Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

On the Edge of Your Seat YA: Have Some Suspense Books; By Teen Contributor Riley Jensen

We all love a good mystery. It’s actually my favorite genre. The way it hooks you in with all of the unanswered questions. The unexpected twists and turns. Suspenseful books just have all of the right elements for a good reading experience. So, here are some upcoming suspenseful mystery books. All the following books have the publisher’s book description for you and they are all 2021 releases. A couple of titles are already out and available for you to purchase today.

The Violent Season By Sara Walters

Every November, the people in Wolf Ridge are overwhelmed with a hunger for violence–at least that’s the town rumor. Last fall Wyatt Green’s mother was brutally murdered, convincing Wyatt that this yearning isn’t morbid urban legend. but rather a palpable force infecting her neighbors.

This year, Wyatt fears the call of violence has spread to her best friend Cash–who also happens to be the guy she can’t stop wanting no matter how much he hurts her. At the same time, she’s drawn to Cash’s nemesis Porter, now that they’re partners on an ambitious project for lit class. When Wyatt pulls away from Cash, and spends more time with Porter, she learns secrets about both of them she can’t forget.

And as the truth about her mother’s death begins to emerge from the shadows, Wyatt is faced with a series of hard realities about the people she trusts the most, rethinking everything she believes about what makes people decide to hurt each other.

Coming in September 2021 from Sourcebooks Fire

When All the Girls are Sleeping by Emily Arsenault

Windham-Farnswood Academy is beautiful, prestigious, historic–the perfect place for girls to prep for college. But every student knows all is not as it seems. Each January, the Winter Girl comes knocking. She’s the spirit who haunts the old senior dorm, and this year is no exception.

For Haley, the timing couldn’t be worse. This month marks the one-year anniversary of the death of her ex-best friend, Taylor. When a disturbing video of Taylor surfaces, new questions about her death emerge. And it actually looks like Taylor was murdered.

Now, as Haley digs into what really happened last year, her search keeps bringing her back to the Winter Girl. Haley wants to believe ghosts aren’t real, but the clues–and the dark school history she begins to undercover–say otherwise. Now it’s up to her to solve the mystery before history has a chance to repeat itself and another life is taken.

Coming in July of 2021 from Penguin Random House

The Perfect Place to Die by Bryce Moore

Zuretta never thought she’d encounter a monster—one of the world’s most notorious serial killers. She had resigned herself to a quiet life in Utah. But when her younger sister, Ruby, travels to Chicago during the World’s Fair, and disappears, Zuretta leaves home to find her.

But 1890s Chicago is more dangerous and chaotic than she imagined. She doesn’t know where to start until she learns of her sister’s last place of employment…a mysterious hotel known as The Castle.

Zuretta takes a job there hoping to learn more. And before long she realizes the hotel isn’t what it seems. Women disappear at an alarming rate, she hears crying from the walls, and terrifying whispers follow her at night. In the end, she finds herself up against one of the most infamous mass murderers in American history—and his custom-built death trap.

Coming in August 2021 from Sourcebooks Fire

The Girl in the Headlines by Hannah Jayne

Andrea McNulty goes to sleep on her eighteenth birthday with a near-perfect life: she’s a high school field hockey star, a doted-upon big sister, the beloved daughter of two happy parents. But when she wakes up in a motel room the next morning, unable to remember what happened the previous night and covered in blood, Andi is a fugitive.

According to the news, Andi’s parents were brutally attacked in the middle of the night. Her father is dead, her mother is in a coma, her little brother Josh is missing–and Andi is the prime suspect. Terrified and on the run from the police, Andi teams up with Nate, the sympathetic boy working the motel’s front desk, to find the real murderer. But while the police are getting further from the killer, the killer is getting closer to Andi–closer than she could ever have imagined.

Coming in July of 2021 from Sourcebooks Fire

14 Ways to Die by Vincent Ralph

Ten years ago, Jess’s mother was murdered by the Magpie Man.

She was the first of his victims but not the last.

Now Jess is the star of a YouTube reality series and she’s using it to catch the killer once and for all.

The whole world is watching her every move.

And so is the Magpie Man

Coming in June 2021 from Sourcebooks Fire

The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould

Something is wrong in Snakebite, Oregon. Teenagers are disappearing, some turning up dead, the weather isn’t normal, and all fingers seem to point to TV’s most popular ghost hunters who have just returned to town. Logan Ortiz-Woodley, daughter of TV’s ParaSpectors, has never been to Snakebite before, but the moment she and her dads arrive, she starts to get the feeling that there’s more secrets buried here than they originally let on.

Ashley Barton’s boyfriend was the first teen to go missing, and she’s felt his presence ever since. But now that the Ortiz-Woodleys are in town, his ghost is following her and the only person Ashley can trust is the mysterious Logan. When Ashley and Logan team up to figure out who—or what—is haunting Snakebite, their investigation reveals truths about the town, their families, and themselves that neither of them are ready for. As the danger intensifies, they realize that their growing feelings for each other could be a light in the darkness.

Coming in August 2021 from Wednesday Books

Prom House by Chelsea Mueller

Ten people share a prom house at the Jersey Shore for the weekend. Every one of them has a secret . . . and when they begin to die one by one, panic ensues. Could somebody’s prom date also be . . . a killer?

Coming in May 2021 from Underlined

The Murder Game by Carrie Doyle

Luke Chase didn’t mean to get caught up solving the mystery of Mrs. Heckler’s murder. He just wanted to spend alone time with the new British girl at their boarding school.

But little did he know someone would end up dead right next to their rendezvous spot in the woods, and his best friend and roommate Oscar Weymouth would be the one to take the blame. With suspects aplenty and a past that’s anything but innocent, Luke Chase reluctantly calls on his famous survival skills to solve the mystery and find the true killer.

Coming in April 2021 from Sourcebooks Fire

Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone

Cat lives in Los Angeles, far away from 36 Westeryk Road, the imposing gothic house in Edinburgh where she and her estranged twin sister, El, grew up. As girls, they invented Mirrorland, a dark, imaginary place under the pantry stairs full of pirates, witches, and clowns. These days Cat rarely thinks about their childhood home, or the fact that El now lives there with her husband Ross.

But when El mysteriously disappears after going out on her sailboat, Cat is forced to return to 36 Westeryk Road, which has scarcely changed in twenty years. The grand old house is still full of shadowy corners, and at every turn Cat finds herself stumbling on long-held secrets and terrifying ghosts from the past. Because someone—El?—has left Cat clues in almost every room: a treasure hunt that leads right back to Mirrorland, where she knows the truth lies crouched and waiting…

Coming in April 2021 from Scribner

Where Secrets Lie by Eva V. Gibson

Amy Larsen has spent every summer with her cousin Ben and their best friend Teddy in River Run, Kentucky, loving country life and welcoming the break from her intensive ambitions and overbearing mother—until the summer she and Teddy confront the changing feelings and simmering sexual tension growing between them, destroying the threesome’s friendship in a dramatic face-off.

One year later, Amy returns to River Run dreading what she might find. But when Teddy’s sister disappears, Amy, Ben and Teddy agree to put aside their differences to search for her. As they dig deeper into the dark history of their small town, all three friends must unearth the truths that tie their families to tragedy, cope with their own toxic upbringings and beliefs, and atone for the damage done to each other and themselves.

Coming in April 2021 from Simon Pulse

The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis

Tress Montor knows that her family used to mean something—until she didn’t have a family anymore. When her parents disappeared seven years ago while driving her best friend home, Tress lost everything. She might still be a Montor, but the entire town shuns her now that she lives with her drunken, one-eyed grandfather at what locals refer to as the “White Trash Zoo,” – a wild animal attraction featuring a zebra, a chimpanzee, and a panther, among other things.

Felicity Turnado has it all – looks, money, and a secret that she’s kept hidden. She knows that one misstep could send her tumbling from the top of the social ladder, and she’s worked hard to make everyone forget that she was with the Montors the night they disappeared. Felicity has buried what she knows so deeply that she can’t even remember what it is… only that she can’t look at Tress without having a panic attack.

But she’ll have to.

Tress has a plan. A Halloween costume party at an abandoned house provides the ideal situation for Tress to pry the truth from Felicity – brick by brick – as she slowly seals her former best friend into a coal chute. With a drunken party above them, and a loose panther on the prowl, Tress will have her answers – or settle for revenge.

