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Sunday Reflections: Can Public Libraries Be Open to Hate and Be a Welcoming Place? A look at the recent pronouncement from the Office of Intellectual Freedom

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV.

Trigger Warning: This post discusses hate crimes and genocide.


The day after the 2016 election, I walked into my Teen MakerSpace not sure what to expect. I personally had spent the entire night crying because as a woman who advocates regularly against sexual violence, I was gutted that our nation had just elected a self-professed sexual predator as its leader. To be honest, I’m never going to forgive any of us for that. Women, of course, were not the only group to be fearful of this election outcome as it was very clear that Donald Trump and his supporters were specifically advocating against the safety and civil rights of a variety of groups, including the LGBTQ population, people of color, the disabled, and Muslims.

So I walked into the space and there sat one of my LGBTQ teens and a handful of other teens. They started talking about the election results, as I knew they would. At one point, this teen looked the other group of teens right in the eyes and said, “Do you know what they want to do to me?” The GOP has been very vocal that they are anti-LGBTQ, and some members of the party even advocate for a process known as conversion therapy, which has been classified as torture by some human rights groups and is outlawed in several countries and in some states.

Library Meeting Rooms for All – Intellectual Freedom Blog

I have thought a lot about this girl and several of my other teens in the recent weeks as it was announced that the Office of Intellectual Freedom, a subdivision of the American Library Association, passed a resolution indicating that public libraries that have public meeting rooms must make those meeting rooms open and available to hate groups. I’m not sure what the impetus for this resolution was, but the specifically added the word “hate groups”, suggesting that hate groups are on equal footing as sports organizations and the local gardening club.

Since the 2016 election, there has been a documented increase in both hate speech and hate crimes against marginalized groups. We will all recall at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Heather Heyer was purposefully killed as she counter protested against a white supremacist group. Women wearing hijabs are having them forcibly removed on the street, Mexican men are being assaulted and told to return to their own country, and black people are having the police called on them regularly for merely existing in this world. And if you are a black person, you have a much higher chance of being killed by the police. There’s a lot of hate in our world right now and a lot of it is resulting in a violation of basic civil and human rights, and for marginalized people, it can be literally deadly.

Hate groups are different in that they specifically organize around their, well, hate and their goal is to oppress if not outright eliminate the object of their hate. The Nazis didn’t just want to sit around and talk about how much they hated Jewish people, they were in the process of practicing outright genocide. Now, the Office of Intellectual Freedom is telling public libraries that we must open our meeting room doors and allow these groups to come in and use our spaces to make their plans for genocide while the very people they are targeting browse for books or attend storytimes with their children in another part of the library. This doesn’t seem like it is just a free speech issue, it seems like it is a health and safety issue. And what does it mean if one group of people want to use their free speech to violate the civil rights of another group of people? What does it mean if they are literally making plans for a genocide?

On the one hand, I do believe they are technically and legally correct. By definition, free speech demands that we must allow all people to speak, even if it is speech that we disagree with. On the other hand, this is far more than a free speech issue, as it is a staff and patron safety issue. Remember, hate groups don’t just sit around and discuss unpopular opinions, they are actively working towards oppressing and, in a lot of cases, outright doing harm to the targets of their wrath. I don’t want to be at work on a day like Charlottesville where the white supremacists are meeting at my library and they start attacking the gay teen walking into the library.

I have been doing a lot of research and reading on this subject in the past week as I wrestled with what this declaration means and how I can reconcile it with my personal and professional ethics. I found this document which discusses extremist groups and public libraries which was produced by the Anti-Defamation League. It suggests that libraries that have rooms don’t have to open those rooms to the public or that you can be strict in the rules regarding your meeting room spaces, as long as you are consistent in how you apply your rules. The OIF made a follow-up statement stating the same thing, public libraries don’t have to make their meeting rooms open to the public but if you do, you must be consistently open to the public, including being open to hate groups.

You can also find a lot of good discussion about this recent OIF proclamation by following the hashtag #NoHateALA on Twitter.

Several years ago I had the honor of working beside a distinguished librarian. She was knowledgeable, service oriented, kind, professional, and a powerhouse. It was a time of great transition in our system and as the administration made a lot of decisions that she could not agree with, she was lucky in that she was able to resign and walk away stating, “this isn’t what I became a librarian to do.” The direction that library was taking no longer coincided with her personal and professional ethics so she made the hard decision to walk away. I have thought about her, too, in all of this and wondered if push came to shove, if I was asked to do something that would make me complicit to something which I fundamentally disagree with, would I be able to walk away. I have a mortgage to pay and children to feed, but I think all of us have to wrestle with where the line is for us personally and when we may have to walk away from a job or choose to violate our own personal or professional ethics. (FTR, I am not here talking anything about the current library system in which I work and that I love, I’m just considering the larger professional discussion here.)

