School Library Journal The world's largest reviewer of books, multimedia, and technology for children and teens Tue, 28 Mar 2017 13:00:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Henry and the Chalk Dragon by Jennifer Trafton | SLJ Review Tue, 28 Mar 2017 13:00:19 +0000 TRAFTON, Jennifer. Henry and the Chalk Dragon. illus. by Benjamin Schipper. 240p. Rabbit Room. Apr. 2017. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780986381881.

Gr 3-6 –Henry Penwhistle has a very active imagination. His mother has drawn on his bedroom door with chalkboard paint, and Henry decorates his door with a variety of changing pictures, including a dragon, a dinosaur, and a rhino. One morning, as the boy prepares for school, the dragon springs to life, hitching a ride in Henry’s lunch box. [...]]]> redstarTRAFTON, Jennifer. Henry and the Chalk Dragon. illus. by Benjamin Schipper. 240p. Rabbit Room. Apr. 2017. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780986381881.

MG-Trafton-HenryandtheChalkDragonGr 3-6 –Henry Penwhistle has a very active imagination. His mother has drawn on his bedroom door with chalkboard paint, and Henry decorates his door with a variety of changing pictures, including a dragon, a dinosaur, and a rhino. One morning, as the boy prepares for school, the dragon springs to life, hitching a ride in Henry’s lunch box. This is the beginning of the very wacky adventure of Henry and his friends Oscar and Jade as they try to save their classmates and their elementary school from the havoc-wreaking dragon. Henry and Oscar send barbs back and forth in a flurry of amusing and unusual language, and the metaphors fly (“his sword was as swift and swishy as a hummingbird caught in a washing machine.”). Readers will chuckle out loud at the outlandish predicaments that the characters face. Henry is sympathetic as an artist scared to share his gift, and in the end he learns to trust both his friends and the caring adults in his life. VERDICT A perfect title to hand to young readers looking for laughs along with a wild and crazy adventure.–Elizabeth Kahn, Patrick F. Taylor Science & Technology Academy, Avondale, LA

This review was published in the School Library Journal March 2017 issue.

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Children’s Museum of Manhattan Finalist for National Medal Mon, 27 Mar 2017 19:13:03 +0000 IMLS-bannerThe Institute of Museum and Library Services has named New York’s Children’s Museum of Manhattan among 30 finalists for the 2017 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. The public is encouraged to share stories about the museum’s excellence.

See the full press release below.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                            MEDIA

Children’s Museum of Manhattan recognized as Finalist for 2017 National Medal for Museum and Library Service

Public encouraged to share stories of institutions’ excellence on IMLS Facebook page during March, April

WASHINGTON (March 20, 2017) – The Institute of Museum and Library Services today announced that New York’s Children’s Museum of Manhattan is among the 30 finalists for the 2017 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. The National Medal is the nation’s highest honor given to museums and libraries for service to the community. For 23 years, the award has celebrated institutions that demonstrate extraordinary and innovative approaches to public service and are making a difference for individuals, families and communities.

“The 2017 National Medal Finalists represent the leading museums and libraries that serve as catalysts for change in their communities,” said Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. “It is our honor to recognize 30 notable institutions for their commitment to providing programs and services that improve the lives of individuals, families and communities.  We salute them and their valuable work in providing educational opportunities to their community and celebrate the power libraries and museums can have across the country.”

Finalists are chosen because of their significant and exceptional contributions to their communities. IMLS is encouraging community members who visited the Children’s Museum of Manhattan to share their story on the IMLS Facebook page. To Share Your Story and learn more about how these institutions make an impact, please visit

The National Medal winners will be announced later this spring. The representatives from winning institutions will travel to Washington, D.C. to be honored at the National Medal award ceremony.

To see the full list of finalists and learn more about the National Medal, visit

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) is celebrating its 20th Anniversary. The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and approximately 35,000 museums. Our mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Our grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Laini Taylor on Genre Blurring and “Strange the Dreamer” Mon, 27 Mar 2017 18:47:48 +0000 Photo by Ali Smith

Photo by Ali Smith

This is an edited version of Laini Taylor’s keynote address at SLJ’s 2016 Day of Dialog, delivered when she was completing her most recent YA novel, Strange the Dreamer, publishing this month from Little, Brown.

Genre is a subject near and dear to my heart, and I loved having a good reason to sit down and try to capture my thoughts on what it means to me as a reader and a writer.

I’m not a purist about anything. I prefer milk chocolate to dark and illustration to fine art. I like my Shakespeare set on other planets, and my angels falling in love with devils. I have no attachment to natural hair color, and I get afraid, when a book has only one genre, that the genre will get lonely. What better than a fantasy-science-fiction-romance with elements of Gothic horror—like Strange the Dreamer! Stories should grow up to be whatever they want to be, and genres should marry each other and have little mutant babies. I’d be the shrewd old aunt helping the debutante elope with the pirate, waving a handkerchief from the dock and calling “Follow your hearts, dearies!”

“Follow your hearts” could be a good creed for me as a writer. And because in the world of Strange the Dreamer, people have two hearts—one that pumps that blood, and a second more mysterious heart that pumps a clear fluid called “spirit”—I’m in the habit of referring to hearts in plural.

In writing this book, I have indeed “followed my hearts.” Its original title was The Muse of Nightmares, which I’d had in my mind for some 20 years, along with a vision of a girl who’s both a prisoner and a tormentor, a victim and a villain. She was the daughter of a murdered goddess, living in hiding, and she was, without question, the protagonist and title character. This was her story.

I thought.

But another character stole the book from her, and the title, and I can tell you the exact moment that it happened.

Lazlo Strange is a young librarian in the world’s greatest library. He’s called “Strange the dreamer” for his habit of walking into walls while reading, and—with no little disdain—for the kind of books he reads. The Great Library of Zosma is a scholarly institution; serious men doing important work: alchemy, mathematics, philosophy. They don’t exactly have a fiction section. But there is lore, relegated to a dusty sublevel, and Lazlo is the only one reads it. He breathes it. In fact, he was a library stowaway. He made a delivery one day and never left. He was found down in the dusty sublevel and was allowed to stay. “The library knows its own mind,” an old librarian tells him. “When it steals a boy, we let it keep him.”

He drifts about his head full of myths, always at least half lost in some otherland of story. He believes in magic, like a child, and in ghosts, like a peasant. This was the moment that I fell in love with him: when my fingers typed, “His nose was broken by a falling volume of fairy tales when he was a boy.” Lazlo Strange was literally shaped by stories.

The chapter in which all this went down was called “Strange the dreamer,” and I suddenly knew that that was my title and he was my protagonist. It would also be the story of the half-human daughter of the goddess of despair, raised by ghosts in an abandoned citadel. But first it would be the story of a dreamy librarian whose nose was broken by fairy tales, and who has been shaped by stories in far more profound ways than that.

1704-Taylor-StrangeTheDreamerIn defense of genre fiction

I don’t think of myself as being thin-skinned or especially bothered by the pervasive cultural dismissal of genre fiction as “lesser.” I don’t have an ax to grind. And yet…I have apparently written a book in which the main character, mocked and derided for being a fantasy reader, goes on to use his medieval nerd cred to save everyone and get the girl.

It’s like the fantasy reader’s revenge.

As Lazlo tells the Muse of Nightmares, regarding his beloved dusty sublevel and the books in it: “They’re myths and folktales mostly. Anything dismissed by scholars as too fun to be important.” Obviously something that’s fun can’t be important, and yet, again and again, Lazlo’s knowledge and love of stories gives him an unexpected edge over the more “serious”-minded of his peers.

So maybe I have a little ax to grind. A wee little axey, just the perfect size for splitting hairs.

Strange the Dreamer is a love letter to dreamers, and to the superior power of the minds of readers—especially fiction readers and more especially, genre fiction readers.

A lot of the discussion of genre revolves around this kind of literary caste system—the question of what qualifies as “art” and what doesn’t, and what’s “important” and what isn’t. I’m more interested in is the question of how our minds interact with story, and how genre affects that interaction.

The short answer is: it affects it awesomely.

The long answer is an imaginary PhD thesis entitled “Psychic Mechanisms of Story-Reception: the Reader’s Intellectual-Emotional Harp.” Or something. I’ll get back to that later.

First, my own relationship to genre. Full disclosure: fantasy books made me a reader. Feral child spends formative years in fairy tales, dressed in a feather cloak and war paint with a dagger strapped to her thigh. Dragons abound. Everything is wonder.

Then, high school and university made me a serious reader. No more feather cloak and dragons. Hard work, discipline, and frugality. I call it the “Protestant Reading Ethic.” Reading was no longer about wonder. It was about…art? The human condition? It was, for me, a little bit about being sophisticated and a little bit about impressing the cute barista at Midnight Espresso, the only cool coffee shop within 50 miles, for whom I read Madame Bovary but drew the line at Ulysses. (He was cute, but he wasn’t that cute.)

No one made me stop reading fantasy. No one confiscated my Anne McCaffrey. It felt like part of growing up, like…putting your toys in the yard sale box.

This reading path was paralleled by my writing path. Fantasy books made me a writer, too. Feral child in feather cloak draws maps of secret countries, writes tales of magic and adventure in a candle-lit sea cave. Everything is wonder.

And high school and university made me a serious writer. Or rather, they made me want to be one and try to be one and finally, stop being a writer completely. I was 21. I had no voice, no subject matter. I had never been in love, didn’t have a drug problem, didn’t come from a fascinating culture. I didn’t even have a miserable childhood, damn it. What was I supposed to write about?

I had this daydream that I’d fall in love with a Parisian street performer, and he would be brilliant and troubled and wear an eyepatch. We would love and fight passionately, and he would tragically die and give me subject matter.

That did not happen.

Looking back, it’s so clear what I should have been writing, but I had closed that door, and like the doors in Strange the Dreamer, when they’re closed, they vanish, leaving no sign they were ever there.

So I stopped writing. I went to art school. I had some success as an artist, and developed skills for coping with creative issues, and met my husband. And I remember this very clearly: one day we walked over to the local indie bookshop to buy this new book that was getting some buzz. The year was 1998. The book was Harry Potter.

I read it. It was fun. There was no overnight epiphany, but it was the beginning of something. Over the next few years I read more fantasy for young readers. The “Golden Compass” books. The “Sabriel” books. And when I started to write again, I discovered that I had found a voice—and subject matter.

And no street performers even had to die!

A few years ago I was at a glamorous event—the New York premiere of the movie Les Misérables. The after party was fancy. I met Anne Hathaway and Eddie Redmayne, and I had a conversation about books with this cool stranger—a musician, I think. He mentioned Junot Diaz and Karen Russell, both of whom I’d read and liked, and the sensible thing to do would have been to be cool too and name a few other authors in that vein. But I did not. I was defiant. I was like: this is not Midnight Espresso and I don’t have to read Madame Bovary ever again! So I said that “Harry Potter” had been a huge influence on me, and that conversation was over so fast. It was a little embarrassing, but I’m glad I did it. I don’t want to be cool anymore. In my novella Night of Cake & Puppets, there’s some language about the cool beautiful people looking perpetually bored, like they’re waiting for the bus in Purgatory. I hate waiting for the bus in Purgatory. It’s the worst. Boredom is the worst. I want to be freaky and excited and alive.