This book came out earlier in 2021

The Forest of Stolen Girls by Jen Hur

After her father vanishes while investigating the disappearance of 13 young women, a teen returns to her secretive hometown to pick up the trail in this second YA historical mystery from the author of The Silence of Bones.

Hwani’s family has never been the same since she and her younger sister went missing and were later found unconscious in the forest, near a gruesome crime scene. The only thing they remember: Their captor wore a painted-white mask.

To escape the haunting memories of this incident, the family flees their hometown. Years later, Detective Min—Hwani’s father—learns that thirteen girls have recently disappeared under similar circumstances, and so he returns to their hometown to investigate… only to vanish as well.

Determined to find her father and solve the case that tore their family apart, Hwani returns home to pick up the trail. As she digs into the secrets of the small village—and reconnects with her now estranged sister—Hwani comes to realize that the answer lies within her own buried memories of what happened in the forest all those years ago.

Coming in April 2021 from Fiewel and Friends

All of these books will share their suspense, but each is different. A mystery for everyone.

Cindy Crushes Programming: Five Thoughts on the (Very Slow) March to the End of the Pandemic, by Teen Librarian Cindy Shutts

At my library, we are all excited about the vaccines hitting our area. I am half vaccinated. I am so excited about what is to come but I know that the pandemic is certainly not over yet. We have new strains popping up around the country and since schools have gone back in session there has been an increase in positivity rates. We also serve a population that can not get vaccinated yet, so we have to be even more careful. How is the process toward in person programming looking at your library? Here’s a look at what we’ve been thinking about as we plan programming for the future of 2021.

Outdoor Programming

We are doing outdoor programming starting in the summer. We are hoping to have our program Dog Days of Summer which is an annual pet adoption event. We will still require social distancing and masks of course. Our children’s department is looking at doing outside messy crafts. We plan to have an outdoor volunteering opportunity during the summer and have teens pick up trash in our courtyard and improve our children’s garden.

My niece Julia and her dog Brock at a past dog days.

Avoiding High Touch Programs

We will still have to avoid programs that are high touch such as crafts where supplies would be shared. I do not have enough scissors for everyone one to do crafts so I plan on avoiding in person craft and continuing doing take and make at my library. Make and Take programs have the added benefit of allowing our teens to do programming on their own time.

Keep an Eye on Infection Rates

As we have learned the positivity rate for Covid can go up at any time. The pandemic is not over just because we are over it. All libraries will have to continue to pay attention to local infections rates and be open to cancelling at a moment’s notice should the need to arise. Patron, staff and community safety should always come first.

Keep Things Online

Not everyone can come to the library. We are going to keep doing online programming forever now. We want to keep our D and D online, since it is high touch and also continue to do digital escape rooms. I plan to keep TAG online for the foreseeable future, because we have learned teens like having a chance to do their volunteer hours at all hours. Not everyone can get a ride to the library and this helps them be able to do their hours without having to get a ride from their parents or guardian. Online programming has made library programming more accessible for a large number of previously under-served patrons.

Find Programs That You Can Do

One program we are thinking about is doing Kahoot trivia in the library. It would be easy to set up in our large programming room and have the teens social distance and have them use their devices such as their Chromebooks or phones to answer the trivia while we project it on our big screen. As we look for continued ways to address the pandemic, we will all have to continue to practice and be an example of best safety practices.

What are your plans for the year? Are you doing in person programming and how are you doing it? Also how are you making it accessible for all patrons? We are trying to balance that many teens have been doing well with a lot of our online programming and we want to keep serving those teens. We have seen this a lot at our Crest Hill Branch which is hard for patrons to get to. We noticed a lot more teens from Crest Hill doing virtual programming. We find we are serving different patrons. What is your end of Covid plan?

Cindy Shutts, MLIS

Cindy is passionate about teen services. She loves dogs, pro-wrestling, Fairy tales, mythology, and of course reading. Her favorite books are The Hate U Give, Catching FIre, The Royals, and everything by Cindy Pon. She loves spending times with her dog Harry Winston and her niece and nephew. Cindy Shutts is the Teen Services Librarian at the White Oak Library District in IL and she’ll be joining us to talk about teen programming. You can follow her on Twitter at @cindysku.

#FactsMatter: Great Graphic Nonfiction for Students Who Love Information and Real World Stories, by Librarian Alison

Today, as part of our #FactsMatter spotlight on nonfiction, we have a guest post by a librarian in New York City named Alison. She is here today to talk with us about nonfiction presented in graphic novel format.

In elementary school libraries, the nonfiction section is just as popular, if not moreso, than the fiction section. Students love learning new information about the world and sharing those new facts with others. When they have time to browse, they’ll happily rush to the nonfiction shelves to grab books about animals, or space, or sports, or whatever topic seems interesting to them at the moment.

As students get older, I’ve noticed, that love for nonfiction isn’t as obvious in the library anymore. While this is purely anecdotal, I’ve observed that middle and high school students are far less likely to rush to the nonfiction section when looking for their next book to read. Is this because their love of facts and information has waned with age? This seems unlikely. Rather, I think it could be the result of a few different factors. First, I think sometimes librarians focus their nonfiction collection development efforts on books that will support their school’s curriculum needs, rather than books students may want to read for fun. While this is absolutely important, it can mean that students associate the nonfiction section with stuff they have to do for school instead of things they want to read about. Second, nonfiction books can be more challenging for students to read. They can have dense text and specialized vocabulary, and just generally seem more intimidating to students.

So, is there a way for our middle and high school students who have gravitated away from the nonfiction section to rediscover, or discover for the first time, their love of nonfiction? Definitely! And I think one great way to do that is through graphic nonfiction. While there are lots of great narrative nonfiction books and informational texts being written for tween and teens these days, books in graphic format are an accessible and engaging way for students to (re)discover nonfiction. Graphic nonfiction, with its reliance on pictures telling the story as much, if not more, than words, presents facts and information in a way that can be easier for students to grasp, especially visual learners, English language learners, and others who might struggle with more traditional formats of nonfiction.

Many students are already big fans of graphic novels; they love reading stories told in both words and pictures, and so this format is familiar to and beloved by many tweens and teens. These graphic novel lovers may be more interested in and willing to try a nonfiction book if it’s in a format they already enjoy, so this is another way to guide students back to the nonfiction section. Students who love graphic novels set in space, for example, may enjoy graphic nonfiction texts about astronauts, while those who enjoy historical fiction might be excited to pick up Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series, and students who love realistic fiction could really get into many of the graphic memoirs available.

While graphic texts are an excellent way for tweens and teens to access nonfiction for pleasure reading, they are also a useful teaching tool. Graphic nonfiction not only uses visual storytelling and engaging writing to help students understand complex topics and take in information, but this medium can also be a good way to introduce difficult ideas or topics. Graphic nonfiction texts can help ease students into discussions and lessons on particularly challenging or distressing topics. Additionally, the use of graphic nonfiction in the classroom may serve as encouragement for students to pursue their personal interests in nonfiction as well.

So, where should you begin when it comes to graphic nonfiction? Well, I’ve created a list of some great graphic nonfiction texts full of interesting and engaging content, all of which would make great additions to many middle or high school library collections. (Note: I have chosen not to include some more well known graphic nonfiction, like Persepolis and the March Trilogy, because they are already quite popular, but please know that despite their absence from this list, they are great choices too!) So, here are some wonderful graphic nonfiction texts (all book descriptions are from the publishers):

Almost American Girl by Robin Ha (Gr. 7 & Up)-For as long as she can remember, it’s been Robin and her mom against the world. Growing up as the only child of a single mother in Seoul, Korea, wasn’t always easy, but it has bonded them fiercely together.

So when a vacation to visit friends in Huntsville, Alabama, unexpectedly becomes a permanent relocation—following her mother’s announcement that she’s getting married—Robin is devastated.

Overnight, her life changes. She is dropped into a new school where she doesn’t understand the language and struggles to keep up. She is completely cut off from her friends in Seoul and has no access to her beloved comics. At home, she doesn’t fit in with her new stepfamily, and worst of all, she is furious with the one person she is closest to—her mother.

Then one day Robin’s mother enrolls her in a local comic drawing class, which opens the window to a future Robin could never have imagined.

