Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

TLT TURNS TEN: Ten peeks into my office

Not much “fun” has come out of the pandemic times, but one fun thing, for me, has been being able to peek into people’s offices, libraries, and other work spaces on Zoom calls or virtual book launches and panels. If I had to make a list of my favorite activities, eavesdropping and spying would make the top ten. Getting to see in spaces we otherwise likely would not see is fun. And the more I saw people working and presenting from home, the more I wanted to see everyone’s setups. So here are a few pictures of where I spend my time working on TLT stuff. Most of our home is very minimalist, but my office is a playland full of toys and fun.

The nosy Gladys Kravitz in me wants to see your workspaces, too! So share with me!

I basically spent a year and a half seated here, doing stuff for TLT and SLJ, writing, facilitating distance learning, and endlessly scrolling Twitter.

You are never too old to really, really love toys.

How I keep my TLT TBR list organized. Incoming book mail gets tweeted and blogged about, flipped through, sorted in piles, and eventually all given away.

There are many SAY ANYTHING things scattered throughout my office. Best movie ever.

Told you.

Poster of Minnesota independent bookstores and a Good Boy Squad tote bag at the ready. Oh, and a little hat for my dogs to have to wear if they’re celebrating something.

A favorite toy in my office.

My dachshund-based art work created by me, grade kindergarten, and my grandma, who was a third grade teacher (and who was actually my husband’s third grade teacher!).

Notebook hoarding area.

Every second I’m in my office, I’m kept company by Oscar, the weird space goblin all crashed out, and Edward, a regal old dachshund.

TLT TURNS TEN: Ten Pieces of Media that are NOT Books to Check Out

I’m going to tell you something that may be surprising: I don’t JUST read all the time. It certainly seems, sometimes, like I do. I have always been a voracious reader for a couple of reasons. One, I love books. Period. I love them. And two, I love to use books to pull me out of real life and distract me. So, while I’ve been on leave from work this past year and also coaching my teen through his first year of high school and also just trying to SURVIVE all the everything, I’ve read more than ever.

But I do other things than read. I mean, I obviously do lots of other things than read, but most of it is boring. However, consuming media in other forms is not. I listen to a ton of podcasts (because I like them, I like learning, and also I cannot handle silence because my anxiety brain tries to eat itself in the quiet), and I watch a small handful of shows (usually over and over—another anxiety trick). I figure if I input enough stuff into my brain, I’ll drown out all the noise. That’s how it works, right?

Here are a few of my favorite media things. Check them out, if you’re not already a fan!

Podcasts

Depresh Mode

Conversations about mental health hosted by one of my favorite radio people. I adored John’s previous podcast, The Hilarious World of Depression (and the book, and Wits, and on and on). This drops on Mondays and in my head I always think, “Oooh, Depresh Mode Monday!” which means I get to listen to the new episode at the gym, which helps make me go to the gym.

Terrible, Thanks for Asking

What, am I only going to recommend podcasts made my Minnesotans? Maybe.


Terrible, Thanks for Asking leaves me laughing and crying almost every episode. Tackles all the hard junk in life that happens to so many of us—loss, grief, disappointment, and how to pick yourself up again and plow forward after experiencing such hard things.

It’s Been A Minute with Sam Sanders

Sam Sanders does weekly wrap-ups of newsworthy events, has lots of really smart guests on to talk about topical things, and just brings so much humor and heart to his show.

Code Switch

Essential listening. Conversations about race and racism in all aspects of society. I can’t tell you how many other podcasts or books or songs or documentaries I’ve sought out because of this podcast. Sometimes I even listen to an episode twice to really absorb what I’m learning.

Judge John Hodgman

Low-stakes (as in mostly silly but always interesting) cases are brought before Judge John Hodgman and he decides the outcome. This is a podcast that I also always listen to at the gym (like Depresh Mode Mondays, I have JJHO Wednesdays) and figure I look like a real goofball as I grin to myself over the litigants and their always-entertaining cases.

TV SHOWS

Dark (Netflix)

Literally the best show I have ever watched. This is a German show and if you are able to read subtitles, I recommended you play the show in German and read along. The dubbed version wasn’t working for us. This absolutely brilliant show about time travel is extremely complex. The first time through, Matthew and I had to stop a million times to untangle what we understood to be happening. It is SO well done and perfectly crafted. I marvel at the amazing storytelling. WATCH THIS SHOW.

The Repair Shop (Netflix)

I’ll be honest, the pitch of “people repair some old things” didn’t really grab my interest, but a few of my closest friends were super into this, so I gave it a try. And became obsessed. Do you like cozy things? This is cozy. These charming British artisans, who are absolutely masters in their fields, repair well-loved items. It’s fascinating to watch them work and rather mind-boggling what they can do.

The Baby-Sitters Club (Netflix)

I am a lifelong BSC superfan. This new series is so great. It’s so comforting to watch this stories I know so well and see them given a modern update. I cried multiple times on my first viewing. I’ve now watched the series three times (which my teenage son makes fun of me about, but whatever, he’s watched many of the episodes with me). Love these girls, their friendship, and their lasting appeal.

What We Do in the Shadows (Hulu)

Three vampires who’ve been together hundreds of years, an energy vampire, and a vampire assistant (oh, poor Guillermo) live together in modern-day New York. I am an easy one to make cry (I mean, obviously, I’ve mentioned it like thirty times already) but hard to make laugh. We often have to pause this show because we’re laughing too hard. Super weird and super hilarious.

Living Single (Hulu)

Loved this series when it first ran and recently rewatched the whole thing. Such great actors, great writing, and great humor. Unlike Friends, which I also loved, this actually holds up well all these years later. And did you know that the fabulous Erika Alexander has a podcast, too? It’s called Reparations: The Big Payback. Check it out!

TLT TURNS TEN: Ten Fav Books I’ve Reviewed

I have been with TLT for seven years and over that time, I have reviewed A LOT of books. A LOT. Here are ten of my favorite YA books that have stuck with me over the years for various reasons. Maybe you missed reading these titles, and if that’s the case, get them on your summer reading list ASAP!

