Last Night at the Patch: A Review of Pumpkinheads

Pumpkinheads

Pumpkinheads
Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks
Graphic novel
First Second Books, August 27, 2019
Ages 14-17

It’s the last night of their final pumpkin patch season before Deja and Josiah head off to college. As the weather turns, Deja cajoles her employee-of-the-month pal to leave the confines of the Succotash Hut and give their beloved pumpkin patch an epic sendoff. Author Rainbow Rowell (Eleanor & Park) teams up with author/writer Faith Erin Hicks (Comics Will Break Your Heart) to deliver a madcap adventure of two friends navigating their ways through love, friendship, and corn mazes.

Graphic novel Pumpkinheads combines a pithy humor with teenage self-reflection. The quirky pop culture references (there is a John Denver cover band called John Colorado Springs) are delightful, but more delightful is Deja, a pumpkin patch heartbreaker whose love of snacks is only surpassed by her affection for her friend Josiah. Josiah plays the rule-abider to Deja’s social butterfly and the two complement each other well. However, Rowell and Hicks do not let their characters stay stuck in their ways. When the pair’s discussion turns to fate, Josiah says his leave-it-up-to-fate attitude is a perfect match for Deja’s go-getter nature. Deja is quick to reply that his passive nature means that she is the one doing the work to makes things happen.

Rowell and Hicks alternate action sequences with emotional revelations. Despite great dialogue, some of the most powerful moments are close-ups of Deja’s face when her emotions shift. Near the end of their evening together, Deja’s face reacting to a plain but heartfelt admission from Josiah is familiar and priceless to any teenager or former teenager.

[[Following the story is a conversation between collaborators Rowell and Hicks, delving into plot ideas, character development, and the artistic design process.]]

 

Butler Bookshelf

IMG_3223Here are some books that we got in this week that we’re really excited about:

Paper World: Planet Earth illustrated by Bomoboland, published by Big Picture Press

Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi, published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

The Other Side: Stories of Central American Teen Refuges Who Dream of Crossing the Border by Juan Pablo Villalobos, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

King of the Mole People by Paul Gilligan, published by Henry Holt and Co.

If Animals Celebrated Christmas by Ann Whitford Paul, illustrated  by David Walker, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Color Me In by Natasha Diaz, published by Delacorte Press

Best Friends by Shannon Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, published by First Second

Life is Short and Then You Die: Mystery Writers of America Present First Encounters with Murder edited by Kelley Armstrong, published by Macmillan

Stargazing written and illustrated by Jen Wang, published by First Second

Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border by Mitali Perkins, illustrated by Sara Palacios, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Arriverderci Crocodile or See You Later Alligator begun by Fred Marcellino and completed by Eric Puybaret, published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Remarkables by Lisa Mantchev, illustrated by David Litchfield, published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Breakdown of Diverse Content & Own Voices works within Butler’s 2018 Collection

Introduction:
Inspired by We Need Diverse Books and the University of Wisconsin-Madison info-graphic breaking down the percentage of books depicting diverse characters (specifically race and ethnicity) we here at Butler decided to evaluate our 2018 collection to determine whether or not we had a similar breakdown. Questions that we hope to answer by looking back at our 2018 titles included: Does our collection accurately represent what’s being published? Do we need to do some active curation to give our users a better picture of current publishing trends? Although we realize that we receive much fewer books in one year than either of this two institutions do, we felt that is our responsibility to ensure that our collection was an accurate reflection of what is published in a given year. 

WNDB 2018 Graphic

We Need Diverse Books & CCBC Diversity info-graphic

Method & Results:
1. Gather all 2018 titles Butler received and put it into an excel doc. Delete any and all duplicate titles within the excel doc. This was done by putting the doc in alphabetical order by author to make it easier to spot any duplicates.
2. We then looked up each book on Kirkus and Amazon to determine the race/ethnicity of the protagonists of each book. Once this was determined, this would be indicated on the excel doc with the following acronyms:

  • African/African American (A/AA)
  • American Indian/First Nations (AI/FN)
  • Asian Pacific Islander/Asian Pacific American (API/APA)
  • Latinx
  • White

In the case that it was none of the above, we left it blank to represent animals/other.
3. After determining the contents diversity, we then went on to look up the author and illustrator of the title to determine whether or not the title was own voices. If it was own voices, an ‘x’ was put in the excel doc. If the title was not own voices, this would be indicated in the excel doc by writing the race/ethnicity of the author and illustrator next to one of the above acronyms.
4. After all this was done, we found that we had a few anthology titles that included both diverse characters and none diverse characters. Since we could not determine how much of these titles were dedicated to either non diverse or diverse characters we decided to delete these titles from the doc so as not to misrepresent them in our graphic.
5. We then organized the doc in alphabetical order based off our acronyms. From there we counted how many books we had in all of our categories—including those we had left blank that represented books about animals or other inanimate objects. For each category we had the following amount of books:

BCLC 2018 All Books graph6. With these numbers in mind, we decided to focus on the 240 books that had diverse content to see how many were own voices.
7. We counted how many ‘x’ indicators we had in our A/AA, AI/FN, API/APA, and Latinx categories to see how many titles we had that were actually own voices.
We found that altogether there were only 119 titles that were on voices.
Once all the data had been gathered we made a graph breaking down all the books by      content and a graph that broke down the number of own voices titles by race/ethnicity.BCLC 2018 Only Diverse Content.png