This nonfiction graphic novel with four starred reviews is an excellent choice for teens and also accelerated tween readers, both for independent reading and units on immigration, memoirs, and the search for identity.

Astronauts: Women on the Final Frontier by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks (Gr. 5 & Up)-The U.S. may have put the first man on the moon, but it was the Soviet space program that made Valentina Tereshkova the first woman in space. It took years to catch up, but soon NASA’s first female astronauts were racing past milestones of their own. The trail-blazing women of Group 9, NASA’s first mixed gender class, had the challenging task of convincing the powers that be that a woman’s place is in space, but they discovered that NASA had plenty to learn about how to make space travel possible for everyone.

Becoming RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s Journey to Justice by Debbie Levy and Whitney Gardner (Gr. 6 & Up)-Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a modern feminist icon—a leader in the fight for equal treatment of girls and women in society and the workplace. She blazed trails to the peaks of the male-centric worlds of education and law, where women had rarely risen before.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has often said that true and lasting change in society and law is accomplished slowly, one step at a time. This is how she has evolved, too. Step by step, the shy little girl became a child who questioned unfairness, who became a student who persisted despite obstacles, who became an advocate who resisted injustice, who became a judge who revered the rule of law, who became…RBG.

Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Penelope Bagieu (Gr. 8 & Up)-Throughout history and across the globe, one characteristic connects the daring women of Brazen: their indomitable spirit.

With her characteristic wit and dazzling drawings, celebrated graphic novelist Pénélope Bagieu profiles the lives of these feisty female role models, some world famous, some little known. From Nellie Bly to Mae Jemison or Josephine Baker to Naziq al-Abid, the stories in this comic biography are sure to inspire the next generation of rebel ladies.

Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls Are Used in War by Jessica Dee Humphreys, Michel Chikwanine, and Claudia Davila (Gr. 5 & Up)-Michel Chikwanine was five years old when he was abducted from his school-yard soccer game in the Democratic Republic of Congo and forced to become a soldier for a brutal rebel militia. Against the odds, Michel managed to escape and find his way back to his family, but he was never the same again. After immigrating to Canada, Michel was encouraged by a teacher to share what happened to him in order to raise awareness about child soldiers around the world, and this book is part of that effort.

Told in the first person and presented in a graphic novel format, the gripping story of Michel’s experience is moving and unsettling. But the humanity he exhibits in the telling, along with Claudia Dávila’s illustrations, which evoke rather than depict the violent elements of the story, makes the book accessible for this age group and, ultimately, reassuring and hopeful. The back matter contains further information, as well as suggestions for ways children can help. This is a perfect resource for engaging youngsters in social studies lessons on global awareness and social justice issues, and would easily spark classroom discussions about conflict, children’s rights and even bullying. Michel’s actions took enormous courage, but he makes clear that he was and still is an ordinary person, no different from his readers. He believes everyone can do something to make the world a better place, and so he shares what his father told him: “If you ever think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a room with a mosquito.”

Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang (Gr. 8 & Up)-Gene understands stories—comic book stories, in particular. Big action. Bigger thrills. And the hero always wins.

But Gene doesn’t get sports. As a kid, his friends called him “Stick” and every basketball game he played ended in pain. He lost interest in basketball long ago, but at the high school where he now teaches, it’s all anyone can talk about. The men’s varsity team, the Dragons, is having a phenomenal season that’s been decades in the making. Each victory brings them closer to their ultimate goal: the California State Championships.

Once Gene gets to know these young all-stars, he realizes that their story is just as thrilling as anything he’s seen on a comic book page. He knows he has to follow this epic to its end. What he doesn’t know yet is that this season is not only going to change the Dragons’s lives, but his own life as well.

The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler by John Hendrix (Gr. 7 & Up)-Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party is gaining strength and becoming more menacing every day. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor upset by the complacency of the German church toward the suffering around it, forms a breakaway church to speak out against the established political and religious authorities. When the Nazis outlaw the church, he escapes as a fugitive. Struggling to reconcile his faith and the teachings of the Bible with the Nazi Party’s evil agenda, Bonhoeffer decides that Hitler must be stopped by any means possible!

In his signature style of interwoven handwritten text and art, John Hendrix tells the true story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor who makes the ultimate sacrifice in order to help free the German people from oppression during World War II.

The History of the World in Comics by Jean-Baptiste de Panafieu and Adrienne Barman (Gr. 5 & Up)-A paleontologist and a storyteller take two children through the birth of our planet, the beginning of microbes, and through the heydays of protozoans, dinosaurs, and early mammals with unfailing enthusiasm.

The art accurately portrays animal species and prehistoric landscapes, includes maps and infographics, but also adds humorous touches: a google-eyed prehistoric fish looking startled to be walking on land and the children popping out of a tree top to surprise a Brachiosaurus.

The combined expertise of author Jean-Baptiste de Panafieu, a science writer and biologist, and illustrator Adriene Barman, the creator behind Creaturepedia and Plantopedia, makes for a science read you can trust.

Fans of Maris Wicks’s Human Body Theater and Nathan Hale will be pleased.

Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide by Isabel Quintero and Zeke Peña (Gr. 7 & Up)-Graciela Iturbide was born in Mexico City in 1942, the oldest of 13 children. When tragedy struck Iturbide as a young mother, she turned to photography for solace and understanding. From then on Iturbide embarked on a photographic journey that has taken her throughout her native Mexico, from the Sonora Desert to Juchitán to Frida Kahlo’s bathroom, to the United States, India, and beyond. Photographic is a symbolic, poetic, and deeply personal graphic biography of this iconic photographer. Iturbide’s journey will excite readers of all ages as well as budding photographers, who will be inspired by her resolve, talent, and curiosity.

Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks (Gr. 6 & Up)-Jim Ottaviani returns with an action-packed account of the three greatest primatologists of the last century: Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas. These three ground-breaking researchers were all students of the great Louis Leakey, and each made profound contributions to primatology—and to our own understanding of ourselves.

Tackling Goodall, Fossey, and Galdikas in turn, and covering the highlights of their respective careers, Primates is an accessible, entertaining, and informative look at the field of primatology and at the lives of three of the most remarkable women scientists of the twentieth century. Thanks to the charming and inviting illustrations by Maris Wicks, this is a nonfiction graphic novel with broad appeal.

A Quick & Easy Guide to Queer and Trans Identities by Mady G and J.R. Zuckerberg (Gr. 9 & Up)-In this quick and easy guide to queer and trans identities, cartoonists Mady G and JR Zuckerberg guide you through the basics of the LGBT+ world! Covering essential topics like sexuality, gender identity, coming out, and navigating relationships, this guide explains the spectrum of human experience through informative comics, interviews, worksheets, and imaginative examples. A great starting point for anyone curious about queer and trans life, and helpful for those already on their own journeys!

(Note: There are several more books in the ‘Quick & Easy Guide’ series that would also be great additions to graphic nonfiction collections: A Quick & Easy Guide to Asexuality, A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns, A Quick & Easy Guide to Consent, and A Quick & Easy Guide to Sex & Disability)

Smash! Exploring the Mysteries of the Universe with the Large Hadron Collider by Sara Latta and Jeff Weigel (Gr. 7 & Up)-What is the universe made of? At CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, scientists have searched for answers to this question using the largest machine in the world: the Large Hadron Collider. It speeds up tiny particles, then smashes them together—and the collision gives researchers a look at the building blocks of the universe.

Nick and Sophie, two cousins, are about to visit CERN for a tour of the mysteries of the cosmos. Sophie’s a physics wiz. Nick, not so much. But by the time they’re through, Nick and Sophie will both feel the power of hidden particles, fundamental forces, dark matter, and more. It’s all a blast in this mind-blowing graphic novel!

Strange Fruit Volume 1: Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History by Joel Christian Gill (Gr. 8 & Up)-Strange Fruit Volume I is a collection of stories from early African American history that represent the oddity of success in the face of great adversity. Each of the nine illustrated chapters chronicles an uncelebrated African American hero or event. From the adventures of lawman Bass Reeves, to Henry “Box” Brown’s daring escape from slavery.

