Posted in Graphic Novels, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Listen Up! This is how you learn about gender pronouns!

A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns, by Archie Bongiovanni & Tristan Jimerson/Lettered by CRANK!, Designed by Kate Z. Stone, Edited by Ari Yarwood, (June 2018, Oni Press), $7.99, ISBN: 978-1-62010-499-6

Recommended for ages 13+

At the Urban Librarians Conference earlier this year, there were signs asking us to write our preferred pronouns on our name tags. I started thinking about gender, and how I take it for granted that people know what to call me based on how I look – and how I choose to gender people based on how they appear to me, and how easy it can be to misgender someone. It was an easy, great way to ask conference attendees to make sure everyone had a welcoming experience at the conference right off the bat.

Next, I was at BookExpo last week, and had a great conversation with a person at the Oni Press booth. I’m dipping into buying books for college-age patrons in our community, trying to get them back into our library, and saw some great books that would fit perfectly into that interest group. When the Oni editor handed me this little guide, I knew this was something special.

Archie is a snarky, genderqueer artist who’s sick and tired of being misgendered. Tristan is Archie’s cis male friend who’s trying to figure out the easiest way to introduce his diverse workplace to the wonderful world of gender neutral pronouns. Together, the two provide a smart, fun, and empathetic way to explain what pronouns are, how to use them, and most importantly, why they matter. Ever have someone say, “Excuse me, sir?” when you’re not a sir? Doesn’t feel great, does it? How about when someone pronounces your name wrong? I’ve been called Rosemarie more times than I can count in this life, and it irritates the living daylights out of me. Why? Because it’s not my name. And that’s how it feels to be misgendered: to feel ignored, like a mistake, like a joke. That’s the most valuable information readers will get from A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns: it’s a way of being considerate of others, fostering empathy and understanding and being a good ally.

Whoops! You slipped up and misgendered someone? The guide has you covered, with scripts in place to help you apologize without putting more of your foot in your mouth. Are you friends with someone – or even worse, have a family member – who refuses to get with the program, and thinks it’s hilarious when they misgender you? There are gentle guidelines for breaking up with people. Not sure how to come out as non-binary? They’ve got you covered here, too. There are reference charts for using pronouns in professional settings, everyday life, using alternative pronouns, and extra resources.

This is a small guide that reads up quick and to the point, and, at only $7.99, there’s no reason not to have multiple copies in libraries, schools, and workplaces everywhere. Get several copies of this for your middle school and YA sections, your adult sections, your workplaces. It’s a good way to show everyone you come into contact with that you care, that you’re committed to learning, that everyone is visible.  A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns is available on 6/13.

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Posted in Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Colorama sparks color memory

Colorama: From Fuschia to Midnight Blue, by Cruschiform, (March 2018, Prestel), $24.95, ISBN: 978-3-7913-7328-7

Recommended for readers 10+

You know how a color can evoke a memory, or a feeling? Maybe the color red evokes the memory of reading Little Red Riding Hood as a child; maybe yellow brings back the time you had a favorite pair of rain boots. Colorama: From Fuschia to Midnight Blue works on that idea; memory through shades of color. There are 133 different colors in here, varying monochromatic shades of whites, reds, oranges, yellows, greens, blues, violets, browns, blacks, and grays. Each spread includes an illustration of a color; a description of a color memory, and a full-page swatch of the color. You won’t believe how many shades you’ll find in here; it provides minds with a color palette to draw from, whether through color or through words, and it’s loaded with memory prompts for art and writing ideas. There’s something new to learn with each turn of the page: Milk owes its color to milk proteins and globs of fatty matter; shrimp and flamingoes both owe their coloring to the pigment astaxanthin, and the kiwi fruit is named after the kiwi bird, because the hairy fruit resembles Australia’s national bird’s plumage. There’s an incredible amount of information to be found in this beautiful volume!

(source: Cruschiform website, where pictures are featured from the French text)

This is a multi-purpose reference book that works for upper middle grade, middle school, and high school students that also works as a gift book for a budding artist. Appendixes include a color palette in order of presentation in the book and a thematic index that lays out colors by themes including mammals, birds, clothes and fabrics.

