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Post-It Note Reviews: Books for younger readers featuring a biracial protagonist, homeless kids in India, babysitters, and more

IMG_3631Now that I work in an elementary library, I’m reading a lot more titles for younger readers. It’s been super interesting to me to see what the students (grades K-5) check out. I’ve spent so long completely in the world of YA and am glad for an opportunity to work with younger readers and to read all of the great picture books, chapter books, and middle grade books I’ve missed out on!

Post-It Note reviews are a great way to display books in your library or classroom, a way to let kids recommend their favorite titles without having to get up in front of everyone and do a book talk, and an easy way to offer a more personal recommendation than just the flap copy offers.

All summaries are from the publishers. Transcription of Post-it note review under the summary.

 

 

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The Unsung Hero of Birdsong, USA by Brenda Woods

 

The Coretta Scott King Honor-winning author tells the moving story of the friendship between a young white boy and a Black WWII veteran who has recently returned to the unwelcoming Jim Crow South.

On Gabriel’s twelfth birthday, he gets a new bike–and is so excited that he accidentally rides it right into the path of a car. Fortunately, a Black man named Meriwether pushes him out of the way just in time, and fixes his damaged bike. As a thank you, Gabriel gets him a job at his dad’s auto shop. Gabriel’s dad hires him with some hesitation, however, anticipating trouble with the other mechanic, who makes no secret of his racist opinions.
Gabriel and Meriwether become friends, and Gabriel learns that Meriwether drove a tank in the Army’s all-Black 761st Tank Battalion in WWII. Meriwether is proud of his service, but has to keep it a secret because talking about it could be dangerous. Sadly, danger finds Meriwether, anyway, when his family receives a frightening threat. The South being the way it is, there’s no guarantee that the police will help–and Gabriel doesn’t know what will happen if Meriwether feels forced to take the law into his own hands.

(POST-IT SAYS: 12-year-old Gabriel’s eyes are opened to the racism in the South in 1946. Unique look at what it means to be black and a WWII vet. Gabriel’s voice is engaging, the setting is vibrant, and Woods’ storytelling is, as always, strong and affecting. Ages 9-12)

 

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Blended by Sharon M. Draper

 

Eleven-year-old Isabella’s blended family is more divided than ever in this thoughtful story about divorce and racial identity from the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of Out of My Mind, Sharon M. Draper.

Eleven-year-old Isabella’s parents are divorced, so she has to switch lives every week: One week she’s Isabella with her dad, his girlfriend Anastasia, and her son Darren living in a fancy house where they are one of the only black families in the neighborhood. The next week she’s Izzy with her mom and her boyfriend John-Mark in a small, not-so-fancy house that she loves.

Because of this, Isabella has always felt pulled between two worlds. And now that her parents are divorced, it seems their fights are even worse, and they’re always about HER. Isabella feels even more stuck in the middle, split and divided between them than ever. And she’s is beginning to realize that being split between Mom and Dad is more than switching houses, switching nicknames, switching backpacks: it’s also about switching identities. Her dad is black, her mom is white, and strangers are always commenting: “You’re so exotic!” “You look so unusual.” “But what are you really?” She knows what they’re really saying: “You don’t look like your parents.” “You’re different.” “What race are you really?” And when her parents, who both get engaged at the same time, get in their biggest fight ever, Isabella doesn’t just feel divided, she feels ripped in two. What does it mean to be half white or half black? To belong to half mom and half dad? And if you’re only seen as half of this and half of that, how can you ever feel whole?

It seems like nothing can bring Isabella’s family together again—until the worst happens. Isabella and Darren are stopped by the police. A cell phone is mistaken for a gun. And shots are fired.

 

(POST-IT SAYS: There’s a lot packed into this look at straddling multiple worlds and identities. An emotional look at being biracial (and all that goes with it) as well as at divorce and blended families. Ages 9-12)

 

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Monstrous Devices by Damien Love

 

On a winter’s day in a British town, twelve-year old Alex receives a package in the mail: an old tin robot from his grandfather. “This one is special,” says the enclosed note, and when strange events start occurring around him, Alex suspects this small toy is more than special; it might be deadly.

Right as things get out of hand, Alex’s grandfather arrives, pulling him away from an attack—and his otherwise humdrum world of friends, bullies, and homework—and into the macabre magic of an ancient family feud. Together, the duo flees across snowy Europe, unraveling the riddle of the little robot while trying to outwit relentless assassins of the human and mechanical kind.

With an ever-present admiration for the hidden mysteries of our world, Monstrous Devices plunges readers into a gripping adventure that’s sure to surprise.

(POST-IT SAYS: Dark, creepy, weird, and full of twists! Fans of strange mysteries who don’t mind unresolved questions will like this adventure. Chases, fights, and lots of intrigue. Ages 10-14)

 

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The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman

 

Four determined homeless children make a life for themselves in Padma Venkatraman’s stirring middle-grade debut.

Life is harsh in Chennai’s teeming streets, so when runaway sisters Viji and Rukku arrive, their prospects look grim. Very quickly, eleven-year-old Viji discovers how vulnerable they are in this uncaring, dangerous world. Fortunately, the girls find shelter—and friendship—on an abandoned bridge. With two homeless boys, Muthi and Arul, the group forms a family of sorts. And while making a living scavenging the city’s trash heaps is the pits, the kids find plenty to laugh about and take pride in too. After all, they are now the bosses of themselves and no longer dependent on untrustworthy adults. But when illness strikes, Viji must decide whether to risk seeking help from strangers or to keep holding on to their fragile, hard-fought freedom.

(POST-IT SAYS: A powerful and heartbreaking look at poverty, love, and grief. The sisters escape abuse but face very bleak situations on the street/on the run. Ultimately hopeful but very sad. Ages 10-14)

 

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Best Babysitters Ever by Caroline Cala

 

A funny new middle grade series about three 12-year-old best friends who start a babysitting club in their small California town. Perfect for fans of series like Whatever After and the Dork Diaries.

