Yes, We Need Diverse Books

Everyone deserves to be seen. As a librarian, I have the opportunity to work with children, teens and adults on a daily basis. One of my goals as a public servant is to make each person I interact with feel seen no matter who they are. However, being seen goes beyond just being acknowledged in our daily interactions with others. Another component of my job is working with youth of all ages and connecting them with books that will enrich their lives and help them reach their full potential. Books are an important way to help young people feel seen. Not only do they see themselves reflected in stories and images, but they also become familiar with the experiences of others. I touched on this briefly in my blog post last month.

Connecting kids with books in which they are reflected can be problematic because there is an imbalance of representation in which a large percentage of children’s and young adult books only reflect the mainstream white experience. The current publishing industry does not reflect the rich diversity of the children in the United States. There are strides being made by such groups as We Need Diverse Books and an increase in the amount of books being published by people of color. There is a lot more progress that needs to be made and KT Horning discusses this in great depth on the Cooperative Children’s Book Center blog.

The recently published children’s and young adult books highlighted below are a celebration of diversity and capture the experiences of immigrants and their children, African Americans, the LGBTQ community, indigenous women and more. They just skim the surface of the diverse books that can be found within our collections at the Everett Public Library.

A Different Pond by Bao Phi

pond

This beautifully illustrated Caldecott honor book is based on an experience that Bao Phi (a prominent performance poet) had as a child. It captures him and his father fishing in the early morning hours in Minnesota where his family settled after leaving Vietnam. They are fishing for food, not just enjoyment. The story captures a simple, yet poignant experience shared by father and son. Through this experience we learn about some of the struggles his parents faced in America along with some of the trauma they experienced in Vietnam. The story is illustrated by Thi Bui who also came to America from Vietnam as a young girl.

A Family is a Family is a Family by Sara O’Leary/illustrated by QinLeng

family

O’Leary captures almost every kind of family in this picture book that begins with a classroom discussion in which each child shares why their family is special. A little girl in the class does not want to share about her family because she is afraid they are too different. The students start to share about their families and the girl begins to see how many different kinds of families there are: families with a mom and dad, families with two moms or two dads, families with adopted children, mixed families, blended families, divorced families, single parent families and families where grandma is raising the grandchildren. Eventually we learn that the girl is a foster child who happens to be very loved by her foster mother.

Love by Matt De La Pena/illustrated by Loren Long

love

“And the face staring back in the bathroom mirror—this, too, is love.” This is just one sentence from award winning writer Matt De La Pena’s most recent picture book. The story is both an exploration and meditation on love told through the lens of a child growing up into young adulthood. It is not just one child but many different children at various points in their lives. The children are comprised of a diverse group that includes one in a wheel chair, African American children and a Latinx family. The story portrays the complexity of love even when it feels absent and how it can be found again. The book reads beautifully like a poem and leaves the reader with much to ponder.

Sparkle Boy by Leslea Newman

sparkle

Casey wants to be like his sister when it comes to wearing sparkly skirts, nail polish and bracelets. Gender stereotypes are challenged in this story about a family who is mostly accepting of Casey’s love of all things sparkly. His sister is the exception and she grows increasingly angry as he shows interest in sparkly things that are permitted by the adults in his life. Her feelings change when they are at the library and a group of boys start teasing Casey because he is wearing a sparkly skirt. She stands up for her younger brother who is visibly hurt and she challenges the boys’ views of what is acceptable attire for boys.

As the Crow Flies by Melanie Gillman

crow

This young adult graphic novel tells the story of Charlie, an African American Christian teenager who identifies as queer. She has been sent to Three Peaks summer camp which happens to be an all-white Christian camp. She struggles with different aspects of the camp, especially some of the thoughtless comments or microaggressions made by the head counselor. She also has a crush on the head counselor’s daughter who assists her mother at the camp. Charlie befriends one of the other campers named Sydney and discovers they have more in common than she thinks.

Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

filters

Maya is a Muslim Indian American who lives in a small community outside of Chicago. It is Maya’s senior year and she is increasingly caught between her parent’s expectations and her dreams of moving to New York and pursuing a career in film. Her parents came to the United States from India as a young couple and expect Maya to attend college close to home and find an acceptable Muslim young man to marry. Maya has secretly applied to NYU and is falling for Phil, a popular football player at her high school. Her world changes dramatically when a courthouse in Illinois is bombed, killing hundreds of people. The community where she has spent her entire life becomes engulfed in fear and hate, much of it directed towards Maya and her parents.

Black Girl Magic: a Poem by Mahogany L. Browne

magic

This poem is written to African American girls and challenges the many destructive messages they receive from society. Mahogany Browne has shared it widely through spoken word and now she has partnered with Jess X. Snow to depict the poem visually.

Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess by Shari Green

macy

There are lots of changes about to happen in Macy McMillan’s life including her mother’s upcoming nuptials to a man with twin daughters. The story is written in verse and highlights Macy’s deafness but it is not the focus of the story. Instead we see a beautiful relationship develop between Macy and her older neighbor Iris. This hopeful book highlights family and friendship with vibrant characters.

Betty Before X by Ilyasah Shabazz

betty

Betty Shabazz is most well known for being the wife of Malcom X and an activist. Her daughter has written this work of historical fiction along with renowned author Renee Watson. The story chronicles Betty’s beginnings with a neglectful mother and her eventual adoption by a middle class couple at her church. She volunteers for an organization called the Housewives League and this is the beginning of her work as an activist. Not only is the reader exposed to the challenges that Betty faced as a young person but they are also given an introduction to the roots of the Civil Rights movement.

#Not Your Princess: Voices of Native American Women / edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale

princess

This powerful book is a compilation of poems, essays, photography and art by indigenous women throughout North America. There is a lot of pain and anger manifested in this book because of the mistreatment and erasure of indigenous people. However, this book will educate teens and give them perspective on a subject that is often ignored. It is at least a start in letting the voices, feelings and strength of these women be heard and seen.

And the Winners Are…

Every year I look forward to the book awards that exist for works of adult literature such as The Man Booker Prize, The Pulitzer Prize and The National Book Award. However, the most exciting awards that I wait for all year are the ALA (American Library Association) Youth Media Awards. Yesterday, the 2018 award ceremony was held in Denver and many awards were given to distinguished Children’s and Young Adult books.

Recently, I was reading a post in a library Facebook group I belong to and a librarian had written about children’s picture books. One of her coworkers at the library told her that in his eyes picture books had no merit whatsoever. As a Youth Services Librarian and parent, I was shocked to read this. Children’s books and Young Adult literature support youth in many different capacities from emergent literacy to becoming accomplished readers. Rudine Sims Bishop writes about how children’s literature can act as both a mirror and a window. Kids can see themselves in stories, but they can also see others, expanding their view of the world and the society in which they live.

The Youth Media Awards are a celebration of the amazing literature that exists for young people throughout the United States. Awards are given to a wide cross-section of books that include both fiction and nonfiction. I have highlighted many of the award winners below. For a full listing of all of the winners, go here.

Caldecott: “Awarded to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book.”

Winner: Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell

This almost wordless picture book tells the story of a girl on her way home from school who discovers a wolf pup left behind by his pack. She embarks on a journey with the pup to find his family. The pen and ink drawings with watercolors convey a story of warmth and kindness even in the midst of adversity.

Newbery“Awarded to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.”

Winner: Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly

Hello, Universe is told in four different voices–all sixth grade students on summer break. The book explores the friendship that develops between three of the kids while taking on other topics such as bullying and cross-generational relationships. The author maintains a sense of humor while telling a poignant story of kids making sense of and finding their place in the world.

Coretta Scott King: “Designed to commemorate the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and to honor Mrs. Coretta Scott King for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace, the Coretta Scott King Book Awards annually recognize outstanding books for young adults and children by African American authors and illustrators that reflect the African American experience. Further, the Award encourages the artistic expression of the black experience via literature and the graphic arts in biographical, social, and historical treatments by African American authors and illustrators.”