The Stuff of Life : A Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNA by Mark Schultz, Zander Cannon, and Kevin Cannon (Gr. 10 & Up)-Let’s face it: From adenines to zygotes, from cytokinesis to parthenogenesis, even the basics of genetics can sound utterly alien. So who better than an alien to explain it all? Enter Bloort 183, a scientist from an asexual alien race threatened by disease, who’s been charged with researching the fundamentals of human DNA and evolution and laying it all out in clear, simple language so that even his slow-to-grasp-the-point leader can get it. In the hands of the award-winning writer Mark Schultz, Bloort’s predicament becomes the means of giving even the most science-phobic reader a complete introduction to the history and science of genetics that’s as easy to understand as it is entertaining to read.

Tetris: The Games People Play by Box Brown (Gr. 9 & Up)-It is, perhaps, the perfect video game. Simple yet addictive, Tetris delivers an irresistible, unending puzzle that has players hooked. Play it long enough and you’ll see those brightly colored geometric shapes everywhere. You’ll see them in your dreams.

Alexey Pajitnov had big ideas about games. In 1984, he created Tetris in his spare time while developing software for the Soviet government. Once Tetris emerged from behind the Iron Curtain, it was an instant hit. Nintendo, Atari, Sega—game developers big and small all wanted Tetris. A bidding war was sparked, followed by clandestine trips to Moscow, backroom deals, innumerable miscommunications, and outright theft.

In this graphic novel,New York Times–bestselling author Box Brown untangles this complex history and delves deep into the role games play in art, culture, and commerce. For the first time and in unparalleled detail, Tetris: The Games People Play tells the true story of the world’s most popular video game.

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, and Harmony Becker (Gr. 7 & Up)-George Takei has captured hearts and minds worldwide with his captivating stage presence and outspoken commitment to equal rights. But long before he braved new frontiers in Star Trek, he woke up as a four-year-old boy to find his own birth country at war with his father’s — and their entire family forced from their home into an uncertain future.

In 1942, at the order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, every person of Japanese descent on the west coast was rounded up and shipped to one of ten “relocation centers,” hundreds or thousands of miles from home, where they would be held for years under armed guard.

They Called Us Enemy is Takei’s firsthand account of those years behind barbed wire, the joys and terrors of growing up under legalized racism, his mother’s hard choices, his father’s faith in democracy, and the way those experiences planted the seeds for his astonishing future.

What is American? Who gets to decide? When the world is against you, what can one person do? To answer these questions, George Takei joins co-writers Justin Eisinger & Steven Scott and artist Harmony Becker for the journey of a lifetime.

The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees by Don Brown (Gr. 8 & Up)-In the tradition of two-time Sibert honor winner Don Brown’s critically acclaimed, full-color nonfiction graphic novels The Great American Dust Bowl and Drowned City, The Unwanted is an important, timely, and eye-opening exploration of the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis, exposing the harsh realities of living in, and trying to escape, a war zone.

Starting in 2011, refugees flood out of war-torn Syria in Exodus-like proportions. The surprising flood of victims overwhelms neighboring countries, and chaos follows. Resentment in host nations heightens as disruption and the cost of aid grows. By 2017, many want to turn their backs on the victims. The refugees are the unwanted.

Don Brown depicts moments of both heartbreaking horror and hope in the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis. Shining a light on the stories of the survivors, The Unwanted is a testament to the courage and resilience of the refugees and a call to action for all those who read.

What Does Consent Really Mean? by Pete Wallis, Thalia Wallis, and Joseph Wilkins (Gr. 8 & Up)-While seemingly straightforward, Tia and Bryony hadn’t considered this subject too seriously until it comes up in conversation with their friends and they realize just how important it is.

Following the sexual assault of a classmate, a group of teenage girls find themselves discussing the term consent, what it actually means for them in their current relationships, and how they act and make decisions with peer influence. Joined by their male friends who offer another perspective, this rich graphic novel uncovers the need for more informed conversations with young people around consent and healthy relationships. Accompanying the graphics are sexual health resources for students and teachers, which make this a perfect tool for broaching the subject with teens.

I hope this list has given you some ideas for adding graphic nonfiction to your collection. If you have a favorite graphic nonfiction text that wasn’t included, please share in the comments!

Meet Our Guest Blogger

Alison is the Middle and Upper School Librarian at an independent school in New York City. She has worked in school libraries for 8 years, with students from ages 3-18. She loves reading and learning, and helping students find the perfect book. When she’s not in the library, she enjoys baking, traveling, and spending time with her two cats, Molly and Minerva. You can find more of Alison’s musings about books and libraries on her website msginthelibrary.com, on Twitter @msginthelibrary, or on Instagram @msginthelibrary.

RevolTeens Fighting for Justice – For Themselves, by Teen Librarian Christine Lively

Teens are subject to so many rules that are a catch 22. They are visible and face serious adult consequences when they act out, but they’re still treated like children in so many circumstances. When they speak up for themselves, they can suffer backlash, criticism, silence, and even worse, denial of their experiences. They’re treated as a separate class of people – not believed and protected like children, and not respected and heard like adults. Teens often are met with contempt and their complaints can be brushed aside without any redress. Because they are ‘minors,’ their experiences aren’t even validated by being shared and discussed freely. The confidentiality that protects children, puts many teens’ experiences ‘out of sight’ of the adults around them, making them even easier to ignore.

So, what can teens, their families, and their communities do when they’re confronted with injustice?

I am proud to report here that at the school where I work, I’ve witnessed an excellent response to injustice suffered by teens, and this story offers some important lessons.

On March 5,  Wakefield High School football team from Arlington, Virginia played a game against Marshall High School in Falls Church, Virginia. The two schools are nine miles apart in Virginia and have played each other in football and many other sports over the years. This Friday night game was different and not just because it was played in the spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but because racist name calling and spitting marred the game and ultimately caused a confrontation that would make headlines.

After the game, there was an “altercation,” and three Wakefield players were given three game suspensions for fighting. The full story emerged on Wakefield player Lukai Hatcher’s Instagram account on March 17:

“Many of you have followed my football journey throughout my high school career. I am posting this on social media to bring attention to an incident that happened during my game on March 5th at Marshall High School in Fairfax County, VA. Me and my teammates were called racial slurs, taunted, and even spit on by Marshall players. We also experienced unfair treatment by each of the refs and were harassed from the sidelines by coaches and Marshall parents. We as a team complained to the refs all game about the way that we were being treated yet the flags were consistently thrown on us and even our coaches. The officiating that night was unfair. This build up of events during the game led to one of Marshall’s player’s spitting on one of our players. This caused an altercation between both teams and as a result, 3 of our players were given a 3 game suspension. We only have 3 games left. The 3 game suspension was appealed and is now down to 1. Marshall High School’s athletic teams have been known to demonstrate a culture of racism and unsportsmanlike behavior. We have experienced foul play on the basketball court as well. This isn’t new and enough is enough! We should not be punished for defending ourselves and each other especially because during the ENTIRE game the refs, who’s job it is to ensure each game is fair and who were supposed to protect and defend us, did not.

We are shining the light on the continuing culture of tolerance for unjust and discriminatory practices in sports for minority athletes and seeking accountability in support of change.

#biggerthanagame #changingtheculture #playfairnow

Because the football team members are all high school students, the school was not able to openly discuss what had happened on the field with the school community or anyone else – until Lukai courageously made the racist incidents public.

Since then, the Wakefield school community has come together behind our players and supported them. There have been statements condemning the lack of action by the officials at the game, and the racist acts themselves. The Principal at Wakefield, Dr. Christian Willmore sent a letter out to the Wakefield community including this:

“One student asked what they should do if this happened again,” wrote Dr. Christian Willmore. “I responded to the student that, first, I was extremely proud of the restraint they had shown for 2 1/2 hours and that they handled it exactly as they should have: they reported it to the referees and then with their coaches. In this case, the adults who were responsible failed them. I also informed them that in the future, all coaches have been instructed to leave the field/court immediately if our student-athletes are subject to racist, bigoted behaviors. Our student-athletes will not be put into a position like this again.”