My imaginary dissertation

Back to my imaginary dissertation. How do our minds interact with stories, and how does genre affect this process?

Reading is magic to me: the act of reading, the mechanical operation of it, and how our brains are capable of translating black marks on a page into imagery, narrative, and emotion. How does it do it? There’s the brain, and there’s the mind. What is the mind? I don’t know! I’m a rationalist. I believe in a physical world. But I’m a rationalist who moonlights as a fantasist. Rationalist-me might believe that the mind—the thinking-feeling faculty, let’s call it—exists within the noodly pinkness of the brain, but fantasist-me finds that unsatisfying and uninspired. So here is my fantasist explanation.

Supported by tons of imaginary research.

When it comes to magic-using characters in my books, I find myself creating mental landscapes, vastnesses within which I can hint at capacities that defy explanation. Minds are “personal infinities” that don’t correspond to the space that physical bodies displace. And I feel a certain truth in that. What is a mind?

For our purposes, let’s picture our “thinking-feeling faculty” as…a harp. A beautiful instrument strung with many strings, each vibrating at its own frequency. And everything that we experience, think, do, remember, read, plays these strings, which represent the full spectrum of human emotion. Except that it goes beyond emotion. It’s something like Jung’s archetypes—kind of basic blueprints of humanness. There are sympathies—attractions, inclinations—that all humans share, and these things explain why cultures all over the world evolved the same story types. And there are frequencies—harp strings—that resonate with us, with extreme purity. Things that just get us, as though the harp string were connected directly to our heart and our gut and just play us like music.

Watch Laini Taylor’s Day of Dialog keynote presentation:

My imaginary research suggests that genre is about finding these direct and pure resonances that connect straight to our heart and our gut, and playing them.

Books exist for different reasons. To educate. To make you think. With fiction, it’s feelings we’re after. Feelings—or “feels” as the whippersnappers say—are the drug of fiction. Writers mix up cocktails of feelings, hoping to create an emotional experience.

This goes for all fiction. The place where genre departs is in scope. Literary fiction, mainstream or realistic fiction, and historical fiction all play the reader’s thinking-feeling harp in a way intended to approximate real life. Perhaps a better and more interesting, fraught, tragic, or exciting real life than yours, but still real life. Genre, on the other hand, is reaching right for the strings that transcend real life–transcend and strike straight for these elemental cravings that have been satisfied by myth since the beginning of language and are just not satisfied by anything remotely resembling real life.

I believe that there is something at the core of us that hungers for honor and heroism—and villainy—and true love and the unknown, and hope. Something that longs to fight battles and win, to discover reservoirs of power within ourselves, to be the object of passionate love, to be harrowed, to be tested, to bond with comrades, to sacrifice and triumph and be chosen. To be special.

The myth hole

Genre has great trappings, no doubt about it. We’ve got dragons and space ships and murders and kissing, and the skilled creation of great trappings is an essential part of writing genre, and an awesome part, but I don’t think it’s the heart of it. The test of a genre book is in the purity and potency with which these elemental harp strings are played. Underneath your dragons and space ships and murders and kissing, you’d better be connecting to these primal human cravings. When done well, the satisfaction is immense.

Genre readers are incredibly passionate. Our reading is a part of our identity in a way that’s not true of readers of mainstream fiction. We form fandoms— peer groups that revolve around books. We dress up, go to conventions, get tattoos, dye our hair, make art. We reread. And it’s because we’ve tapped into this place within us that’s bigger than real life, and older than our culture and our present-day concerns, that’s fundamental. We want to live there. So we read these books again and again, because real life can be great, or awful, or ordinary, but even at its best, it’s not mythic, and we have in us this—are you ready for this?—this myth hole that wants to be filled.

(Oh, that sounds so wrong.)

As a writer of fantasy and romance, I’m conscious of this myth hole, and this harp, and I’m seeking to meet reader’s needs as well as I can.

So there, in brief, is my thesis on the function of genre in our reception of story. It leaves open the question of non-genre readers, and whether they’re lacking myth holes or ignoring them, whether they’re genuinely unaffected by the primal tropes, or maybe their thinking-feeling harps are tuned to a subtler frequency, the way some people only listen to jazz. Maybe they, like I, accepted a certain cultural memo that this was all something to outgrow, or they were put off genre by poorly executed examples, or they do have a craving for these tropes, but can only them find them palatable in the context of literary fiction. I don’t know.

I do know that I’ve been told more times than I can count: “I don’t read fantasy, but I love your books.” Which suggests to me that a lot of readers have closed a door that maybe they oughtn’t, and are hearing a faint, beckoning call from the far side of it. And maybe they’re looking for some kind of permission to open it.

Permission granted.

If you’d like to read my full dissertation, you will find it in the Great Library of Zosma, shelved among the myths in the dusty sublevel. Just ask a librarian to show you the way.

Laini Taylor is a young adult fantasy writer and the author of the “Daughter of Smoke and Bone” series. “Strange the Dreamer” publishes March 28, 2017.

]]> 0 Lynda Mullaly Hunt On Connecting with the “Middle-Grade Psyche” Mon, 27 Mar 2017 18:23:49 +0000 Lynda Mullaly Hunt is the author of several critically acclaimed novels, including One for the Murphys and Fish in a Tree, an SLJ Best Book of 2015. A former teacher, Hunt now writes full time and is actively involved in the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Fans and educators are invited to a live webcast event with the author on Tuesday, March 28, 2017, 10:30 a.m.–11:30 a.m. ET.

Who were you as a middle-grade reader? What were some books that you liked because you saw yourself in them?

I think it’s human nature to avoid the things we find difficult. So, I entered sixth grade never having finished—or having owned—a book. My sixth-grade teacher, Mr. Christie, handed me Tales of linda mullaly hunta Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume, and I read it—not because I had developed a love of reading, but because I had developed something I had never experienced before: a desire to please my teacher. Mr. Christie completely transformed my life that year. My second novel, Fish in a Tree, is a long, late thank you note to him.

That year, I pulled The Cay by Theodore Taylor off our school library shelf and decided to sign it out because I thought the cover was beautiful. I was completely hooked and read it about 20 times in a row. I think my guts saw myself but my brain hadn’t caught up yet. Philip, one of two main characters, is difficult to help. But no matter how difficult Philip becomes, adult Timothy meets him with kindness and understanding. As I read this as a sixth grader, I’m not sure how aware I was of the similarities between their relationship and my relationship with my teacher. But I do know reading that book helped me open up to Mr. Christie, and more importantly, accept help that I had previously turned away. In 2012, The New York Times published an article entitled “Your Brain on Fiction,” chronicling a study that proved that readers can learn things like empathy and compassion, grit and resilience, from reading fiction. I have to believe that some divine intervention brought me The Cay and Mr. Christie at the same time.

By the way, I must confess that The Cay was the first book I ever owned. I lied to both my librarian and my mother, telling them that I had lost it while keeping it stashed between my mattress and my box spring. Neither was happy with me, as it was a hardcover and expensive. I had to work off some of the money to pay for it. No regrets.

We’ve started to see more books that include cultural diversity. There is also a need for books about students whose diversity may be “invisible.” During your years in the classroom, what populations did you feel needed to be better represented in literature?

fish in a treeWell, I left the classroom over 20 years ago and children’s literature is a bit of a different world now than it was then, I think. As a teacher, I was always drawn to doing read-alouds that showed characters overcoming some sort of adversity or learning something new about themselves.

I enjoyed reading The Cay to my students, as well as books by Katherine Paterson and Patricia Reilly Giff. I so admire these two authors for their ability to deal with difficult topics authentically and “get it on the page.” They remain two of my favorite authors.

There certainly were loads of incredible books available before I left teaching, such as Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, Holes by Louis Sachar, and The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson. There were some that explored other cultures, such as Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George, and My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier, which portrayed both sides of the Revolutionary War. However, many of the mainstream books for kids that were available then didn’t explore the layers of all of us that today’s books do.

Today, there are many more books that open a bigger world for kids who are looking for mirrors (and windows) to help understand their journey and their place in the world. These books build empathy for others and selves. I have met kids who had not heard of foster care or dyslexia and have learned to empathize with others’ struggles. I have heard from many, many kids who have learned to cut themselves a break by reading my books; I consider this to be the greatest gift of this author gig. It’s important for us all to remember that by avoiding difficult topics in children’s books, we do not eradicate the questions kids ask. We eradicate the answers.

In addition to letting children see themselves in books, it’s good for students to see people who are not just like them. Do you have some ideas about how teachers can help introduce these topics in the classroom? 

There are so many rich texts out there now that serve as windows for young readers. A class read- aloud, along with some honest discussion, can do wonders in this regard. I think the approach to these other cultures is important as well. Approaching these windows with kids with an, “Isn’t this cool? What else would you like to learn about this way of life/religion/culture/et cetera?” attitude is paramount. I do believe that the way to drive out fear about people who are different than our students is to foster curiosity and learning—and model it.

The way that children with learning differences and in foster care are treated at school and portrayed in literature change over time and vary from place to place. How do you keep this in mind and try to make your books timeless and universal?

As I wrote One for the Murphys, my primary focus was on authentic character development, as the mainone for the murphys character’s emotional journey was based on my own when I was young. (I was happy that I had created a book that portrays foster parents as a positive. I think they sometimes get a bad rap in the media.) I feel that in order to create books that are timeless and universal, books must tap into things that all of us humans have in common regardless of race, socioeconomic status, geographical location, interests, abilities, and so on. Humans of all ages want to be seen, want to be valued, want to belong. We want to feel like we can contribute, have a place, are loved. Think of the books you most loved decades ago. I would bet that these themes are an integral part of them all.

You now write full time. How do you maintain your connection to the middle-grade psyche as well as current problems facing students?

I actually started laughing when I read this question. For better or worse, I don’t seem to have any trouble connecting to the middle-grade psyche. I am blessed to write for the age group that I do. Sometimes these kids don’t get enough credit for how much they really understand about the human experience. Many of them are just learning to put words to those feelings. I love writing for this age group because they can wade into difficult topics and still be open enough to develop an understanding—or even change their minds about things.

It was at this age that I took a stand myself and proclaimed that, “I will have a happy life one day.” I had just begun to know myself enough that I could stand up to those who told me otherwise. Not with lofty speeches, but with a quiet knowing. It’s an age where we are trying to figure out who we are and who we will become. Some align with external expectations. Others step outside of them. There is so much potential and magic in being a part of helping kids make what can turn out to be life-changing realizations. And, believe me, they are making those realizations at this age. I’ve met many of them.

Students frequently struggle when working in groups, while adults seem to take a lot of comfort in not being alone when they are writing. You have a strong support group of other authors. Do you think it is possible to implement writing groups in schools? Have any tips for teachers and librarians?