I am not here today with answers. As I mentioned, I’m not sure what is the legal response in this situation. I know that this does cause great concern for me in terms of staff and patron safety, and I feel we have an obligation to that as well. Then there is simply the matter of morality. I do not want to be complicit to oppressing or harming others. I do not want to look back one day and realize a genocide has occurred and find myself on the wrong side of history. I think about this a lot both professionally and personally. I do believe we are a critical moment in history here and when we come out of it, I want to be able to say I stood up for what I believed was right and have my children be proud to see that I fought the good fight against hatred and oppression. I want to stand before my personal God and have him say that I followed his one golden rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

What I do think needs to happen right now is that every public library should be talking to their boards and their legal counsel and training their staff. We need to have solid policies and procedures in place before we get the phone call from the local white nationalist group asking to use our spaces so that our staff knows what to say, who to refer to, etc. This is not the time to leave public services staff unaware and unprepared.

Friday Finds: July 13, 2018

tltbutton3This Week at TLT

For your summer 2018 TBR: Backlist YA you don’t want to miss

Things I Never Learned in Library School: Waiting for Reimbursement, aka Libraries Must Fund Their Programming

Collecting Comics: July 2018 edition by Ally Watkins

Book Review: The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell and friends

YA A to Z: O is for Outsider, a guest post by author Kirstin Cronn-Mills

Sunday Reflections: There is no one right way to be an American

Around the Web

Who’s ready for I read YA week?!

Some teachers have declared their right to resist NC legislators. How far will they go?

Here’s What’s Going On With Affirmative Action And School Admissions

YAs That Get it Right: Depression Edition

Policy allowing hate groups to meet at libraries comes under fire


For your summer 2018 TBR: Backlist YA you don’t want to miss

The amount of books that appear here cause me a fair amount of anxiety. And that’s not me whining about getting so many great books sent to me to consider reviewing for TLT; that’s me saying that my anxiety disorder can turn anything into something to worry about, even something seemingly good like towering stacks of books. I am constantly updating lists—what books came in, what I for sure will review, what I need to skim to see if I want to review it, etc. Plus I keep putting books on hold at the library, like I have time for them. Then I go to Edelweiss to request more. Then I decide to fall down a research hole as I write. I know I’m speaking to my people when I say that there are just SO MANY books and why can’t I read them all? WHY?


One of the lists I keep is recent books I’ve missed but for sure want to make time to read this summer. I tend to read in order of publication date and review about 6 weeks into the future, so if a book appears here after it’s been published, I might not get around to reading it. Sad but true. So, as I started to make a list of books, I began to think of what books I’d want to tell people they should go back and seek out if they somehow missed them when they first came out. I went back just to 2017 to make this list to keep it from growing totally out of control. I’m including a teeny excerpt from my review of the book and you can click on the title and author to go to the full review, should you want to learn more. You can also check out the installment of this list that I did in May 2017. If you’re looking to build your list, or make a display of great recentish books (from the past year or two) that definitely deserve to be discovered this summer, here is a good place to start. Have some favorites from the past few years that people should pick up this summer? Let us know! Leave a comment or tweet me @CiteSomething


carefulThe Careful Undressing of Love by Corey Ann Haydu

Haydu has written a profound story examining grief, doubt, tradition, expectation, and identity. Haydu’s story brings up huge questions about sacrifice and protection, about truth and perception. We are asked to consider, right alongside Lorna and crew, if love if a decision. Lorna and her friends know grief and pain, but they are still young. They are still learning that loss and heartache are inherent in love. And they can’t protect themselves from that—not by chalking things up to a Curse, not by drinking certain teas, not by building cages around their hearts, not by anything. They don’t yet know that we are all Affected, that we are all Cursed. In their isolation, they don’t understand that everyone has lost loved ones, that everyone blames themselves. Thanks to the relentlessness of Angelika, the Devonairre Street girls feel like they are the only ones protecting themselves, denying themselves, and stumbling under the dizzying weight of grief and guilt. Lorna, Delilah, Charlotte, and Isla’s whole lives are filled with people making them feel Other because of this. They don’t yet understand these are the prices we pay for being alive, for being the survivors. Their search for this understanding, their stumbling for answers and finding new pain, is heartbreaking. This beautifully written story is not to be missed. A powerful and deeply profound exploration of love, tragedy, and life itself.



alfonsoI Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina, Stacey Robinson, and John Jennings

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. 



closest ive comeThe Closest I’ve Come by Fred Aceves

Marcos is so achingly honest and vulnerable. He longs for connections—real, meaningful connections, where he can truly talk about his life. His loneliness is palpable. He makes mistakes but owns up to them and learns from them. Despite having every reason in the world not to, he allows himself to be real and open, tentatively at first, seeking so hard to find understanding and compassion, and to offer it to others. He’s loyal, smart, and brave enough to move beyond the expectations for him. It takes guts to make new friends, to be authentic (all while still trying to figure out just who you are), to try new things. It takes guts to go home day after day only to be greeted by abuse and neglect and indifference. It takes guts to tell your friend he’s making the wrong choice, to tell a girl you might be in love with her, to tell the police what’s been happening at home. Though the story is filled with violence and sadness, it is ultimately a hopeful story. Aceves shows how terribly painful life can be, but also how beautiful it can become through friendships, support, growth, and hope. A powerful look into the life of one kid trying to answer the question of “who am I?” in the midst of both bleak circumstances and increasingly deep friendships. 