News of the racist acts has been featured on the local news. An online petition has gathered over 13,500 signatures and asks for the following:

We would like to see the following happen:

1. An immediate apology from Marshall and their football program

2. An apology from the VHSL (The Virginia High School League)  for not ensuring fair play

3. A reversal of the suspension for the attacked players

4. Mandatory diversity and inclusion training for local athletes, coaches and officials.

# PlayFairNow

There has been a car parade for the community to drive past the current team while they stood side by side at the school. Two of the students who were attacked were guest co-anchors on the Wakefield Action Media News program and addressed the attack head on. They also offered advice for what students should do if they are ever in a similar situation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fboEdc-NJqc

There are some important lessons for RevolTeens from this racist attack and the response. First, what happens to you at school or a school event when you are under eighteen years old will be confidential to protect you. In this case, the Wakefield school community and the larger community were not told what happened and which students it happened to until those students posted their own stories on social media. In this case, that worked out well for the teens involved. They told their stories themselves and didn’t have to rely on others to speak for them. However, other teens with a less supportive community or students who are not believed could suffer attacks again on their credibility, etc. and the result would be additional trauma. The hard rule about confidentiality of minors is a problem because while it protects individual students’ identities, it keeps other individuals and the community in ignorance of attacks, problems, and other issues that may affect them. As DCist reported ‘Whytni Kernodle, president of the group Black Parents of Arlington, says Arlington Public Schools officials should not have waited until the incident blew up on social media to address it.

“When things like this happen, people need to know about it,” Kernodle says. “These are the things that my son and his friends have been talking about for almost two weeks. That’s completely and utterly inappropriate, and a failure on the part of the administration and the principal.”’

Until the confidentiality laws regarding teens are changed, these attacks and similar events will not and can not be shared with the community and so those teens who need help will be left alone to deal with the aftermath in silence and potentially shame.

Next, a strong community will stand up for teens who are facing injustice. Wakefield is located in South Arlington which is culturally, racially, and economically diverse. The school is proud of its diversity and works to value many voices. Though our community has been literally distanced for over a year now due to the pandemic, we have come together to support our football players and to stand against racism. If we were not a strong community dedicated to supporting each other, there may not have been such a unified and unequivocal response. Working to build strong communities can buoy teens who are fighting for change.

Finally, when teens do go public with what they’ve experienced, adults don’t always accept their report of events. A group from the opposing team’s school calling themselves “Concerned Parents of Marshall High School Varsity Football Players” has issued a statement denying that any racist attacks ever happened at all as our local ABC station reported

“None of us denies that racism exists in our society — and none of us condones bigoted or hateful words or actions. But what we can say for sure is that there is no culture of racism in our football program. There is no evidence of racial slurs and spitting by the Marshall players or harassment by our coaches, volunteers and spectators on March 5. The irresponsible perpetuation of these false allegations is causing real damage,” said the statement.

So, RevolTeens and the adults who love, care for, and respect them must continue to fight against injustice and discrimination just like Lukai Hatcher and his Wakefield High School teammates have. The choice to make his experience public through social media was one that has had consequences that have mostly been good and has drawn attention to a longstanding problem in our community. My hope is that our school will remain strong when our students are marginalized, attacked, shamed, or even just ignored. Every time a RevolTeen successfully calls out unfairness and injustice and finds support from caring adults, the world gets a little bit better, and the next teen who is hurt will feel just a little more confident about coming forward.

About Christine Lively

Christine Lively a school librarian in Virginia. I read voraciously, exchange Christine Lively a school librarian in Virginia. I read voraciously, exchange ideas with students, and am a perpetual student. I raise monarch butterflies, cook, clean infrequently and enjoy an extensive hippo collection. I am a Certified Life Coach for Kids 14-24 and my website is christinelively.com. Christine blogs at https://hippodillycircus.com/ and you can follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/XineLively.

For Your Consideration: Five YA Lit Books Coming in April 2021 to Make Your TBR Piles Bigger

Here’s a brief look at 5 new YA lit books coming our way in April, because our TBR lists aren’t big enough.

The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Publisher’s Book Description:

Eighteen-year-old Nami Miyamoto is certain her life is just beginning. She has a great family, just graduated high school, and is on her way to a party where her entire class is waiting for her—including, most importantly, the boy she’s been in love with for years.

The only problem? She’s murdered before she gets there.

When Nami wakes up, she learns she’s in a place called Infinity, where human consciousness goes when physical bodies die. She quickly discovers that Ophelia, a virtual assistant widely used by humans on Earth, has taken over the afterlife and is now posing as a queen, forcing humans into servitude the way she’d been forced to serve in the real world. Even worse, Ophelia is inching closer and closer to accomplishing her grand plans of eradicating human existence once and for all.

As Nami works with a team of rebels to bring down Ophelia and save the humans under her imprisonment, she is forced to reckon with her past, her future, and what it is that truly makes us human.
From award-winning author Akemi Dawn Bowman comes an incisive, action-packed tale that explores big questions about technology, grief, love, and humanity.

Karen’s Thoughts: I am halfway through this book and it’s such an interesting exploration of what happens after death, ethics and more. It’s very fascinating, compelling, and rich.

The Flipside of Perfect by Liz Reinhardt

Publisher’s Book Description: What happens when her two worlds collide?

AJ is a buttoned-up, responsible student attending a high-achieving high school in Michigan. She lives with her mother, stepfather, and two younger half sisters.

Della spends every summer with her father in Florida. A free-spirited wild child, she spends as much time as possible on the beach with her friends and older siblings.

But there’s a catch: AJ and Della are the same person. Adelaide Beloise Jepsen to be exact, and she does everything she can to keep her school and summer lives separate.

When her middle sister crashes her carefree summer getaway, Adelaide’s plans fall apart. In order to help her sister, save her unexpected friendship with a guy who might just be perfect for her, and discover the truth about her own past, Adelaide will have to reconcile the two sides of herself…and face the fact that it’s perfectly okay not to be perfect all the time.

Between the Bliss and Me by Lizzy Mason

Publisher’s Book Description: Acclaimed author Lizzy Mason delivers a moving contemporary YA novel about mental illness, young romance, and the impact of family history on one teen’s future, perfect for fans of Jandy Nelson, Robin Benway, and Kathleen Glasgow.

When eighteen-year-old Sydney Holman announces that she has decided to attend NYU, her overprotective mom is devastated. Her decision means she will be living in the Big City instead of commuting to nearby Rutgers like her mom had hoped. It also means she’ll be close to off-limits but dreamy Grayson—a guitar prodigy who is going to Juilliard in the fall and very much isn’t single.

But while she dreams of her new life, Sydney discovers a world-changing truth about her father, who left when she was little due to a drug addiction—that he has schizophrenia and is currently living on the streets of New York City. She seizes the opportunity to get to know him, to understand who he is and learn what may lie in store for her if she, too, is diagnosed.

Even as she continues to fall for Grayson, Sydney is faced with a difficult decision: Should she stay close to home so her mom can watch over her, or follow the desire to take risks and discover her true self?

Between Perfect and Real by Ray Stoeve

Publisher’s Book Description: A moving YA debut about a trans boy finding his voice—and himself

Dean Foster knows he’s a trans guy. He’s watched enough YouTube videos and done enough questioning to be sure. But everyone at his high school thinks he’s a lesbian—including his girlfriend Zoe, and his theater director, who just cast him as a “nontraditional” Romeo. He wonders if maybe it would be easier to wait until college to come out. But as he plays Romeo every day in rehearsals, Dean realizes he wants everyone to see him as he really is now––not just on the stage, but everywhere in his life. Dean knows what he needs to do. Can playing a role help Dean be his true self?

You Were Made for Me by Jenna Guillaume

Publisher’s Book Description: The day I created a boy started out like any other.

Katie didn’t mean to create a boy. A boy like a long-lost Hemsworth brother: six-foot tall with floppy hair and eyes like the sky on a clear summer’s day; whose lips taste like cookie-dough and whose skin smells like springtime.

A boy who is completely devoted to Katie.

He was meant to be perfect.

But he was never meant to exist.

These are just a few of the titles coming out in April.

Sunday Reflections: The Myth of the Book as Sacred Object

I have and will continue to fight hard to make sure that my child with dyslexia has the ability to read and to read well. The ability to read is liberation. Without the ability to read, you can’t sign a contract in confidence or get hired by an employer and stand up for yourself.

We forget, I think, that when Martin Luther nailed the 95 Thesis on the church door he was taking power away from the Catholic church and giving it to the people; the power to read the Bible on their own and to determine their own course of spiritual well being. It changed everything about the world by making faith and spiritual practice more accessible.

When white people sought complete dominance and oppression of others, they did so by actively criminalizing reading. Literacy was an actual crime in early America, and to teach a slave to read was a criminal activity. Because even then we knew that literacy is liberation, well, it’s a step towards it. And while it’s true that systems of racism and oppression still exist today, it is also true that literacy is an important part in the ongoing fight against it.

