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Staff Picks: Books

Love & Gelato

I read almost every book set in Italy I can find. So of course I would pick this one up. Love & Gelato tells the story of Lina, who is moving to Italy to live with a father she's never met after her artist mother has died. When she arrives, Lina is given her mother's old journal, full of sketches and writings, detailing her own college years in Florence. Though she grieves for her mother and her life in the States, Lina takes every opportunity to learn who her mother and father are this summer in Italy. In the process, she unearths a major secret, makes friends, and meets a love interest. I loved this YA novel. It's the perfect summer read for fans of realistic fiction, with light romance and travel.


Rad Women

Rad Women Worldwide and Rad American Women A-Z tell the stories of women who did amazing things, some well-known and, maybe more importantly, some not so well-known. From Angela Davis to Zora Neale Hurston, Rad American Women A-Z came first and focuses on American women. Rad Women Worldwide focuses on forty women from all around the world who moved beyond boundaries. From punk rockers to polar explorers to authors, organizers, athletes, artists, and more, both of these great collections of biographical profiles feature amazing cut-paper illustrations by Miriam Klein Stahl. Both are great for all ages but reside in the library's Children's and Teen materials collections. Check them out if you are interested in being inspired and learning some real-life amazing stories!

 


American Street

American Street follows the story of a Haitian teenage girl named Fabiola who planned on coming to stay with her aunt and cousins in Detroit, Michigan. Though Fabiola was born in the US, and is an American citizen, her mother is not, and she ends up getting detained at the JFK airport.  As a result, Fabiola is forced to start a brand new life on her own-- creating a new identity in an unfamiliar country, with family she doesn't know, all the while trying to find a way to be reunited with her mother.

It's always interesting to see your home through someone else's eyes, and this debut novel by Ibi Zoboi, a Haitian immigrant herself, provides a fresh and unique perspective on the American Dream, and the compromises one has to make along the way.  


March

March: Book 3, the final installment of the graphic novel trilogy authored by Rep. John Lewis and Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell, was chosen as the Michael L. Printz award winner for excellence in Young Adult Literature on January 23 at ALA Youth Media Awards. This graphic novel chronicles the coming of age of Freedom Rider and Civil Rights activist, John Lewis. This incredible graphic novel, also the first GN to win the National Book Award, will inspire and encourage young people and adults to live a life of service. We can all be encouraged by John Lewis' example.


The Girl Who Drank the Moon

The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill, is the 2017 Newbery Medal winner! The Newbery Medal is awarded by the American Library Association to "the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children."  The Girl Who Drank the Moon reminded me of an older book, Marge Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time. Both books take place in two worlds. In Piercy's book, the main character travels in time to bridge two worlds, one dystopian and one utopian. One really interesting thing about The Girl Who Drank the Moon is how its two worlds exist side-by-side but are kept separate by the mythology that the people have been taught. Barnhill gradually connects these worlds together.

Though the two worlds in The Girl Who Drank the Moon, one dystopian and the other human centered and nurturing, seem very different from this world, there are some parallels. Elements of both of these worlds exist in our own multi-faceted world. Is our own world made of multiple worlds kept separate by beliefs, mythologies, and traditions? I think we can safely say that it is. 

There is quite a lot to think about in The Girl Who Drank the Moon. It's also a great story. The library has print copies of the book with more on the way, but everyone should know that the 2017 Newbery Medal winner is available in an ebook format via Hoopla. That means you can start reading with just a few clicks.


Lucky Penny

Penny’s life is a mess. She’s living out of her friend’s storage unit, and working for a 12-year-old tyrant at a laundromat. When she’s not attempting to rescue cats from mean kids in the neighborhood, she’s reading fantasy romance novels, and working on a real life awkward romance of her own. Lucky Penny, by creators Ananth Hirsh and Yuko Ota, is a quirky romantic comedy, and also my new favorite graphic novel at the moment.

It reads like a cross between the epic Scott Pilgrim series and the super twee web cartoon Bee and Puppycat. It’s adorable, funny, and unabashedly nerdy. I enjoyed it immensely, and you probably will too, so check it out already!