Posted in Middle School, Non-Fiction, Tween Reads, Women's History, Young Adult/New Adult

House of Dreams looks at a classic author’s life

House of Dreams: The Life of L.M. Montgomery, by Liz Rosenberg/Illustrated by Julie Morstad, (June 2018, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763660574

Recommended for readers 10+

This illustrated biography of Maud Montgomery, the author of the Anne of Green Gables series, is a must-have for middle school and up biography readers. Her mother died when she was a toddler; her father left her in the care of her grandparents, and Maud grew up wanting more: passionate love and affection; education; a career as an author. She dealt with anxiety and depression throughout her life, and married for security rather than love. Drawing on correspondence and her unpublished journals, Liz Rosenberg draws a picture of a woman who led an often difficult life and who struggled against her circumstances to create one of the most memorable literary characters of all time.

It’s not always an easy read. Reading about Maud’s struggle against greedy publishers and her own gold-digging son can be rage-inducing, as is her fight to continue her education against the grandfather who refused to help her. Her callous uncle left Maud and her widowed grandmother to live in horrible conditions, waiting for his own mother to die so he could inherit her home, left to him by his father. But we also read about Maud’s devotion to her Prince Edward Island home, her lifelong love of writing, and her success at being able to sustain an income by writing.

L.M. Montgomery was a complex, conflicted woman and her struggles with mental health and financial independence make her more real, more three-dimensional, to readers who will understand and be inspired.

Posted in Historical Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Get Radical with Fierce Young Women from U.S. History!

The Radical Element, edited by Jessica Spotswood, (March 2018, Candlewick), $17.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-9425-8

Recommended for readers 13+

This anthology gives readers snapshots of young women at pivotal moments in their lives and U.S. history, from 1838 to 1984. Written by YA literary powerhouses including Anna-Marie McLemore (Wild Beauty), Marieke Nijkamp (This is How it Ends), Dhionelle Clayton (The Belles), these 12 stories are about young women who are the “radical element” in their time periods; their communities; their families. A young Jewish woman living in 19th century Savannah, pushing to learn more about her faith; a Cuban immigrant, living in Queens (whoo hoo!) and walking the line between her parents’ traditional world and the new, modern world; a 1950s debutante whose idea for her future doesn’t quite line up with her mother’s.  All of their stories are here, expertly told and starring a fabulous and diverse group of females: multicultural and LGBTQ characters all find a home here.

The authors alone make this a must-add to bookshelves and book collections; the stories contained within present strong characters and exciting adventures, with backstories that still hold relevance for readers today. Characters here deal with gender identity, racism and religious persecution, and sexism. These are perfect for quick reads or to binge read like the best Netflix series. Contributor bios at the end introduce readers to the authors.

The Radical Element, a companion to A Tyranny of Petticoats (2016), has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in Fantasy, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

YA Fairy Tale creepiness: The Hazel Wood

The Hazel Wood, by Melissa Albert, (Jan. 2018, Flatiron Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9781250147905

Recommended for readers 13+

In this wonderfully dark fantasy, 17-year-old Alice and her mother have lived on the run from the bad luck that always seems to follow them. Her grandmother, Althea Proserpine, author of Tales from the Hinterland, a book of dark fairy tales that achieved cult status, has passed away, allowing Alice’s mother, Ella, to believe they’re finally free. Not likely. Ella is kidnapped and Alice turns to her friend, Finch, a Proserpine fan, to help her find her way into the very real Hinterland, to save her. But the Hinterland has plans for Alice, too; she’s yearned to know her grandmother for her whole life, but what she may find out will change her life and the lives of everyone around her forever.

This is an unputdownable book from the get-go. Alice lives in the shadow of her mythic grandmother, who she’s never had a relationship with; her mother, Ella, is her only attachment in life, as they run from the misfortune that dogs them. Ella will never talk about her mother, and information about Althea is scarce; her book is even more difficult to track down. Alice is a conflicted protagonist, with anger issues and a general disdain for the wealthy, vapid people around her at war with the desire for a stable family life and a relationship with her famous grandmother. As Alice starts unraveling secrets kept by her mother, shadowy figures start making their way into her world: our world. Melissa Albert brings two worlds together and has readers keeping a white-knuckled grip on her book as we try to hold them apart. Rich with world building and main character development, The Hazel Wood left me thoroughly unsettled and wishing that we’d get some more Stories wandering out of the Hinterland. Fantastic for anyone bulking up their summer reading collections, and perfect for anyone looking for a good, creeptastic read.

The Hazel Wood has SEVEN starred reviews: Kirkus; School Library Journal; Shelf Awareness; Publisher’s Weekly; Booklist; VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates), and the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.