Illustrator Award: Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets, illustrated by Ekua Holmes and written by Kwame Alexander with Chris Colderly and Marjory Wentworth

Mixed media collage paintings by Ekua Holmes are paired with poems written by Kwame Alexander, Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth. The poems are written in the style of famous poets such as Rumi, Maya Angelou and Naomi Shihab Nye. The paintings expand the experience of the poem and are sure to inspire kids to read and write poetry. This was Kwame Alexander’s hope when he began working on this book.

Author award: Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson

This multi-layered novel tells the story of Jade, an African-American teenager living in Portland, Oregon. She lives with her single mom and sometimes sees her father when he can keep his promises. Jade is an artist and she is so smart that she has a scholarship to a cutting edge private high school on the other side of town. She constantly struggles with the feeling of being broken up into little pieces whether it is at her private school or with her wealthy African American mentor. This story addresses tough topics such as race, gender, white privilege and intersectionality.

Pura Belpre“The Pura Belpré Award, established in 1996, is presented to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.”

Winner: La Princesa and the Pea by Juana Martinez-Neal

This is a diverse retelling of the classic Hans Christian Andersen story, The Princess and the Pea. The story is set in Peru and features whimsical illustrations throughout. It makes for a great read-aloud and Spanish words are found throughout the text.

Stonewall“presented to English language books that have exceptional merit relating to the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender experience.”

Winner: The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater and Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert

bus

This work of Young Adult Nonfiction tells the true story of Sasha and Richard. They saw each other every day during the week on the 57 bus in Oakland, California. They never spoke because of how very different they were. Sasha lived in a comfortable middle class neighborhood and attended a private school. Richard who was African American lived in quite different circumstances and attended a large public high school. One day on the bus, Richard does something that will change his and Sasha’s lives forever. This story is not just a retelling of the events. Instead, it is an exploration of gender identity, crime and justice.

little

Suzette has just returned to Los Angeles from her boarding school on the east coast. Home is definitely Los Angeles and she is not sure if she wants to leave again. She has a crush on a boy, here friends are there, and her stepbrother Lionel has recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She is a source of support for him, but things become complicated when Suzette realizes she has a crush on the girl who he loves. His illness spirals and she is forced to reckon with herself and find a way to keep her brother safe.

Printz: “The Michael L. Printz Award is an award for a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature.”

Winner: We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

okay

Marin has started her first year of college and is trying to forsake her best friend Mabel. Before her grandpa died, she and Mabel were starting to fall in love. Her grandpa’s death pulled her into a deep grief and she realized the many things he kept from her while he was raising her: pictures of her mother who died surfing when Marin was just a baby; stories and memories of her mother; and his own grief. She left for college immediately after his death without telling anyone including Mabel and her parents. But now Mabel has come to visit for winter break and Marin is challenged to open her heart and let those who love her come back into her life.

Books to Love and Share

Even though we live nearly three thousand miles apart, I’m very close with my nieces and nephew. In my mind I’m the cool uncle who takes them on fun trips and gets them the most exciting presents. Of course when your uncle is a librarian the fun trips usually involve libraries or bookstores and those exciting presents are, well, books. Luckily for me, these kids are born readers so even if I’m not the cool uncle I am the uncle who gets asked for book recommendations and invited to class visits. I’ll take it.

Here are a few of the books that I’ve loved and shared with my young readers this past year.

methodetimesprodwebbin2146bf82-bd60-11e6-a53a-ca2ad7b229f9My youngest niece is almost two. She loves to laugh and is great at identifying animals, as long as it’s a dog or a bear, so I knew she would love Horrible Bear! by Ame Dyckman. Horrible Bear! follows a no-nonsense young girl who crashes her kite into a bear’s den. The sleeping bear rolls over, crushing the kite. The girl storms off furious at the bear, while the bear is filled with righteous indignation for being blamed. Behold, bitter enemies! Ultimately, the bear and the girl come to understand each other and this silly story delivers a meaningful yet subtle message about accidents and forgiveness. This is a great read-aloud with the girl and bear stomping around shouting HORRIBLE BEAR and HORRIBLE GIRL. It also features Dyckman’s signature humor and lively illustrations by Zachariah OHora.