calling my nameCalling My Name by Liara Tamani

This quiet book is beautifully written and features a very introspective main character who interrogates her thoughts on sex, faith, dating, her future, and more. When we first meet Taja she’s 11 (I think–often her age is not specified). We follow her through her senior year of high school. Spanning such a large number of years is a risky move in a YA book and initially readers may wonder why she is so young and when the story will jump to her older teen years. Though she may be on the younger side at the beginning of the story, she grapples with the same questions throughout her tween and teen years. Raised in a religious household in Houston, Taja understands that her parents decide what’s best for her and wonders when she will get to choose for herself. She thinks a lot about church, God, religion, expectations, double standards, guilt, commitments, and what it means to truly feel alive. Her feelings change and grow as she gets older and really works to figure out what it is she believes and wants from life. An overachiever with big dreams, Taja eventually has to decide if the future her boyfriend sees for them is one she can live with.




sparrowSparrow by Sarah Moon

14-year-old Brooklyn 8th grader Sparrow has debilitating social anxiety. She has always dealt with her fear and shyness by flying away—not literally, of course, but pretty close. She pictures herself off with the birds, away from everything on land that makes her uncomfortable. When she’s found on the school roof during one of her flying episodes, everyone assumes it’s a suicide attempt and won’t hear otherwise. Sparrow begins therapy with Dr. Katz. At first, she’s reluctant to open up, worried Dr. Katz will think she’s crazy. It doesn’t help that her mother isn’t thrilled that she’s in therapy and thinks of it as White Girl Stuff (Sparrow and her mother are black). But slowly, Sparrow begins to talk to Dr. Katz, admitting to herself and her mother how much good the therapy is doing. School is still hard for her, especially because her beloved favorite teacher, Mrs. Wexler, the librarian, died earlier in the year. Sparrow had spent every lunch since 5th grade in the library, finding solace in both the library and Mrs. Wexler. Everything since her death has been harder. But therapy is helping, as is her new (and intense) interest in music. Dr. Katz introduces her to older punk and indie music (think Pixies, Sonic Youth, Patti Smith), and Sparrow revels in the connective and redemptive power of music. Dr. Katz pushes Sparrow to learn how to deal with all of the things that make her want to fly away, but it’s really through a month-long girls’ rock music camp that Sparrow begins to find her voice and overcome her fears.



neighborhood girlsNeighborhood Girls by Jessie Ann Foley

This book is not an easy or uplifting read in any way. The bad things just keep on coming. Wendy is in a bad situation with her friends and makes a lot of bad choices while with them (or, maybe more accurately, makes no choices, just standing by, which is just as bad). The story is given great depth thanks to how fleshed out Wendy is and how much readers get to know her and see her internal struggle. Neighborhood Girls is a moving and at times frustrating look at faith, love, and forgiveness. Wendy spends a lot of time thinking about uncertain futures, painful pasts, and the terrible and sometimes wonderful present. A good choice for readers who like introspective main characters who spend too long making bad choices even when they know better. 



you don't knowYou Don’t Know Me but I Know You by Rebecca Barrow

While Audrey’s pregnancy and choice of what to do are at the heart of the story, this is also about families, more generally, and friendship, especially the ways little rifts can sneak in and suddenly turn into far larger distances than you thought you’d ever have with a friend. Rose, who is bisexual, has recently started dating Olivia, the new girl at school, but Audrey really knows nothing about what’s going on with them, thanks to the fact that she and Rose are barely speaking. Audrey ultimately makes the choice that feels right to her (in a situation where no choice feels “right”) surrounded by love, support, and options. A well-written, necessary, and honest, heartfelt look at making what feels like an impossible choice. 




star crossedStar-Crossed by Barbara Dee

All of that would be plenty, but the 8th graders are also putting on a class play—and Gemma is Juliet to Mattie’s Romeo. Much of the action of the book takes place at play practices, where a nervous Mattie has to figure out how to interact with Gemma. She eventually takes some advice for the play and turns to her own Benvolio and Mercutio—her best friends Lucy and Tessa. While she knows she likes Gemma, she’s still not sure what it actually means for her (or if Gemma feels the same way), but surrounded by caring friends, family, and peers, she’s on her way to figuring it out in this much needed look at a middle schooler questioning her sexuality. The positive, accepting, supportive tone of the story makes this book a must-have for every middle school library. 




dreamlandDreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham

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


truthThe Truth of Right Now by Kara Lee Corthron

This intense story does not shy away from looking hard at racism, mental illness, the thing from Lily’s past that I’m not spoiling, and people making really horrible choices.Alternating viewpoints give the reader more of a peek into Dari and Lily’s minds and help keep the emotional tension high. This was one of those books where I read it as a nearly 40-year-old adult and just keep thinking about how *young* these characters are. They go through so much–things no one should have to go through at any age.  I have already flipped back a couple of times to read the very end, where Corthron gives the reader one last harsh truth. This isn’t always an easy read, but it’s absolutely an important one. Read this one and be ready to talk about racism, violence, sexual choices, and the many ways adults in this story screw up and damage the children in this book. 