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero (ISBN-13: 9781935955955 Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press Publication date: 10/14/2014)

Publisher’s description

Gabi Hernandez chronicles her last year in high school in her diary: college applications, Cindy’s pregnancy, Sebastian’s coming out, the cute boys, her father’s meth habit, and the food she craves. And best of all, the poetry that helps forge her identity.

July 24

My mother named me Gabriella, after my grandmother who, coincidentally, didn’t want to meet me when I was born because my mother was unmarried, and therefore living in sin. My mom has told me the story many, many, MANY, times of how, when she confessed to my grandmother that she was pregnant with me, her mother beat her. BEAT HER! She was twenty-five. That story is the basis of my sexual education and has reiterated why it’s important to wait until you’re married to give it up. So now, every time I go out with a guy, my mom says, “Ojos abiertos, piernas cerradas.” Eyes open, legs closed. That’s as far as the birds and the bees talk has gone. And I don’t mind it. I don’t necessarily agree with that whole wait until you’re married crap, though. I mean, this is America and the 21st century; not Mexico one hundred years ago. But, of course, I can’t tell my mom that because she will think I’m bad. Or worse: trying to be White.

From my review

In Gabi, we have a protagonist who challenges expectations, thinks for herself, and isn’t afraid of putting herself out there or making mistakes. I can’t rave enough about how wonderful this book is. Not only does Quintero unflinchingly address important issues, she’s created multifaceted characters who leap off the page. Gabi and her friends became so real to me that I often forgot this was fiction—it truly felt like reading a real teenager’s diary. I finished the book feeling honored to have watched Gabi grow as a poet and a young woman. I set the book down when I was done wishing I could read books of Gabi’s diaries from the high school years prior to this one, or to see a diary of what her life will hold now that she’s heading off to college. An all-around brilliant and outstanding look at one ordinary year in the life of an extraordinary teenage girl.

Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez (ISBN-13: 9781467742023 Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group Publication date: 09/01/2015)

Publisher’s description

“This is East Texas, and there’s lines. Lines you cross, lines you don’t cross. That clear?” 

New London, Texas. 1937. Naomi Vargas and Wash Fuller know about the lines in East Texas as well as anyone. They know the signs that mark them. They know the people who enforce them. But sometimes the attraction between two people is so powerful it breaks through even the most entrenched color lines. And the consequences can be explosive.

Ashley Hope Pérez takes the facts of the 1937 New London school explosion—the worst school disaster in American history—as a backdrop for a riveting novel about segregation, love, family, and the forces that destroy people.

From my review

The novel begins in media res (you know—in the middle of things). It’s March 18, 1937. Did you need some time to adjust to how completely emotionally obliterating this book will be? Too bad—welcome to page one, where we are faced with the rubble of a recently exploded school littered with bodies. No, check that—it manages to be worse than that: riddled with bits of bodies. Let’s make it worse: bits of children’s bodies. Sufficiently upset? Perez is just getting started.

We leave this heart-wrenching and gruesome scene to jump back to September 1936. Naomi and her twin siblings Beto and Cari are new to town, having recently been relocated from their San Antonio barrio to an oil-mining town by the twins’ father (and Naomi’s stepfather), Henry (their mother is dead). Naomi, who is Mexican, and her biracial siblings are instructed by Henry not to speak Spanish. The children seem to pass as white, but Naomi faces the town’s ugly racism. African-American Wash, the siblings’ one friend, is no stranger to racism either. The foursome quickly become friends, but keep their friendship secret, mainly getting together in wooded areas removed from the judging and gossiping of others. Wash is the one saving grace in Naomi’s fairly unhappy life. Her classmates are constantly whispering about her. The girls hate her because she’s pretty and the boys just want to get in her pants. She does make one girl friend, and a few of the neighbors are friendly, but even if she had a thousand friends, it wouldn’t erase what is happening at home. 

What’s happening at home, you ask? Some pretty horrific stuff. Naomi is essentially raising her siblings. She does all of the cleaning, cooking, and shopping (not easy when the stores don’t want to let in Negros, Mexicans, or dogs–the wording on the sign at the grocery store) while also attending high school. Naomi dislikes Henry (to put it mildly), that much we know, but the reasons why she hates him are slowly revealed. You might be able to guess what’s happening even with no context, but I’m not explicitly going to give you spoilers. Let’s just say it’s as bad as think…. multiplied by 100 more bads. Oh, and wait until you reach the end. Then it’s an infinite amount of bad. 

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness (ISBN-13: 9780062403162 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 10/06/2015)

A bold and irreverent YA novel that powerfully reminds us that there are many different types of remarkable, The Rest of Just Live Here is from novelist Patrick Ness, author of the Carnegie Medal- and Kate Greenaway Medal-winning A Monster Calls and the critically acclaimed Chaos Walking trilogy.

What if you aren’t the Chosen One? The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.

From my review

It’s a month prior to graduation and Mel, Mikey, Henna, and Jared are spending their last few weeks all together before their post-high school lives split them up. Outside of the constant background threat of possible undead masses coming to destroy the town, the kids lead pretty normal lives. Mike is full of anxiety about his friends, his future, and his family. He suffers from OCD and can’t stop getting stuck in repetitive loops. Mel, who’s one year older than her brother Mike, is making up for the year of school she lost while battling anorexia. Henna, the object of Mike’s affection, is not super excited to be heading to a war-torn African country for the summer. And Jared? Well, he’s a little less normal. He’s three-quarters Jewish and one-quarter God. His mother was a half-Goddess. So what exactly is Jared a god of? Cats. Mikey starts to stress out more when Nathan moves to town five weeks before graduation. Henna seems interested in him, much to Mikey’s dismay, and he can’t help but think it’s super suspicious that Nathan’s arrival happens to coincide with a resurgence of supernatural activity.