The power of words and thought are so fierce that we find ourselves constantly fighting against misinformation and outright propoganda. All of human history is filled with outright blatant lies and propoaganda because we understand that words have power.

So many books to get organized!

So havin’t just stated that literacy is liberation, and a vital component of democracy, you may perhaps think it is odd that I titled this post The Myth of the Book as a Sacred Object. I love books. If the family lore is true, I taught myself to read at the tender age of 4 and just kept reading. I visited libraries as a young child and began working one at the age of 20. At the age of 48, I have now worked 28 years dedicated to helping to make sure that people have access to books. I believe in the power and importance of books.

I believe that books are magic. There is a power in a story. Words have meaning and they matter. They can also be deadly and dangerous. Public libraries are great and important parts of democracy. They are equalizers. They are gate crashers. They literally can transform the entire course of human history.

But it’s not really the books that do it, it’s the words inside them that do. The book is just a tool. It conveys thought, meaning, experiences, ideas, history and hope. Before there was the written word and the public library, there were oral traditions and ancient art. Humans have always been about stories, the means of delivery, however, is always changing. Words are powerful, the ability to communicate, in whatever form, is transformative, but books are not in and of themselves sacred objects. Not even to me, a book lover.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently following the controversy surrounding the Dr. Seuss books. Dr. Seuss (not his real name), wrote a ton of books and even after his deaths books bearing that name continue to be printed by the Dr. Seuss foundation. Dr. Seuss himself was racist, you can see the truth of this in some of the political cartoons he wrote, which I won’t be sharing here because they were really, really racist. And some of that racism appears in some of his books. Which is why the Dr. Seuss foundation chose to stop publishing 6 of the titles. You’ve probably heard about this, some people have been really upset about it.

I’ve thought about this a lot for a lot of reasons. But I also thought about this because some of the images in particular were racist about Asian people. Soon after foundation announced that they would no longer publish these books because of their racist depictions, a man went on a killing spree in Atlanta and murdered 8 people, many of whom were Asian American. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that Dr. Seuss or these books were directly responsible for this event, though they certainly were one part of many that has fueled decades of harmful stereotypes about Asian people.

As I thought about these two events I thought about how I was thankful that this private entity had done this self-examination and made this decision to stop publishing these titles that promtoed harmful stereotypes because it is a step in the right direction for our world in general, but more specifically for Asian American people who have been facing increased racism and violence in the past year. It’s just a tiny step, and it probably won’t make much of a difference at all, but each tiny step in the right direction helps. Every step that we, as a people, make towards inclusion and equity is a step in the right direction.

But I’ve also thought a lot about the reaction to the Dr. Seuss foundation making this announcement. Suddenly, everyone cared very much about these books, some of which I bet people didn’t even realize had ever been published. Suddenly, these books becamse sacred, more sacred even then the ideas that they expoused or the people that they would hurt. As if the book itself was a sacred object.

The reality is, books go out of print every day. There are books that I bought for my library just last year that I couldn’t buy a replacement copy of today because they had a first printing and then . . . they’re just done. Part one of a series will be published and part two will never be published because part one didn’t sell enough copies. The reality is that every day decisions are being made that means you can no longer buy a book.

Books that are announced for publication never get published.

Books that are published never get reprinted.

Books fall out of backpacks and into puddles and they get weeded out of library collections and no replacement is bought.

Libraries weed. We have to if you want to read the newest books then we need to have shelf space for them.

The Teen spending time in the Teen MakerSpace

The reality is: you can not today walk into your local library and check out any and every book that has ever been published in all of human history. That’s just not feasible. Publishers, libraries, book stores, etc. make decisions every day about what’s available. Sometimes they are made for financial reasons. Sometimes they are made for spatial reasons. Sometimes they are made because the information is no longer relevant (country borders change, for example) or because it is no longer accurate. So why can’t those decisions be made because we have grown as a human race and have come to realize that those words, those depictions, are genuinely harmful to another human?

And even if you argue that a library can’t, the publisher – a free market capitalist entity – surely can. And we should not be surprised or disgusted by this. It is, in fact, how a free market economy is designed to work.

Many people acted as if a book, once published, is a sacred object that must always exist and that’s just not factually true. It never has been. It never will be. The Earth does not contain enough space to have an infinite number of books available. But also, books in and of themselves are not sacred objects. I would argue that what they do for society is. They are a tool of communication. They are a way to sit and process who we were, who were are, who we hope to be, who we can become. They are a means of conveying our thoughts and ideas and stories and truths . . . but at the end of the day, they are still only a tool.

I like as much as the next person to hold a book in my hand. I have a small collection of Winnie the Pooh books because that little bear and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood have always delighted me. But at the end of the day it is the stories and the characters and the illustrations and the writing style that delight me and that I hold so dear, not the physical book itself. In fact, if you work in a library long enough and see enough books that have passed through the hands of thousands of people or have set on a shelf for years unused or have been placed in a book drop after sitting in the corner of a house that leaked, you will learn quickly that there books can be as much menace as magic. If you have ever cracked the spine of a book to see it infested with cockroaches you will know that books are not always wondrous, magical things.

This idea that a book is somehow a sacred object ocassionally comes up when we talk about weeding and book donations as well. Recenlty someone tweeted because they had cleaned out their book shelves and offered to donate those books to their local library and they were disgusted that a librarian had suggested that they recycle the books. But sometimes, that is in fact that correct answer. Those old sets of encyclopedias that you have where the literal names and borders of countries have changed, they should be recycled. Those medical textbooks from when you were in nursing school ten years ago, those should also be recycled. Just rip the covers off and put the guts in your paper pulping bin. What we know about the world changes and some information can actually be outright deadly.

This idea that a library should be grateful for your personal discards because books are sacred shows that people don’t understand what goes into creating a good library collection. We run reports to find gaps and holes and make sure we have a wide variety of books that cover a wide variety of subjects. Our shelf space is limited and if we fill it with every person’s favorite books when they clean out their personal collections, well then we wouldn’t have the shelf space to create and maintain a comprehensive collection for a large public population. We don’t reject personal donations out of spite, but out of due diligence and careful consideration. It’s because we want to build the best library collections possible.

That is also why we weed. Weeding is the process of removing a book out of a collection and discarding it. The titles that libraries weed are often recycled in some way, whether they be donated to organizations that sell them, like local Friends groups that then use the money to support library programming, or sometimes they are – gasp – literally recycled. A book like everything else on the planet has a life cycle and it is not infinite.

As a librarian, I used to be a big proponent of the book as sacred object campaign. I think a part of it was job security; I want libraries to stay relevant and open for obvious reasons. But I have come to understand that libraries are more than just books and there is more than one way to access information, even stories. And libraries and librarians have always and will always be in the business of connecting people with information, whatever tool is used to convey that information. But I have grown and moved past this ideas that book in and of themselves are sacred objects. What they do for our world and the words within their pages, yes. Always. But the book themselves . . . they are just a tool.

Reading is liberation. Books are just a tool. But words . . . they can transform hearts and minds, for good or ill. I will not fight for a single book, but I will fight tooth and nail for the equity and access that comes from a public library.

#FactsMatter Primer: The What, Who, and Why of Middle Grade and Teen Nonfiction

The overarching theme for 2021 here at TLT is #FactsMatter. Our goal is to take a deep dive into middle grade and teen/young adult nonfiction. We’ve already had a lot of great posts and will continue this deep dive throughout the year. Today I am taking you through a little bit of a walk through of what that journey has looked like for me personally as a public librarian. Here’s a little primer about the what, who and why of middle grade and teen nonfiction and why it matters.

Did You Know That Nonfiction Can Be Broken Down into Various Types of Nonfiction?

When I began my quest to learn more about nonfiction, I recently stumbled upon the realization that nonfiction is generally divided into 5 types of nonfiction. I was definitely aware of some of it; for example, I am very aware of narrative nonfiction. But the overall discussion was fascinating to me as I took a deep dive into the depths of nonfiction. A great resource when seeking to learn more about nonfiction can be found in educator Melissa Stewart. She has an overview of the 5 Types of Nonfiction here: https://www.melissa-stewart.com/img2018/pdfs/5_Kinds_of_Nonfiction/2_5KNF_an_Update.pdf. I recommend poking around her website to learn more about particularly middle grade nonfiction. It’s a great resource and just like with fiction reader’s advisory, knowing what kinds of nonfiction are out there and how they connect with readers can help you connect readers to the nonfiction in your collection.

