Today marks the beginning if Pride Month, a celebration created to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising. While great strides have been made in securing equal rights for members of the LGBTQIA+ community, the work is clearly not done as evidenced by a number of new anti-gay laws as well as book and program challenges in school and libraries. In fact, in 2021 half of the 10 most challenged and banned books were books with LGBTQIA+ content.
Why is this so concerning? Because representation matters. For LGBTQ youth, it can be a matter of life and death. Seeing positive, realistic portrayals of queer characters is life-affirming. But books written by and/or about LGBTQIA+ characters aren’t just for for queer kids. These books can help cisgender, heterosexual readers understand the experiences of their gay friends and family members. Reading about the lives and experiences of people who are different from us helps build empathy and understanding.
I sometimes forget how lucky I am to be in a profession where my colleagues and I share book recommendations with one another almost daily. And, even better, I regularly also hear about titles that aren’t even out yet.
A couple of weeks ago, my good fortune was rewarded once again when I attended Cuyahoga County Public Library’s “Youth Book Buzz”. This virtual event offered several publishers, including Norton Books, Penguin Random House, Workman and Baker and Taylor, an opportunity to share some of their new Summer and Fall children and teen book releases. Librarians all over Ohio were invited to learn about hundreds of forthcoming books to be prepared to recommend that “perfect” new title to patrons and parents.
Here are just a few books that caught my fancy from that day:
The Ogress and the Orphans by Kelly Barnhill is a fantasy for readers aged 10 and up and is about the power of generosity and love, and how a community suffers when it loses sight of those things. Already published in March, it’s technically not a forthcoming title, but I still can’t wait to get my hands on it.
Salt and Sugar by Rebecca Carvalho will be published in November. In this romantic comedy, Lari Ramires falls hard for Pedro Molina, but knows, as the grandchildren of two rival Brazilian bakeries, their love can never be. With a beautiful setting, a star-crossed romance and amazing-sounding food, this new teen novel will be one to devour.
A Library is a lyrical picture book by poet Nikki Giovanni with illustrations by fine artist Erin Robinson. Together they have crafted a love letter to the magic places that libraries are. A Library will be published in September this year, and while it might seem obvious, I will be sure to check it out.
The Flamingo by Guojing is my kind of illustrated book. This wordless, graphic novel/chapter book follows an imaginative girl who becomes obsessed with flamingoes while on a beach vacation with her grandmother. I can already tell that this title, out in September, will make a great holiday gift.
Elephants Remember by Jennifer O’Connell is a nonfiction picture book that tells the story of Lawrence Anthony and his animal reserve in South Africa. There, he developed a deep bond he with the matriarch of an elephant herd that he helped to save. Look for it in October.
Beatrice Likes the Dark by April Genevieve Tucholk and illustrated by Khoa Le is picture book that will be published in September. It is heartwarming, slightly spooky tale about two very different sisters, Beatrice and Roo, who learn to celebrate their individuality, understanding that love runs deeper than their differences. I’m looking forward to reading this one to my favorite four-year-old.
While these titles are (almost) all too new to be in our catalog. Make sure you look for them starting this Summer. In the meantime, visit us at Rocky River Public Library and we’ll suggest some other great books for you to read.
I love Jason Reynolds. His books are always powerful, beautiful, heartbreaking and hopeful, and his newest offering, produced with his best friend, does not disappoint. In fact, it is so stunning that after enjoying a library copy I immediately purchased a copy for my personal collection.
Reynolds penned three long sentences. Griffin filled 300 pocket-sized moleskin pages of art. Together they capture the feelings of fear and uncertainty most of us felt during 2020. Around the world and in our own communities people were isolate, separated. By Covid. By politics. But also, people took to the streets to protest. All the while, we sat glued to the news. Mostly bad news. It was a long, dark year. But not entirely without hope.
This book is almost 400 pages long and weighs almost 2 pounds, but you can read it in 15 minutes. Or linger over each drawing. Or revisit favorite pages. It’s a treasure.
These are a few pages that stuck out to me and I think they are excellent examples of the wide range of feelings expressed throughout the book. The next time someone says they don’t like poetry, hand them this and see if you win them over!
Who killed Brooke Donovan? It’s the biggest mystery of the summer, and everyone in Castle Cove thinks it’s the wrong guy. Fans of One of Us Is Lying and Riverdale can’t miss this page-turning who-done-it that’s sure to be the next must read Young Adult thriller!