There is a lot to love about this book. The structure is intriguing, the writing is smart and funny, and the characters are incredibly interesting and well-developed. I love how they interact with each other and care for each other. At one point, Mike’s OCD has made him wash his face until it’s raw. Jared dabs some moisturizer on it for him. In Mike’s narration, he says, “Yeah, I know most people would think it weird that two guy friends touch as much as we do, but when you choose your family, you get to choose how it is between you, too. This is how we work. I hope you get to choose your family and I hope it means as much to you as mine does to me.” These friends care deeply for one another (and explore just what exactly might be found in the depth of those feelings, with Mike noting very matter-of-factly that he and Jared have hooked up in the past–“And fine, he and I have messed around a few times growing up together, even though I like girls, even though I like Henna, because a horny teenage boy would do it with a tree trunk if it offered at the right moment….”). Their stories dovetail at times with the story of the indie kids waging war against a potential apocalypse (those poor indie kids, always battling the undead, ghosts, and vampires. At one point, Mike notes there are two more indie kids dead. Henna says, “This is worse than when they were all dying beautifully of cancer.” GOD I LOVE THIS BOOK), but they prove that daily teenage life is just as fraught and dramatic as the lives of The Chosen Ones.

See No Color by Shannon Gibney (Originally published 11/01/2015 in hardcover. Paperback info: ISBN-13: 9780823445684 Publisher: Holiday House Publication date: 07/14/2020)

Publisher’s description

Black daughter, white father, white mother. Race, adoption, and identity collide in this award-winning #OwnVoices debut about a teen challenging the life she’s always known.

Being a transracial adoptee doesn’t bother sixteen-year-old Alex Kirtridge-at least, not in a way she can explain to her white family. It doesn’t matter that she’s biracial when she’s the star of the baseball team. But when Alex is off the field, she’s teased for “acting” too white and judged for looking black. And while she loves her parents, her hot-headed brother, and her free-speaking sister, they don’t seem to understand what it means that Reggie, a fellow ball player, is the first black guy who’s wanted to get to know her. 

Things only get more complicated when she finds hidden letters from her birth father. Alex can’t stop asking questions. Does she really fit in with her family? What would it be like to go to a black hairdresser? Should she contact her birth father, despite the fact that it might devastate her parents? Meanwhile, her body is changing, and Alex isn’t sure she can keep up with her teammates. If she’s going to find answers, Alex must come to terms with her adoption, her race, and the dreams she thought would always guide her.

Author Shannon Gibney draws from her own experiences as a transracial adoptee to deliver this honest coming-of-age novel about a girl who doesn’t know where she wants to fit in. Paperback edition includes a reading guide at the back!

From my review

Mixed into the narrative are incidents from Alex’s past, such as being a small child at the beach and a rude woman telling her she’s floated too far from her “host family.” The woman goes on to ask if she speaks English and asks where she’s from. When Alex’s white mother appears, the woman’s tiny brain explodes. She sputters over how it could be possible that this girl belongs to this woman. When Alex’s mom tries to make her feel better about what happened, she says, “We are all one in this family, okay? We don’t even see color.” As readers, we understand that Alex’s family believes this to be true and to be a good thing. But of course, their constant correction that she’s mixed proves otherwise, and claiming to be colorblind isn’t really helping anything, as it ignores and invalidates identities and experiences.

Kit is the one who really pushes this conversation, asking her family what they actually think about Alex being the only black person in an otherwise white family. She says she sees how people stare at their family. “But it’s like this secret, you know? Like no one is supposed to actually admit that she’s black, or maybe more that she’s not white.” Of course, we all know what her father does, right? “Alex is only half black,” he says. Just in case anyone forgot. But this family doesn’t see color. Later, Alex exasperatedly says to Kit that she doesn’t even know what “mixed,” her dad’s favorite word, is supposed to mean. “Mixed. As far as I can tell, it means closer to white for Mom and Dad, and the lightest shade of black for everyone else.” Later, her father, apparently trying to be loving and reassuring, tells her, “I just want you to know that your mother and I, we will always see you as just you, as Alex. There’s nothing black—or particularly… racial–about you to us because you’re our little girl and always will be.” Alex notes that the way he says “black” is cringe-inducing, “like it was the worst thing a person could be,” but that when her dad says “mixed,” he sounds prideful. More of these conversations happen over and over with her family.

The Careful Undressing of Love by Corey Ann Haydu (ISBN-13: 9780399186738 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 01/31/2017)

Publisher’s description

The girls of Devonairre Street have always been told they’re cursed. Any boy they love is certain to die too soon. But this is Brooklyn in 2008, and the curse is less a terror and more a lifestyle accessory—something funky and quaint that makes the girls from the shortest street in Brooklyn special. They wear their hair long and keys around their necks. People give them a second look and whisper “Devonairre” to their friends. But it’s not real. It won’t affect their futures.

Then Jack—their Jack, the one boy everyone loved—dies suddenly and violently. And now the curse seems not only real, but like the only thing that matters. All their bright futures have suddenly gone dark.

The Careful Undressing of Love is a disturbing and sensual story of the power of youth and the boundless mysteries of love set against the backdrop of Haydu’s brilliantly reimagined New York City.

From my review

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

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour (ISBN-13: 9780525425892 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 02/14/2017)

Publisher’s description

You go through life thinking there’s so much you need. . . . Until you leave with only your phone, your wallet, and a picture of your mother. Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart. 
 
An intimate whisper that packs an indelible punchWe Are Okay is Nina LaCour at her finest. This gorgeously crafted and achingly honest portrayal of grief will leave you urgent to reach across any distance to reconnect with the people you love.

From my review

This is one of those books where I just don’t even want to say much of anything beyond OH MY GOD, GO READ THIS, IT’S STUNNING. I want the story to unfold for you like it did for me. I hadn’t so much as read the flap copy. I didn’t need to. It takes a while to figure out where the story might be going, and even once the pieces start to fall into place, it never feels predictable. This is, hands down, one of saddest books I have read in a very long time. But here’s how I mean that: you won’t cry all the way through. It’s not all doom and gloom. There is a lot of love and friendship to be found here. But Marin’s grief and loneliness will just destroy you.

And really, that’s all I’m telling you. The small summary up there of the plot gives you just enough of an outline to rope you in, but doesn’t reveal any of the really significant parts of the story. All you need to know is that this book will break your heart. But it won’t do it in a way that will leave you hopeless—I promise. A beautiful story of love, grief, and learning to heal. 