Absolutely! So, the thing about writing is that it is a vulnerable act. It can feel a little like mining the deepest parts of yourself, handing it to a stranger, and asking what they think. Just because kids are kids doesn’t mean they don’t feel this way. I’ve run into many kids in my travels who are afraid to write and many more who are terrific writers but are afraid to share.

I’m a huge believer in setting an example. When it was time for my students to write, I would sit at an empty student desk (there for that very purpose) and I would write along with them. And let me tell you, my writing was pretty dismal, but I was reluctantly brave because I knew it was important to model for the kids. So I would stand, and I would read, and I would think aloud about the things I liked and didn’t like. And I was very laid-back about my failures. I have never had any trouble laughing at myself.

I think it’s vital that we model for kids that failure is not a negative. It is not something to be afraid of—it is merely a stepping stone on the path to success. Failing doesn’t make you a failure; staying down does.

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Treasures of the Earth | SLJ DVD Review Mon, 27 Mar 2017 13:00:52 +0000 Treasures of the Earth. (NOVA). 3 hrs. Dist. by PBS. 2017. $24.99. ISBN 9781627898546.

Gr 7 Up –This program contains three hour-long episodes (“Power,” “Gems,” and “Metals”), which examine the earth’s geological resources. Each focuses on the natural forces that have created them and the human manufacturing processes that transform them into products. For example, viewers learn about different metals used in jewelry, warfare, and modern electrical wiring. Through computer animation, the program details atomic composition, production techniques, and [...]]]> redstarTreasures of the Earth. (NOVA). 3 hrs. Dist. by PBS. 2017. $24.99. ISBN 9781627898546.

DVD-TreasuresoftheEarthGr 7 Up –This program contains three hour-long episodes (“Power,” “Gems,” and “Metals”), which examine the earth’s geological resources. Each focuses on the natural forces that have created them and the human manufacturing processes that transform them into products. For example, viewers learn about different metals used in jewelry, warfare, and modern electrical wiring. Through computer animation, the program details atomic composition, production techniques, and more. The picture and sound quality is excellent throughout, and the male narrator speaks clearly and conveys the content well. Male and female scientists, experts, and producers of goods from around the world are interviewed and filmed working their craft, making this an inclusive insight into some of the earth’s most valued minerals. VERDICT An awe-inspiring glimpse into the applications of chemistry and the resources’ impact on the world. Each episode should have a place in science classrooms and also among general viewers.–Ryan Henry, Daviess County Public Library, Owensboro, KY

This review was published in the School Library Journal March 2017 issue.

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Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story by Caren Stelson | SLJ Audio Review Fri, 24 Mar 2017 13:00:25 +0000 STELSON, Caren. Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story. 3 CDs. 3:27 hrs. Dreamscape. Dec. 2016. $29.99. ISBN 9781520063034. digital download.

Gr 5-8 –Sachiko Yasui was six years old when an atomic bomb was dropped on her hometown of Nagasaki: this is the account of her survival. She experienced the death of family members, homelessness, and ill health, but the unrelenting encouragement of her father gave her the strength and willpower to face the future. He had told her always [...]]]> redstarSTELSON, Caren. Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story. 3 CDs. 3:27 hrs. Dreamscape. Dec. 2016. $29.99. ISBN 9781520063034. digital download.

AU-Stelson-SachikoGr 5-8 –Sachiko Yasui was six years old when an atomic bomb was dropped on her hometown of Nagasaki: this is the account of her survival. She experienced the death of family members, homelessness, and ill health, but the unrelenting encouragement of her father gave her the strength and willpower to face the future. He had told her always to listen to her teachers and never be consumed by hate. Yasui also was influenced by her study of Mohandas Gandhi, Helen Keller, and Martin Luther King Jr. By the 50th anniversary of the bombing, Yasui was ready to speak publicly about surviving the blast and how it impacted her life. Her voice was strong and persuasive. Chapters that recount the story of her life alternate with chapters of historical overview and facts. This is one of the many outstanding aspects of this book. In the audio version, these chapters are read by two different narrators, Katherine Fenton and John Chancer. The vocal differences among the characters are compelling, and Fenton does a superb job with the Japanese pronunciation. VERDICT The organization of this title makes it very practical for use in the classroom. Sure to leave a lasting impression on students. [“Sensitive…well crafted…essential”: SLJ 9/16 starred review of the Carolrhoda book.]–Patricia Ann Owens, formerly at Illinois Eastern Community Colleges, Mt. Carmel, IL

This review was published in the School Library Journal March 2017 issue.

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Grendel’s Guide to Love and War by A.E. Kaplan | SLJ Review Thu, 23 Mar 2017 13:00:54 +0000 KAPLAN, A.E. Grendel’s Guide to Love and War. 320p. ebook available. Knopf. Apr. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399555541.

Gr 8 Up –When the Rothgars move in next door, high schooler Tom Grendel’s summer takes a turn into uncharted territory that proves often terrible, definitely weird, and occasionally wonderful beyond words. He has struggled with the death of his mother and his father’s post-traumatic stress disorder for years; the appearance of the Rothgars, anti–manic pixie dream girl Willow, and inveterate [...]]]> redstarKAPLAN, A.E. Grendel’s Guide to Love and War. 320p. ebook available. Knopf. Apr. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399555541.

YA-Kaplan-GrendelsGuidetoLoveandWarGr 8 Up –When the Rothgars move in next door, high schooler Tom Grendel’s summer takes a turn into uncharted territory that proves often terrible, definitely weird, and occasionally wonderful beyond words. He has struggled with the death of his mother and his father’s post-traumatic stress disorder for years; the appearance of the Rothgars, anti–manic pixie dream girl Willow, and inveterate bullies Rex and Wolf in particular push him to more deeply confront love, loss, and what it means to claim one’s self. A well-crafted cast of characters and (mostly) winning humor help carry a narrative that never shies away from a nuanced portrayal of the pains and joys of adolescence and of the ability to find strength in embracing life’s absurdity. Kaplan cleverly sprinkles elements from the Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf throughout, adding a layer that attentive readers might appreciate. The allusions never run too deep, however, and those unfamiliar with the classic work won’t miss much. VERDICT An outstanding YA novel balancing comedy with substantial themes of love, death, and healing.–Ted McCoy, Leeds Elementary and Ryan Road Elementary, MA

This review was published in the School Library Journal March 2017 issue.

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25 Kid and YA Books That Lift Up Immigrant Voices Thu, 23 Mar 2017 13:00:10 +0000 170301-FO-ImmagrantStatusImmigration has been a focus in the news and public mind of late, with worldwide politicization around refugees on the move and thousands of unaccompanied Central American children entering the U.S. in search of safety. Reading stories written from the perspective of immigrant and refugee children can challenge privileged tendencies and attitudes that victimize or vilify the “other.” Simultaneously, such texts may present familiar narratives to immigrant youth, particularly titles that address more than just border crossings.

Thus, several of the recently published books here focus on controversial issues, such as violent historical and modern events that have forced people to leave everything behind, as well as the topics of documentation, deportation, family separation, and discrimination. These titles were primarily written and illustrated by #ownvoices authors, individuals of marginalized groups. Many present autobiographical or fictional stories based on childhood memories or draw upon their work with immigrant children. Countries of origin include: Afghanistan, Canada, Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Iran, Jamaica, Korea, Laos, Mexico, the Philippines, Sudan, Syria, and Vietnam. Most of the titles depict journeys to the U.S., although one book is set in unknown countries reminiscent of Syrian experiences, and another depicts Mennonite migrant workers on a circuit between Mexico and Canada.

A wordless graphic novel, a detailed foldout codex, a few bilingual books, and an easy-to-read photo-illustrated informational text augment this selection of picture books, novels, and memoirs, loosely divided into grade level categories. The websites provided complement these books with information on immigrants and refugees in the U.S., and are useful for educators and older students alike.

170301-FO-ImmagrantStatus-CVsElementary Grades

BUITRAGO, Jairo. Two White Rabbits. tr. from Spanish by Elisa Amado. illus. by Rafael Yockteng. Groundwood. 2015. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781554987412.
K-Gr 3–In this moving picture book, expressive illustrations present the different perspectives of a Central American or Mexican child and father immigrating north. Oblivious to safety concerns, the young girl innocently recounts their journey, while the visual narrative depicts the father’s protective care for his cherished child. An open-ended conclusion leaves a lingering impression, promoting critical discussions.

COY, John. Their Great Gift: Courage, Sacrifice, and Hope in a New Land. photos by Wing Young Huie. Carolrhoda. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781467780544.
K-Gr 4–Black-and-white photos, accented by a few color images, portray the diversity of 21st-century U.S. immigrants: ages, ethnicities/cultures, religions, and a range of occupations. The accompanying easy-to-read, informational text emphasizes their humanity, difficulties, labors, and successes, and asks readers: “What will we do with their great gift?”

DANTICAT, Edwidge. Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation. illus. by Leslie Staub. ebook available. Dial. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780525428091.
Gr 2-5–Vivid oil paintings depict Saya’s longing for her mother, who is being held in an immigration detention center. Although the mother’s recordings of Haitian folktales bring some respite, the girl’s misery cannot be soothed. While the father makes repeated attempts to reunite the family, ultimately it’s Saya’s letter to a newspaper that makes the difference. Audio version available from Recorded Books.

KIM, Patti. Here I Am. illus. by Sonia Sánchez. ebook available. Capstone. 2013. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781623700362; pap. $7.95. ISBN 9781479519316.
K-Gr 3–After immigrating to the U.S., the young boy in this wordless text longs for his former home. With mounting frustration, he mopes indoors until his precious red seed, brought from his native country, falls out the window. Illustrations use flexible graphic novel panels, sometimes spilling onto strategic white space, and colors that aptly express the plot’s emotional trajectory.

LAÍNEZ, René Colato. From North to South/Del Norte al Sur. illus. by Joe Cepeda. Children’s Book Pr. 2010. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9780892393046.
Gr 1-3–Endpaper maps depicting San Diego, CA, and Tijuana, Mexico, situate readers with José, who desperately desires his mother, deported two weeks earlier. Colorful, tender illustrations depict joy during a visit to Centro Madre Assunta, a refuge for immigrant women and children, as well as frustration on the return trip without her.

LANDOWNE, Youme. Mali under the Night Sky: A Lao Story of Home. illus. by author. ebook available. Cinco Puntos. 2010. Tr 17.95. ISBN 9781933693682.
Gr 1-4–Based on the experiences of artist Malichansouk Kouanchao, this book chronicles Mali’s peaceful life in Laos before civil war forced her family to flee their beloved home. Laotian terms complement the English text, and watercolor-wash illustrations evoke a sense of the girl’s loss and the slow healing that brings hope from memories.

RUURS, Margriet. Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey. tr. by Falah Raheem. illus. by Nizar Ali Badr. Orca. 2016. Tr $20. ISBN 9781459814905.
K-Gr 3–A bilingual English/Arabic text illustrated with Badr’s unique stone-and-pebble collages present the migration of young Rama and her family, forced to flee the violence of war and their idyllic Syrian village. Rama lovingly describes her home, the sadness at leaving, and the tiring, scary journey to Europe.