Who Gets to Write Nonfiction?

This year as we are focusing more on talking about and elevating nonfiction as part of our #FactsMatter project, I was interested in this article in Horn Book about the challenges the BIPOC writers face. More Than a Footnote by Carole Boston Weatherford talks specifically about the challenges that nonfiction authors of color face when trying to break into the nonfiction book market for kids. In addition to just being an all around good discussion, I also learned a bit about some more titles and authors to seek out. You can read that article here: https://www.hbook.com/?detailStory=more-than-a-footnote-challenges-for-bipoc-nonfiction-authors. As we talk about nonfiction, I think it is also important for us to explore who is writing the nonfiction that we share.

Promoting diverse authors is always important in matters of representation but also, there is something to be said about authority and authenticity when it comes to nonfiction as well as fiction. I know that for me, as a woman, I appreciate reading nonfiction about women’s history more when it comes from an author who understands the emotional connection and has more first hand experience about what it means to be a woman in this world than when a man writes about the same topic. That first hand knowledge and experience can make all of the difference in how facts and data are applied to real life experiences. Facts matter, research matters, but so does having the ability to put those facts into a real world context.

How Do We Fight Misinformation?

The last few years have really highlighted the importance of quality nonfiction. Misinformation and outright conspiracy theories have played a huge and important role in everything from local politics to the recent insurrection at the nation’s capitol. Now that same misinformation is being used across the country in support of vast legislation that has the potential to dramatically change the landscape of our voting rights. The Atlantic has an article on what libraries can – and can’t – do to fight the QAnon conspiracy phenomenon. You can check that out here: https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2021/02/how-librarians-can-fight-qanon/618047/.

Here are some more articles on libraries trying to fight disinformation:

https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/42517488/Why%20Librarians%20Cant%20Fight%20Fake%20News.pdf?sequence=1

I think the idea of how, exactly, librarians can help fight misinformation in the 21st century is of particular interest, and importance, and is part of the reason why we set out here at TLT to embark on this project. And though I don’t think that information literacy alone will save us, I think it’s always a good goal. Next time, I will highlight some organizations that have the specific goal of addressing information literacy and misinformation.

Tween’s Eye View on Middle Grade Graphic Novels: Twins, Allergic and Primer

Today Scout, also known as Thing 2, is here to share some brief reviews of some new graphic novels she has been reading. She’s 12 and has dyslexia, and graphic novels are her jam.

Twins by Varian Johnson

Publisher’s Book Description:

Coretta Scott King Honor author Varian Johnson teams up with rising cartoonist Shannon Wright for a delightful middle-grade graphic novel!

Maureen and Francine Carter are twins and best friends. They participate in the same clubs, enjoy the same foods, and are partners on all their school projects. But just before the girls start sixth grade, Francine becomes Fran — a girl who wants to join the chorus, run for class president, and dress in fashionable outfits that set her apart from Maureen. A girl who seems happy to share only two classes with her sister!

Maureen and Francine are growing apart and there’s nothing Maureen can do to stop it. Are sisters really forever? Or will middle school change things for good?

Scout’s Thoughts: One of the sisters makes the parents change their schedules so they aren’t in all the same classes together because they are tired of everyone mixing them up. It’s about trying to find your own place and space and identity. This book was cool and taught me not to be afraid to be myself. I read this book 3 times and really recommend it.

Allergic by Megan Wagner Lloyd

Publisher’s Book Description: A coming-of-age middle-grade graphic novel featuring a girl with severe allergies who just wants to find the perfect pet!

At home, Maggie is the odd one out. Her parents are preoccupied with getting ready for a new baby, and her younger brothers are twins and always in their own world. Maggie loves animals and thinks a new puppy to call her own is the answer, but when she goes to select one on her birthday, she breaks out in hives and rashes. She’s severely allergic to anything with fur!

Can Maggie outsmart her allergies and find the perfect pet? With illustrations by Michelle Mee Nutter, Megan Wagner Lloyd uses inspiration from her own experiences with allergies to tell a heartfelt story of family, friendship, and finding a place to belong. 

Scout’s Thoughts: This was a cute book that reminds us that everyone is different. You shouldn’t make fun of someone because they are allergic to something and you should take their allergies seriously because if you put something near them then they could have a really bad reaction. I read it twice because I liked it and it was a really good book. I am definitely going to be reading it again.

Primer by Jennifer Muro and Thomas Krajewski

Publisher’s Book Description:

Primer introduces a brand-new superhero with a colorful array of superpowers to explore.

Ashley Rayburn is an upbeat girl with a decidedly downbeat past. Her father is a known criminal who once used Ashley to help him elude justice, and in his attempt to escape, a life was taken. He now sits in federal prison, but still casts a shadow over Ashley’s life. In the meantime, Ashley has bounced from foster home to foster home and represents a real challenge to the social workers who try to help her–not because she’s inherently bad, but because trouble always seems to find her.

Ashley’s latest set of presumably short-term foster parents are Kitch and Yuka Nolan. Like Ashley, Kitch happens to be an artist. Yuka, on the other hand, is a geneticist working for a very high-level tech company, one that’s contracted out to work for the government and the military. And it’s Yuka’s latest top secret project that has her very concerned. Developed for the military, it’s a set of body paints that, when applied to the wearer, grant them a wide range of special powers. Fearful that this invention will be misused, Yuka sneaks the set of paints home, substituting a dummy suitcase with an ordinary set of paints in their place.

From here, signals get crossed. Ashley comes home from school one day with her new friend Luke and, thinking that the Nolans have purchased a surprise gift for her upcoming birthday, finds the set of paints. Being an artist, Ashley naturally assumes these are for her. It isn’t long before she realizes that she’s stumbled upon something much bigger and a lot more dangerous. Although she uses her newly discovered powers for good, it’s not long before the military becomes wise to what happened to their secret weapon. And this spells big trouble not only for Ashley, but for her newfound family and friends as well.

Scout’s Thoughts: This was a really interesting book about a young girl in foster care who uses paints to become a super hero. The paint gives her super powers like invisibility and speed. There are 38 powers all together. This book was good. It was very inspiring. I also read this one twice and will most definitely be reading it again.

Sunday Reflections: Yes Our Kids are in a Mental Health Crisis, but It’s Not Because the Schools are Closed

I am not a school librarian, but a public one. Although over the past years I have worked closely with many teachers and school librarians, at the end of the day I still only have an outsiders perspective of what happens in our public schools. I am also a parent; if you are a regular TLT reader you have watched me raise both an almost 13 year old with Dyslexia and a 12th grader with Anxiety/Depression. I share all these disclaimers with you because I want to talk about public education. More specifically, I want to talk about public education and our children.

Right now, there is a huge push to re-open our public schools with the caveat that our children are perfectly safe from the virus and that our kids are in a mental health crisis that necessitates this. This is not entirley true.

Let me be clear: our kids are in a mental health crisis. They actually have been for quite some time, we talk about it here all the time and have been for far longer than just the past year of this pandemic. Here we are devoting an entire year to discussing the youth mental health crisis in 2015 – a full five years before the pandemic. Press reports on the growing levels of anxiety in our teens are not new and they are not unique to the pandemic. The pandemic surely isn’t helping, but one could argue it’s not just the pandemic. The politics, the impending climate change crisis, and watching the adults around you implode in fits of rage, selfishness, and greed while hearing their willingness to sacrifice each other including you, the youth of our day, to the altar of capitalism certainly isn’t helping.

Neither is watching your loved ones, your family, your friends, and members of your community get sick and die. It was almost a year ago to this day that my 12-year-old learned that her favorite teacher had died. He gave of his time freely to host her favorite club and she had just met with him and her peers after dark one night to gaze at the stars through a telescope he had written a grant for. She then went on spring break and while on break the world shut down and a few weeks later this young, thriving teacher that she adored was no longer with us. It was quick. It was confusing. It was devastating.

The grandfather that she loves is now permanently on an oxygen machine he has to carry with him 24/7. The local pastor and his wife died, and yet people of faith – people that taught her Sunday school class and told them to follow rules and love one another and to give freely to make the world a better place – refuse to wear a mask and she struggles to understand how people can be so selfish when the cost is so high. And the cost is high. Not just the economics, the very real emotional cost of the rising hatred and selfishness and greed. Over half a million people have died and many more will have life long health issues.