Towers Falling

I remember how nice the day was. How I didn’t want to go to school. I remember being bored in my Focus on Freshman class when the assistant principal ran, red faced and huffing, into the classroom, handed our teacher a piece of paper, and then ran out. I remember the whole class asking if we were on lockdown, if there was an active shooter in our school, or in the high school across town. I remember the teacher struggling with how to explain what had just happened to a bunch of 9th graders. I remember thinking the world was about to change.

It’s hard to imagine that something that happened not that long ago, something I can still remember so vividly, could be a foreign concept to someone else. In Towers Falling, fifth grader Dèja Barnes wonders how something that happened before she was born could have to do with her. How could this bit of history, something that happened 15 years ago, have any impact on her now? The story follows her as she realizes that 9/11 may have happened before she was born, but the effects have touched everyone around her, and ripple outward to affect her life in ways she did not previously understand. This book does such a fabulous job of showing how we are all connected through our small communities that build outward and how we’re all connected as Americans to 9/11 and how history is never something that exists only in the past tense.


The Last Boy and Girl in the World

The town of Aberdeen is pretty much drowning as the local river waters rise. Residents are caught trying to decide whether to stay and tough it out or stay and leave their home and break up their community. Keely and her friends decide to make the most of what will likely be their last days together in Aberdeen. In the end, The Last Boy in the and Girl in the World is another great teen novel, telling a compelling story and asking questions about the deeper things in life at the same time.


Banned Books Week --This One Summer

 Banned Books Week isn’t over yet, so here’s one more interesting, if controversial book to add to our blog discussion.

 

It’s no secret that I am a fan of graphic novels, and teen books, so it’s no surprise that I gravitated towards This One Summer written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by her cousin Jillian Tamaki. This beautiful book was initially very well received, winning the 2015 Printz Honor Award for best teen book, based on literary merit, and the Caldecott award for its stunning illustrations.

However, earlier this year the book was banned at parents’ request in libraries in Minnesota and Florida for its profanity and mature themes. Honestly, most of the upset was probably due to misunderstanding. Because the book is a Caldecott winner, an honor usually bestowed upon children’s books, people probably read it, and took offense that the subject matter wasn’t suitable for let’s say their eight year old child.

The book follows two twelve year old girls spending the summer in a beach town. Standing right on the brink of adulthood, they encounter and discuss subjects that are happening in their life, and the lives around them. That includes puberty, crushes, sex, marital problems, miscarriage, and unwanted pregnancy.

It’s a shame that this book was banned, because it really is a lovely book, and the graphic novel format really amplifies the work with the idyllic setting being inked in shades of blue. It’s a great novel, and I hope you take the time to check it out.  


Boy Meets Boy Meets Bans?!?

One of the proudest moments in my career happened when we invited author David Levithan to Kalamazoo. The program was not only going to feature the future Margaret A. Edwards Award winning author, but KPL was also going to give out books to teens featuring LGBTQ characters. The excitement for Levithan's visit soon turned sour when we learned that some people in the community were not happy with the program. The primary objection was that the main character in Levithan's novel Bot Meets Boy, expressed that he knew he was gay in kindergarten. Paul's ability to self-identify at an early age was not something you read about too often in books for teens in 2003. In fact when first published, Boy Meets Boy sparked a revolution in LGBTQ literature for teens. Here was a book that at its core is love story featuring two teens, dealing with teen problems, who happen to be gay. Levithan does address one character's battle with his super conservative parents and how people react to the school's transgendered quarterback/Homecoming Queen, but in the end Boy Meets Boy is about love

As the day of David's visit got closer, we learned of a protest outside of the library. The local news stations started to call asking for interviews. The staff planned for every possible response from the public that day. When it was time for Levithan's talk to begin, I was proud to see a full house (with people even in the hall) of excited advocates and lovers of literature. Outside I found less than ten protesting. Love won and prevented fear from keeping the message of Boy Meets Boy away from those who need it the most. Celebrate Banned Books Week by reading anything by David Levithan, one of the most challenged and banned authors in the past 13 years.