Once upon a time, a girl named Kristy Thomas had a great idea: to form The Baby-Sitters Club with her best friends. And now twelve-year-old Malia Twiggs has had a great idea too. Technically, she had Kristy’s idea(And technically, little kids seem gross and annoying, but a paycheck is a paycheck). After a little convincing, Malia and her friends Dot and Bree start a babysitting club to earn funds for an epic birthday bash. But babysitting definitely isn’t what they thought it would be.

Three friends. No parents. Unlimited snacks. And, okay, occasionally watching other people’s children. What could possibly go wrong?

(POST-IT SAYS: A modern Baby-Sitters Club! If the BSC girls were snarkier, less skilled, and more diverse, that is. A fun and entertaining start to a series with very wide appeal. Ages 10-12)

Book Review: Watch Us Rise by Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan

Publisher’s description

watch us riseNewbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Award-winning author Renée Watson teams up with poet Ellen Hagan in this YA feminist anthem about raising your voice.

Jasmine and Chelsea are best friends on a mission–they’re sick of the way women are treated even at their progressive NYC high school, so they decide to start a Women’s Rights Club. They post their work online–poems, essays, videos of Chelsea performing her poetry, and Jasmine’s response to the racial microaggressions she experiences–and soon they go viral. But with such positive support, the club is also targeted by trolls. When things escalate in real life, the principal shuts the club down. Not willing to be silenced, Jasmine and Chelsea will risk everything for their voices–and those of other young women–to be heard.
These two dynamic, creative young women stand up and speak out in a novel that features their compelling art and poetry along with powerful personal journeys that will inspire readers and budding poets, feminists, and activists.

 

 

Amanda’s thoughts

This book is so good. Order it, read it, book talk it, display it, love it.

 

Jasmine, Chelsea, and their friends attend a high school all about social justice and equity (or, allegedly it is). All students are required to be in a social justice club. But, like everywhere, their school is not perfect, with racism, sexism, and more alive and well. Jasmine and Chelsea leave their clubs to form a women’s rights club, focusing their intersectional feminism and activism on and around their lives at school. Together with their best friends Nadine and Isaac, they create art and foster conversations about many important issues. Jasmine, who is black, is a writer and an actress. Isaac, who is Puerto Rican, is a visual artist. Japanese and Lebanese Nadine is a singer and  DJ. And Irish and Italian Chelsea is a talented poet. Together, they inspire each other and help each other learn, grown, discover, and act. This book covers a lot of ground, tackling so many subjects in honest, creative, and effective ways.

 

I’m going to leave this review short and simple, because the real joy will come from reading about these smart, passionate, and motivated young people for yourself. This book is immensely readable—I burned through it in a couple of hours. Great dialogue, great writing, great poetry, great characters, great everything. It’s not often that I find a book wholly satisfying. And, even more rare, this book made me feel nostalgic for my teen years, remembering back to when I was a zine-writing young feminist and Gender and Sexuality Studies student. Empowering and inspiring, this book demands a wide readership. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781547600083
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 02/12/2019

My MARVELous Vocabulary: a guest post by author Jerry Craft

NewKid HC cAs far back as I can remember, I have always loved comic books. Way before I had ever heard the term “graphic novel,” or aspired to create one, I remember running to my local candy store almost every week to buy the latest issues. But even though I bought them, I didn’t always read them. I had never heard the term “reluctant reader,” back then, but that’s exactly what I was. Occasionally, I would read my comics cover to cover, but those were mainly the issues that had more action scenes and fewer pages with our heroes as their secret identities. Those pages I would quickly scan in order to get the gist.

In junior high school, comics were looked at as some type of contraband that teachers would confiscate “to keep them from rotting our brains.” In fact, by the time the school year came to an end, some of those teachers would have larger comic collections in their bottom desk drawer than most of us had at home. So that was what I expected. Until Mr. Krupka, the first teacher I ever had who not only liked comics, but he actually encouraged us to read them. We quickly realized that if Mr. Krupka took one of our comics, it was only because he wanted to read it first! And much to our surprise, he even returned them!

With the exception of Mr. K., few of my teachers ever saw how comics helped to build my vocabulary. Especially Marvel Comics, because I couldn’t even read the cover without having to go and consult my family’s 400-pound Miriam Webster Dictionary (a book that looked more like I would use it to recite some type of ancient incantation than look up a word). But I had to because every title I bought had some type of fancy adjective before the name of the hero.

The Uncanny X-Men, The Incredible Hulk, The Invincible Iron Man, Astonishing Tales, The Macabre Man-Thing, and of course, Spider-Man who was both “amazing” AND “spectacular!” And if that wasn’t enough, I also had to go back to the dictionary to see what my favorite hero was trying to prevent! An apocalypse? . . .  Total annihilation? . . .  I went back to that gigantic dictionary so many times that not only did I build my vocabulary, I also built up my arm strength! (Have I mentioned how heavy it was?) So the better my reading skills and vocabulary, the less intimidated I was about reading other types of books. Even though I STILL didn’t really enjoy reading. It was not as if I COULDN’T read other books—I just didn’t WANT to. There’s a huge difference between the two.

Reading comics also encouraged me to write and draw my own comic books, which I absolutely loved (and obviously still do.) By the time I got to high school (in Riverdale), I was confident enough in my skills that I tried to talk my earth science teacher into allowing me to make a comic book instead of writing a term paper. And she let me! My comic was all about the life of a plant and how winter came in the form of an onslaught of spaceships armed with freeze rays! I still remember how our heroes transported supplies by using the xylem and phloem systems! Let me type that again . . . because I used that in my comic, I STILL remember xylem and phloem! And that’s without having to look it up!

By the time I was a college student at the School of Visual Arts (SVA), my comics were even better. And I also began to realize that between comic books, which I still loved, and TV cartoons like Schoolhouse Rock, did not rot my brain at all. If anything, they nourished it. But it still amazed me how many teachers did not understand. (Luckily, many of the teachers at SVA were cartoonists, so of course, they got it.) 

When I got out of college, it was very hard for me NOT to use my platform to help teach. So I created a comic strip called Mama’s Boyz — the story of a mom raising her two teenage sons while also running the family bookstore. Needless to say, Mom spent a lot of time trying to get her sons to read. In addition to literacy, over the years, I also used my comic strip to teach my readers about healthy eating, diabetes, teenage pregnancy, and organ and tissue donation. And the NY Daily News even commissioned me to develop a series of comic strips for their AIDs supplement. Miraculously, I pulled it off.