  • Notably, we found that although the graph based off content indicated that of the 1420 we had only 0.42% was AI/FN content. The own voices graph, on the other-hand, indicated that of the 240 books we had with diverse characters 2% of own voices content was AI/FN.
  • In fact, the percentages for each category doubled between graphs. However, the overall percentage of non-own voices content made up 50% of the second graph while no individual category went above 19%.
  • Overall, own voices content only made up 8% of the total number of books that we received in 2018.BCLC 2018 Own Voices Overall

Breaking this down further, looking at each A/AA, AI/FN, API/APA, and Latinx individually to see what percentage of the content about them was own voices, we found that although A/AA had the most content its overall percentage of own voices titles was the lowest of all the other categories at 41%. Meanwhile Latinx, which had the second lowest amount of content had the highest percentage of own voice titles at 68%.  BCLC 2018 Own Voices within each race ethnicity

Conclusions:
The percentages of our content graph are overall lower than those found by We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. However, the one area where we had a higher percentage than WNDB and University of Wisconsin-Madison was in our other/animal category. This may in part be due to the fact that we included self-help and how-to books within this category. Without knowing exactly how WNDB and University Wisconsin-Madison determined what went into this category it is hard to say why this discrepancy exists.
On the whole, our results seemed to match the same pattern as WNDB and the University of Wisconsin with White making up the majority of content, followed by Animal/Other, A/AA, API/APA, Latinx, and AI/FN at the bottom. While the gap between diverse and not diverse content is great, the gap between own voices content and non-own voices content is even greater still.

Nature Children Atlantic

The Atlantic, Ashley Fetters

Final Thoughts:
As more diverse titles are published, it is important that they are predominantly written by people from the community they are writing about. It is not enough to have a diverse cast of characters if they do not act or accurately reflect the community they are meant to represent. At the very least, writers and illustrators should make sure that whatever they are producing does not further advance negative stereotypes of their subjects. People are not always aware of the biases they may hold; it is always a good idea to have a sensitivity reader look over and reevaluate your work so as not to further any biases that may be present.
These findings, as well as the findings by WNDB and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, may be helpful to librarians, educators, and parents when curating their own collections. Knowing that publishers mostly publish content depicting white children or animals, librarians, educators, and parents can take the appropriate steps to ensure that their collections are representative of the diverse communities of people which they serve. It is important that everyone feels heard and represented, and making sure that the books we select accurately reflect these voices is critical to expanding children’s world views and validating their self-worth.

 

 

 

Save the Date

Mark your calendar for the eighth annual Butler Lecture featuring award winning illustrator Bryan Collier.

When:      March 4, 2020 6 p.m.
Reception and book signing to follow

Where:     Eloise Martin Recital Hall
Dominican University, Fine Arts Building
7900 West Division Street
River Forest, IL 60305

The lecture is free and open to the public with registration required. Registration will open January 2020.

collier photo from website

Bryan Collier is a beloved illustrator known for his unique style combining watercolor and detailed collage. He is a four-time Caldecott Honor recipient for Trombone Shorty, Dave the Potter, Martin’s Big Words, and Rosa. His books have won many other awards as well, including six Coretta Scott King Illustrator Awards. His recent books include By and By, Thurgood, The Five O’Clock Band, and Between the Lines. He lives in New York with his family.

 

To find out more about Bryan Collier’s art and illustration, visit him at bryancollier.com

 

 

Who’s Ready for School to Start?

Back-to-school butterflies? First day jitters? The newest academics among us will appreciate these sweet, silly, and giggle-worthy introductions to just who and what awaits them in the classroom. This brand new class of back-to-school picture books to will ease the way for the little humans in your library, classroom, or living room as all get ready for the first day of school.

 

Bunnys book clubBunny’s Book Club Goes to School
By Annie Silvestro, illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss
Penguin Random House, June 2019

Josie is worried about making friends at school, but her book-club buddy Bunny can help—he’ll just be her school friend too. As the book club animals search the school for Josie, they’ll introduce kids to all the fun places waiting for them at school. Sweet illustrations complement this gentle story of friendship, empathy, and support.

 

clothes line cluesClothesline Clues to the First Day of School
By Katheryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook, illustrated by Andy Robert Davies
Charlesbridge, June 2019

It’s a laundry basket inspired guessing game in this guide to all the new people excited to meet you at school. A silly rhyme will help set expectations and turn anxiety to anticipation about the first day of school.

 

i will be fierceI Will Be Fierce
By Bea Birdsong, illustrated by Nidhi Chanani
MacMillan, April 2019

While not strictly a back-to-school-themed book, it follows this fierce little girl to school and back and through all the adventures in between. Brightly colored and boldly written, this is a great illustration of how a little confidence can go a long way on a big (first) day at school.

 

 

if animals went to schoolIf Animals Went to School
By Ann Whitford Paul, Illustrated by David Walker
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, May 2019

Beaver might not want to go to school, but after a day of music, learning, and his fun with his friends, he doesn’t want to go home. A perfectly inspirational story for the tiny human determined NOT to go to school!

 

king of kindergartenThe King of Kindergarten
By Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton
Penguin Random House, July 2019

An exuberant and imaginative walkthrough of the first day of school! Barnes’ pacing is just right for introducing a new routine and finding the fun in what could be a scary first day.

 

The smell of freshly sharpened pencils is in the air—Happy Back-to-School season, friends!