Things I Never Learned in Library School: Waiting for Reimbursement, aka Libraries Must Fund Their Programming

thingsineverlearnedinlibraryschoolEarlier this week, a post about reimbursement came across my Twitter timeline proclaiming that reimbursement is not an equitable system (https://twitter.com/readitrealgood/status/1015776354074288128). Like many things that come up in my timeline, I hadn’t really thought about the inherent classism involved in reimbursement, even though I had lived with it myself in my professional career. The truth is, many people (most people) do not have the discretionary funds needed to spend their personal funds for work related expenses and wait to be reimbursed.

At one of the libraries that I worked at, and remember I’ve worked for four different library systems in two different states, we had to pay for all library programming out of pocket and wait to be reimbursed by the Friends of the Library, a process that could take more than a month depending on where in the month your purchase occurred. As a YA Librarian I was required to do YA programs, but the library had no budget line or mechanism for paying for these programs. It was all done via reimbursement from the Friends of the Library. The only exception to this was if you booked an author or a performer, which meant you must do so far enough in advance to get all the correct paperwork filled out to have a check made out directly to the performer. And if you do any teen programming, you will understand that a lot of teen programming involves things like having to purchase craft supplies and food.

At this library, the school was within walking distance to the middle school, which meant that we had the traditional problem of a large influx of energetic, hungry teens right after school and we had to find a way to meet their needs and maintain a safe, suitable environment for non-teen patrons who wanted to use the public library. Thus, our after school Teen CoffeeHouse was born. We opened up our meeting every Tuesday afternoon for teens wanting to play video games, do crafts and have snacks. Teens are very hungry after school. This program was one of my most successful programs ever, and in its height we would have near 100 teens on every Tuesday. This meant that every week I had to go to the local grocery store and use my own personal bank account to buy snacks for a library program and wait to be reimbursed. At the end of each month, depending on how many teens we had, I could have personally been waiting for anywhere from $200 to $300 in reimbursement.

This is the Teen MakerSpace at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County. I am proud to say it is very supported by our admin and they have great mechanisms in place for purchasing supplies. I'm thankful every day.

This is the Teen MakerSpace at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County. I am proud to say it is very supported by our admin and they have great mechanisms in place for purchasing supplies. I’m thankful every day.

At every previous system that I had worked in, programming was expected and a part of the annual budget. There were mechanisms in place for purchasing supplies for programs. Not all of the different ways were easy or convenient, but they didn’t rely on me having my own personal funds in my own personal bank account. I can not stress to you what an unfair and undue hardship this was, expecting me to use my personal funds in order for me to be successful at the requirements of my job. I was barely making it before, then I suddenly found myself pregnant and raising an infant. I was no longer making it paycheck to paycheck, there were zero funds to do things like by craft materials and food for a library program.

I had always thought that this library system’s process was an anomaly. I campaigned long and hard to change the system, because it was simply unsustainable. Eventually, it was in fact changed, and I was forever grateful. But I was surprised to learn when tweeting about this story how many libraries still expect their staff to pay for work related expenses, including programming, out of their own pockets and wait for reimbursement. Many people tweeted at me or DMed me to let me know that they too had to do this at one time or another, many more to say they were doing this presently, and they were barely making it. Only one person replied that they had to do this but they didn’t really mind because they got a bunch of extra bonus points on their personal credit card.

This is an injustice to library staff that must be halted. I was disheartened to learn how many of my peers were be asked to suffer this very real hardship from their employers.

If libraries want to have programming, then libraries must fund programming in their annual budgets. The money has to be there. I understand that libraries have complicated budgets and a variety of laws that regulate how, where and why money is spent and how that spending has to be recorded. Money in libraries is a difficult subject in the best of times, and these are not the best of financial times for libraries. But the truth is, the library has to have a way to do the things the library says it wants to do up front.

Then, libraries must have mechanisms in place for staff to make any purchasing that may be needed to be the resources for programming. That means that library staff members must be able to order or purchase supplies at the onset using library funds. It is not reasonable to expect staff to use personal funds to perform the daily duties of their job. Staff are paid for their work, they should not be expected to turn around and use their hard earned personal funds to do the work. We’ll save conversations about how most library staff are underpaid and underemployed for a future conversation.

Even a simple craft program needs funding.

Even a simple craft program needs funding.

If you are a library who is asking staff to do x, y or z and using that rubric to evaluate whether or not they are effective at their job, then you must provide the necessary tools for them to actually be effective at their job. Evaluate what your library’s goals are, whether or not the tools are in place for staff to be successful in meeting these goals, and make adjustments if necessary. If you are a library who demands library programming but doesn’t have a way to fund that programming up front, then you need to either stop doing library programming or put the mechanisms in place to fund those programs up front using library monies.