We’ll Fly Away by Bryan Bliss (ISBN-13: 9780062494276 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 05/08/2018)

Publisher’s description

Luke and Toby have always had each other’s backs. But then one choice—or maybe it is a series of choices—sets them down an irrevocable path. We’ll Fly Away weaves together Luke and Toby’s senior year of high school with letters Luke writes to Toby later—from death row.

This thought-provoking novel is an exploration of friendship, regret, and redemption, for fans of Jason Reynolds and Marieke Nijkamp.

Best friends since childhood, Luke and Toby have dreamed of one thing: getting out of their dead-end town. Soon they finally will, riding the tails of Luke’s wrestling scholarship, never looking back. If they don’t drift apart first. If Toby’s abusive dad, or Luke’s unreliable mom, or anything else their complicated lives throw at them doesn’t get in the way.

In a format that alternates between Luke’s letters to Toby from death row and the events of their senior year, Bryan Bliss expertly unfolds the circumstances that led to Luke’s incarceration. Tense and emotional, this hard-hitting novel explores family abuse, sex, love, and friendship, and how far people will go to protect those they love. For fans of Jason Reynolds, Chris Crutcher, and NPR’s Serial podcast.

From my review

In Luke’s letters from death row, we see weird glimpses of hope that we could never see in the main narrative. I say “weird” because the kid is on death row. His letters are full of pain and anger, but also resiliency, and he works through so much in his letters to Toby. His letters give us a real insight into his mind during this time. It is, I would guess, virtually impossible for almost all of us to really imagine what it would be like to be on death row. To be waiting. To watch people you have come to know put to death. I think it can be easy for people to look at people in prison, on death row, and forget their humanity. It can be easy to write people off, to expect a punishment, to not see them as humans, to not understand what led them there, to not think about redemption or the worth of a life or what the death penalty really means. Bliss makes you think about all those things. He makes the reader understand that people are not just defined by one thing, but have entire lives and stories that led them to the act or acts that landed them in prison. He asks readers to see their complex lives and care about them. The standout characters, including the nun who routinely visits Luke in prison, are deeply affecting and beg readers to really pay attention to their lives and their choices. Though devastatingly sad, this is also a beautiful look at friendship between two boys—something we don’t always see much of in YA. This emotional, powerful, and unflinching look at friendship, loyalty, and the justice system is an absolute must for all collections. Not an easy read, but an important one. 

Heroine by Mindy McGinnis (ISBN-13: 9780062847195 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 03/12/2019)

Publisher’s description

A captivating and powerful exploration of the opioid crisis—the deadliest drug epidemic in American history—through the eyes of a college-bound softball star. Edgar Award-winning author Mindy McGinnis delivers a visceral and necessary novel about addiction, family, friendship, and hope.

When a car crash sidelines Mickey just before softball season, she has to find a way to hold on to her spot as the catcher for a team expected to make a historic tournament run. Behind the plate is the only place she’s ever felt comfortable, and the painkillers she’s been prescribed can help her get there.

The pills do more than take away pain; they make her feel good.

With a new circle of friends—fellow injured athletes, others with just time to kill—Mickey finds peaceful acceptance, and people with whom words come easily, even if it is just the pills loosening her tongue.

But as the pressure to be Mickey Catalan heightens, her need increases, and it becomes less about pain and more about want, something that could send her spiraling out of control.

From my review

All it takes is one prescription to kick-start a student athlete’s frightening descent into opioid addiction. After surgery following a car accident, Ohio softball phenom Mickey Catalan is prescribed OxyContin for pain. When she starts to run out of the Oxy she relies on to get through her physical therapy, she gets pills from a dealer, through whom she meets other young addicts. Mickey rationalizes what she’s doing and sees herself as a good girl who’s not like others who use drugs (like new friend Josie, who uses because she’s “bored”). Mickey loves how the pills make her feel, how they take her out of herself and relieve the pressures in her life. Soon she’s stealing, lying, and moving on to heroin. Her divorced parents, including her recovering addict stepmother, suspect something is going on, but Mickey is skilled at hiding her addiction. A trigger warning rightfully cautions graphic depictions of drug use. In brutally raw detail, readers see Mickey and friends snort powders, shoot up, and go through withdrawal. Intense pacing propels the gripping story toward the inevitable conclusion already revealed in the prologue. An author’s note and resources for addiction recovery are appended. This powerful, harrowing, and compassionate story humanizes addiction and will challenge readers to rethink what they may believe about addicts. VERDICT From the horrific first line to the hopeful yet devastating conclusion, McGinnis knocks it out of the park. A first purchase for all libraries serving teens.

Saving Savannah by Tonya Bolden (ISBN-13: 9781681198040 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 01/14/2020)

Publisher’s description

From acclaimed author Tonya Bolden comes the story of a teen girl becoming a woman on her own terms against the backdrop of widespread social change in the early 1900s.

Savannah Riddle is lucky. As a daughter of an upper class African American family in Washington D.C., she attends one of the most rigorous public schools in the nation—black or white—and has her pick among the young men in her set. But lately the structure of her society—the fancy parties, the Sunday teas, the pretentious men, and shallow young women—has started to suffocate her.

Then Savannah meets Lloyd, a young West Indian man from the working class who opens Savannah’s eyes to how the other half lives. Inspired to fight for change, Savannah starts attending suffragist lectures and socialist meetings, finding herself drawn more and more to Lloyd’s world.

Set against the backdrop of the press for women’s rights, the Red Summer, and anarchist bombings, Saving Savannah is the story of a girl and the risks she must take to be the change in a world on the brink of dramatic transformation.

From my review

This book is a mix of a very character-driven story for about 50% or more of the book, then a very action-driven story for the remainder. I really loved this book. In fact, I’ve been in a horrible reading slump for most of the past few weeks (thanks, depression!) and have started and abandoned a giant stack of books as I try to decide what to read and review here for TLT. I got lost in Savannah’s world and loved watching her awakening. Her best friend Yolande is always there, being horrified at Savannah’s choice of company, admonishing her for being around “common” people who are not their kind of people. Savannah’s own parents are less than pleased with her choices, so it takes real strength for Savannah to strike out on her own and make real strides to educate herself and expand her views. As D.C. and other major cities erupt in riots, bombings, lynchings, and fires, Savannah finds herself more involved in the action than she ever could have dreamed.