A1CIvMxnmGL (1)I also read with my 3-year-old niece but of course a 3-year-old is sophisticated and requires more complex and devious narratives. This is why I recently sent her The Wolf, the Duck, & the Mouse by Mac Barnett. When a mouse is swallowed by a wolf, it seems like the end of the world – literally. But the mouse gets new perspective when it meets a duck who has made quite a lovely home in the wolf’s stomach. Their new haven is threatened when a hunter pursues the wolf and the mouse and duck must find a way to save their home. I love the sharp turn this story takes after its grim beginning and the way expectations are constantly subverted. This book also has the benefit of Jon Klassen’s illustrations, who could even make the phone book a twisted delight.

leave-me-alon

Vera Brosgol’s Leave Me Alone! introduces a granny who feels straight out of a nursery rhyme. Living in a cramped house with her large family, she sets out to find a peaceful place to knit. She travels far and wide through harsh environments filled with terrible beasts, and even goes to space! This is another story that starts out with a slightly sardonic tone before settling into a heartwarming conclusion. Brosgol’s illustrations are pitch perfect, creating a story that feels like a loving and quirky tribute to Strega Nona.

9780545700580_mresRecently one of my cousins had her first child who is nicknamed Froggy. I’m using this as an excuse to give them Rain! By Linda Ashman. Rain! follows the parallel stories of an older man who is irritated to have to deal with wet weather and a young boy in a frog hat who is delighted to explore the rainy world. This is a sweet story with a wonderfully goofy conclusion. Rain! has the added bonus of featuring the brilliant illustrations of Christian Robinson. Robinson’s work has been on my radar for some time, but it was not until I saw him speak last year at a conference that I took the time to explore his work in-depth. He is a stunning artist who has quickly become a personal favorite.

9780545403306_mresFor the older readers in my life (ages 7 and 9) I like to introduce series that they can fall in love with. The challenge, of course, is getting these books in their hands before they hear about them from friends. This year these series included Whatever After by Sarah Mlynowski and The Ranger’s Apprentice by John A. Flanagan. The Whatever After series follows a young sister and brother, Abby and Jonah, who are swept away into the lands of various fairy tales such as Cinderella and the Frog Prince. This might be a delightful adventure for the young siblings if they didn’t accidentally intervene in these classic stories and jeopardize their traditional plots. Abby and Jonah must frantically save the day, delivering the fairy tale endings we all know so well. Some middle grade series do not hold up for adult readers. These do. Abby’s narration is laced with gentle sarcasm and the two siblings repeatedly delight by finding new and ridiculous ways to disrupt these established stories. Book one in this series is Fairest of All.

The_Ruins_of_Gorlan_(Au)The Ranger’s Apprentice is a slightly older series perfect for lovers of world building or medieval fantasy. These books follow a young man named Will who becomes (wait for it) a ranger’s apprentice helping to protect a kingdom from a multitude of dastardly threats both internal and external. I was nervous to suggest these books to my nephew as I had not actually read them myself, but my nephew has fallen deep into their world. I asked him to tell me what he likes about the series and he explained that he is enjoying the way that the story is told from different perspectives, not just one narrator. He’s also relishing all of the action and appreciates the details that go into the development of different characters. Book one in this series is The Ruins of Gorlan.

Best of 2017: Books for Children

Today we share with you all of our picks for the best in Children’s Fiction, Non-Fiction, Picture Books and Graphic Novels from 2017. Place your holds now! Also, remember to check out the Library Newsletter for all of the library staff’s recommendations.

Children’s Fiction

The Princess and the Page by Christina Farley

Keira used a magic pen to write a story and win a trip. Keira was mad at her mom, and wrote an “unhappily ever after” story. Now she has to try to change the story to save herself, her friend Bella, and her mom.

I really like fantasies and fairy tales, so this was a fun book. It had just enough twists and turns to keep me wondering what would happen next.  –Linda

The Someday Birds by Sally J. Pla

Charlie is a boy with autism and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder who loves birds and struggles with life. He must leave the comforts of home on a road trip to see his father, a journalist who suffered brain injuries while on assignment in Afghanistan. Charlie, his siblings, and their caregiver set off on a mission in this road trip story about war, peace, birds, family, loss, and hope.