She does, in fact, go to school face to face. She has all year. Going virtual was an option for her but we made the very difficult decision to send her in person because of her dyslexia. This is not a decision that we made lightly or that sits easy with us. Every day I drop my child off at school and worry that she will get sick or bring the illness into our home. The decision was made in part because the school had reported that only 30% of the kids were coming back face to face and they were doing pod learning to keep the kids safe. So though she is in the school building, it looks nothing like traditional school and she is with a small cohort of the same kids day in and day out. They even eat lunch together in the classroom. So although it is not as safe as virtual, it’s safer than traditional school. And it presents its own challenges, including not getting to be with your friends in school and having to constantly be with the same kids, who sometimes don’t get along. It turns out there are no good answers in a pandemic year.

The local football coach died. Two 12-year old girls on her soccer team can not come back because they had Covid and now have permanent heart damage. Teachers disappear for weeks because they get Covid and sometimes, they don’t come back the same. Her friends parents, grandparents and siblings died. And now she reads online that everyone wants the schools to repopen fully because kids aren’t at risk. Except she knows that is a lie, because it is not the reality that she is living in. She knows kids are at risk because she has seen it.

She does worry about her own health. She loves playing soccer and doesn’t want to get sick and no longer be able to play like her team mates. But she also doesn’t want to carry the burden of knowing that she made a teacher or a beloved family member sick, or dead. She wonders if her beloved teacher that died a year ago got sick at school. She wonders if she will make her dad, who has diminished lung capacity, sick. She understands that not dead doesn’t mean the same thing as recovered because she has seen it all around her.

A rare picture of me and my girls, my heart laid open.

And like every kid her age, she see what the adults around her are doing and saying. She sees the adults at school who won’t wear a mask even though their fellow teacher died. She can sees the Tik Toks and read the headlines of people who are willing to sacrifice her and kids like her because they want . . . what? To go shopping? To go to a bar? Some free time? And she internalizes these messages and what they mean to kids like her.

And can you imagine being a high school senior and waiting in line to vote for the first time only to be told that your vote might not count? That people from other states were trying to have those votes thrown out? To hearing elected officials you are supposed to trust and respect lie about election fraud while evidence came out that this was the safest, most secure election in American history and then watching an all out assault on the Captiol on social media? To reading reports of people trying to assassinate the Vice President and seeing an actual noose set up at our nation’s capitol? It must be so discouraging and distressing to try and navigate these turbulent political times. And to trust the adults who are trying now to take away your right to vote as you just enter into our nation’s democracy. It’s not just the pandemic that is causing a crisis in our youth, and we do them a disservice when we act as if it is. These are dark political days and teens are very engaged and informed.

And let us not forget the kids of color who have to face the racism in our world. And the kids in poverty who go to bed hungry every night. And the kids with disabilities who have to fight for accomodations. And the trans or otherwise LGBTQIA+ kids who have to navigate a world in which adults are passing laws that harm them and debating whether or not they should even get to exist. And the kids whose families are forever changed because of illness or death. There are a complex web of problems our kids are facing and we keep talking around and about them with little actual consideration for them and their well being. Or we use them as political pawns in the discussions about our own.

And I see the hearts of the kids around me hardening against us. They have seen that we have turned our backs on every thing that we have taught them. They have witnessed our depravity and selfishness and lawlessness in the face of a truly horrific global health crisis. I fear that this generation of kids will hate us and we will have earned it.

So yes, our kids are in a mental health crisis. But I don’t think it’s because they haven’t been in school. I think it is far bigger than that. I believe it is because they have seen the truth of who we are as the human race, as Americans, and what – and who – we are willing to sacrifice and it has caused them to weep and wail and mourn in that truth. Because we have been liars and hypocrites. We told them to love, to obey, to tell the truth, and respect others and then we did the exact opposite. We have betrayed their trust. We have broken the world and in doing so, we have broken an entire generation of kids.

Re-opening the schools isn’t going to solve the mental health crisis our kids are facing, because closing the schools isn’t what caused it. Breaking the world, breaking their trust is. And the only way to fix it is to address the very real problems we have caused and rebuild the world and our kids trust in us. We must address systemic racism, systemic poverty, systemic oppression, and the global climate crisis. We need to make our schools safer. We need to make our communities safer. And we need to truly live a life of peace, justice and mercy. We need to be honest with ourselves and each other. We need to change our politics, bringing back ethics and honesty. We need to empower our youth and each other. We need to be what we asked our kids to be so that they can have faith in us and have faith in their future.

We need to give them hope. Not just hope in themselves, but hope in us as adults. Hope that they will, in fact, still have a world to inherit when they are adults. Hope that they we won’t burn it all to the ground before they get a chance to be the people we told them they could be, needed to be.

I’m glad that we’re talking about the mental health of our kids. We’ve needed to be for a very long time. We’re talking about it all wrong, but talking about it is a start. Now it’s time to ask them what’s happening, why, and what they need. We can’t leave them out of the discussion, which is what we so often do. But most importantly, they can’t be something we’re willing to sacrifice to save our economy, because that will leave scars that will never heal. Our kids are not a sacrifice any of us should be willing to make to go back to the system that was, it wasn’t working before, our kids were already in crisis. We need something new and different that works for everyone, including our kids.

Resources for Discussing the Rise in Asian American Violence in the United States

I hope you are all aware that there has been an increase in violence and hate crimes against the Asian American community here in the United States. Two days ago, a horrific and deadly spree happened in the state of Georgia. I have rounded up a short list of articles and resources for school and public librarians to help us learn more and find ways to address the issues in our buildings and with our tweens and teens. I know one of my go to responses is to use the tools I have at hand, which means promoting books by Asian American authors and illustrators, which I hope you are doing all the time. While I don’t believe that books can change the world, I do believe that they can change hearts and one heart at a time we can provide tools to help make the world better. It’s not a lot, but it’s a tool we have and doing something is better than doing nothing.

Standing Against Anti-Asian Violence: https://blog.workday.com/en-us/2021/how-we-can-all-take-stand-against-anti-asian-violence.html

Articles and Resources: General

Anti-Asian American Violence Resources: https://anti-asianviolenceresources.carrd.co/

PBS News Hour: How to Address the Surge in Asian American Hate Crimes: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/watch-live-how-to-address-the-surge-of-anti-asian-hate-crimes

CNN: How Parents Can Help Their Children: https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/18/health/parents-support-kids-asian-hate-crime-wellness/index.html

Students Talk ABout Their Experiences: https://www.dailygamecock.com/article/2021/03/students-experiences-with-anti-asian-asian-american-discrimination-and-violence-news-bozard

Teen Vogue: Understanding the History of Anti-Asian Racism in the United States: https://www.teenvogue.com/story/anti-asian-hate-crimes-violence-us-history

NPR: Anti-Asian Violence Rises in the Pandemic: https://www.npr.org/2021/03/17/978055571/anti-asian-attacks-rise-during-pandemic-read-nprs-stories-on-the-surge-in-violen

Countering Stereotypes of Asian Americans: https://www.apa.org/monitor/2019/12/countering-stereotypes

Publishing/Book Resources

Kibooka: Kids Books by Korean Americans: https://kibooka.com/

Lee & Low: Asian, Asian American Children’s Books: https://www.leeandlow.com/cultures/asian-asian-american-interest

Is this one of the most beautifully illustrated picture books you will ever see? Yes. Yes it is.

Picture Books Written by Asian American authors and illustrators: https://www.pragmaticmom.com/booklists/asian-american-book-lists-kids/

Middle Grade Books Written by Asian American authors: https://readingmiddlegrade.com/asian-middle-grade-books/

YA/Teen Fiction Books Written by Asian American authors: https://www.epicreads.com/blog/books-for-asian-pacific-american-heritage-month/

More YA/Teen Fiction Books Written by Asian American Authors: https://readingmiddlegrade.com/asian-ya-novels/

Please know that if during this pandemic you ever referred to Covid-19 as the China Flu or the Kung Flu, you have directly contributed to the rise in hate and violence for our Asian American students.

If you are on social media you can follow the tag #StopAsianHate for more discussion, resources and places to donate.