Fast forward  twenty years, during which time I published about two dozen books on my own because I NEVER thought that mainstream publishing would be interested in the types of stories that I wanted to tell. Stories with African-American protagonists where, even if they dealt with serious issues, still have to convey a sense of hope. And because I love to make people laugh, I wanted to add humor. There are sooo many important books by African-American authors who cover a myriad of topics, from historical to contemporary fiction, and my goal is to add my stories to complement their narratives so that kids can get a wide range of African-American life.

And that brings us to New Kid, my middle-grade graphic novel that follows the life of Jordan Banks, a 12-year-old boy from the Washington Heights section of New York City. More than anything, he wants to go to art school. But much like my parents, Jordan’s mom and dad don’t think that being an artist is a real job, which means they think he’ll probably live the rest of his life in their basement. So they send him to a prestigious and predominately white private school in Riverdale, a very affluent community. (Just like my parents did to me.) Each day, Jordan leaves his African-American and Latinx neighbors and tries to fit into a community that he has only seen on TV. But because he is also small for his age, and light-skinned with straight hair, he doesn’t always feel a part of the kids from his neighborhood, either. So, in essence, it’s a classic fish-out-of-water story. 

The teaching aspect comes from examining many of the nuances of trying to fit into the setting of Riverdale Academy Day School. The microaggressions, the code-switching, the “being confused with other Black kids” . . . (And English teachers will like that I teach kids about metaphors!)  But Jordan’s not perfect either. My goal is definitely not to blame, it’s to open eyes while also opening mouths that will look forward to having healthy conversations. I’d love for New Kid to be a book that African-American kids proudly claim as their own, while other kids see it as a book that always embraces them without ever being condescending. And it’s very important for me to make them laugh.

So with your help, we can start healthy discussions, and if the book does well, then maybe, I can finally move out of my parents’ basement.

Thank you!

CraftJerry ap 1 Credit Hollis KingJerry Craft is an author and illustrator whose most recent book is New Kid (HarperCollins, February 5, 2019). Craft has worked on numerous picture books, graphic novels, and middle grade novels, including The Zero Degree Zombie Zone by Patrik Henry Bass. He is the creator of Mama’s Boyz, an award-winning syndicated comic strip. He has won five African American Literary Awards and is a cofounder of the Schomburg Center’s Annual Black Comic Book Festival. He received his BFA from the School of Visual Arts and now lives in Connecticut. Visit him online at www.jerrycraft.com.

Sunday Reflections: Are Teens Reading Less?

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I have come across several conversations recently on Twitter that suggest that YA fiction is selling less, which often translates to teens are reading less. It’s important to note that these figures are referring specifically to the UK sales figures of YA, so the data may be radically different for the US. And as always, the conversation is more complicated than it seems. Are YA sales figures down? I don’t know, and I don’t know that that data tells us what we think it does. But if you find yourself asking are teens reading less? The short answer is no. The longer answer is slightly more complicated then that.

As someone who has been doing this for 26 years now, the hand wringing over teens are reading less is not new. There is a strong sense of been there, done that in these conversations and the correct answer is often this: it’s not that teens are reading less, it’s that teens aren’t reading what adults wants them to be reading in the ways they want them to be reading it, and that is an entirely different argument. The teen reading landscape has changed several times in the last 26 years, it’s changing now, and it will change again and again. What causes that change, what it means, and how we respond it it are an entirely different conversation.

If we’re being completely honest, it is true that teens are reading very differently and I understand that these changes are causing some fear among authors, publishers, teachers, and adults in general. Because the shift in teen reading habits impacts those groups in several ways: in sales and income, in how we can (or can’t) measure teen reading, and in how we can (or can’t) influence, monitor and control teen reading. Everyone having these conversations have different motivations, and that matters too.

You see, it’s not that teens are reading less I find, but more that teens are reading differently, and digital media is a huge influencer of this change. Today’s teens typically have devices (newest Pew Center data suggests that around 95% of teens have a mobile device of some sort) and these devices give them access to a whole new world of reading opportunities, which teens are availing themselves of. Wattpad, online fan fiction, and free downloads via either libraries or places like Amazon make it easier for teens to get the reading content they want, with immediate gratification and more anonymity than ever. Today’s teens don’t have to ask an adult to buy them the books that they want, or ask a librarian to help them find the titles on the shelves. In fact, online reading helps teens cultivate teen friendly spaces with little (known) adult monitoring and interaction. There are pros and cons to this development, depending on how much you want to monitor teen reading.

In addition, in the early 2000s the YA publishing market exploded while research suggested that more adults were buying YA than teens, which pushed the YA market more towards adults than YA when developing new authors and titles. Over time, the YA market aged up, adults became proud readers of YA, and the pop culture references on the pages of YA became more and more dated and less teen friendly. Many teens felt like YA was no longer their space, and so they abandoned it for new teen spaces. And with the explosion of technology and online creative writing forums, this task was easier to do than it was in the past. So teens carved out for themselves new teen spaces and once again, the reading landscape is changing.

This is coupled with the fact that we don’t really have any real way to measure teen reading. We do testing, which really only measures how well a teen can perform on a test about reading. Sales figures tell us who is buying a book, but not who is reading it, or how many people read one book. The same is true for circulation statistics. These are all imperfect measurements that tell us more about who buys or checks out an item and less about whether they read, like or recommend an item. Let me be very clear about this: we have no real good way of making quantifiable statements regarding teens reading for pleasure. Many of us who work with teens can tell you a wide range of anecdotal stories that have value, but there aren’t any real facts and figures that we can talk about because our measurement tools are deeply, inherently flawed.

When considering sales figures it’s also important to remember that as the economy shrinks, people have less disposable income and are less likely to buy books, which is not the same as being less likely to read books. In fact, overall public library use seems to be up, though many of my colleagues seem to suggest that while the circulation of physical items is down slightly, the circulation of digital content is up significantly. I myself am one of the last to adopt digital reading, but even I find myself reading more with a device in hand then a physical book in hand. It’s been a long time since I have checked out a physical book or a movie from my library, and I go there 5 days a week. Again, imperfect data.