SANNA, Francesca. The Journey. illus. by author. Flying Eye. 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781909263994.
Gr 1-4–Narrated by an anonymous child, this title chronicles a family’s sudden migration following the father’s death during war. Worry, fear, sadness, and exhaustion accompany their arduous escape made possible by the mother’s strength and resolve. Stunning illustrations with a contrasting palette convey the family’s emotions in this unfinished, yet hopeful tale.

TONATIUH, Duncan. Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale. illus. by author. ebook available. Abrams. 2013. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781419705830.
K-Gr-2 –A drought causes Papa Rabbit to travel to El Norte for work, and his worried son Pancho follows, paying food for Señor Coyote’s guidance…until the supply runs out. Papa’s homecoming saves the day, resulting in celebrations despite the possibility of a return to El Norte. Pre-Columbian–inspired art with digital texture adds rich color to this allegory.

TROTTIER, Maxine. Migrant. illus. by Isabelle Arsenault. Groundwood. 2011. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9780888999757.
Gr 2-5–Anna is a member of a German-speaking Mennonite community originally from Canada but living in Mexico since the 1920s. Her family treks to Canada annually as migrant workers, and she longs to be a tree, rooted in one place. Tender, full-color mixed-media illustrations feature protagonists accented over pastel backdrops.

Middle Grades

AGOSIN, Marjorie. I Lived on Butterfly Hill. tr. from Spanish by E. M. O’Connor. illus. by Lee White. ebook available. S. & S./Atheneum. 2014. Tr 18.99. ISBN 9781416953449; pap. $8.99. ISBN 9781416994022.
Gr 5-8–A dictator’s rise to power results in many “disappearances” in sixth-grader Celeste’s beautiful Valparaíso, Chile. Her multigenerational, multiethnic family is affected as her parents go into hiding while Celeste is exiled to Maine, where she copes with the cold, loneliness, and a new language as she waits to return.

ALVAREZ, Julia. Return to Sender. ebook available. Yearling. 2010. pap. $6.99. ISBN 9780375851230.
Gr 4-7–Eleven-year-old Tyler and Mari alternate as narrators for this book, which humanizes immigrant child experiences. Mari is the daughter of a Mexican family hired to save Tyler’s Vermont family farm from closure. His worldview is challenged following an ICE raid as he learns that only Maria’s younger sisters have “papers.” Audio version available from Listening Library.

ARGUETA, Jorge. Somos Como las Nubes/We Are Like the Clouds. tr. by Elisa Amado. illus. by Alfonso Ruano. Groundwood. 2016. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781554988495.
Gr 3-6–In this hauntingly illustrated collection of bilingual poems, Argueta shares the fears, dreams, and border-crossing stories of children from Central America and Mexico. Their small forms move across countries atop the “La Bestia” train and by foot through the desert—until Border Patrol agents round them up for processing and they wait, like the clouds.

DIAZ, Alexandra. The Only Road. ebook available. S. & S./Paula Wiseman Bks. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481457507.
Gr 5-7–Jaime and cousin Ángela (ages 12 and 15) leave Guatemala to avoid joining, or being killed by, the drug-trafficking gang that murdered a close family member. Family sacrifices enable them to cross Mexico, the desert, the Río Grande, and the border wall to locate Jaime’s brother in New Mexico. Also available in Spanish: El Único Destino.

DUMAS, Firoozeh. It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel. ebook available. HMH. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780544612310.
Gr 4-7–When 11-year-old Iranian-born Zomorod (aka Cindy, “Like Cindy from The Brady Bunch”) moves—for the fourth time—for her father’s job, the 1979 American hostage crisis in Iran brings unanticipated challenges for the family, including possible unemployment and encounters with racism. Dumas infuses difficult family and school situations with humor and feeling. Audio version available from Brilliance.

LAI, Thanhha. Inside Out and Back Again. ebook available. HarperCollins. 2011. Tr 16.99. ISBN 9780061962783; pap. $7.99. ISBN 9780061962790.
Gr 4-6–In this free-verse novel based on the author’s childhood, 10-year-old Hà and her family escape Vietnam during the war. In anguish over their missing-in-action father, the girl and her older brothers endure the long crossing to Alabama with their mother, where Hà encounters dull food, a new language, and school bullies. The support of family and a neighbor moves Hà toward hope. Audio version available from Recorded Books.

MATEO, José Manuel. Migrant: The Journey of a Mexican Worker. illus. by Javier Martínez Pedro. Abrams. 2014. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781419709579.
Gr 3-5–In this vertically unfolding codex, with a detailed visual narrative and simple, lyrical English text (verso) repeated in Spanish (recto), a Mexican boy recounts abrupt life changes when his mother must take her two children on the arduous journey to find work in the U.S. and to search for their father already there.

RESAU, Laura. Star in the Forest. ebook available. Yearling. 2012. pap. $6.99. ISBN 9780375854101.
Gr 3-6–Eleven-year-old Zitlally’s story begins just after her father is deported to Mexico when his illegal status is discovered during a routine traffic violation. Her family strains to cope economically and emotionally, a difficult task for a preteen whose heart rests between different countries, cultures, and languages (Nahuatl, Spanish, and English).

SENZAI, N. H . Shooting Kabul. ebook available. S. & S./Paula Wiseman Bks. 2009. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781442401945; pap. $7.99. ISBN 9781442401952.
Gr 5-8–Eleven-year-old Fadi is tasked with his sister’s care as the family escapes Afghanistan for San Francisco. However, Mariam is lost amid the chaos, and the family’s grief is palpable. Subsequent middle school adjustments are made difficult by 9/11, until Fadi’s participation in the school photography club results in a surprising conclusion.

Young Adult

DE LA CRUZ, Melissa. Something in Between. ebook available. Harlequin Teen. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780373212385.
Gr 6-10–Successful high school senior Jasmine is the cheerleading captain, valedictorian, and winner of a prestigious scholarship. When her loving, hard-working Filipino parents reveal the family is undocumented, her college dreams shatter. This semiautobiographical novel presents the emotional trauma experienced by many U.S. immigrant students, while weaving in romance and teen drama. Audio version available from Blackstone Audio.

FARISH, Terry. The Good Braider. ebook available. Skyscape. 2012. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781477816288.
Gr 9 Up–Viola, age 16, recounts her immigration journey in powerful free verse. Propelled by the Sudanese civil war and the horror of rape, she walks barefoot to Cairo, navigating land mines, hunger, and loss. The teen and her mother attain refugee status, escape to Maine, and navigate their identities with new freedoms.

GRANDE, Reyna. The Distance Between Us: Young Reader’s Edition. ebook available. S.& S./Aladdin. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481463713.
Gr 6-9–In this memoir adapted for a younger audience, Grande recounts her childhood in Guerrero, Mexico, her immigration to the U.S., and her drive toward a successful academic career. The child’s voice expresses longing for parental love while also struggling with poverty, identity, health, and domestic violence. Deep sibling bonds and resilience propel her forward.

JIMÉNEZ, Francisco. Taking Hold: From Migrant Childhood to Columbia University. ebook available. HMH. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780547632308.
Gr 9 Up–This fourth title in Jiménez’s autobiographical series, all available in Spanish editions, chronicles his graduate studies at Columbia University in the late 1960s. Narrated in a sincere voice, he references life as an immigrant child of migrant workers while describing the disciplined tenacity that led to high academic and vocational goals.

NAZARIO, Sonia. Enrique’s Journey (The Young Adult Adaptation): The True Story of a Boy Determined to Reunite with His Mother. ebook available. Delacorte. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780385743273; pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780385743280.
Gr 7 Up–Seventeen-year-old Enrique leaves Honduras for the U.S. on a long and dangerous trek. Desperate for the mother who left years before, he endures violence, hunger, thirst, and deportations before reuniting with her. Their emotional scars and difficult lives promote readers’ consideration of the losses and injustices that many immigrants face.

YOON, Nicola. The Sun Is Also a Star. ebook available. Delacorte. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780553496680.
Gr 8 Up–Chance brings Jamaican-born Natasha and Daniel, son of Korean immigrants, together for a day in New York City. She seeks legal assistance to avoid deportation, while he struggles with parental expectations at odds with his love for poetry. Despite personal and cultural differences, the teens develop a romantic relationship and share their stories in alternating chapters.

Quiroa-Ruth_ContribRuth E. Quiroa, Ph.D., is an associate professor of reading and language at National Louis University in Lisle, IL.

Digital picks

BRYCS: Bridging Refugee Youth & Children’s Services. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Washington, D.C.
A project of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops/Migration and Refugee Services, this site maintains the “nation’s largest digital resource collection” to support refugee and immigrant children and families. Topics include child welfare, family strengthening, youth development, and anti-trafficking.

Migration Policy Institute. Migration Policy Institute. Washington, D.C.
A nonpartisan and nonprofit think tank, MPI focuses on the analysis of the movement of people worldwide. The site offers links to reports, fact sheets, policy statements, books, and the institute’s online journal, Migration Information Source.

National Immigrant Justice Center: A Heartland Alliance Program. National Immigrant Justice Center. Chicago, IL.
The NIJC provides legal services and advocacy for low-income immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers as well as information on detention, anti-human trafficking, LGBT rights, asylum, and unaccompanied children.


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Comfort Zone | An original comic by Gene Luen Yang Wed, 22 Mar 2017 21:36:37 +0000 Original Comic by Gene Luen Yang An early lesson in empathy inspired Gene Luen Yang. In an original comic for School Library Journal, the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature depicts the inspiration for his Reading Without Walls program, which challenges readers to read beyond their comfort zone.


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Original Comic by Gene Luen Yang Original Comic by Gene Luen Yang Original Comic by Gene Luen Yang Original Comic by Gene Luen Yang

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Click here to view the pages of this web comic in a non-slideshow format.

EH160105_GeneYangGene Luen Yang is the author of American Born Chinese, the first graphic novel
to be nominated for a National Book Award and the first to win the Printz Award.
His 2013 two-volume graphic novel Boxers & Saints was nominated for a National Book Award.

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Librarians Providing Safe Havens as Deportation Fears Loom Wed, 22 Mar 2017 18:50:16 +0000 Schools are frequently called upon to be safe havens. Caring and determined faculty, staff, and administrators do everything in their power to keep students safe, happy, and healthy while they are in school, and to send them out into the world equipped to meet its many challenges. This is why the recent executive orders pertaining to immigration, and the subsequent expanding of deportation regulations, have hit school communities particularly hard. But the news has not just stirred up fear and worry, it has also spurred many schools and districts to take action. (Learn more about the executive orders from the Department of Homeland Security and its memos on deportation, explained here by NPR).

Annie McCullough, an elementary school librarian in San Marcos, CA, describes the feeling in her school as anxious and stressed. Discussion of how best to calm and address students who are worried about their families has consumed the two most recent staff meetings. Some students in McCullough’s building are reluctant to come to school, for fear that their parents will be taken away while they are gone.