I picked up this book because I am a birder, and I love road trips. I stayed because the characters are all so real and human.  –Julie

Patina by Jason Reynolds

As a newbie to the track team, Patina “Patty” Jones must learn to rely on her family and teammates as she tries to outrun her personal demons.

Last year I recommended Ghost, about a boy trying to outrun his troubles. Patina is the second book in this series, and it focuses on his teammate. With too heavy a burden for any person, Patty’s story is heartfelt and well-written. Teamwork, trust, and friendship are key.  –Andrea

My Kite is Stuck! and Other Stories by Salina Yoon

Loud and in-charge Big Duck, quiet and clever Little Duck, and friendly and gentle Porcupine are back in another charming trio of stories.

This is a collection of stories for early readers , focusing on friendship and cooperation. The three characters’ personalities shine brighter than ever. I found myself laughing out loud while reading!  –Andrea

Restart by Gordon Korman

Chase does not remember falling and hitting his head, in fact he does not remember anything about himself. He begins to learn who he was through the reactions of the others–trouble is, he really is not sure he likes the Chase that is being revealed.

This book shows that it may not be too late to define who you are and who you will become. Korman does a beautiful job of creating plausible characters and laugh-out-loud scenes while dealing with the serious subject of bullying.  –Andrea

The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

This is the sequel to The War That Saved My Life. Eleven-year-old Ada is still adapting to her new life during World War II.

These books would make a wonderful movie or television series, in the style of Downton Abbey or Homefires–Julie

The Good For Nothing Button! by Charise Harper

Yellow Bird has found a button and wants to share it with Red Bird and Blue Bird. This is just an ordinary button. It does not do anything when you press it. But, yes it does!

From the Elephant and Piggie Love Reading series, this easy reader is funny and fun.  –Leslie

Children’s Non-Fiction

Penguin Day: A Family Story by Nic Bishop

A story in photographs featuring a family of three Rockhopper penguins. The penguins are followed through a day in their life.

Beautifully photographed and accompanied by brief, concise text explaining how the mother penguin gets food for the baby and how the father penguin saves the baby from danger.  –Margaret 

Botanicum by Katie Scott and Kathy Willis

This book showcases dozens of full-color plants from around the world in a gallery format. Images are complemented by identifying information and brief descriptions.

This is a fascinating and gorgeous book.  –Leslie

Two Truths and a Lie: it’s Alive! by Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson

Each chapter presents three stories of truly bizarre and befuddling natural phenomena. The catch is: two stories are true and one is (mostly) make believe. Readers must use critical thinking skills to figure out the truth.

My son and I loved reading this together. We learned about many weird and intriguing things, and we enjoyed talking about why we thought each story was true or false.  –Mindy

That is my dream! : a picture book of Langston Hughes’s “Dream variation” by Langston Hughes & Daniel Miyares

This picture book is an illustrated version of Langston Hughes’s poem “Dream Variation.” A young boy lives the words written by Hughes, contrasting the boy’s day in a segregated town with a day of true freedom from oppression.

This beautifully illustrated book does a masterful job presenting Hughes’s vision. The message is delivered with subtlety, allowing discussion with a young reader to develop as the reader grows. –Jesse

Children’s Picture Books

Emma and the Whale by Julie Chase

Emma, a young girl with an affinity for the ocean, finds a baby whale beached on the shore and tries to save her.

Absolutely beautiful painted illustrations adorn a touching tale of conservation and empowerment. Highly recommended.  –Alan

A Greyhound, A Groundhog by Emily Jenkins

A groundhog and a greyhound meet each other and decide to be friends as they play and run around together.

The words are slightly tongue twisty, and the unlikely friendship between these animals grabbed my attention. The illustrations are cute and simple and tell the story well.  –Margaret

If I Had a Little Dream by Nina Laden

Children and parents alike will delight in the simple cadence of this whimsical book depicting a young child’s dream wishes.