We also have to look at a ton of other factors: competition for teens time and attention, our marketing and merchandising, the growing mental health issues we see in today’s teens and the amount of work causing it, etc. So. Much. Homework. And whether we like it or not, between Brexit and the growing white nationalism happening here in the US, which our teens *are* aware of and effected by, our teens are growing increasingly anxious, dismayed, and overwhelmed. Some teens are rejecting things like realistic fiction (too similar to their current real world experiences), while others are reading them with a fervor and choosing to be political;y active online and in the real world. Some teens are too busy marching to end school violence to read the latest literary tome that adults feel they should read. With growing incidence of racial and sexual violence, the under-funding of public education, and the fact that 1 in 5 kids and teens go to bed hungry, many people – teens included – don’t have the emotional energy or time necessary to read a book for fun, they’re too busy trying to just survive. The adults in the room are creating an environment that are putting up more and more obstacles for teens when it comes to having time for pleasure reading. So for those adults wringing their hands about teen reading I say this: change the environment, it will help a lot.

But even this is not a death toll for libraries, because though some libraries are reporting that the circulation of physical items is down, it’s not zero. And our libraries seem to be fuller and busier than ever. A majority of public libraries are thriving.

I think it’s good to have conversations about sales figures and circulation statistics and to try and figure out what those fluctuations mean and how they can help us better serve our patrons. But do I think teens are reading less? No, and in 26 years the answer has always been no when the question is asked. It just often means that we need to examine our practices and adjust to a new generation of readers and a changing market. In other words it’s not them, it’s us.

Editor’s Note: I did not link to the actual online conversation that started this discussion because it was problematic in many very real ways.  For example, the original article indicated that publishers should avoid publishing “issue” novels while having a primary graphic of author Angie Thomas. Angie Thomas is a women of color and the author of The Hate U Give, which has been on the New York Times Bestsellers list for now over 100 weeks. Using Angie Thomas’ picture contradicted their main argument and is probably a racist dog whistle. Though I did not want to link to the article that ignited this conversation, I did want to address the concerns about teen reading.

Some Additional Resources to Consider:

Friday Finds: February 8, 2019

tltbutton3This Week at TLT

What’s new in LGBTQIA+ YA February 2019

DIY Neon Signs

How Fairytales Help Us Navigate the World, a guest post by author Maureen McQuerry

The Life Saving Slogan: You are Not Alone, a guest post by Shelley Sackier

Book Review: LGBTQ: The Survival Guide for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Teens by Kelly Huegel Madrone

More Than an Identity, by teen contributor Elliot

Sunday Reflections: Raising Daughters & the Fight for Full Bodily Autonomy

Around the Web

Ohio city to stop observing Columbus Day, make Election Day holiday instead

Anne Ursu returns to themes of fantasy and female empowerment in her new novel, The Lost Girl

First The Sun Is Also a Star Trailer

Denver Teacher Negotiations At An Impasse

 

What’s new in LGBTQIA+ YA February 2019

tltbutton7It’s time for another roundup for new and forthcoming YA (and sometimes not YA) books featuring LGBTQIA+ characters.  The titles I include in these lists have LGBTQIA+ main characters as well as secondary characters (in some cases parents), as well as anthologies that include LGBTQIA+ stories. Know of a title I missed in this list? Or know of a forthcoming title that should be on my radar for an upcoming list? Leave a comment or tweet me @CiteSomething. This list covers February 2019 titles. Head over to this link for the previous post (January 2019)in this series. All annotations here are via the publishers/Goodreads. I also have a 2017 master list and one for 2018. I’m working on the 2019 list. I’m happy to send you any list if you’re interested. Tweet at me or email me to request the list. I’m amanda DOT macgregor AT gmail DOT com.

 

Looking for more information on LGBTQIA+ books or issues? Check out the hashtag here on TLT and go visit YA Pride and LGBTQ Reads, two phenomenal resources. 

 

megMeg, Jo, Beth, and Amy: A Graphic Novel: A Modern Retelling of Little Women by Rey Terciero, Bre Indigo (ISBN-13: 9780316522885 Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Publication date: 02/05/2019)

 

2018 marks the 150th anniversary of the classic Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Join Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy as they are reenvisioned as a blended family living in modern day NYC in this beautiful, full-color graphic novel. 

With their father away in the military and their mother working overtime to support the family, the March sisters have to rely on one another to make it from day to day. Whether they’re arguing over the bathroom, struggling with homework, fighting off bullies, understanding their crushes, or battling leukemia, there’s one thing the four sisters keep questioning—will everything turn out okay? Follow modern young women, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy as they discover themselves and follow their dreams.

This lushly-illustrated story is a must-read for fans of Raina Telgemeier’s Smile and Sisters, Mariko Tamaki’s This One Summer, Svetlana Chmakova’s Awkward, and Victoria Jamieson’s Roller Girl.

 

 

prom kingsProm Kings by Tony Correia (CANADIAN. ISBN-13: 978-1459414075 Publisher: Lorimer Publication date: 02/05/2019)

 

When the queer prom committee asks Charlie to join them, Charlie figures it’ll be a good way to get closer to cute new guy Andre — and maybe even ask him to be his prom date! The only problem is that Charlie has competition for Andre’s attention in rich, good-looking Chad, who Charlie can’t stand.

Charlie and his pal Luis come up with a plan to get Andre’s attention — to woo Andre as a secret admirer and then reveal Charlie’s true identity with a spectacular promposal that Andre can’t refuse. But when the promposal starts to go wrong, Charlie panics and says that he couldn’t possibly be Andre’s secret admirer, because he’s been dating Luis!

Luis, however, is offended by Charlie using him as a decoy. Charlie begins to realize how much fun he’s been having with Luis and thinks maybe he’s been going after the wrong guy. He apologizes to Luis and asks him to be his prom date instead. Luis accepts.