A display Jennifer Colby put up in her school lobby to encourage acceptance

A display Jennifer Colby put up in her school lobby to encourage acceptance

Jennifer Colby, the librarian at Huron High School in Ann Arbor, MI, says her school community is “very concerned and aware about the safety and feeling of belonging” among their students who are immigrants, as well as their students of different nationalities. Huron High School has a large number of students whose parents have come from all over the world to teach and study at the University of Michigan. At Huron, they are not only concerned for students affected by deportation worries but also for all of their students who feel unwelcome and marginalized in the current political climate.

In order to address the worries and danger to students, these school communities are taking action at both the classroom and district level. At Huron High School, Colby posted a pledge of solidarity in the library that students and staff were encouraged to sign. The pledge was promoted by the organization People Against Xenophobia, founded by Huron alum and current University of Michigan student Hani Ehlor. Colby also created a library display of books and resources that celebrate the diversity of their school population, a step many of the other librarians in Ann Arbor have taken as well.

A later display made by Colby to promote social justice.

A later display made by Colby to promote social justice

Jessica Freeser, the English as a second language (ESL) coordinator for Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS), describes the feeling in her community as “anxious and uncertain.” Indianapolis has a growing international population large enough to warrant the creation of its Newcomer School, which opened this year and is dedicated to helping students and families who have just arrived in the United States to succeed and thrive. Freeser’s department has been working tirelessly to educate the ESL staff on the facts surrounding the executive orders in an effort to be the best resource possible for the families they work with. Freeser and her colleagues aim to equip their students and parents with the tools and information they need to advocate for themselves and be safe.

In San Marcos, where McCullough says “tears flow, anger comes to the surface, and hard questions are asked,” they are doing everything they can to keep the message positive and empowering. They aim to ease students’ anxieties by focusing on the good in the world. This has involved charity projects, seeking out role models who triumphed over adversity, and hanging inspirational quotes around campus that “lift spirits and encourage.”

Indianapolis Public Schools, Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS), and the San Marcos Unified School District (SMUSD) have all issued statements and resolutions of support and protection for their student populations, as have many others around the nation. The SMUSD resolution, “For the Advocacy and Protection of All Students,” declares not just to maintain policies that protect students but to work with local, state, and federal lawmakers to continue the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act and to maintain schools as protected areas wherein students and families cannot be detained or deported.

The resolution from Indianapolis declares that “IPS will remain a safe and welcoming place for all students and families regardless of immigration status.” It goes on to confirm that IPS will continue policies already in place, including not requiring enrolling students to provide Social Security numbers and refraining from inquiring after student and parent immigration statuses. In Ann Arbor, superintendent of schools Jeanice Swift issued a district-wide statement of support for all AAPS students, in conjunction with a resolution from the school board. In her statement, she directs families to resources AAPS has gathered for refugee and immigrant families, and acknowledges that “each of our 17,448 students brings a unique and beautiful presence to our classrooms.”

These resolutions are more than words. They act as an invisible shield, protecting the teachers and administrators in those districts and allowing them to do what’s best for their students, with the assurance that their community stands behind them. McCullough sums up her appreciation, saying, “Because our district has stepped up and issued a statement, we all have a common goal and feel more unified and supported.”


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Beck by Mal Peet with Meg Rosoff | SLJ Review Wed, 22 Mar 2017 16:06:53 +0000 PEET, Mal with Meg Rosoff. Beck. 272p. Candlewick. Apr. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763678425.

Gr 9 Up –This final novel from the deceased Peet, completed by Rosoff, is a not-quite-YA, not-quite-adult historical fiction story of hardship after hardship. Beck is a Liverpudlian orphan, the son of a white prostitute and an African sailor. Through no choice of his own, Beck is shipped off to Canada with several other orphans to work with the Catholic Brothers. After enduring physical and [...]]]> redstarPEET, Mal with Meg Rosoff. Beck. 272p. Candlewick. Apr. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763678425.

YA-Peet-BeckGr 9 Up –This final novel from the deceased Peet, completed by Rosoff, is a not-quite-YA, not-quite-adult historical fiction story of hardship after hardship. Beck is a Liverpudlian orphan, the son of a white prostitute and an African sailor. Through no choice of his own, Beck is shipped off to Canada with several other orphans to work with the Catholic Brothers. After enduring physical and sexual abuse, Beck is sent to work on a family farm, then begins bootlegging whiskey among Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit, and eventually ends up on the ranch of a half Blackfoot woman named Grace. There is also a blind old wise Blackfoot woman (Grandma of Grace), who might feel like a familiar trope to some. There is a clear attempt to provide historical info from the Blackfoot perspective, and the Blackfoot characters are well-rounded. Readers are slowly and steadily taken through this bleak but beautifully written tale about surviving and finally finding grace. The book itself is incredibly ambitious, as was Rosoff’s task of finishing it. Beck is a passive character in his own life, but in the moments when he pushes himself to take action, readers will finally get some satisfaction. A heartbreaking, painful work that gives hope to the restorative power of true human connection. VERDICT Purchase where adult titles circulate well and the authors are popular.–Emily Moore, Camden County Library System, NJ

This review was published in the School Library Journal March 2017 issue.

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Heartless by Marissa Meyer | SLJ Audio Review Wed, 22 Mar 2017 16:02:26 +0000 MEYER , Marissa. Heartless . 12 CDs. 14:34 hrs. Macmillan Audio. Nov. 2016. $39.99. ISBN 9781427267948. digital download.

Gr 8 Up –In this dark imagining of the origin of the Queen of Hearts, Lady Catherine starts out with the dream of owning a bakery with her maid, Mary Ann. Cath’s baking skills land her the heart of the King of Hearts, but she is drawn to the mysterious court joker, Jest. As Cath begins to give her heart to [...]]]> redstarMEYER , Marissa. Heartless . 12 CDs. 14:34 hrs. Macmillan Audio. Nov. 2016. $39.99. ISBN 9781427267948. digital download.

AU-Meyer-HeartlessGr 8 Up –In this dark imagining of the origin of the Queen of Hearts, Lady Catherine starts out with the dream of owning a bakery with her maid, Mary Ann. Cath’s baking skills land her the heart of the King of Hearts, but she is drawn to the mysterious court joker, Jest. As Cath begins to give her heart to Jest and is courted by the King, the kingdom of Hearts is darkened by the appearance of the Jabberwocky. To stop this beast, Cath will have to make costly choices and in the process may lose her heart forever. Meyer has created a bittersweet twist on the tale of the Queen of Hearts, and the story is as enchanting as Lewis Carroll’s original. Through her narration, Rebecca Soler brings to life the quirky denizens of Hearts, including the evanescent Cheshire Cat, the giggling King, and the nervous White Rabbit, while also capturing Cath’s shift from hopeful baker to heartbroken and heartless queen. Soler’s voice has a storytelling quality that entrances listeners and perfectly matches Meyer’s vivid writing. VERDICT Give this to fans of Meyer’s “Lunar Chronicles,” lovers of Alex Flinn’s fairy-tale twists, and those who enjoy the classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. [“A must-have title”: SLJ 9/16 starred review of the Feiwel & Friends book.]–Sarah Flood, Breckinridge County Public Library, Hardinsburg, KY

This review was published in the School Library Journal March 2017 issue.

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Speed of Life by Carol Weston | SLJ Review Wed, 22 Mar 2017 15:59:19 +0000 WESTON, Carol. Speed of Life. 352p. ­ebook available. Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky. Apr. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781492654490.

Gr 7-10 –It’s January, and eighth grader Sofia’s mother has now been dead for nine months. Disturbed that her dad has started dating so soon, Sofia, who is half Spanish, writes to Fifteen magazine’s “Dear Kate” for advice. Kate’s thoughtful response soon has Sofia writing back multiple times, asking many of the questions that a normal teen would ask her mom—if she still had [...]]]> redstarWESTON, Carol. Speed of Life. 352p. ­ebook available. Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky. Apr. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781492654490.

YA-Weston-SpeedofLifeGr 7-10 –It’s January, and eighth grader Sofia’s mother has now been dead for nine months. Disturbed that her dad has started dating so soon, Sofia, who is half Spanish, writes to Fifteen magazine’s “Dear Kate” for advice. Kate’s thoughtful response soon has Sofia writing back multiple times, asking many of the questions that a normal teen would ask her mom—if she still had one. Sofia is horrified to discover that the mystery woman her dad is dating is none other than Dear Kate herself! Does Sofia come clean or just disappear? This slice-of-life story echoes the author’s own experience as a teen magazine advice columnist and addresses all sorts of issues: death, grieving, moving, parental dating, parental sexuality, stepsibling conflict, self-esteem, relationships, and more. This refreshing work tackles a lot of themes, but eventually Sofia does get to a better place. The target audience is likely to become engaged despite the slow pace, because Weston isn’t afraid to tackle the squirm-inducing questions common to high school freshmen too embarrassed to seek sound information from reliable sources. VERDICT Purchase where sweet and charming character-driven fiction for tweens is in demand.–Elizabeth Friend, Wester Middle School, TX

This review was published in the School Library Journal March 2017 issue.

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Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune by Pamela S. Turner | SLJ Audio Review Wed, 22 Mar 2017 15:57:06 +0000 TURNER, Pamela S. Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune. 4 CDs. 4:51 hrs. Recorded Books. Oct. 2016. $46.75. ISBN 9781501936265.

Gr 7 Up –Combining action, history, and excellent descriptions, this book shares the story of Yoshitsune, a most unlikely samurai. Spared after his father attacked a rival, Yoshitsune was raised by monks and later received instruction in the way of the samurai. Yoshitsune pledged his loyalty to his half brother Yoritomo and performed many heroic feats. Unfortunately, [...]]]> redstarTURNER, Pamela S. Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune. 4 CDs. 4:51 hrs. Recorded Books. Oct. 2016. $46.75. ISBN 9781501936265.

AU-Turner-SamuraiRisingGr 7 Up –Combining action, history, and excellent descriptions, this book shares the story of Yoshitsune, a most unlikely samurai. Spared after his father attacked a rival, Yoshitsune was raised by monks and later received instruction in the way of the samurai. Yoshitsune pledged his loyalty to his half brother Yoritomo and performed many heroic feats. Unfortunately, Yoritomo didn’t trust Yoshitsune and sent assassins to eliminate him. Turner does a masterly job of making this true adventure race along at breakneck speed, referencing modern high school cliques to describe the Japanese aristocracy vs. the samurai. Narrator Brian Nishii stuns with his smooth pronunciation of names of people and places, easily capturing Turner’s conversational phrasing and touches of sarcasm when the author remarks on the role of vanity during battle or the endless bloodletting among family members. VERDICT Fans of both fiction and nonfiction action tales will be thrilled by this engrossing true story. Sensitive readers beware: the war chronicle is full of beheadings and suicides. [“Skillful storytelling and meticulous research combine to create an epic sure to satisfy teen history buffs and thrill seekers alike”: SLJ 12/16 starred review of the Charlesbridge book.]–C.A. Fehmel, St. Louis County Library

This review was published in the School Library Journal March 2017 issue.