And if you are a library employee who does programming, this is another reminder of why it is very important that library staff never use their own money or time to do library programming. Administrators need to have a true account and understanding of how much staff time and how much library funding is necessary to do successful library programming. When we take work home and do it on our own time or purchase supplies and donate them because we want to do a program that is bigger than our budgets, administrators don’t understand the true cost, have unreasonable expectations, and don’t provide the staff and funding we need because they don’t understand the real level of need. It seems weird to say, but donating our time and money hurts our patrons, because they don’t get the community investment from the library that they really need, it hurts our admin, because they don’t have the full picture to successfully do their job of developing budgets and maintaining adequate staffing levels, and it hurts our successors because we are establishing unreasonable goals that they will be evaluated by.

I know that libraries everywhere are facing money shortages and other challenges, I’m right there in the trenches with you. But our answers to these challenges can not be unfair to our staff, unfair to our patrons, and they shouldn’t cause more problems than they solve. Even in challenging times, we have to establish best practices for our staff and our community.

Collecting Comics: July 2018 edition by Ally Watkins


Check out these comics, out in July, that your teens and tweens will want!


Cottons: The Secret of the Wind by Jim Pascoe, illustrated by Heidi Arnhold (First Second, July 3). The first in an epic trilogy, volume 1 of Cottons follows the story of Bellebridge, a rabbit who seems ordinary, but who actually has magic powers and can turn ordinary objects into beautiful works of art. But there are those about who want to harness her powers and turn them into a weapon.


Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Volume 5: Fantastic Three by Brandon Montclare, illustrated by Natacha Bustos (July 10, Marvel). When the Silver Surfer comes to Earth with a warning about the future, Lunella Lafayette joins forces with The Human Torch and the Thing to make the Fantastic Three! Can they save the Earth? Collects issues #25-#30 of the comic book series.


Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Volume 4 by Brian Michael Bendis, illustrated by Oscar Bazaldua (Marvel, July 17). Sandman, Hobgoblin, the Spot, Electro and Bombshell have all united to make Spider-Man’s life a living hell. But it’s not just his life that’s on the chopping block–his friend Lana will be affected by this unholy alliance, too. How will they cope? Collects issues #224-240 of the comic book series.


Lumberjanes, Volume 9 by Shannon Watters and Kat Leyh, illustrated by Carolyn Nowak (BOOM! Box, July 24). The Yetis are kicked out of their treehouse by the Sasquatches and it’s up to the gang of Roanoke to win the treehouse back…in a roller derby bout!


Making Friends by Kristen Gudsnuk (Graphix, July 31). Middle school is a lot harder than Danny expected. She’s dealing with a new school, cliques, and she feels totally lost. So when she inherits a magic sketchbook, she decides to draw something great: the perfect best friend. But this may not work out like Danny’s hoping.


Ms. Marvel, Volume 9: Teenage Wasteland by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Nico Leon (Marvel, July 31). Ms. Marvel is nowhere to be found! Where is she? Jersey City is still in need of heroes, and lots of them are stepping up to the plate, including the newest superhero, Red Dagger. But when an old foe comes back, can anyone stop him other than Ms. Marvel herself? Collects issues #25-#30 of the comic book series.

Book Review: The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell and friends

Publisher’s description

cardboard kingdomPerfect for fans of Raina Telgemeier, Awkward, and All’s Faire in Middle School, this graphic novel follows a neighborhood of kids who transform ordinary cardboard into fantastical homemade costumes as they explore conflicts with friends, family, and their own identity.

Welcome to a neighborhood of kids who transform ordinary boxes into colorful costumes, and their ordinary block into cardboard kingdom. This is the summer when sixteen kids encounter knights and rogues, robots and monsters—and their own inner demons—on one last quest before school starts again.

In the Cardboard Kingdom, you can be anything you want to be—imagine that!

The Cardboard Kingdom was created, organized, and drawn by Chad Sell with writing from ten other authors: Jay Fuller, David DeMeo, Katie Schenkel, Kris Moore, Molly Muldoon, Vid Alliger, Manuel Betancourt, Michael Cole, Cloud Jacobs, and Barbara Perez Marquez. The Cardboard Kingdom affirms the power of imagination and play during the most important years of adolescent identity-searching and emotional growth.


Amanda’s thoughts

I’m keeping track of what books I read for younger readers this summer and making a post-it note blog post about them, just like I post during the school year. But I loved this book so much that I wanted to single it out and make sure it gets seen so it can be added to all collections. There is a lot to like about this graphic novel. The vibrant, cheerful art is incredibly appealing, the large cast of characters all get their own little storylines and stand out as unique and memorable—not an easy task when looking at this many characters. I love the emphasis on creativity, imagination, and working together as well as the creative play that allows you to imagine yourself however you’d like to be—or to show the world how you really are. As the parent of a kid who still, at 12, loves nothing more than turning a cardboard box into the scene for some imagined battle, a kid who is generally outside in some kind of costume, I especially love it. The diversity of kids and home lives shown here is effortless, inclusive, and affirming. There’s a boy who lives with this grandmother while his mother is off somewhere else, and needs to learn to care for herself before he can go live with her again. There’s a young child, Jack, who loves the role of the sorceress because she is how he sees himself, how he’d like to be. His mother assures him that she’s okay with that, with him, and that he’s amazing. There’s Miguel who longs to be the romantic lead opposite a dashing prince. Seth’s parents are splitting up and he fears his father’s visits to their house. Some of the kids are the charismatic organizers while others hang back more and have to work a little harder to feel at ease with the group. This is a really excellent book with one of the most diverse groups of kids I’ve seen in a children’s book in a long time. A surefire hit with the graphic novel crowd. 