Meanwhile, Andre has decided to accept Charlie’s promposal. Now Charlie has two dates for prom! How will Charlie decide which guy to go with?

 

 

what makes youWhat Makes You Beautiful by Bridget Liang (CANADIAN. ISBN-13: 978-1459414112 Publisher: Lorimer Publication date: 02/05/2019)

 

Logan Osborne knows he likes boys, but has not come out to his family or at school, and no one knows that he likes to sometimes wear girls’ clothes and makeup. When he starts at a school for the arts he finds a wider range of gender and orientation being accepted. Logan is attracted to Kyle, who has gay dads. But Kyle is straight. Logan finds he doesn’t like the way gay boys treat him, and a disturbing hookup with a boy who is fetishistic about Logan’s half-Asian background makes Logan even more confused about what he wants and who he is.

Encouraged and supported by his friends at school, Logan experiments with nail polish and more feminine clothes in public. Logan begins questioning his gender and decides to use they pronouns while trying to figure things out. Logan meets a classmate’s chosen mother, who is a transgender Chinese woman, and begins to come to terms with their gender identity. Realizing they are not a gay boy, but a transgender girl, Logan asks for people to call them Veronica. As a girl, does Veronica stand a chance with Kyle?

 

 

to night owlTo Night Owl from Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan, Meg Wolitzer (ISBN-13: 9780525553236 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 02/12/2019)

 

From two extraordinary authors comes a moving, exuberant, laugh-out-loud novel about friendship and family, told entirely in emails and letters.

Avery Bloom, who’s bookish, intense, and afraid of many things, particularly deep water, lives in New York City. Bett Devlin, who’s fearless, outgoing, and loves all animals as well as the ocean, lives in California. What they have in common is that they are both twelve years old, and are both being raised by single, gay dads.

When their dads fall in love, Bett and Avery are sent, against their will, to the same sleepaway camp. Their dads hope that they will find common ground and become friends—and possibly, one day, even sisters.

But things soon go off the rails for the girls (and for their dads too), and they find themselves on a summer adventure that neither of them could have predicted. Now that they can’t imagine life without each other, will the two girls (who sometimes call themselves Night Owl and Dogfish) figure out a way to be a family?

 

 

crown of feathersCrown of Feathers (Crown of Feathers #1) by Nicki Pau Preto (ISBN-13: 9781534424623 Publisher: Simon Pulse Publication date: 02/12/2019 Series: Crown of Feathers Series #1)

 

An Ember in the Ashes meets Three Dark Crowns in this lush debut fantasy novel about a girl who disguises herself as a boy to join a secret group of warriors that ride phoenixes into battle.

I had a sister, once…

In a world ruled by fierce warrior queens, a grand empire was built upon the backs of Phoenix Riders—legendary heroes who soared through the sky on wings of fire—until a war between two sisters ripped it all apart.

I promised her the throne would not come between us.

Sixteen years later, Veronyka is a war orphan who dreams of becoming a Phoenix Rider from the stories of old. After a shocking betrayal from her controlling sister, Veronyka strikes out alone to find the Riders—even if that means disguising herself as a boy to join their ranks.

But it is a fact of life that one must kill or be killed. Rule or be ruled.

Just as Veronyka finally feels like she belongs, her sister turns up and reveals a tangled web of lies between them that will change everything. And meanwhile, the new empire has learned of the Riders’ return and intends to destroy them once and for all.

Sometimes the title of queen is given. Sometimes it must be taken.

Crown of Feathers is an epic fantasy about love’s incredible power to save—or to destroy. Interspersed throughout is the story of Avalkyra Ashfire, the last Rider queen, who would rather see her empire burn than fall into her sister’s hands.

 

 

past and otherThe Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried by Shaun David Hutchinson (ISBN-13: 9781481498579 Publisher: Simon Pulse Publication date: 02/19/2019)

 

Six Feet Under meets Pushing Daisies in this quirky, heartfelt story about two teens who are granted extra time to resolve what was left unfinished after one of them suddenly dies. 

A good friend will bury your body, a best friend will dig you back up.

Dino doesn’t mind spending time with the dead. His parents own a funeral home, and death is literally the family business. He’s just not used to them talking back. Until Dino’s ex-best friend July dies suddenly—and then comes back to life. Except not exactly. Somehow July is not quite alive, and not quite dead.

As Dino and July attempt to figure out what’s happening, they must also confront why and how their friendship ended so badly, and what they have left to understand about themselves, each other, and all those grand mysteries of life.

Critically acclaimed author Shaun Hutchinson delivers another wholly unique novel blending the real and surreal while reminding all of us what it is to love someone through and around our faults.

 

 

immoralImmoral Code by Lillian Clark (ISBN-13: 9780525580461 Publisher: Random House Children’s Books Publication date: 02/19/2019)

 

Ocean’s 8 meets The Breakfast Club in this fast-paced, multi-perspective story about five teens determined to hack into one billionaire absentee father’s company to steal tuition money.

For Nari, aka Narioka Diane, aka hacker digital alter ego “d0l0s,” it’s college and then a career at “one of the big ones,” like Google or Apple. Keagan, her sweet, sensitive boyfriend, is happy to follow her wherever she may lead. Reese is an ace/aro visual artist with plans to travel the world. Santiago is off to Stanford on a diving scholarship, with very real Olympic hopes. And Bellamy? Physics genius Bellamy is admitted to MIT—but the student loan she’d been counting on is denied when it turns out her estranged father—one Robert Foster—is loaded.
Nari isn’t about to let her friend’s dreams be squashed by a deadbeat billionaire, so she hatches a plan to steal just enough from Foster to allow Bellamy to achieve her goals. Fast-paced and banter-filled, Lillian Clark’s debut is a hilarious and thought-provoking Robin Hood story for the 21st century.