]]> 0 Growing Pains | Adult Books 4 Teens Wed, 22 Mar 2017 13:00:40 +0000 Librarians and publishers like to use the phrase coming-of-age to describe books with protagonists growing into adults, but I don’t think it’s a strong enough phrase for what’s going on in my house right now. My daughter is almost finished with eighth grade, and, oh, the drama! As a librarian who thoroughly enjoys working with teens, I can’t help but find the humor in her “OMG” situations, while wondering what particular events are shaping her. Middle school years are significant, and teens and adults alike appreciate a young narrator (think—Hannah Tinti’s The Good Thief and Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close). In this column, we’ll take a look at five more adult titles that feature young narrators—one Shakespeare retelling, two historical fiction novels, and two contemporary stories.

In Miranda and Caliban, Jacqueline Carey revisits Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Lyrically and expressively told, the fantasy is a coming-of-age tale of young Miranda and her only friend, both at war with magic-wielding Prospero. Familiarity with the original play isn’t necessary, but the starred review means that this book could easily be added to a school library’s collection of Shakespeare adaptations for use by AP English instructors.

Twelve-year-old Kiran arrives in rural New York from India in the 1980s in Rahul Mehta’s debut No Other World, and his maturation is a constant struggle to establish a sense of belonging. Like many immigrants, he straddles two cultures, but he also grapples with his sexuality. Kiran finally finds peace when he returns home and develops a close relationship with a hijra, someone who identifies as a third gender in India—neither male or female.

Our reviewer compares the next historical fiction novel with a work by Jean Shepherd, who wrote the classic holiday essay collection A Christmas Story. Alex George’s Setting Free the Kites lightly tackles friendship and summer jobs at a Maine amusement park. Robert and Nathan have been friends since they met in eighth grade in 1976, and their friendship supports them through punk music, the death of immediate family members, and first loves.

What animal lover wouldn’t pick up Annie Hartnett’s Rabbit Cake? The whimsical cover sets the tone, and the 12-year-old narrator of the contemporary debut novel is sweetly naive. Elvis is part of a quirky family in Freedom, AL—as evidenced by her first name. Her thorough awareness of her family’s grieving process after the death of her mother is poignant yet never cloying, and readers will appreciate seeing how her love of animals helps her cope with the loss.

From eccentric to dark—Susan Perabo’s The Fall of Lisa Bellow focuses on Meredith, a young seventh grader, who suffers from survivor’s guilt after witnessing a classmate’s kidnapping. Her coming-of-age is strongly influenced by an event that she couldn’t prevent or predict; readers will hope that Lisa is found and Meredith finds solace.


mirandaredstarCAREY, Jacqueline.Miranda and Caliban. 352p. Tor. Feb. 2017. Tr $25.99. ISBN 9780765395047.

The events of Shakespeare’s The Tempest serve as the climax to a coming-of-age story that imagines Miranda’s lonely life growing up on an island and the deep friendship between her and the wild child Caliban. Miranda’s father, Prospero, relies on magic to punish and bind, while the sprite Ariel uses cruel words. Miranda and Caliban find kindness in each other as they discover more about the world around them, but even they cannot thwart Prospero’s larger plans. In Carey’s hands, Shakespeare’s characters take on new dimensions, and his happy ending turns devastating. Very short chapters propel the story forward, and perspectives alternate between Miranda and Caliban, both of whom have unique voices that deepen as they age and begin to rebel. While teens will know more than the protagonists, they will empathize with their confusion and innocence and bristle when Ariel uses Miranda’s and Caliban’s lack of knowledge against them. Familiarity with the source material will foreshadow the conclusion, but even those who haven’t read The Tempest will feel the lingering pain of the characters long after putting down the book. VERDICT While it fully stands on its own, this beautiful and heartbreaking tale adds new depth and perspective to a timeless Shakespearean work—perfect for fans of the classics.–Jennifer Rothschild, Arlington Public Library, VA

settingredstarGEORGE, Alex. Setting Free the Kites. 336p. Putnam. Feb. 2017. Tr $27. ISBN 9780399162107.

It’s 1976, and on the first day of eighth grade, Hollis Calhoun is flushing Robert Carter’s head down the school’s toilet. Enter new boy Nathan Tilly, and the scene changes as a friendship forms. Robert and Nathan bring out the best in each other just long enough to cope with the deaths of Nathan’s father and Robert’s brother. Despite the tragedies, readers won’t feel weighed down. Like the kites Nathan sets free, the prose soars as the author tackles first loves, best friends, and clever acts of revenge. George employs a style similar to that of Jean Shepherd (author of A Christmas Story), conjuring up a run-down amusement park, a man with a toe for a thumb, a dead mongoose, a chain-smoking dragon, and more. Also included are an oddly placed World War II flashback story and an unnecessarily long epilogue, but neither will detract from readers’ enjoyment. The humor and poignancy of the boys’ parallel experiences will give teens something to consider and discuss. VERDICT A wonderful tale that’s full of boyhood charm and meaty enough to engage fans of literary historical fiction.–Pamela Schembri, Horace Greeley High School, Chappaqua, NY

RabbitcakeHARTNETT, Annie. Rabbit Cake. 344p. Tin House. Mar. 2017. Tr $15.95. ISBN 9781941040560.

Rabbit cake, made with a special aluminum mold, was for special occasions in the Babbitt family. Looking back, Elvis thinks that the first sign of danger was when her mother burned the ears of the rabbit cake meant to celebrate Elvis’s 10th birthday. Six months later, Elvis’s mother drowns, ostensibly by sleepwalking into the river. The scientifically minded protagonist investigates her mother’s death, making sense of the taxonomy of death and grief with curiosity and wry humor. Her guileless observations are often hilarious: hints of her mother’s promiscuity emerge, pieced together from a memory of her mother “pretending to milk” a man and the mystery of a parrot that perfectly imitates her mother’s voice. Meanwhile, Elvis’s father begins wearing his dead wife’s makeup, and Elvis’s 16-year-old sister Lizzie’s sleepwalking grows ever more dangerous. When a sleeping Lizzie is discovered climbing into a hot oven, their desperate father sends her to a mental institution. Elvis’s salvation comes through volunteer work at a local animal sanctuary. While she is an accurate, observant narrator, with an abundance of knowledge about the natural world, she has little success in understanding people; she puzzles over psychology texts and consults a telephone psychic. Hartnett adeptly conveys a full picture of this family’s emotional turmoil, tinged with the sincere hope of a child and the rising anxiety of an adolescent. VERDICT Teens who enjoyed the engaging voice of 11-year-old Flavia in Alan Bradley’s The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie will love Elvis Babbitt.–Diane Colson, City College, Gainesville, FL

No other worldMEHTA, Rahul. No Other World. 304p. HarperCollins/Harper. Feb. 2017. Tr $25.99. ISBN 9780062020468.

Having moved halfway across the world, the Shahs contend with life in western New York in the 1980s and 1990s. A father, mother, brother, and sister all grapple with secrets and desires that draw them toward their American neighbors, while their Indian culture and the family they left behind maintain a hold on them. At the center of the family is Kiran, a young boy coming to terms with his sexuality. Told in third person, this is an intimate meditation on the occurrences that shape us as people and the immigrant experience in the United States. Tiny details—the print on a bedspread, the tassel on a pristine loafer—fully immerse readers in the Shahs’ world. Mehta deftly draws each perspective, carefully laying bare the distance between the characters’ desires and their actions. While this novel focuses on Kiran’s growth, it also illuminates the points of view of his family members, ultimately providing a more complete picture of the protagonist’s childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Though there is some explicit content, it is never prurient, and mature teenage readers will see it as simply a piece of the puzzle that is Kiran. VERDICT The meticulously detailed tale of one Indian family, this is at once a character study and a universal immigrant story. Add to literary, multicultural, and LGBTQ collections.–Erinn Black Salge, Morristown-Beard School, Morristown, NJ

fal ofPERABO, Susan. The Fall of Lisa Bellow. 352p. S. & S. Mar. 2017. Tr $25.99. ISBN 9781476761466.

Meredith is a typical seventh grader teetering between the innocence of childhood and the worldliness of adolescence. Her adored older brother Evan sustained an injury months earlier, ending his college scholarship hopes and blinding him in one eye. Meredith, as the second child, is unsure of her role in the family. At school she is also in between: not in the popular group (though she obsesses over the girls who do rule the middle school halls) but not a total loser, either. Mean-spirited and sharp-tongued Lisa Bellow is the undisputed queen of the junior high elite, and Meredith and Lisa have little in common. Then Meredith stops into a deli after school for a soda and sees Lisa there getting a sandwich. A masked man enters, looking for money, and abducts Lisa. The popular kids, Lisa’s young single mother, and others in town join the search for the missing girl. At this point, Perabo introduces her strongest conceit: artfully cutting between scenes in which Meredith has been left behind and those in which Meredith was kidnapped along with Lisa. The true nature of these seemingly contradictory sections is left intentionally vague and should keep readers intrigued. Readers will empathize with Meredith, while older teens will also be drawn to Meredith’s mother, Claire. The pairing of typical family life with the ripped-from-the-headlines drama results in a thoughtful, unforgettable story. VERDICT A hypnotically suspenseful novel dissecting the effects of a young girl’s trauma. Purchase where trendy psychological thrillers are popular.–Tara Kehoe, formerly at the New Jersey State Library Talking Book and Braille Center, Trenton

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How To Start a Baking Club at the Library Tue, 21 Mar 2017 16:05:16 +0000 Members of the La Vista (NE) Public Library A.J., Raoul, and Audi line up to try homemade chili mac.

A.J., Raoul, and Audi are ready to try freshly made chili mac at the La Vista (NE) Public Library. Photos by Lindsey Tomsu


My personal philosophy when working with teens is that no idea is too big or too crazy. If I want to make the library a place that they can call their own, then I want to provide them with programs that meet their creative needs and interests. In other words, they give me the ideas, and I see if I can make them a reality. This is how, in 2011, the members of my Teen Advisory Board at the La Vista Public Library ended up creating the Bacon Club—eating bacon, comparing brands, comparing cooking methods, making bacon crafts, trying bacon-flavored things, and so on. With a fully functional kitchen in our library’s meeting room, I was able to make this program a reality that ran successfully for about five years.

When we were planning for the 2015–2016 school year, my teens expressed interest in morphing the Bacon Club into an actual Baking Club. As expert bacon chefs, they now wanted to branch out and try cooking real meals. We decided to spend leftover summer funds on the necessities we needed for the new club. During the school year we meet once a month, except for March and December when, during Spring Break and the holiday break, we have an all-day (11 a.m. to 8 p.m.) meeting. During the monthly meetings, the teens get about two hours to experiment with various recipes, but during the all-day meetings they get to really go Top Chef and try more complex recipes that might require a longer amount of time to make. For example, during a regular monthly meeting we baked a cake, but during our all-day holiday meeting in December, we made nearly 10 recipes, everything from ramen pizza to chili to our own flavored crackers.