Last summer, Alice Ogilvie’s basketball-star boyfriend Steve dumped her. Then she disappeared for five days. She’s not talking, so where she went and what happened to her is the biggest mystery in Castle Cove. Or it was, at least. But now, another one of Steve’s girlfriends has vanished: Brooke Donovan, Alice’s ex-best friend. And it doesn’t look like Brooke will be coming back. . . Enter Iris Adams, Alice’s tutor. Iris has her own reasons for wanting to disappear, though unlike Alice, she doesn’t have the money or the means. That could be changed by the hefty reward Brooke’s grandmother is offering to anyone who can share information about her granddaughter’s whereabouts. The police are convinced Steve is the culprit, but Alice isn’t so sure, and with Iris on her side, she just might be able to prove her theory. In order to get the reward and prove Steve’s innocence, they need to figure out who killed Brooke Donovan. And luckily Alice has exactly what they need–the complete works of Agatha Christie. If there’s anyone that can teach the girls how to solve a mystery it’s the master herself. But the town of Castle Cove holds many secrets, and Alice and Iris have no idea how much danger they’re about to walk into.
Two Truths and A Lie by April Henry
A group of teens are trapped in an old motel with a murderer in this chilling YA mystery by New York Times bestselling author April Henry.
Nell has always wanted to be an actor, but doubts her ability. As a member of her school’s theater program, she prefers working backstage. On the way to a contest, an unexpected blizzard strands her acting troupe in a creepy motel. Soon they meet a group of strangers from another high school–including the mysterious and handsome Knox, who insists they play the game Two Truths and a Lie. When it’s Nell’s turn, she draws a slip of paper inked in unfamiliar handwriting: I like to watch people die. I’ve lost count of how many people I’ve killed. Suddenly a night of harmless fun turns into a matter of life and death. As guests go missing, it becomes clear that a murderer is hiding in their midst ready to strike again. In a room full of liars and performers, the truth is never quite what it seems. Nell is going to have to act like her life depends on it–because it does.
From New York Times bestselling author Jessica Goodman comes a twisty new thriller about three best friends, one elite summer camp, and the dark secrets that lead to a body in the lake.
Camp Alpine Lake is the only place where Goldie Easton feels safe. She’s always had a special connection to the place, even before she was old enough to attend. The camp is the lifeline of Roxwood, the small town she lives in. Alpine Lake provides jobs, money and prestige to the region. Few Roxwood locals, though, get to reap the rewards of living so close to the glam summer that camp, with its five-figure tuition and rich kids who have been dumped there for eight weeks by their powerful parents. Goldie’s one of them. Even with her “townie” background, Goldie has never felt more at home at camp and now she’s back as a counselor, desperate for summer to start and her best friends, Ava and Imogen, to arrive. Because Goldie has a terrible dark secret she’s been keeping and she is more in need of the comfort than ever. But Goldie’s not the only person at camp who has been lying. When a teen turns up dead in the lake late one night, she knows that the death couldn’t have been an accident. She also knows that Ava was at the lake that same night. What did Ava see and what does she know? Why hasn’t she said anything to Goldie about the death? Worse–what did Ava do? But asking questions offers no answers, only broken bonds of lifelong friendship, with hidden danger and betrayals deeper than Goldie ever imagined.
YA mystery lovers are in for a fantastic summer of reading!
I have always struggled to appreciate poetry, which is why I am always surprised when I read and love a novel in verse. Every time. I read two this month and they were both amazing.
Me (Moth) by Amber McBride. Moth, named for a fairy in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, is grieving the loss of her family. When she meets Sani, she recognizes another lost soul, another lonely person. Together they embark on a road trip. A quest. A search for roots and ancestors.
I went in to this book knowing nothing about it and I recommend you do the same. Just know it’s beautiful and engaging. It’s full of Earth magic and voodoo and Native imagery along with nods to Greek mythology and Shakespeare. A truly lovely read.
Ain’t Burned All The Bright by Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin. I listened to this one while following along with the book. In about 10 sentences and 300 pages of art, the Jasons tell the story of what if feels like to be Black in America today. This manifesto is brilliant. Dark and vulnerable, fierce and hopeful, it’s a stunning visual experience.
Finally, the novel in verse that started it all for me:
That weekend was supposed to be a fun, secret getaway. Ditching prom for a weekend of hiking, camping, drinking, just Claire and her best friends, Kat and Jesse sounds like a dream. But something goes horribly wrong and Claire can’t tell anyone what happened. She has no idea why she was the only one to come down from the mountain where all three hiked. Claire struggles to regain her memories and as the months pass with no news of her friends’ whereabouts she grows more frustrated. Taking matters in to her own hands, she resolves to get answers. This was a fun thriller. Complex relationships, plenty of red herrings, and big twist will keep readers wondering about what really happened that weekend. If you like a slow-burning mystery and unreliable narrators and a whole lot of karma, check out That Weekend.