 

 

afterwardThe Afterward by E.K. Johnston (ISBN-13: 9780735231894 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 02/19/2019)

 

Romantic high fantasy from the bestselling author of Star Wars: Ahsoka and Exit, Pursued by a Bear.It’s been a year since the mysterious godsgem cured Cadrium’s king and ushered in what promised to be a new golden age. The heroes who brought home the gem are renowned in story and song, but for two fellows on the quest, peace and prosperity don’t come easily.Apprentice Knight Kalanthe Ironheart wasn’t meant for heroism so early in life, and while she has no intention of giving up the notoriety she’s earned, reputation doesn’t pay her bills. Kalanthe may be forced to betray not her kingdom or her friends, but her own heart as she seeks a stable future for herself and those she loves.Olsa Rhetsdaughter was never meant for heroism at all. Beggar and thief, she lived hand to mouth on the streets until fortune–or fate–pulled her into Kalanthe’s orbit. And now she’s reluctant to leave it. Even more alarmingly, her fame has made her profession difficult, and a choice between poverty and the noose isn’t much of a choice at all.Both girls think their paths are laid out, but the godsgem isn’t quite done with them and that new golden age isn’t a sure thing yet.In a tale both sweepingly epic and intensely personal, Kalanthe and Olsa fight to maintain their newfound independence and to find their way back to each other.

 

 

we set theWe Set the Dark on Fire (We Set the Dark on Fire #1) by Tehlor Kay Mejia (ISBN-13: 9780062691316 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 02/26/2019)

 

In this daring and romantic fantasy debut perfect for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale and Latinx authors Zoraida Córdova and Anna-Marie McLemore, society wife-in-training Dani has a great awakening after being recruited by rebel spies and falling for her biggest rival.

At the Medio School for Girls, distinguished young women are trained for one of two roles in their polarized society. Depending on her specialization, a graduate will one day run a husband’s household or raise his children. Both paths promise a life of comfort and luxury, far from the frequent political uprisings of the lower class.

Daniela Vargas is the school’s top student, but her pedigree is a lie. She must keep the truth hidden or be sent back to the fringes of society.

And school couldn’t prepare her for the difficult choices she must make after graduation, especially when she is asked to spy for a resistance group desperately fighting to bring equality to Medio.

Will Dani cling to the privilege her parents fought to win for her, or will she give up everything she’s strived for in pursuit of a free Medio—and a chance at a forbidden love?

 

 

the moonThe Moon Within by Aida Salazar (ISBN-13: 9781338283372 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 02/26/2019)

 

Celi Rivera’s life swirls with questions. About her changing body. Her first attraction to a boy. And her best friend’s exploration of what it means to be genderfluid.

But most of all, her mother’s insistence she have a moon ceremony when her first period arrives. It’s an ancestral Mexica ritual that Mima and her community have reclaimed, but Celi promises she will NOT be participating. Can she find the power within herself to take a stand for who she wants to be?

A dazzling story told with the sensitivity, humor, and brilliant verse of debut talent Aida Salazar.

 

 

 

music of whatThe Music of What Happens by Bill Konigsberg (ISBN-13: 9781338215502 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 02/26/2019)

 

Max: Chill. Sports. Video games. Gay and not a big deal, not to him, not to his mom, not to his buddies. And a secret: An encounter with an older kid that makes it hard to breathe, one that he doesn’t want to think about, ever.

Jordan: The opposite of chill. Poetry. His “wives” and the Chandler Mall. Never been kissed and searching for Mr. Right, who probably won’t like him anyway. And a secret: A spiraling out of control mother, and the knowledge that he’s the only one who can keep the family from falling apart.

Throw in a rickety, 1980s-era food truck called Coq Au Vinny. Add in prickly pears, cloud eggs, and a murky idea of what’s considered locally sourced and organic. Place it all in Mesa, Arizona, in June, where the temp regularly hits 114. And top it off with a touch of undeniable chemistry between utter opposites.

Over the course of one summer, two boys will have to face their biggest fears and decide what they’re willing to risk — to get the thing they want the most.

DIY Neon Signs

Sometimes, in order to find new activities to do with teens, I buy kits and try and find ways to adapt them to do in the library with teens. For Christmas, I bought each of the girls this DIY Neon Sign kit because it was cool, but also because I thought it would make a cool Teen MakerSpace activity. All the supplies can be bought individually to do as an activity, but the El wire needed is kind of pricey. So I would recommend doing this as a group activity to make signs to decorate a teen space as opposed to having each teen make an individual neon sign to take home, depending on your budget.

The inspiration kit

The inspiration kit

Supplies:

Cost for an individual sign: Approximately $5.00

Step 1: Creating Your Template

Using your paper and marker, write out the word or saying you want your sign to say. For a library teen space, I recommend something like “Books” or “Read”. For a Teen MakerSpace, you could go with something like “Make” or “Idea Lab”.

You want to write crisp and legibly and – most importantly – in cursive because you need all of the letters to connect.

neon2

This will be your template.

Step 2: Making Your Wire Word

You now want to use the template to bend your wire into the word you are trying to make. I found this worked better with two people and two sets of hands. The pliers will also help. When you are done bending your wire into your word, you can also use the pliers to close the gaps on some of the letters, like the end of the letter P and the curve in the letter C below.

neon4

Step 3: Making the El Wire Word

You will then take the El wire and bend it to form into the wire word you made in step 2. At this point, you will have the metal wire which is guiding you in making the word out of the El wire.

neon3

Step 4: Attaching the Two Words

We attached our El wire to the wire word using zip ties. After you attach the El wire and the guide wire, you can snip the zip tie ends and you really don’t see them. Other sites recommend joining the two with a hot glue gun.

Finished DIY Neon Sign

neon5

The finished product is really pretty cool. If I had to do it again, I might use a painted piece of wood or canvas as a background for my sign. I will say bending the wire to make some of the letters was hard and I have not been satisfied with the letter “a” in the middle of the word space. Once you have the El wire, depending on how you attach the two wires together, you can actually take your project apart and make new words.

Here are some additional tutorials to help you . . .

Rookie DIY Neon Sign Instructions

 

How Fairytales Help Us Navigate the World, a guest post by author Maureen McQuerry

Between Before and After_Rd3When I was little, my mother read me fairytales. I remember Andrew Lang’s books, The Tall Book of Fairytales, and a peculiar story about a girl who jumped rope and could skip through a key hole and light as a feather on dandelion thistle. It took me years to track down Elsie Piddock Skips in Her Sleep, again. My father told a different kind of story. Especially when he was drinking. He told stories of surviving alone on the streets of Brooklyn as a ten year old flu orphan, about stealing food from Wallabout Market and hoping for the kindness of strangers. These were the stories that haunted his life.