The swirly blue cover art and gold embossed lettering instantly attracted me. This wonderful story of a young child gives voice to universal dreams full of hope, joy, and contented relationships. I guarantee you will smile the whole way through!  –Margo

Be Quiet! by Ryan T. Higgins

A silly and fun picture book, with cartoonish mice discussing and writing a wordless book with funny dialog.

Such creativity and silliness, it made me giggle and laugh out loud. Another favorite to add to my list of special kids’ books.  –Margaret

The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors by Drew Daywalt

From the Kingdom of the Backyard, Rock searches for an adversary that might best him, meanwhile Paper and Scissors set off on their own quests for competitors.

This hilarious picture book is from the author of The Day the Crayons Quit.  It will entertain young ones and even elementary school age kids.  –Leslie

Hooray for Birds by Lucy Cousins

In an exuberant display of color, Lucy Cousins invites little ones to imagine themselves as brilliant birds. Birds of all feathers flock together in a fun, rhyme-filled offering by the creator of Maisy.

I love the artwork and the rhythm of the text. A wonderful picture book.  –Leslie

The Alphabet from the Sky by Benedikt Groß, Joey Lee

The whole family will be totally fascinated by this book! Using aerial photography, the authors ask you to identify accidentally or naturally occurring letters of the alphabet. Each photo is labeled with its location including latitude and longitude.

It’s like a real life “Where’s Waldo” with letters. Awesome! — Mona

The Giant Jumperee by Julia Donaldson

There’s something in Rabbit’s burrow and all of his friends try to help him get it out.

I love this new picture book. It has everything going for it: animals, rhymes and a surprise ending.  –Leslie

Reach for the Moon, Little Lion by Hildegard Muller

A little lion is teased by animals who tell him that real lions are so big that they can touch the moon with their paws, a claim that saddens the little lion until a wise raven helps him fool his tormentors.

Beautiful painted faux-naive art that appeals to young eyes, a message of perseverance and pride, and minimalist poetry for the text. What’s not to love?  –Alan

Now by Antoinette Portis

With words and art that are simple, yet eloquent, this book shows the way children feel their favorite thing is whatever they have or are doing at that exact moment. Or, in other words, now.

The art and the story are touching and sweet.  –Mona

Children’s Graphic Novels

Hilo 2: Saving the Whole Wide World by Judd Winick

The extraterrestrial robot boy is back, with his human friends by his side. As usual, the adults have no clue Earth is about to be wiped out by beings from another dimension.

Funny dialog, running gags, puns, and visual humor will appeal to fans of Captain Underpants. Adults may appreciate that there is less potty talk than in Dav Pilkey’s books.  –Emily

Swing it, Sunny by Jennifer Holm

Sunny is back, adjusting to life with her brother away at a strict military school. Letters and calls to her cool grandpa in Florida don’t tell the entire truth. Her new neighbor is a great mentor who teaches her more than just flag twirling.

Set in the 1970s, Sunny and I have a shared past and present. But she is way cooler than I ever was.  –Julie

Real Friends by Shannon Hale

Calling all Raina Telgemeier fans! A young Shannon traverses the difficult friendships she has at school and home. Shannon learns about true friendship and what it means to be a friend.

I enjoyed this book for many reasons: the honest depiction of friendship between girls, the poignant yet imperfect relationships Shannon has at home and the integration of her Mormon upbringing.  –Serena

All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson

Imogene has always been homeschooled, but this year she will go to middle school. Not only has she been homeschooled, but her family actively participates in the town’s local Renaissance faire and refers to themselves as Rennies.

This story perfectly captures the difficulties of navigating friendship, bullying and popularity during the middle school years.  –Serena

Did You Know? (Bat Edition)

That the bumblebee bat is the world’s smallest mammal?

I found this information on page 175 in the book The Secret Lives of Bats by Merlin Tuttle. The name bumblebee bat is actually a nickname for the Kitti’s hog nosed bat from Myanmar (Burma). It was discovered in 1973-74 and weighs a third less than a United States penny! These bats are only about an inch long.