Getting started

Eric checks on the status of the teens' taco-flavored Goldfish crackers.

Eric checks on the status of the teens’ taco-flavored Goldfish crackers.

There are a few ingredients needed to start a Baking Club. The great thing about such supplies is that most are reusable after the initial investment. When we purchased the following supplies, it only cost around $30. Remember, you can all of this cheap at your local dollar store or in Wal-Mart (one does not need to buy fancy teaspoons—88 cent ones are fine!). These are the must-have basics:

  • 3 mixing bowls of different sizes
  • 1 set of measuring cups
  • 1 set of measuring spoons (teaspoons and tablespoons)
  • 1 set of spatulas
  • 1 set of knives
  • 1 pair of oven mitts
  • 1 package each of baking essentials—flour, sugar, salt, pepper, baking powder, baking soda

If you are lucky enough to have access to a kitchen in your library or your city’s community center where you could take the program as outreach, we also recommend the following supplies:

  • 1 medium pan with lid
  • 1 set of cookie sheets
  • 1 cupcake tin
  • 1 pizza pan

It is also helpful to have paper plates, silverware, and napkins so the teens can divvy up their baked goods and enjoy them!

What if you don’t have a kitchen?

There are a number of great recipes out there that teens can try making with a microwave or with small appliances that can be borrowed from fellow staff members or the teens’ families, such as Crock-Pots, waffle irons, mini hot plates, electric kettles (to boil water), and so on. The one rule I enforce is that if the cookery does not belong to us, we return it cleaner than we received it. Parents are also often willing to supply a small amount of an ingredient that we only need a little bit of (one teaspoon of honey, for instance).

What should the teens cook?

The club's first-ever attempt at something more Top Chef worthy—some focaccia (it took us all forever to figure out how to pronounce it!)

The club’s first-ever attempt at something Top Chef–worthy—focaccia (it took us all forever to figure out how to pronounce it!).

Well, you happen to be in a library full of cookbooks that teens can peruse to see what kinds of recipes they would be interested in trying out. My library has a lot of children’s and teen cookbooks we used for inspiration. Once we had a pile of potential recipes, we looked at them more in depth to see what supplies would be needed, what we would have to buy, how much it would cost, how long it would take to make, etc.

One of their favorite recipes that requires an oven is making their own flavored crackers. There are a number of recipes out there to consult, but they all use the same basic ingredients. Get some cheddar Goldfish and mix in seasonings of their choice, add some vegetable oil, spread out on a cookie sheet and cook at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. Our favorite was our own taco-flavored Goldfish!

A great, non-oven recipe is for pizza waffles. All you need is a waffle iron, frozen pizza dough, and pizza toppings. Roll out the dough, cut into waffle squares, place one piece of dough as the bottom, insert your favorite toppings (pepperoni, cheese, etc.), place a top piece of dough, and then cook until golden brown. Dip into some marinara sauce—pizza waffle! These are fun to make and really delicious. My teens also enjoyed making their own guacamole and salsa in Crock-Pots for a Super Bowl party.

The benefits of A baking club

Such a program is both educational and fun. The teens have fun making things they can eat while, at the same time, learning about cooking. I teach them kitchen safety at the beginning (and many will refrain from a task if they do not think they can handle it, such as cutting or reaching into the oven). They also learn about reading recipes, converting measurements— and succeed in making something out of nothing. Plus, staff members benefit too, as they get to taste test all the leftovers. The teens are just thrilled to have “outsiders” try their food and comment.


Lindsey Tomsu is a 2013 Library Journal Mover & Shaker who just became a teen/YA librarian at Algonquin Area (IL) Public Library District after eight years at La Vista (NE) Public Library.




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Teens Review Survival YA, Margaret Stohl’s Latest, and More Tue, 21 Mar 2017 15:33:51 +0000 From a compelling tale set during Hurricane Katrina to contemporary novels about overcoming grief and reality TV, these new works inspire high praise from the Kitsap teen reviewers.

Biren_Last ThingBIREN, Sara. The Last Thing You Said. Abrams/Amulet. Apr. 2017. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781419723049.

Gr 8 Up—Lucy’s best friend Trixie died over the summer when her heart stopped working while she was swimming. Trixie happened to also be Lucy’s boyfriend’s little sister. The two of them blame the death on themselves and are swallowed with grief. Lucy longs for Ben, but there is always an awkwardness between them. It only gets worse when painters move in next to Lucy, and Lucy falls in love with their son, Simon. Lucy tries to find who she cares about more, Ben or Simon.

I like the color and font of the cover, the image reflects on the plot of the book really well.

I liked how the chapters alternate character’s perspectives. I felt like I really got to know the characters. The book was very exciting and left me wanting more.—Emily H., 12

Keyser_Pointe, ClawKEYSER, Amber. Pointe, Claw. Carolrhoda. Apr. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN9781467775915.       

Gr 9 Up—I refuse to recommend the casual observance of my soul, however, please do not pass this by. It might just change your life.

To have your soul written is an uncanny feeling, but I recommend it to any and everyone who has the opportunity.

I can’t choose the best part of this book. This was the best book I have ever read. Truly. It felt like Keyser just reached in and wrote my soul. She grabbed my heart and forced it into the pages, still beating, hot and heavy, burning any misconception to the ground. The words are written in my own lifeblood. The characters have run away with my heart, stamped on it, forgotten it, and broken it into pieces. Each one of them has touched me, and I will never forget it. The clarity, grace, and elegance of this story make it the truth. The alpha and omega of my soul. A part of me. My mind.

I have read this book more times than I can count and I’m in Pre-Calc. I didn’t sleep for two days when I got it because I couldn’t stop reading it. I almost refused to let my friend borrow it. This book consumed and destroyed me. This book was both the light and darkness of a truth so overpowering that it got me in its clutches and will never let go. I have drowned in the wave of clarity, opened my eyes to the confusion, have peered into the depths of the deep and the vault of the sky inside my own mind and I O Sullivan_Between Two Skiescan tell you, you do not find the truth easily, but when you do, it never leaves you. I am murdered, reanimated, made anew. I am the story. Pointe, Claw, and all.—Olivia V., 13      

O’SULLIVAN, Joanne. Between Two Skies. Candlewick. Apr. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763690342.

Gr 7 Up— Evangeline Riley is one of many Evangeline’s in her family, as the name has been passed down to span a rich history of generations. However, that history and its location in Bayou Perdu, New Orleans is at risk of being washed away when Hurricane Katrina is predicted to strike.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the cover; I didn’t find it very visually appealing.

The most compelling aspect of the book was the setting. It was well described and really helped me get into the story.—Isabel T., 15

Stohl_RoyceSTOHL, Margaret. Royce Rolls. Freeform. Apr. 2017. Tr 18.99. ISBN 9781484732335.

Gr 8 Up—Bentley Royce shares a reality show with her family, and they struggle to find a way to continue their show with the prospect that season six might be canceled.

The cover featured the main character and that was about it. It didn’t really reflect the contents and it wasn’t the best cover.

Many parts of the book were confusing and the plot sometimes felt chunky.

The plot was full of surprises. This story definitely hooks readers, and the ending will leave you shocked.—Veronica C., 13

Thebo_Dreaming the BearTHEBO, Mimi. Dreaming the Bear. Random. Apr. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399557507.     

Gr 7 Up— Making the transition from urban England to the rugged Yellowstone National Park is about as easy as it sounds. Meaning not very. Especially, if like our main character Darcy, illness, loneliness, and a total lack of Wi-Fi are involved. That is, until she finds an injured mother bear who lost her cubs to poachers. Darcy can’t help but care for the bear; she makes Darcy feel truly alive.

I really liked the cover. It was artistic and visually interesting, as opposed to clean-cut and boring. I thought the silhouette of the main character inside of the bear was creative. It definitely reflects the contents.

My favorite part of this book was its brevity. Don’t get me wrong, I love long novels, but sometimes you’re just looking for something to whip through on a weekend afternoon. Especially if you’re bogged down with work.

The story was truly compelling, well-composed and -written. It was, to quote the author, “spare, yet poetic.” I wish there were more books like this out there. I loved it!—Isabel T., 15


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Check Out 8 New Graphic Novels for Teens Tue, 21 Mar 2017 14:00:47 +0000 KindredGraphicCoverThe latest crop of graphic novels includes an adaptation of Octavia Butler’s classic time-travel novel Kindred, a witty reboot of The Flintstones, and two superhero stories, one that takes itself seriously and one that doesn’t. A couple of action and suspense stories and a comic-book Philosophy 101 course round out this season’s offerings, with plenty to read for every taste.

BUTLER, Octavia. Kindred. adapt. by Damian Duffy. illus. by John Jennings. Abrams. Jan. 2017. ISBN 9781419709470

Gr 7 Up—Jennings and Duffy bring a new immediacy to Butler’s classic time-travel novel. Dana, a black woman, and her husband Kevin, who is white, live in the 1970s, but suddenly Dana is yanked back to 19th-century Maryland, a time and place where, as a black woman, she has no agency at all. In order to survive, she must quickly learn to adapt to this strange world, including living as a HGIRL-TPB-FC-FNL-600x900slave. The violence is wrenching at times, but never over the top; what’s more disturbing, ultimately, is seeing this story through the eyes of someone who has been rendered powerless by the society around her.

GUDSNUK, Kristen. Henchgirl. Dark Horse. Mar. 2017. ISBN 9781506701448

Gr 9 Up—Mary Posa is a member of a butterfly-themed criminal gang, but she’s too soft to be a real baddie—until her boss injects her with a special serum to make her extra evil. Henchgirl is a lighthearted send-up of superhero comics, featuring a group of 20-somethings, some of whom have superpowers (one grows carrots out of her arm) and others who don’t. This 320-page graphic novel collects the first 11 issues of the comic, which was originally published by Scout Comics.

snow bline-31MASTERS, Ollie. Snow Blind. illus. by Tyler Jenkins. BOOM! Studios. Jan. 2017. ISBN 9781608869251

Gr 9 Up—After he posts a goofy photo of his father on the Internet, a teenager learns that his family is in the witness protection program—and a figure from the past shows up to settle an old score. Violent but not gory, Snow Blind is a suspense tale that at its heart is really about identity and family. Set in Alaska, this graphic novel has a strong sense of atmosphere, heightened by Jenkins’s beautiful—and surprisingly colorful—watercolor art.

hereticsNADLER, Steven. Heretics! illus. by Ben Nadler. Princeton University Pr. Jun. 2017. ISBN 9780691168692

Gr 9 Up—Nadler, a professor of philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, provides a quick introduction to the basic figures and concepts of modern philosophy as it was developed in the 17th century. René Descartes, Francis Bacon, Baruch Spinoza, and other philosophers pop up to discuss, and sometimes argue, about the nature of matter, the existence of God, mind-body dualism, the structure of society, and even the existence of knowledge itself. The authors use quotes from the philosophers themselves and quickly place them in historical context, and the lively illustrations keep the narrative from flintstones_getting bogged down.

