Announcing “Read Local”

As promised in our “Made in Illinois” post, we’d like to share updated information about SCBWI’s Read Local website and resource for anyone looking to collaborate with authors and illustrators from Illinois. Here is their launch video:

We invite local librarians and educators to use Read Local in their programming and instruction, and don’t forget to visit Butler Children’s Literature Center to see what’s new in board books, picture books, nonfiction, early readers and chapter books, middle grade fiction, and young adult fiction! We are open Monday-Thursday from 12-4 pm, or by appointment (email

Happy collaborating!

Duty, Loyalty, Love: A Review of Empress of All Seasons


Empress of All Seasons

Empress of All Seasons
Emiko Jean
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, November 2018

As per tradition, when the land of Honoku needs a new empress, a competition is held. All eligible women are invited, and the one who survives each of the four enchanted seasonal rooms is deemed worthy of the title of Empress of Honoku and position next to Taro, the prince next in line to be emperor. Mari has trained for this competition since childhood, though as yōkai she is technically ineligible to compete. Yōkai, supernatural beings, are under threat and enslaved by the current emperor. But Mari cares little about the rules or the prince – she competes for the power of being empress, and to bring change to Honoku from within. Taro himself doesn’t enjoy being a prize to be won, and cares little about his power – he would rather spend time in his lab with his mechanical inventions. Akira, another yōkai and friend of Mari, works to overthrow the Emperor from the outside while Mari keeps her true identity hidden to join the competition. Taro may just become their greatest ally, if they can learn to trust each other when their identities and motivations are revealed.

A detailed world and political structure along with multiple perspectives gives this fantasy novel depth and puts the reader at the immediacy of the action. Inspired by her Japanese heritage, Jean has created an escape for readers that questions the sacrifices made for duty and love, and challenges the notion of tradition as a value to be upheld.

Where Do You Fit In? A Review of Click


Click by Kayla Miller
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, January 2019
Ages 10-13

In Kayla Miller’s Click, the variety show is coming up at school and outgoing Olive has not been asked to join a group. This leaves her feeling outcast and alone when she is unable to find her own “click.” Olive refuses her mom’s help to find a group, instead turning to her Aunt Molly. She decides the best choice is to become a host, the talent show announcer. In her words, “It would be a way that I could help all of my friends with their acts by introducing them” (p.132). This story was heartfelt and cute with bright colored pastel artwork which suggest that the tone is cheerful. The digital medium conveys the lively tone through expressive faces and flat simplistic backgrounds with bold highlight lines. The novel does a wonderful job touching on family relationships, specifically mother and daughter. At first, Olive’s mom oversteps her boundaries in trying to help her. By the end of the novel, a balance is achieved between allowing Olive to be independent and encouraging her to follow through. Olive also learns that, in friendships, growing apart and having different interests is okay. Her friends even encourage her in her choice to become a host. The novel has a solid plot portraying realistic issues for friendship and family. Miller shows these serious middle school themes in a lighthearted way that doesn’t take away from the tension.

Mark your calendars, book-lovers!

Whether you’re looking for holiday gifts or building your own collection, it’s the perfect time of year for buying books.

butlercenter booksale 2018

Ok, so maybe I think it’s always the perfect time for new books, but I know a big stack of books and a warm cup of cider will help me make it through the cold months ahead.


Jen Clemons
Curator, BCLC


Stregas & Strategy: A Review of The Brilliant Death

brilliant deathThe Brilliant Death
Amy Rose Capetta
Viking Books, October 2018

Historical fantasy and romance collide in this captivating tale set in Vinalia, a fictional land inspired by mountain villages of old Italy. Teodora di Sangro is well aware of and versed in the di Sangro way of life, which places loyalty to the family above the self, and the opinions of men above women – but she yearns for more: the power of a di Sangro son, and to use the magic she holds inside of her. With her magic, she changes her family’s enemies into trinkets that decorate her room, but Teo knows she could do more, if only her father trusted the strega way in addition to practicing and teaching political strategy to his sons.