This complex story will put readers right in the middle of all the action and introduces a wide swath of ideas and perspectives. Set just over 100 years ago, the quest for social justice and real change makes for a powerful and still (always) relevant topic. An author’s note, historical photographs, notes, and sources all provide further context for Savannah’s story and her awakening in this engaging and unique read.

Super Fake Love Song by David Yoon (ISBN-13: 9781984812230 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 11/17/2020)

Publisher’s description

From the New York Times bestselling author of Frankly in Love comes a young adult romantic comedy about identity and acceptance. Perfect for fans of John Green and To All the Boys I’ve Love Before.

When Sunny Dae—self-proclaimed total nerd—meets Cirrus Soh, he can’t believe how cool and confident she is. So when Cirrus mistakes Sunny’s older brother Gray’s bedroom—with its electric guitars and rock posters—for Sunny’s own, he sort of, kind of, accidentally winds up telling her he’s the front man of a rock band.

Before he knows it, Sunny is knee-deep in the lie: He ropes his best friends into his scheme, begging them to form a fake band with him, and starts wearing Gray’s rock-and-roll castoffs. But no way can he trick this amazing girl into thinking he’s cool, right? Just when Sunny is about to come clean, Cirrus asks to see them play sometime. Gulp.

Now there’s only one thing to do: Fake it till you make it.

From my review

Here’s my favorite line from the book: Sunny and Cirrus are talking and she says, “It begs the question, What person isn’t just a made-up thing in the first place? Is it the fakery that makes us real? Is anything real?” And while that may sound like the kind of eye-roll-inducing conversation we all had as teens and thought was so deep, guess what? It is deep. Is there anything innate about our personalities or are we all just amalgamations of our interests and influences and ideals and emulations etc? And in Sunny’s case, is he actually faking being “cool” and interesting or is he indeed cool and interesting? Is changing our personalities and interests really in any way being “fake” when there’s nothing any more “real” about our previous identities or personalities or interests? How do you become who you are?

As I said in my review of Yoon’s previous book, I’m a hard one to make laugh, as a reader. Cry, sure, at the drop of a hat. But laugh? Rarely. But with this book, I laughed and laughed. I made note of brilliant lines. I went back and read clever conversations. I got completely sucked into the story and felt right there with the characters. I was shoving my fist right in there with theirs and shouting, “To metal!” I can’t say enough positive about this really smart, empathetic, and hilarious look at identity, friendship, preconceived notions, high school, and missteps. One of my very favorite reads this year.

My Top 10 Posts, a Celebration of 10 years by Karen Jensen

There are 4,561 posts on this blog that have been written over the course of the past 10 years. That’s a little over an average of 1 a day for 10 years, which seems kind of cool. A lot of them, but not even half of them honestly, have been written by yours truly. Technically, my name is attached to over 3,000 of those posts but a lot of them are guest posts. Some of them, especially the Sunday Reflections posts, are deeply personal. In many more I talk about my favorite books, teen issues, library issues, and share my favorite programs. Today I’m going to take a walk down memory and share some of my favorite posts with you. 10 of them, to be precise.

2011 : Don’t Underestimate the Value of “Just Hanging Out”

The very first post on this blog appeared on July 16, 2011. It was basically a hey there, we’re just getting started post. I had no idea at the time that we would be here 10 years later. A lot of that first year involved a lot of very technical posts. But in the midst of all those programming statistics and marketing posts, I talked about the value of hanging out. It’s a philosophy I still believe very strongly in. I’ve changed my mind about a lot of things over my professional career, but never on this. We don’t always need big programs with big budgets, sometimes we need to give teens a time and a space to come hang out, be teens, and not be micromanaged by the adults in their lives.

2012 : A Letter to A. S. King

TLT began in 2011 and in 2012, I had the most profound reading experience of my life. It was around Mother’s Day and I had just read Ask the Passengers by A. S. King when I went for a walk and saw a little yellow flower. I began writing a letter to A. S. King in my head and it wouldn’t leave my noggin so I turned that letter into a blog post. That book continues to be the most transformative reading experience of my life and little yellow flowers still make me think of A. S. King. And as you know, Riley really loves the books of A. S. King as well and sharing that reading journey with her over the teen years was a profound gift.

2013 : What’s It Like to be a 14 Year Old Girl

In 2014, we kicked off the Sexual Violence in YA Lit project where we dedicated the year talking about sexual violence in the life of teens. That discussion was and is very personal to me because I am a survivor of teenage sexual violence. The groundwork for that project began back in 2013 when I started sharing my personal journey. I am also a person with an eating disorder. So I wrote this post to talk about what it is like to be a 14 year old girl. It was personal, yet sadly in many ways so very universal. And that’s why I blog here, to share hard truths, to advocate for teens, and to try and do my part to change the world for today’s teens, but also for past teen me.

2014 : Dear Media, Let Me Help You Write That Article on YA Literature

Riley, a teen, reading YA lit

In the early 2000s, a lot of people were writing about YA literature, many of whom obviously had not read a lot of YA literature. It was a frustrating thing to behold. So I got cranky and wrote this post pointing out a lot of the errors I saw in their literature and asking them to please please please, if they were going to write about YA literature, talk to some teens and perhaps some YA/Teen librarians. I have a couple of times been interviewed by the press about YA literature, but the truth is a large majority of people still seem to write about YA without reading a lot of YA. And if, in the year 2021, your article is still talking about Harry Potter and Twilight and The Hunger Games as your primary examples, I assure you, you’re doing it wrong.