Bats by Phil Richardson tells about bats’ lifestyles and life cycles. He explains about the different classes of bats and that the Kitti’s hog nosed bat is considered one of the 930 species of ‘microbats.’ This book has excellent photos of many bats. The children’s book Bat Watching by Diane Bair and Pamela Wright has helpful information about removing bats from buildings and where to look for them for viewing. The Magic School Bus DVD has a ‘Going Batty’ episode where you really learn what it is like to be a bat: how they see with sonar, what they eat, and how they take care of their young.

On the other end of the spectrum is the world’s largest (baseball) bat. 1,000 Places to See Before you Die by Patricia Schultz shows the huge baseball bat outside of the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory in Louisville, Kentucky. I’m sure it will be much easier to see than the bumblebee bat, plus you won’t have to travel as far!

Smithsonian Baseball Treasures by Stephen Wong has a very interesting history of baseball bats and other items. For example, in 1885 a flat bat was used to aid in batting techniques like bunting. There is a great photo of Babe Ruth kissing his bats before the start of the World Series September 29, 1926. Combining both kinds of bats is Bats at the Ballgame by Brian Lies.

Lastly, baseball has a bat boy (or girl), but the world of super heroes has Batman! Here at the library we have The Batman Strikes, Going… Batty! by Bill Matheny. In this exciting graphic novel Batman fights a bad guy that turns into a bat.

Rolling in the Deep

Sometimes I can be quiet. I can hear my boss laughing as I type this because according to her, I’m the giggler and talker of my group and you know what? She’s right. I’m a goofball and I like to make others laugh, which in turns gets me into trouble.

But there are times when I shut down, go still on the inside, and just listen to everything going on around me. A co-worker sneezing or shuffling papers, the tinny muffled sound of music through earbuds, a muttered phone call. Sometimes I’m quiet so I can hear what people really aren’t saying when they talk. Spoiler alert: it’s a lot.

In Ali Benjamin’s The Thing About Jellyfish, Suzy Swanson is one of those kids who just knows a lot about everything: the sleep patterns of ants, how many different kinds of jellyfish there really are out there (it’s a terrifyingly amazing amount), and that jellyfish don’t actually have hearts even though if you look at one long enough it seems to pulse as though a heart beats within. What Suzy can’t explain is how she lost her best friend Franny. She lost her twice: once to the popular group of girls in school and then a second time when Franny goes swimming in the ocean and drowns. After Franny’s death, Suzy shuts down and refuses to speak, the intensity of her grief overwhelming. She’s convinced a type of jellyfish caused the death of her friend, that although Franny was a strong swimmer a jellyfish stung her out in the water causing her to drown.

The breakup of their friendship was an eerily familiar one: Franny began changing and wanted to be a part of the popular girls in middle school while Suzy stayed true to herself and didn’t find the idea of changing herself for other people an option (note to self: always find the Suzys of the world to be friends with). When they were thicker than thieves, Franny told Suzy that if she EVER started acting like one of the airhead popular girls Suzy had her permission to do basically anything to wake her the hell up and return her to normal. During the next few months as Franny became more enmeshed with the popular kids, Suzy tried to go along with her: sitting next to Franny at the popular table and spouting off scientific facts (which I found utterly fascinating and I would love to sit beside her at lunch and learn stuff but I’ve heard it’s a little creepy for a 40-year-old to sit with a kid and talk about life).

But Franny becomes embarrassed by her friend’s brain and the things she says. Eventually, Suzy no longer sits with them at lunch and Franny avoids her and finally they’re no longer friends. Suzy comes up with one hell of a slap in the face to wake Franny up to show her she’s being a clone like the rest of the girls but it backfires. And then that summer, Franny drowns and Suzy thinks a certain type of jellyfish is the culprit. She becomes so obsessed with the idea that she makes a plan to travel across the world to meet a jellyfish expert, a man who had been stung by the deadliest jellyfish and lived to tell the tale.