ISBN-13: 9781524719388
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Publication date: 06/05/2018


YA A to Z: O is for Outsider, a guest post by author Kirstin Cronn-Mills

Today for #YAAtoZ we are honored to have author Kirstin Cronn-Mills talking about being an Outsider.


My mom swears I knew how to read at three. I know my dad was teaching me about Roman numerals and the Valley of the Kings at four. I had no idea these things were even slightly unusual. Nobody in my house was neurotypical, but I didn’t know that, either.

It was reinforced over and over in elementary and high school: I didn’t think like other people, I didn’t react like other people (puberty emotions x 1000), I just . . . wasn’t like other girls. End of story. This fact mostly made me sad. I didn’t have a lot of friends, but the ones I did have seemed to accept my oh-so-brainy-and-different self.

College was better—I could be curious to my heart’s content, and I didn’t know when others judged me, because I wasn’t around those people. Then I fell in love, went to grad school, got married, went to another grad school, had a baby, and got a full-time job. All of it regular human stuff. But I still felt like an outsider.

The reinforcement continued: I wasn’t like other moms, or other soccer parents, or other teachers, and definitely not like other spouses, much to my husband’s dismay and frustration. Why was I so emotional? Why was my brain so busy all the dang time? Why couldn’t I relax?

Finally, through a long string of events and a couple lightbulb moments, the answer arrived: I have ADHD. I had been misdiagnosed by my psychiatrist for 23 years. Yes. 23. I’d even had an MRI in 2006, after my brother was diagnosed with a brain tumor (our hometown is a cancer cluster, so it was worth checking). My psychiatrist said “Hmm. You have a less robust frontal lobe.” That’s actually a sign of ADHD, but neither of us put the pieces together. I said, “Well, it’s served me all right so far.” And that was that.

Turns out women and girls with ADHD tend to be more inattentive, with less outward hyperactivity, and our chattiness or scatterbrained-ness is chalked up to being “just a girl” (side note: research needs to catch up and explore how many different genders express ADHD, but right now it’s focused on the binary)  Lots of us are diagnosed at midlife because our estrogen decreases, so our symptoms skyrocket.

TLT O is for Outsider

It also turns out women with ADHD feel inadequate, judged, and stupid because we can struggle with tasks that are stereotypically ours—paying bills on time, throwing kids’ birthday parties, managing a household. Add in the societal pressure to be a perfect parent or spouse, along with the pressure to look like a fashion model, and we get depressed and anxious. Doctors end up treating the symptoms, but not the root cause.

After I figured out the right category for my brain, I grieved. Hard. I grieved my mistakes (soooo many) and the time I’d lost trying to be someone I wasn’t. Then I put the pieces together (again) and grieved for my grandma and my dad, who lived and died in times where their brains weren’t recognized or understood. But while I mourned, I was also ecstatic, because I understood who I was. I knew there were others like me. Now we’re outsiders together.

Fictional Characters with ADHD: Books We Love – ADDitude

Not long after my diagnosis, my friend Rachel told me I was a superhero—an X-Man, in fact. Hadn’t I noticed my superpowers? She stopped me in my tracks, because she’s right. I can focus for a really, really long time—so long that I’ve managed to write 9 books, plus a lot of poetry, while raising a son and working full-time. I have compassion for days, because I feel things so deeply. I am also easily amused, and generally happy—plus I’m funny. Usually.

The absences my brain creates—a slippery relationship with time, a tendency toward forgetting, SO MANY EMOTIONS—can usually be balanced out by my superpowers. Not in the eyes of culture, of course—same as in the X-Men mythology, our culture tends to shun us—but in my eyes, I feel as cool as Jean Gray or Storm.

Kirstin Cronn-Mills is the author of Beautiful Music for Ugly Children

Kirstin Cronn-Mills is the author of Beautiful Music for Ugly Children

Now, after 2.5 years of sorting out my powers, it’s time to advocate for a positive view of neurodiversity, of all kinds. My work in progress is called O IS FOR OUTSIDER. Evvie, the protagonist, has ADHD—as do her mom and the octopus researcher (!) she follows. These three women offer no apologies for their neurodivergence, and they like themselves. As the story develops, Evvie crushes on one of the octopus researcher’s helpers—turns out he’s neurodiverse, too. Nobody’s made to feel ashamed of the way their brain behaves, and everyone is supported for who they are.

Utopias are awesome, right?

In our real world, there’s still plenty of risk in claiming who I am. For example: what happens if my day job boss reads this post? She might instantly discredit everything I say and do. What if an editor sees this post and refuses to work with me, assuming I’ll miss my deadlines (I’m always early with manuscripts)? What if readers don’t give my books a chance because they assume they’re too weird?