2015 : Doing a Collection Diversity Audit

I’m going to be honest, this post in this year is a bit of a cheat because it was technically written in 2017. But the foundations of this post began in 2015 when I started doing my first collection diversity audit. At the time, I didn’t even know that was what I was doing. I just knew that I wanted to find out if I was ordering a diverse number of titles for my teens. I wanted to take what I knew from working in retail, inventory, and apply it to collection development so I could determine for myself if I was doing a good job or if I needed to do better. The reality was, of course, that I needed to do better. Over the next 2 years I would stumble my way into doing collection diversity audits, a topic that I speak on frequently. I believe that every person who buys books should do them to help hold themselves accountable. We all assume that we’re doing a good job, but the reality is that very few of us are.

2016 : If You Build It, Will They Come? The Story of a MakerSpace Miracle

The Teen making slime

2016 was an amazing year for me, professionally. I was back working at my first library and working with my beloved mentor. And I had just turned my teen space into a Teen MakerSpace. Also, my journey was on the cover of School Library Journal! As long as I live, the Teen MakerSpace will be one of my greatest personal and professional achievements. I loved everything about it and getting to interact with my teens in the ways that it provided. I have moved from that library and I miss it, but I will always hold such fond memories of the trials and triumphs of this journey with me.

2017 : Things I Never Learned in Library School: The Best Laid Plans Still Fail

Thing 2 in the midst of her Flash fandom

Early on, I began a series of posts called Things I Never Learned in Library School. I love this series because it is a good framework for talking about random professional topics and putting them together under a framework that makes sense. 2014 through 2016 were banner years for me professionally and personally: I wrote and published a professional book with Heather Booth, I was named a Library Journal Mover and Shaker, I went back to my home library and started a Teen MakerSpace, and I wrote an article about it that got me the cover story in School Library Journal. But the reality is, that even in the midst of our biggest moments of success we can still experience failure and I think it’s always important to be honest. Many libraries were having a lot of success putting together library Cons and being a person who loves fandom, I wanted to as well. I came, I saw, I tried . . . and I failed. I have never successfully hosted a library con. It’s a pretty challenging thing to do and kudos to everyone has. You have my utmost respect. But I found a way to turn my failure into a new idea, and that’s important to. Not everything is right for our libraries. It’s okay to fail. What matters is what we learn from it and what we do next.

2018 : Being a Librarian Did Not Prepare Me for Having a Child with Dyslexia

As early as Kindergarten, I suspected that Thing 2 had dyslexia. Tim and I had to fight hard to get her tested and every other step along the way to make sure she got the services she needs to be a reader. Upon reflection I realized that in all my years working in libraries and even working on my library degree, we talk very little about Dyslexia, and as people dedicated to getting kids reading that seems a bit odd. So now, even though I am by no means an expert on Dyslexia, I advocate hard for better understanding and more discussions of Dyslexia in libraries. 1 in 5 kids have Dyslexia, we need to talk about it. You can find out more at my Dyslexia Dashboard.

2019 : A Brief History of YA, an infographic

We talk a lot about teens, teen issues, programming and library issues at this blog, but behind it all is a love of books. Books are what makes a library a library and not a community center or recreation center. So we talk a lot about books here. What you may not know, is that creating RA tools is one of my passions. Posters, displays, etc – I love it all. In 2019, I made an infographic sharing the history of YA fiction. It’s one of my favorite creations.

2020 : Things I Never Learned in Library School, Librarianing in the Time of the Pandemic

In 2020, the world changed. And everything I knew about librarianship changed. Our libraries shut down, my kids did at school at home, and we wrestled with things I never could have imagined. Though 2020 has been hard, 2021 has truly been harder for me personally. I’m really proud of the work we have done here in the pandemic talking about the challenges to our field during all of this, like sharing virtual programming ideas and holding space for hard conversations. That’s why I started this blog and honestly, I’m so honored every day that I get to do this. It is so important to me, as a librarian, as a parent, as a person trying to survive this new world with the rest of you.

And finally . . .

The Animaniacs Guide to Being a (Faboo!) Young Adult Librarian

We’re going to skip a favorite post from 2021 because here we are, smack dab in the middle of it. Plus, I wanted to share one of my favorite all time posts of all time. Look, by nature, I am not a funny person. I am melancholy and deathly serious about all things. But this one time . . . I was funny! I have always been a fan of the Animaniacs and I wrote a post talking about YA librarianship in the context of the Animaniacs. So I’m going to end this 10 year wrap up with that post and hope that you will remember: One time, Karen was funny.

A TLT Infographic from 2016

As I have combed through the blog trying to think of my favorite posts, I have been reminded of so many posts that I had forgotten about. I am so proud and honored and humbled to have been able to share this journey with you for the last 10 years. If I’m being honest, the beginning of this year has been so hard that I talked about ending TLT. But this look back has reminded me that I have done some good things in this world. I haven’t changed it, but maybe in holding space for hard conversations and being honest as a person and a librarian, just maybe we’ve made it a little bit better.

If you would like to share your favorite posts, memories or words of encouragement with us, please leave a comment. And as always . . . thank you.

TLT TURNS TEN: Ten Great Guest Posts

This week Teen Librarian Toolbox turns 10. TEN! To celebrate, I’ve got lots of ten-themed posts coming. Up today: ten great guest posts. We are lucky that we get so many wonderful guest posts from authors, teachers, and librarians. From our yearlong projects to reading lists to posts related to authors’ new books, there’s always something great being shared by others on our blog. You can search the blog for guest posts and catch up on some that you may have missed! Meanwhile, here are snippets of and links to ten that have stuck with me.

Continuing Anti-Racist Work in Publishing in the Wake of the George Floyd Protests, a guest post by Roseanne A. Brown

From the post:

Being anti-racist is going to take more than a few weeks of hyping certain books and creating aesthetic Instagram posts. It’s going to take a fundamental shifting in the way we all view and interact with the world. It’s going to take interrogating the way each and everyone of us has allowed the structures of this industry to function unjustly for so long.

The work does not and cannot end with buying a copy of a Black author’s book or even blacking out an entire bestseller list, though that is an excellent start. The work will end when Black and other marginalized voices are no longer working in this industry at a structural disadvantage. And it’s going to take every single one of us at every level of the publishing hierarchy to make sure this change stays for good.

We all need to keep showing up for Black voices and Black lives, even when it’s no longer on trend to do so.