It took me years to see the connection between the two types of stories I grew up with, and it was a fairytale, specifically Hansel and Gretel, that helped make that link. As I wrote my YA historical novel Between Before and After, I realized that the theme of survival and eventual redemption in my novel was intimately tied to Hansel and Gretel, and in a risky move, I wove a retelling of the fairytale between the chapters.

In Fairytales, the woods are dark and dangerous places where anything might happen. There are many tales of children lost, abandoned, or sent into the woods at the request of a parent or evil stepmother.  Author and fairytale expert Terri Windling put it this way in her blog post Into the Woods,10: Wild Children: “The heroism of such children lies … in the ability to survive and transform their fate — and to outwit those who would do them harm without losing their lives, their souls, or their humanity in the process.” No one leaves the mythic woods unchanged. This is a truth I wanted to capture in my own novel.

Between Before and After is a mother daughter dual narrative set in 1919 Brooklyn, New York and 1955 San Jose, California.  In researching my novel I discovered that in late 1800’s New York, up to 30,000 abandoned or orphaned children filled overflowing orphanages or lived on the streets. This vast number of orphans was due in part to the overwhelming number of destitute immigrants living in crowded tenements. By 1900 there were 16 million Irish immigrants alone. During these years, childbirth was still the number one cause of female mortality, leaving impoverished fathers with young children.

Then the Spanish flu arrived with its scythe and black cloak.

Many children became half-orphans, abandoned by one parent after the other died. For these children, the streets of our cities were the woods of the grimmest fairytales, dark, full of predators and danger.

Against all odds many of these immigrant children survived their sojourn through the woods without losing their humanity. Many, of course, did not. Surviving childhood is not always easy nor is it guaranteed. And that’s what the fairytales have warned us about all along.

This is my family’s story, but it’s the story of thousands of children who have had to follow breadcrumbs on perilous journeys to find their way home.

What is it about fairy tales that compels us, that resonates with the themes in our own lives?

JRR Tolkein in his magnificent essay “On Fairy Stories” talks of the eucastic turn or happy ending.  The fairy story “denies universal defeat…giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy. Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.” While fairy tales acknowledge and warn us of the existence of evil, they never pretend that evil is good or that despair has the final word. Fairy tales persist because in their themes, they tell us truths about the world.

  • The world is not a safe place: Myth reminds us that world is not a predictable and safe place. Fairies leave changelings, labyrinths hide monsters, shapeshifters cast spells. The mythic world is never tame.
  • There is no easy way out of the maze: when Theseus finds his way to the heart of the maze, he still must battle the minotaur, birds eat breadcrumbs, dragons swoop in, and we must travel through the dangers.
  • We often fear the wrong things: We fear outside enemies, but it’s our own greed, jealousy and hubris that most often cause our downfall.
  • We are all more than meets the eye: The reluctant hero discovers strengths she never knew she possessed.
  • We can fight dragons and win: As G.K. Chesterton says, “Fairy stories are more than true, not because they tell us there are dragons, but because they tell us dragons can be defeated.”
  • All stories are about transformation: no one leaves the woods unchanged. Without change there is no story.

Children still struggle in the woods today. Some are still locked in the witch’s house by parents’ addictions, cruelty, or dire circumstances. There is still a need for tales of hope, stories that say circumstances no matter how dark need not define you.

 

4bf19d_1a05afe193ac49afb4bd9ae3537f1160~mv2Maureen McQuerry is an award winning poet, novelist and teacher. Her YA novel, The Peculiars (Abrams/Amulet) is an ALA Best Book for YA 2013, winner of the Westchester Award. Her MG fantasy duo Time Out of Time, includes Beyond the Door, a Booklist top Ten Fantasy/SciFi for Youth, and The Telling Stone, a finalist for the WA State Book awards. Between Before & After, a YA historical novel (HarperCollins/Blink) will be released in Feb 2019. She taught middle school through college for almost twenty years specializing in gifted education.  In 2000 she was awarded the McAuliffe Teaching Fellowship for WA State.

Find out more: www.maureenmcquerry.com

https://www.instagram.com/maureenmcquerry/

https://twitter.com/maureenmcquerry

The Life Saving Slogan: You are Not Alone, a guest post by Shelley Sackier

Credit: Robin Gott

Credit: Robin Gott

The term “winter break” easily conjures the images of families rushing toward a round of winter skiing, a child-friendly cruise, or a palm-shaded beach. We see ourselves festooning the halls and holiday tables, and carefully honing those once a year meals. We picture a throng of college students dashing home toward the warm embrace of family, far removed from the windowless lecture halls they’ve occupied those first harrowing months of school.

But one year, winter break was anything but the above. For me, that is. And for my then freshman daughter too.

That year, I spent the time vigilant and restless. I spent it hoping to hear the words in someone else’s thoughts. I needed to measure her struggle, my daughter’s level of distress.

Her campus was in crisis mode, all parents on high alert. One lamentable word refused to be muted, would not release its steadfast grip.

Suicide.

Chronic stress is a disease college students are well-acquainted with. This unforgiving malady inflicts academic anxiety, depletes crucial sleep, and unleashes widespread social struggles, challenging our children to fit in somewhere new in someplace foreign.

A nerve-wracking fact among parents and educators, the leading cause of death among university students is suicide. We brace ourselves against the wretched news. One is horrifically tragic. A second is a spreading concern.

But five?

Five within one year? All on one campus?

It left me desperate to talk to my child … and to hear my child talk.

I wanted her home—where I could see her. But I forced a stay on that eager need, reminding myself she was attempting to build a new home. To redefine who she was. To discover where she will next belong.

We’d speak on the phone. I’d offer her words. But they were paltry, providing only an anemic balm. It’s impossible to obtain an accurate reading in such a situation, and a terrible tug of war is unleashed. The wanting to rush someplace and fix something. But that is not always the answer.

Your answer is not always their answer.