RUSSELL, Mark. The Flintstones, Vol. 1. illus. by Steve Pugh. DC. Mar 2017. ISBN 9781401268374

Gr 7 Up—Last year, DC started making comics based on old Hanna-Barbera cartoons, but in darker, more mature versions. The rebooted Flintstones is a sharp, funny political satire that refers back to the old cartoons while sending up politics, religion, and culture in a very modern way. The animals still serve as household appliances, but now they have feelings and emotions; Fred and Barney still work at the quarry, but Mr. Slate is trying to exploit the Neanderthals (who are exasperated at constantly being referred to as Cro-Magnons); and down at the Science Cave, a prehistoric Carl Sagan is predicting the end of the world. Russell gave us Prez last year, and he is clearly on his game with this comic as well. This volume compiles six issues of the monthly comic.

shattered warriorSHINN, Sharon. Shattered Warrior. illus. by Molly Ostertag. First Second. May 2017. ISBN 9781626720893

Gr 6 Up—Aliens called Derichets have taken over the earth and treat humans as second class citizens. Colleen, a young woman from a wealthy family, lives alone in her decaying mansion; most of her family was killed in the war, and she works in a factory for companionship and money. Things start to get better when she becomes friends with Jann, a member of a violent group of outlaws, and she takes in her orphaned niece. The stakes get higher for everyone when she joins a guerilla group bent on overthrowing the Derichets. There’s a familiar feel to this tale of revolution against an oppressive society, but it’s well done despite some implausible turns.

spill zone_WESTERFELD, Scott. Spill Zone, Vol 1. illus. by Alex Puvilland. First Second. May 2017. ISBN 9781596439368

Gr 10 Up—Addison lives on the outskirts of a truly weird contaminated zone: Strangely deformed animals wander the multicolored landscape, bowling pins float in a figure eight, and zombie-like humans hang suspended in space, their eyes blank, occasionally moaning something that’s almost like words. Addison’s parents, doctors at the local hospital, disappeared on the night of the catastrophe that caused all this, and her sister Lexa was left unable to talk. Addison photographs the spill zone and sells her photos to a wealthy collector, but when the North Koreans get involved, things start getting even weirder. And then there’s Lexa’s doll, which seems to have a mind of its own. This story is creepy, suspenseful, and visually arresting, but be warned that this is just the first volume, so there’s no resolution yet.

super-man_YANG, Gene Luen. New Super-Man, Vol. 1: Made in China. illus. by Victor Bogdanovic. DC. June 2017. ISBN 978-1401270933

Gr 7 Up—After his attack on a supervillain goes viral, Chinese teenager Kong Kenan is recruited by a shadowy group who are planning to start their own superhero team, the Justice League of China. But Kong’s heroic actions weren’t quite what they seemed, and neither is anything else. New Super-Man has the elements of a traditional superhero comic, complete with villain-punching and snarky dialogue of the originals, but with a new setting and a few unexpected twists. This volume collects the first six issues.





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Music Education, via an LP Appreciation Society Mon, 20 Mar 2017 19:41:26 +0000 An LP Appreciation Society sampling (top); student connoisseurs (center); spinning a classic.

An LP Appreciation Society sampling (top);
student connoisseurs (center); spinning a classic.

It’s 3:30 p.m. at my high school library, and freshman Amanda walks in with a Beatles LP, eager to get to the turntable first. She lowers the needle on her chosen track and starts shimmying to “The Magical Mystery Tour.” So begins a typical meeting of our LP Appreciation Society, meeting every other Tuesday.

Our Society is for people with a passion for music. In a time when everything is fast and furious, showing students how to slow down and discover music is a privilege. The group has become popular. The students know I’m a hopeless music nerd. I bought my first record when I was 10—and never stopped searching through dusty bins for LP gems, spending more money than I should on music. As a school librarian, my passion has shifted from avid collector to purveyor and sojourner.

We have strict rules. First: No phones during Society time. I want us to engage, for an hour, in a totally analog, distraction-free environment. Second: No interrupting—unless it’s about the music.

I try to convey the thrill of discovery. In the ‘80s, I had long conversations with record-store clerks and pored through fanzines, and Spin, Creem, and Rolling Stone. That was my (pre-Internet) research. Imagine that!

We dig into the liner notes and discuss. Who is in the band? So you like the way this record sounds? Who is the producer or engineer? They might have worked with other bands you would also like. What about the recording studio? Through this process of talking, reading, and listening, we are researching, inquiring, and developing tastes and opinions.

The mornings after our sessions, I compile meeting liner notes with track listings and discussion recaps. I note what we discussed, listened to, and concluded. I include clips of the songs from YouTube and information about the artists, usually gathered from Wikipedia or

Want to start an LP Appreciation Society at your school? Here’s how.

• Speak to administrators and get approval.

• Promote. A colleague helped me make eye-popping posters, which we hung all over the school. Announcements promoted the club throughout the week before our first meeting.

• Make general rules—and make sure students agree to them.

• Have good equipment. I started with a portable record player, which sounded terrible. I upgraded to a Technics turntable, a Pioneer receiver, and pair of Infinity speakers. Students get why this listening experience is superior to using MP3s or earbuds.

• Get the word out to staff and faculty. You might be surprised who shows up to your meeting!

• Have a theme for every session. For example, in February, we focused on soul music in honor of Black History Month.

Geoffrey Greenberg is a librarian at Maine West High School in Des Plaines, IL.

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“Rock Star” Librarians Article Hits Sour Note | Opinion Mon, 20 Mar 2017 16:59:44 +0000 RockStar_LibrarianAn article entitled “The ‘Rock Star’ Librarians Who Choose What Your Kids Read,” published in the Wall Street Journal on March 5, 2017, caused some school librarians to question how the general public perceives our profession. The article highlighted the work of four individuals and their influence in marketing books to children. The voices featured in the article included John Schumacher (Scholastic’s Ambassador for School Libraries); Colby Sharp, co-founder of the “Nerdy Book Club” and co-host of “The Yarn”  blog and podcasts, hosted by School Library Journal; Travis Jonker, SLJ‘s “100 Scope Notes” blogger and “The Yarn” co-host; and Matthew Winner, a co-founder of “All The Wonders,”  host of the All The Wonders podcast, and co-author of this article.

Each took to social media to publicly express their disappointment in response to what they considered to be a misrepresentation of school librarians and the lack of diversity among the voices featured in the article. The article missed an opportunity to tell the story of a dedicated and diverse group of professionals who work tirelessly to inspire children to be readers.

The WSJ piece struck a chord with many, largely because the subjects of the article are all white men in their mid-30’s, which is a misrepresentation of the profession. The reporter interviewed other educators as well, but their comments did not make it into the piece. Nerdy Book Club co-founder Donalyn Miller, Blogging Through The Fourth Dimension’s Pernille Ripp, and Newbery Award-winning author Katherine Applegate all shared their frustration via Twitter and Facebook at being interviewed and then left out. The presence of women in school libraries and children’s literature was conspicuously absent. While we felt as hurt, angry, and frustrated as others, we have also begun to face the uncomfortable fact that we are part of the problem.

The fact that diverse voices weren’t heard, valued, or represented in the WSJ article made us look more closely at the people we look to as leaders, the authors and role models we invite to our schools, the books we choose to read, review, and purchase. We need to do more, and we need to be better. If we want our students to see themselves on our bookshelves and in our programming, we need to actively work toward that goal. How can we expect the world (or the Wall Street Journal) to see school libraries as places where diversity is honored and celebrated if we are not working to make them that way?

We reached out to a few individuals we look to as leaders on the topic of diversity in libraries and literature, and asked them: What can I do next week, next month, and next year to cultivate diversity in my collection and program?

Kathy Burnette, middle school librarian and author of “The Brain Lair” blog, has this practical advice:

Next week: It’s still Women’s History Month. Find a hidden figure to discuss next week with your students. Post pictures, biographies, show a video, just bring this phenomenal woman to life for your students.

Next month: Find out where you stand on the Cultural Proficiency Continuum. Try to do some activities that will help you move towards proficiency.

Next year: Make a plan to implement Teaching Tolerance’s Perspectives for a Diverse America curriculum. If that seems overwhelming, pick a single grade to focus on, buy the books needed for that grade, and start your journey with those students. Each year, as those students move up, add the next range.

Ellen Oh, author and We Need Diverse Books cofounder, offers this:

Challenge your thinking.

What do I mean by that? Well, I am always struck by how all of us can get trapped into black-and-white ways of thinking that we only become aware of when it is challenged. We don’t know what we don’t know. It takes another perspective to even open our eyes and then our automatic reaction tends to be denial, rejection. As if this new perspective is saying we are wrong or bad or some other negative instead of thinking, hey, I’m learning something new that I didn’t know before. I think the problem with the lack of diversity is the number of people who still haven’t changed their old ways of thinking. Who haven’t recognized that racism and sexism and bigotry are a systemic problem. Instead of taking these challenges personally, we must apply them to the bigger societal issue. Instead of immediately being defensive, we must challenge our ways of thinking. Only then can true dialogue happen, and diversity will not just be a discussion piece but a true way of life.

Donalyn Miller’s advice is brief and powerful:

Seek out diverse titles that do not show diversity as an issue or problem in the story.  So many titles portray what makes the child diverse as an issue or source of conflict in the book, such as civil rights marches and slavery. While these stories should be told and read, children need positive, affirming portrayals that do not reinforce marginalization or “white man rescue” narratives.

Award lists (such as the Coretta Scott King, Pura Belpre, Schneider Family, and Stonewall awards) are also a good place to start, but they are not enough. It’s also not enough simply to seek out titles with characters who are people of color, differently abled, or LGBTQ. We must find authors and illustrators who can represent those diverse perspectives as well. We need to make representation and diversity a priority when deciding which authors, illustrators, and role models we invite into our schools, lift up in our teaching, or include in our book lists. We need to show our students that heroes and leaders come in many forms.

When planning your next author visit, ask yourself, “Does this person represent an experience or perspective that is different from the voices our students are used to hearing every day?”

When creating a book list for parents, your school, or in consideration for a book award, ask yourself, “Does my list represent not only a diversity of culture and experience within the characters, but also within the authors and illustrators who created the books?”

When purchasing books for your classroom or school library, ask yourself, “Will the stories and lives depicted in these books expand the understandings of the readers accessing them, foster their tolerance for one another’s differences, and inspire them to ask questions and seek out new knowledge?”

This takes time and effort, and we are going to make mistakes. The worst thing we can do is let this conversation fade away, as it has already begun to do in our social media feeds. Remember what this feels like, so we can take the necessary and difficult steps to change the story.

Where can you find ongoing conversations about diversity and representation throughout children’s literature? Start here!

Addie Matteson is a middle school librarian at the Westminster Schools in Atlanta, GA. Matthew Winner is an elementary library media specialist in Elkridge, MD and a co-founder of “All the Wonders.”


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