The word “neurodiversity” comes from the autism community but can describe many different kinds of brains. We neurodivergent X-Men bring strengths to humanity that others can’t match (Albert Einstein, anyone?). If we’re a little bit late, or a little hypervigilant, or we see letters in weird orders, please be patient with us. We’re figuring out relativity or earning Olympic medals (hi, Simone Biles!). If you’re a person with autism, anxiety, ADHD, depression, bipolar disorder, dyslexia, or any other kind of differently-wired brain, hello. I see you and your powers, and I salute you.

As I travel through my new life, I watch people around me who are judged for being different (all kinds of difference), and these questions constantly ricochet through my head: why is difference judged and shunned instead of appreciated? Why do we need the concept of “outsider”?

In response, my WIP asks this question: what would happen if people valued our neurodiversity instead of rejected us for it?

I want to celebrate my brain—even with its frustrations and absences. I want you to celebrate yours, too. I want that for my neurodiverse kid, other neurodiverse kids, and my dad and grandma. I want us to be OK with different ways to process the world. And I want my characters to reflect those different ways to be human.

Meet Kirstin Cronn-Mills


Kirstin Cronn-Mills writes fiction and nonfiction for young adults. Her second novel, Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, won the American Library Association’s Stonewall Award in 2014. She writes and teaches in southern Minnesota, where she lives with her family and her Harry Potter-named animals.
About Beautiful Music for Ugly Children
“This is Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, on community radio 90.3, KZUK. I’m Gabe. Welcome to my show.”

My birth name is Elizabeth, but I’m a guy. Gabe. My parents think I’ve gone crazy and the rest of the world is happy to agree with them, but I know I’m right. I’ve been a boy my whole life.

When you think about it, I’m like a record. Elizabeth is my A side, the song everybody knows, and Gabe is my B side–not heard as often, but just as good.

It’s time to let my B side play. (Published in 2012 by Flux Books)

Sunday Reflections: There is no one right way to be an American


I am what they used to call a military brat (do they still call it that?). I’ve moved around. A lot.

I’ve lived on the West Coast, about 45 minutes away from Los Angeles. I lived in the South. I lived in the Midwest. I’ve visited the East Coast and Chicago and Florida. I have been very blessed to see a large part of the United States and to meet a wide variety of people who call themselves American.

No two of them are the same.

For 20 years I have lived in the state of Ohio. The town I got married in is a rural, Midwestern town surrounded by farm land. It’s population is 97% white, it consistently votes conservative, and you will be greeted by someone who knows you every day. But even this town is not any one thing. There are, for example, two colleges in this town: one the very conservative Christian college that I attended and the other a very liberal arts college that proudly boasts of its diverse population.

In this small, conservative, rural town, a small cohort of teens visit our public library almost daily. Every single one of them somehow identifies as being on the GLBTQ spectrum. They recently used the resources in our Teen MakerSpace to help them celebrate Pride. None of them had a way to get to an actual Pride event, so they sat in the space making Pride flags and buttons and bracelets as they talked about having their own mini-Pride parade throughout our town. The one catch: they openly wondered if they did have their own little Pride event in town if they would get shot. It was a legit fear that I heard the talk about for days and the thing is, I couldn’t even tell them that they were being ridiculous because they were right to be afraid of this possibly happening.

If you drive one hour from this town, you will find yourself in Columbus, Ohio. Columbus is a diverse city with an arts district, public transportation, and a variety of interesting people doing interesting things. The people in Columbus live very different lives from the people who live just 45 minutes away from them. Each of those lives, though different, is valid. Not a single one is more important than the other.

If you drive another hour from Columbus, but in a slightly different direction, you will stumble into another city (town?) that I lived and worked in for about 10 years. This town once housed the KKK headquarters, you can read all about it in the public library’s local history room. At one point and time it had a growing Spanish speaking population and we created a Spanish language collection. In 3 years we totally dismantled that collection because the racism in town was so strong that the growing Spanish speaking population moved on quickly and the items never circulated. This town, like many of them in Ohio, is facing the daily realities of economic despair and the growing opioid epidemic.

In Texas I worked at a library system that had 3 libraries, each one of them completely different. The branch that I worked was in the suburbs and had a large middle class patronage that included a lot of Middle Eastern patrons. I remember one of my teens growing increasingly sad as she approached the day when she would have to wear a hijab in much the same way I see my Amish teens in Ohio lamenting the religious apparel that they must wear or even the teens I talk to daily who are upset because their parents wont let them wear a shirt that shows their belly. Literally across the tracks was another branch that had a lower class population with a large population of third and fourth generation kids from Mexico. They hated when people assumed they only spoke Spanish and many of them had never even learned Spanish because their parents had chosen not to teach it to them in an effort to avoid being stereotyped. The main branch was like many city main branches and served a very diverse population from a wide variety of backgrounds and wrestled with things like serving the homeless and the mentally ill. You could drive just 15 minutes between any of these branches and yet find yourself in yet an entirely different little microcosm.

The public library I visited during my childhood in Southern California is actually a rather small library for a growing city which also has a diverse population. I am, of course, nostalgic for it because it is my childhood library. But the town is growing and changing and like all towns, it constantly has to re-evaluate, re-identify and adapt. A library, a town, a country is a living organism continually growing and change is an inevitable response to that growth.