Posted in Historical Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Historical fiction in verse: Blood Water Paint

Blood Water Paint, by Joy McCullough, (March 2018, Dutton Books for Young Readers), $17.99, ISBN: 9780735232112

Recommended for readers 13+

It’s an historical fiction type of review day. Blood Water Paint is a stunning story based on true events, told in quiet, powerful verse.

Artemisia Gentileschi is the 17-year-old daughter of Renaissance artist Orazio Gentileschi, but her talents far outweigh his. At the mercy of her cruel father, Artemesia is her father’s assistant, model, and – all too often – the chief artist on the paintings he signs his name to. Her father hires artist Agostino Tassi to work with Artemisia and refine her talents, and she is at first thrilled to have someone recognize her work on its own merit. But when Agostino rapes her, she refuses to play the passive any longer, and brings him to court to keep her honor and reputation intact. As she goes through the grueling judicial process, she remembers the stories of strong women, told to her by her deceased mother, and draws on their strength.

This is feminist historical fiction at its finest. Through Artemisia, we see that women have always had to push back against male society. The very women she paints tell the story: Susanna and her Elders depicts a woman leered at by a group of “respectable” elders; the Biblical heroine Judith, who took matters into her own hands when her husband was murdered by foreign invaders. Artemisia’s relationship with her father is complex: he’s jealous of her talent and berates her, even humiliates her, but when she tells him about her rape and intent to bring Agostino to court, he stands by her – even though he knows, and tells her, that Agostino will not be the one on trial. It will be Artemisia. Sound familiar? Sound like it could be taken from the news this week? Not much has changed.

Artemisia persists, and in that persistence, she empowers every person to pick up this book. She persists in her artwork, and she persists in bringing her attacker to justice. It may not be a justice that suits the crime – sound familiar? – but she accomplishes what most women of the time would never be able to. And this is a true story: Bustle has a brilliant article on the real-life Artemisia, and how author Joy McCullough discovered her thanks to Margaret Atwood.

This book is captivating; a powerful combination of verse and prose that will spark readers’ emotions and start discussions. Blood Water Paint examines issues that are all too relevant today – the perception of women and believing abused women who come forward – and is ultimately an empowering story of a young woman who takes her power back. Put this on your shelves and make sure your teens know about it.

Blood Water Paint has starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, Booklist, Shelf Awareness, and Publisher’s Weekly.

Posted in Fantasy, Young Adult/New Adult

Reign of the Dead – YA fantasy with an LGBT twist

Reign of the Fallen, by Sarah Glenn Marsh, (Feb. 2018, Penguin), $17.99, ISBN: 9780448494395

Recommended for readers 13+

In the land of Karthia, death isn’t always final. Necromancers cater to the Dead, bringing their souls back from the Deadlands and allowing them to move among society, even rule their lands. They must, however, remain shrouded; if their shrouds should fall off, they will become Shades – essentially, ravening zombies – and have to be put down before they can cause harm. Odessa is a master necromancer, as is her lover, Evander; they work together to discover the death of their mentor at the hands of a Shade until another Shade attacks leaves Evander dead and Odessa grieving. In the midst of her grief, Odessa and one of Evander’s sisters stumble onto a plot to overthrow the kingdom of the Dead; it’s a conspiracy that will leave her home in chaos. As Odessa works with Evander’s sister to untangle the mystery, she finds herself drawn to this young woman – as she was to Evander.

There’s a lot going on in Reign of the Fallen, and Sarah Glenn Marsh puts some nice worldbuilding into her story. She’s created a society where the dead can still be as productive as they were in life, but this causes strife among those who feel that it’s time for the dead to step aside and let the living rule. She’s created a world where sexuality and gender are fluid; it’s a part of the fabric of their society. To refer to this an LGBT novel is, however, a bit premature, at least to me; the main character spends a good part of the storyline in love with or mourning her lost, cis-male, love, and only just starts to notice and act on her attraction for another female fairly late in the book. Other same-sex relationships are referred to, but this is a society where love is love, and neither gender nor sexuality changes the rules. There are sex-positive LGBT themes; I’m just not sure that having a bisexual character who only seems to discover her bisexuality 2/3 through the novel qualifies it as an LGBT book, rather than a well-written, immersive fantasy.

Overall, Reign of the Fallen is a nice add to fantasy collections and will satisfy fantasy readers that enjoy intrigue and worldbuilding. The book has a starred review from School Library Journal.