Monsters united can never be defeated: sentimental queer horror YA, a guest post by Hal Schrieve

The year I turned fourteen, I came out to my parents as transgender. In 2010, as a young teenager, with Gender Identity Disorder still written into the DSM as a disease, I knew that my eventual medical transition would require doctors’ notes and assessments in order to proceed. But my parents, wearing a look of inscrutable fear, initially took me to therapists with the stated hope that we as a family would work something out that didn’t involve me actually ever transitioning.

Eventually, all the doctors my parents took me to, even those most sympathetic to my parents, began to reach the consensus that I was in fact a transsexual. That, the doctors and therapists agreed, meant my parents had to move to the next healthy stage in raising a trans child: mourning my death.

This is standard advice, advice that the parents of trans children have gotten from well-meaning therapists for decades. My inexpert Cut Rite haircut, abbreviated name, the desire to to put testosterone into my body and surgically modify my chest, and, not least, my expression of my desire for romantic and sexual contact with gay men—meant that the child my parents had raised was dead. My parents had lost their shot at something. Therapists phrased it in different ways, describing the dead girl who I was not as a child of expectations, or dreams, as someone who had existed and as someone who had never existed. But again and again, the living teenager in front of my parents was ignored in favor of the theoretically dead girl I had replaced.  My parents were given permission to ignore my distress, the bullying I was facing, the discrimination I faced from my school, the lack of information I had about what my future might hold, so they could grieve and adapt slowly to life without their daughter—though I was alive, and their real daughter, my little sister, was right in front of them and living too. For a period of just over a year, and maybe long beyond that, I became undead, unknowable, invisible to the people who were supposed to protect me.

MHYALit: This Book Will Save Your Life, a guest post by author Kathleen Glasgow

“Mommy,” I said, my voice sounding strange and far from me. “If you don’t take me to the hospital, right now, I am going to kill myself.”  I was sixteen. I meant it.

What followed was my mother slipping into robot-mode. She made calls, she smoked cigarettes, she argued with my father on the phone, and by the end of the day I was a new patient at small and somewhat seedy psychiatric hospital.  I was lumped in with adults. There was no separation by disorder, age, or “problem.” As one of my new colleagues put it during a dinner of slimy green beans and something resembling partially-heated Salisbury Steak, “We all fucking crazy in the same fucking crazy salad. You the tomato, she’s the lettuce, I’m the damn dressing.”

I had never felt so safe in my entire life.

When I was younger, growing up in a house filled with violence and fear, I found my solace in books. I read and re-read books obsessively, looking for anything that could lift me away from the darkness of my daily life. I should have been a prime candidate for fantasy or science fiction, but that wasn’t my thing. I latched onto anything that even vaguely resembled what was happening in my life and at that time, the queen of all things realistic was Judy Blume. Being bullied at school? Blubber became my tome. Having body and anxiety problems? Deenie. Curious about sex? The holy grail was, of course, Forever.  Fuck the whole tesseract business (though that was cool, too): I latched onto A Wrinkle in Time for Meg Murry, the lonely outcast.

When I found my mother’s 1954 copy of The Catcher in the Rye, though, Holden Caulfield spoke to me like no one else had. Here was someone who was clearly depressed, suicidal, afraid  of the world, afraid of himself. I still have that book. I still reread that book, every year, because it was the first book that taught me that I was not alone. I saw myself in Holden. It was a salve, a balm, for a long time.

SJYALit: Breaking Taboos, Telling Secrets, a conversation between Isabel Quintero and Elana K. Arnold

Elana: Isabel, I think it’s interesting that both of our titles–GABI: A GIRL IN PIECES, and WHAT GIRLS ARE MADE OF–hone in on how girls are dissected by themselves, by their families, by their friends and their boyfriends, by society. Why is it, do you think, that girls are such consumable products?

Isabel: Well, I think it has to do with the fact that we live in a capitalist patriarchy where we are taught that everything is consumable. Women are often not seen as autonomous, young women especially and girls less so. We are always thought of in relation to someone else, defined by what our purpose is in that relationship–daughter, sister, mother, girlfriend, mistress, wife, and so on. Those roles are seen as both consumable and disposable. And because we are often not seen as autonomous, as having our own worth, that seems to translate into our voices, our bodies, our time, being assumed to be in the service of others–for pleasure, reassurance, guidance, emotional support, nurturing, etc–and for their consumption.

Nina is girlfriend until Seth decides she is not, and doesn’t even tell her. Nina’s dad had one wife and disposed of her and then took on Nina’s mom. And in my book, Gabi’s mom feels Gabi should look a certain way because she needs to fill the role of desirable young woman to eventually become wife. Is she concerned that Gabi should go to college? Yes, but being desirable seems to take precedence sometimes.

Some of it may be rooted in fear. I know that one of my mom’s biggest fears is that I end up alone. And it has been this way since I was a teenager–being married was a top priority. Now that I am no longer with husband, I find that she still worries about that. But this goes back to having worth attached to how much we are worth to others–or, in other words, how much they can take.

FSYALit: From Rejection to Reconciliation: Changing Notions of Faith and Spirituality in LGBTQ YA, a guest post by Rob Bittner

I have been keeping an eye on books featuring queer characters in religious contexts for the last decade. When I was in my undergrad, I started on a directed study on books with LGBTQ content. My supervisor asked me about the direction in which I was hoping to go, and at the time I wasn’t entirely sure. Looking back at my own past and my history as a gay man within the Christian church, I wondered how, if at all, such experiences were being discussed in books for young readers. Keep in mind that only ten years ago, it was still difficult to find much in the way of LGBTQ literature for YA audiences, so trying to find religious representation within that limited subgenre felt at first like an impossible task. It certainly took a lot of effort to find materials, but I came across a few examples, and some from larger publishers, too. I discussed a number of these in more detail in my previous postHere are some main points to refresh your memory:

  • Early LGBTQ YA tends to frame Christianity (or any major religion really) as the enemy, often in the form of a religious leader preaching fire and brimstone for any and all non-normative genders and sexualities (Nothing Pink, Desire Lines);
  • Queer teens often sent away to camps for degayification (Caught in the Crossfire, Thinking Straight, The Miseducation of Cameron Post);
  • Earlier narratives often include long and didactic passages with characters debating scripture in an effort to show which side is right (Nothing Pink, The God Box, Gravity);
  • The novels were basically able to be split into two categories: novels of reconciliation (characters are able to reconcile queerness and spirituality, though not very often), and novels of abandonment (characters have to abandon either their faith or their sexuality in order to survive, and this is the more common trope.)