As YA authors, as librarians guiding our youth toward books that will speak to them, and as teachers in charge of creating and directing emotional curriculum as well as academic ones, we have a tremendous task we must address with urgency and gravity. We hunt for stories to explain what we personally cannot: who they are.

We try connecting children to others like them, to find solace, unity, and sureness. We introduce them to characters—whether fictional or real—who will communicate acceptance and normalcy. And the earlier we build this bridge for them, the more surefooted they can grow as they cross it, forging an identity with confidence.

If my daughter were asked to provide a profile form, defining herself, it’s likely she’d have said:

A scientist.

A musician.

An activist.

But also … imposter.

One does not see a checkbox for this identifier, but it rings true for many, and countless students feel unescorted claiming membership to this dismal club, having no idea just how many others have registered before them.

They feel they will be found out, singled out—that the mistake that brought them to this place they don’t belong, this class that is too hard, this group that is too prominent will raise a demoralizing red flag above them, and everyone will finally see what they suspected all along: that they are an outsider who accidentally slipped in.

As educators, if we miss the early crucial moments to illuminate thousands of voices within the digital or paper pages of books and do not unite our children with those who can elucidate their disorienting emotions, then we miss the fleeting opportunity to assure them that they can go on—despite their discomfort. We miss the chance to say that struggling and suffering does not mean one cannot make it through struggling and suffering.

As an author, my job is to create problems for my characters, to throw them into peril, and then to help them find clever ways out of that distress. As a parent, my wish is not for my children to experience catastrophe, but rather know what to do when trouble arises and where the path to safety is located.

Success may emerge with a book instead of a parental lecture. A wagging finger, foretelling danger, might not convey as effectively as an engaging narrative. Perched on my children’s beds, reassuring them that the questions they hold about themselves are typical of teens might not ring with enough resonance as reading about someone who they feel speaks their language, and who went through the thick of it, having made it through to the other side.

When my daughter was preparing to return to school, I helped her pack. Folding clothes on the floor, I glanced up, scanning the abundant bookshelves on either side of her bed.

She caught my wandering gaze. “Not everyone is given a happy ending, Mom.”

I looked at her firmly. “Maybe not,” I’d said. “But there’s nothing wrong with trying to insert as many chapters into one’s life as is possible. It’s my job. I show people a way through and a way out. My message is, you are not alone.”

As mentors, caregivers, and counselors, we face a daunting task. But we must seek every tool available to assist us with the process of grasping our teens and pulling them through to that “other side” where we stand. Losing our grip can mean losing a life.

 

Mental Health emergency links

SAMHSA Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – Preventing Suicide: A Toolkit for High Schools

SPRC – After a Suicide: A toolkit for Schools

SPTS The Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-(TALK) 8255

Lifeline Social Media Toolkit (pdf resource and support for suicidal individuals on social and digital media)

SAVE – Suicide Awareness Voices of Education

 

Meet Shelley Sackier

Photo credit: Jinx

Photo credit: Jinx

Shelley Sackier is the author of The Freemason’s Daughter (HarperCollins 2017), Dear Opl (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky 2015), and the upcoming novel, The Antidote (HarperCollins 2019). She writes both middle grade and YA fiction. She visits schools to illuminate the merits of embracing failure just like NASA and to further her campaign to erect monuments to all librarians.

Bonus Content: The Antidote Playlist – Google Play or The Antidote Playlist – Spotify  (both just music) and The Antidote Playlist Details (with spoilers!—song descriptions for where they fall within the book).

Website: www.shelleysackier.com

Facebook page: @ShelleySackierBooks

Twitter: @ShelleySackier

Goodreads: Shelley Sackier

Instagram: @ShelleySackier

Pinterest: ShelleySackier

 

About The Antidote

antidoteThe Antidote by Shelley Sackier (ISBN-13: 9780062453471 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 02/05/2019)

 

From the author of The Freemason’s Daughter comes a lush romantic fantasy perfect for fans of Everless!

In the world of healers, there is no room for magic.

Fee knows this, just as certainly as she knows that her magic must be kept secret.

But the crown prince Xavi, Fee’s best friend and only source of comfort, is sick. So sick, that Fee can barely contain the magic lying dormant inside her. She could use it, just a little, to heal him. But magic comes at a deadly cost—and attracts those who would seek to snuff it out forever.

A wisp of a spell later, Fee finds herself caught in a whirl of secret motivations and dark pasts, where no one is who—or what—they appear to be. And saving her best friend means delving deeper into the tempting and treacherous world whose call she’s long resisted—uncovering a secret that will change everything.

Laini Taylor meets Sara Holland in this lavish fantasy from lauded historical romance author Shelley Sackier!

Book Review: LGBTQ: The Survival Guide for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Teens by Kelly Huegel Madrone

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

 

 

LGBTQLGBTQ: The Survival Guide for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Teens by Kelly Huegel Madrone (ISBN-13: 9781631983023 Publisher: Free Spirit Publishing, Inc. Publication date: 09/17/2018 Edition description: Third Edition, Revised)

★ Winter 2018

Gr 6 Up—This affirming guide covers a wide range of topics, educating readers and helping them become better advocates for themselves. Using the acronym LGBTQ and the word queer, this updated and revised third edition includes updated data and emphasizes evolving concepts and understandings of gender and sexuality, advances in LGBTQ rights, cultural shifts and changing attitudes, and a look at a wider range of experience and identity. With information from experts, advice from advocacy groups, and stories from teenagers, chapters tackle accepting and questioning identity, trans and nonbinary teens, what to consider when coming out, harassment and bullying, finding community, dating (including a look at relationship violence), sex and sexually transmitted infections, mental health, and religious life. The part about work and college life contains details on rights and discrimination and tips on finding the right company or college. Pull quotes, text boxes, and subheadings break up the dense text. Some identities, such as intersex, asexual, aromantic, and others along those spectrums, receive less space than the LGBTQ identities of the title. This useful resource is aimed at queer teens, but those seeking to provide a welcoming, affirming environment for LGBTQ youth will also find this indispensable. VERDICT This sensitive, frank, and supportive volume belongs in every library.