Tress Montor had status in Amontillado, Ohio until her prominent parents vanished without a trace while driving her then best friend, Felicity Turnado, home one night seven years ago. After being orphaned Tress went to live with her grandfather at his wildlife attraction, known by the locals as the “White Trash Zoo”. Tress’s fall from grace was swift and her friendship with Felicity was over. Tress could not accept Felicity’s claim that she had no memory of that fateful night. So Tress does what she needs to in order to get by and she stews and plots until she has the perfect plan to get Felicity to talk. At a Halloween party in an abandoned house Tress lures Felicity to the basement, where she begins to bury Felicity alive behind a brick wall that she lays a row at time. Meanwhile, upstairs, the town’s teens suspect nothing. They are falling victim to the flu-like illness that is spreading through Amontillado. Also, a panther from the zoo is on the loose. Inspired by Edgar Allen Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado, this is another dark and mesmerizing offering from Mindy McGinnis. The second book in the duology, The Last Laugh, is also available.
Fairy tales are a staple of childhood-damsels in distress, magic, and happy endings, right? Wrong. Grimm’s tales were the things of nightmares and author and artist Karly West is here to tell the REAL stories. If you are a fan of dark history, dark humor, and the macabre in general, pay attention, this post is for you!
The Scholarly Banana (check out those glasses) is your tour guide on a journey into the real, gruesome, and down right bonkers origin of both well known and lesser known Grimm’s fairy tales. Fitcher’s Birdwas one of the latter for me. It involves a kidnapping/murderous wizard, village girls whose curiosity leads to their downfall, and a girl dipped in honey and covered in feathers who saves the day. Seriously. The Juniper Tree stars an insanely evil stepmother who turns her murdered stepson into a lawn ornament AND a human stew. Seriously. Dark. Stuff. And yet, the claymation figures are adorable! Everything about these tales are delightfully macabre and charming and the storytelling with commentary is snarky and droll.
In conclusion, “THINK FAIRY TALES MEETS CLIFFS NOTES MEETS ADULT SWIM CLAYMATION…MEETS A BANANA!” ~Karly West
Want to learn MORE? You know you do! Karly West will be joining us in person to talk more about the dark history of fairytales while we make our own grim characters. Join us on Saturday, March 26, 10:00am-12:00pm for Sculpting Stories: The Grim History of Fairy Tales with Karly West. This program is part of our new Intergenerational series for teens and their favorite adult! Registration is required, polymer clay will be provided, and participants will be entered into a raffle to win copies of Karly’s books.
Happy Valentine’s Day! Why not use today as a good excuse to show some love to one of your favorite books and give it another read? Personally, I love to revisit A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. First published in 1962, this young adult fantasy novel won the Newbery Medal, the Sequoyah Book Award, and the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award.
Thirteen-year-old Meg Murry is unhappy. Although really smart, she struggles in school, she faces bullies on a daily basis and more than anything, wishes her missing physicist father would come home. Life for Meg is forever changed when she meets her eccentric new neighbors, Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Who, and their third companion, the disembodied voice of Mrs. Which. These three strangers are actually supernatural beings who transport Meg, along with her small brother, Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin O’Keefe on a journey through time and space in search of Mr. Murry, who disappeared while working on a government project.
When I first read A Wrinkle in Time as a middle-schooler, I loved the book for its girl-power messages and for how it introduced me to the idea of time travel and got me interested in science. Today, when I reread this adventure-filled, coming of age story about the fight between Good and Evil, it is like being wrapped in a cozy blanket of nostalgia. Go ahead and rediscover your own favorite book today.
It’s Banned Books Week again, and now more than ever, it is important to talk to about censorship and the right to read. We as librarians stand against censorship and banning books, and in fact, some of my favorite books are on the list of the most frequently challenged books.
In honor of this important week, here are some of my favorite books from the list:
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
A powerful, moving story ripped straight from the headlines, of a Black girl who was the only witness to her friend’s death at the hands of a police officer; this book is number 30 of the 100 most challenged books of the decade.
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
An excellent graphic memoir that details the author’s childhood growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution; I read this in college and it changed my perspective on regular people living in the Middle East. Number 40.
The Giver by Lois Lowry
I read this dystopian classic in grade school, and it has remained one of my favorite books. It truly helped me see the world differently. This one is number 61.
Saga by Brian K. Vaughan
A beloved series of science fiction space opera graphic novels, Saga is often challenged in libraries due to violence and sexual content. This series come in at number 76 on the list of most challenged books of the decade.
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds Number two on the list of most challenged books of 2020, this important book teaches racism to children of a new generation.
These are my favorite banned books, but plenty of books are challenged in libraries every day. To participate in Banned Books Week yourself, check out the Banned Books Week website for challenges, activities, interviews with authors, and more.