Coming of Age and the Reality of Others, a guest post by Sara Zarr

Is what we call “love” the experience of people being who we need them to be, and meeting our needs and expectations? Or is it accepting those closest to us in spite of their limitations and mistakes? Does the latter type of love have its limits and, if so, where are those limits? These aren’t questions that most adults I know have resolved, but we start becoming aware of them in our adolescent transition from childhood towards adulthood.

The context of Murdoch’s quote is an essay attempting to answer the question, “What is art?” She’s joining Tolstoy, Kant, and others in an ongoing conversation around this question, and for her, love and art and morality are all bound together in this issue of reality in a broader sense.

Personally, my allegiance in writing has always been to reality–which I don’t mean in a genre sense, as fantastical stories can have an allegiance to truth and realism can be false. What I mean is that I try to see things as they are and write about them from that clarity of vision. Murdoch writes, “We may fail to see the individual because we are completely enclosed in a fantasy world of our own into which we try to draw things from outside, not grasping their reality and independence, making them into dream objects of our own. … Love [is] an exercise of the imagination.”

MHYALit: On Medication, a guest post by author Emery Lord

Let’s get the personal info out of the way: I have been healthy on and off medication; I have been unhealthy on and off medication. I have chosen medication, and not medication. Because my health is a dynamic relationship—me and my mind and body, it means changing my approach sometimes. And so I certainly don’t think there is a universal right or wrong way to treat mental illness. Just right for you.

While I was researching When We Collided, one of the first questions I asked a doctor was if teens failing/refusing to take prescribed medication is as prevalent as it seems? (The refusal to take medicine or having very negative feelings toward medication is a frequent storyline in young adult media.) Yes, she said. But not just mental health medication. A very common ER issue is diabetic teens who simply don’t monitor their blood sugar.

This stuck in my mind. I always thought teens not taking their anti-depressants or anti-psychotics was due to the stigma of mental illness. It’s a stigma that is scaffolded by movies and TV shows that portray medication almost exclusively as something that dampens your creativity and joie de vivre. And does that happen? Sure, to some people. But others will tell you that medication let them access their creativity and joie de vivre again. (I, for example, would say that.)

So, is it that there’s a stigma for anything outside “healthy” range? Or maybe it’s about acceptance? Is it that we haven’t fully accepted that something—anything—is wrong enough to need correction? Or even if we know medication might help—we so badly don’t want to need them?

Girl, You Crack Me Up! Funny Female Authors in Middle Grade Fiction, a conversation with authors Jessica Kim and Arianne Costner

What about you? Did you ever feel intimidated trying to write a funny book?

J: I didn’t necessarily feel intimidated while writing the book, because funny books are the only ones I know how to write, but when I was promoting my book, I noticed I was often the only woman on the funny book panels. What’s that all about? I really hope that changes quickly because the world is missing out on some awesome hilarious-girl content! Speaking of which, can you share your process of creating humor? How did you know a joke was landing?

A: I tested most of the quips on my husband, and he is very honest–brutally honest, sometimes, but that’s why he’s helpful! I also did lots of good old Youtube and Google searches about creating humor and humorous scenarios. We are so lucky to have a world of resources at our fingertips! And of course, I read other books for inspiration. Speaking of which, I’m curious: Who are some of your favorite funny female authors?

J: I’m a big fan of Dusti Bowling, Remy Lai, Lisa Yee, and Booki Vivat. They crack me up. What about yours?

A: First of all, YOU obviously haha. I also love Niki Lenz and all of the authors you mentioned above! If we are going to kick it old school, Judy Blume is fantastic. I grew up reading her Fudge series. Louise Rennison is a crack up and a total inspiration! And, of course, Renee Watson is an icon. Since it’s April Fools Day, I have to finish by asking: What was your favorite April Fools joke you’ve played?

MHYALit: It’s Okay Not to Be Okay, a guest post by author Claire Legrand

In fifth grade, I had my first anxiety attack.

I don’t remember what prompted me to ask my teacher if I could use the restroom, but I remember huddling in the stall, hunched over on the toilet, as nausea seized my tiny ten-year-old body. My skin broke out in sick chills. I scratched my arms and legs until they were covered in red marks.

My thoughts raced with fear; I could not quiet my brain. I tried going to the bathroom, I tried throwing up. Nothing helped. I simply sat there and endured it until I felt well enough to go back to class.

Part of me was terrified by what had just happened. But I rallied and got through the day, dismissing that scary moment in the bathroom as . . . something. I had no idea what to call it.

I decided I was fine. I was still breathing, still standing.

I was fine. (I wasn’t fine.)

Historical Fiction in the Making, a guest post by Rita Williams-Garcia

Every novel relies on some research.  A historical novel isn’t reliable without research and A SITTING IN ST. JAMES, demanded total immersion.  I came to this story as a complete outsider.  I was neither white, nor of French descent, nor Louisiana Creole.  To gain the confidence of my readers, I took a year off from writing to do nothing but research: dig, read, uncover, and lastly, vet!  Instead of researching while I wrote, I used the writing hiatus to hunker down in specific subjects: French Revolution, Haitian Revolution, Louisiana history, Louisiana Creole culture and language, sugar cane planting and production, West Point history and culture, mid-19th century portrait painting, among other subjects.

I filled up on mid-nineteenth century literature, to include French, Louisiana Creole and American readings.  I combed through archives of narratives of survivors of slavery for testimonies of freed people from Louisiana.  One gem I found helpful was a collection of Caribbean and Louisiana Creole proverbs from LacFadio Hearn’s GOMBO ZH’BES (green gumbo).  I could see the smirks, the humor, and attitudes of the people. I got a taste of their lives and daily concerns.