When Teo meets Cielo, a young genderfluid strega who can teach Teo how to use her power to become the di Sangro son she longs to be, Teo realizes there may be a way to be her true self and save her family from the Capo’s plans to weaken each of the Five Families of Vinalia. With challenges to traditional gender roles, exploration of what it means to feel at home and whole in your body, and poetically descriptive language, The Brilliant Death elevates a coming-of-age story into a thoughtful consideration of who we are when we let go of society’s expectations and trust the magic inside of us.

ILA Recap: Peoria is cooler than I thought!

Peoria Civic Center plaza

Back in the swing of things after a busy week of librarian-ing in Peoria and all I can say is, I can’t wait for next year. Despite the wild weather (82 degrees when I got there and 48 degrees when I left) and a packed schedule (the typical conference curse of one interested in sometimes vastly unrelated topics), I had a blast. From connecting with former co-workers to getting a glimpse of some amazing work DU alumni are doing all around the state, it was a wonderful three days of library fun.

Here are some of the highlights:

Book-nerd moment

Gene Yang

Opening General Session with Gene Luen Yang—Graphic novels weren’t really my thing, but American Born Chinese is one of the books that helped me develop an appreciation for GN’s and all they have to offer. Besides, as a self-confessed nerd, I always like to see someone own their nerdiness like Gene Yang does.


Inspiration moment

ILA President’s Program with Miguel Figueroa—As the Director of ALA’s Center for the Future of Libraries, Miguel Figueroa appears to have a keen eye for changes in the library profession and in society at large. His thoughts on the future being a “revolution” that brings people together and builds inclusivity were thought-provoking. Such an exciting opportunity for librarians and teachers who are so often already fostering those ideals.


Out of my comfort zone moment

Dungeons and Dragons dice“Looking for Group”: Engaging Teens with Dice, Monsters, and Stories—I purposefully picked a session about something which I know NOTHING, Dungeons and Dragons and similar role-playing games are that thing. The enthusiasm of the presenters and the way they use these games as a tool for social and emotional learning was fantastic and eye-opening. Thanks to Courtney Moore, Addison Public Library; Luke Rathburn, Grayslake Public Library; Emily Fardoux, Lincolnwood Public Library; Rachel Kaplan, Northbrook Public Library for the intro to the world of RPG’s and all their many sneaky teaching tools.


So excited to share moment(s)

Ok, let’s be honest, there were more of these than I can reasonably add to this post. So my top 2 sessions that I can’t wait to tell people about are:

Balance & Beyond: Work/Life Integration for Libraries—Working with the public can present emotional challenges to the strongest of us. How can libraries and library managers provide support for staff that allow them to be at their best in both their professional and personal lives? Kelly Durov and Laurie Prioletti, Northbrook Public Library; Brian Shepard, Indian Trails Public Library District; Regina Townsend, Forest Park Public Library provided a host of programming and policy ideas for creating a positive environment and supporting self-care for their teams.

Sort of Bilingual: Serving Youth and Young Adults from Spanish-Speaking Homes—With the help of an ALA Diversity Research Grant, Elizabeth Lynch and Kelly MacGregor of Addison Public Library set out to discover the strengths and opportunities of the kids in their community that come from bilingual homes. They discussed their research, the supportive program development that came from their learnings, and how they encourage a celebration of bilingualism at the library and beyond.


I am often in awe of the brilliant, generous, and dedicated librarians I meet in this small world of library-land—thanks to all for the inspiration!

Jen Clemons
Curator, BCLC


Will We See You in Peoria?

Headed to Peoria for the Illinois Library Association Annual Conference?
Want to connect with us while you’re there?

Screenshot-2018-10-4 Annual Conference

Visit us in the ILA Exhibits— you’ll find DU in the Peoria Civic Center at booth 214. Stop by to chat about what’s going on with Dominican, the SOIS program, and the Butler Center.


Meet up at the Dominican iSchool Alumni Reception. Join fellow Dominican grads and prospective Dominican grads for a chat, a snack, and some networking. You’ll find us on Tuesday, October 9, 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. in the Cheminee Ballroom in the Marriott Pere Marquette Hotel.

Better yet, try both. Hope to see you there!

Jen Clemons
Curator, Butler Children’s Literature Center