I don’t really know what to tell you about the lesson of this book. People change? Yeah, they do, sometimes in unfathomable ways. To say the lesson of this book is “It’s okay to be yourself” is too simplistic. Instead, this book is about childhood friendships: ones that aren’t as immortal as we think they are. For every cause we come up with to figure out why a friendship ended, there are a dozen more whys that will never be answered. Grief isn’t owned by grown-ups alone. There is no monopoly on sadness. Children grieve and children shut down and children seek answers. If you want a book that’s all happiness and sunshine and everything ends up alright, don’t pick up this book.  But if you want to go on a girl’s journey of grief, guilt, and finding bravery in knowledge, check it out.

But stay out of the water. Those things without heartbeats might seem otherworldly in their beauty but they pack a wallop to send you into the deep, never to come back.

Ban This Book

Finally, it’s time for Amy Anne to check out her most favorite book in the whole world from the school library. Her school librarian, Mrs. Jones, has this rule where you can only renew a book twice before it has to be returned and sit on the shelf for five days to give other students the chance to check it out. After waiting those five looooong days, Amy Anne is ready to re-read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. But when she gets to the H-N shelves in the school library the book isn’t there waiting for her. Thinking maybe another student checked it out, Amy Anne asks Mrs. Jones who delivers unbelievable, devastating news: Amy Anne’s favorite book has been banned from the school library.

Thus begins Ban This Book by Alan Gratz.

As Amy Anne learns more about book banning and the potential fate of her most favorite book, she decides for once that she will stand up and use her voice. After all, at the school board meeting where the book banning will become official, someone has to speak up on behalf of the accused. The problem is in the heat of the moment her insecurities and fears about speaking in public and standing up to authority overpower her better judgement and she remains silent.

Her parents are pretty upset about this. They rearranged their entire family’s schedule in order to take her to the school board meeting, but when her father sees her crying in the car on the way home from the meeting he stops off at the bookstore and buys Amy Anne her very own copy of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

Amy Anne is happy to have her very own copy, but she knows this is bigger than just one book for one kid. What about all the other kids at her school? Not all the kids know about the book and definitely not all kids have parents who will drive them to the bookstore and buy them their own copy. One single parent on the PTA is denying access to hundreds of kids just because she didn’t want her son to read a particular book!

As she contemplates the implications for her fellow students (and re-reads From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler again) she decides she’ll bring her copy of the book in to school to let her friend borrow it. Another student overhears their exchange and asks if he can borrow it after that. Amy Anne agrees, but that’s not where our story ends.

Soon the PTA parent who demanded From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler be removed from the school library demands another book be removed. And another. And then an entire shelf is missing from the school library and Amy Anne is both confused and upset because she can’t think of a single thing wrong with any of the books being removed from the library.

As the list of removed books grows, so does determination. Amy Anne’s friends have copies of some of the books and Amy Anne buys a few others with money she’d saved from her birthday. Soon she posts a list of the banned books on her locker which is immediately noticed by the school administration, who demands she remove the sign from her locker.

Amy Anne complies but only for appearances. She replaces the list with a school spirit poster that has the books on the reverse side. Here’s where people can see which books are checked out and which are available for them to read. Then they make arrangements with Amy Anne to read it and then pass it on to the next student.

Amy Anne has accidentally started the Banned Books Lending Library from her locker!

The list of banned books grows and Amy Anne gets bold. I won’t tell you what happens next–you’ll have to read it for yourself and find out.

Kids and adults alike will enjoy this book. I highlighted so many passages! Amy Anne is my new favorite champion of the First Amendment.

My favorite part of the story was the banned books themselves. The titles are there for any kid to track down, a veritable bibliography hiding in plain sight. As the author’s note states, all the books that are banned in this book have actually been challenged or banned recently in America. I hope this information, coupled with Amy Anne and the other students’ enjoyment of reading these books in the story, will lead readers to check out these other books and explore perspectives and stories they might never have found on their own.

As libraries across the country celebrate Banned Books Week this week, we celebrate the freedom to read. And what better way than to read a banned book? Here’s the list from Amy Anne’s Banned Books Lending Library. Which one will you read?

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn
It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie H. Harris
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankeiler by E.L. Konigsburg
The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
All the Junie B. Jones books by Barbara Park
All the Captain Underpants books by Dav Pilkey
All the Goosebumps books by R.L. Stine