stirring inside her and though she needed support, as we all do, she has pursued it. The chapter about kryptonite and archenemies really resonated with me because I know that so many of us have had those harsh and discouraging words spoken to us that makes us feel like we have nothing much to give to this world and reading Hope helped me to address them in my own life and reminded me that I was doing a good thing as a parent in helping my child by giving her positive building blocks on her journey to hope and finding her true identity.

I hope that everyone will read this book. You don’t have to be a Christian to do so as Pavlovitz is very clear that this is a message rooted in love and compassion for all and that everyone has some super power to offer into this world. I also highly recommend following him on social media and reading his blog.

I’m going to go to end this post and go to church now, a place I thought I would never be able to return to after the election. It’s a different church and I still struggle with some of the messaging, but I’m finding ways to hope again. And I keep trying to find my superpowers and use them to help bring hope to the hurting world. I hope you’ll join me.