Since the election and as discord has grown across the United States, many news publications have been insistent on publishing pieces on the rural Midwest in particular insisting that these are true Americans, real ones. And to be fair, they are. The problem is, the rural Midwest is not the only part of America that matters, nor is it the only correct way to be an American. There is no one correct way to be a “real American.”

There are 50 states in the United States of America, from the Pacific Northwest to the Midwest to the South to the North to the West Coast and to the East Coast. Puerto Rico is also part of the United States (a part that we continue to fail horrifically in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria).

In 2017, there were 325.7 million people living in the United States.

More than half of these people live in just 9 states: California, Texas, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Georgia and Florida. Los Angeles and New York City have the highest population of any cities.

Only 65.8% of the population is white.

Slightly less than 50% of the population identifies as being Protestant. Slightly less than 20% identify as having no religion at all.

Almost 12,000 new people are born in the United States daily.

However much you may love America, many other nations actually have a better quality of life and if you are a woman or newborn infant, you actually have a higher chance of dying here than you do in other countries. The United States was recently ranked as the 10th most dangerous country for women.

My point is this: the United States of America is a diverse nation that spreads over 3.797 square miles (land stolen by immigrants and colonizers I might add) and houses over 325 million people. Despite what you read or may even want to believe, it is not primarily made up of middle-class straight white Christians living in the rural Midwest who just want to love God, family, guns and barbecues. And this idea that it is or that it should be is one of the things that is hurting us the most right now. The myth of the “real American” is dangerous, disingenuous, and devaluing.

I am somehow who has spent the majority of my adult life living in the rural Midwest. I am, in fact, a middle-class, straight, white Christian who loves God, family and barbecues (I am personally pretty anti-gun). But even here, in the so called “heart” of America (and I feel that this term is dangerous), I work daily with teens who don’t fit any of these labels and I am here to tell you, we are killing them, both figuratively and literally. I have heard their fears and listened to their stories. I have seen their souls wither and die. I have seen them literally starve for basics like food, education, acceptance and hope while the adults in their communities pass laws that harm them, speak rhetoric that vilifies them, and act like what we do today won’t affect them now and in the future.

And whatever we do to the least of these, to the most vulnerable among us – our children – we do also unto each other. We are planting seeds and the crops we reap will be poison. What’s happening to us now terrifies me, but what terrifies me even more is the future we are creating with the seeds we are planting today.

There is no one right way to be an American and the sooner we learn that, the better off we will be.

Friday Finds: July 6, 2018

tltbutton3This Week at TLT

Book Review: Light Filters In: Poems by Caroline Kaufman

Books we reread, a crowdsourced post

What’s New in LGBTQIA+ YA July 2018

When Books Are The Things That Save You, a guest post by Cindy Baldwin

To MLS or Not to MLS

Sunday Reflections: Reproductive Rights ARE Teen Issues

Around the Web

What new YA books release in June 2018?

DeVos goes deep with anti-regulatory mission at Education Department

14 of Our Most Anticipated OwnVoices YA Books of 2018: July to December



Book Review: Light Filters In: Poems by Caroline Kaufman

Publisher’s description

light filters inIn the vein of poetry collections like Milk and Honey and Adultolescence, this compilation of short, powerful poems from teen Instagram sensation @poeticpoison perfectly captures the human experience. 

In Light Filters In, Caroline Kaufman—known as @poeticpoison—does what she does best: reflects our own experiences back at us and makes us feel less alone, one exquisite and insightful piece at a time. She writes about giving up too much of yourself to someone else, not fitting in, endlessly Googling “how to be happy,” and ultimately figuring out who you are.

This hardcover collection features completely new material plus some fan favorites from Caroline’s account. Filled with haunting, spare pieces of original art, Light Filters In will thrill existing fans and newcomers alike.

it’s okay if some things

are always out of reach.

if you could carry all the stars

in the palm of your hand,

they wouldn’t be

half as breathtaking


Amanda’s thoughts

I’ve been using this summer to try to catch up on a lot of the books from the past few months that I haven’t had time to read. This one has been sitting in my pile since May and I’m so glad I finally got around to it. Librarians, teachers, and booksellers, please get this book and put it out in various displays. This collection of poems about mental health, the aftermath of sexual assault, help, and hope is an important one. This is a beautiful, raw, and extremely moving book that so many will be able to relate to for so many reasons. There are references to self-harm and other topics that some readers will find triggering, FYI. Told in four parts, Kaufman moves from crisis to processing what she’s been through to help and treatment to hope and moving forward. The poems are short and sometimes feel unfinished or repetitive, but taken all together create a powerful and profound look at what it means to be a girl, to be a survivor, and to find help, support, and hope in the face of so much unhappiness. Though I am well past my teenage years, reading this really spoke to Teenage Me and I can only imagine how comforted I would have felt seeing someone so adeptly capture so much of what I felt at that time. A lovely, if not always easy to read, collection. 



Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780062844682
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 05/22/2018