A Review of Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

by Hal Patnott

In her acceptance speech for her 2017 Stonewall Honor Book When the Moon Was Ours, Anna-Marie McLemore said, “The time we need fairy tales the most is when we think there is no place in them for us.” Her work continually offers readers searching for representation a path to find themselves in “once upon a time.” Continuing with our theme of selecting titles that demonstrate ALSC’s Core Values (collaboration, excellence, inclusiveness, innovation, integrity and respect, leadership and responsiveness), Wild Beauty stands out for inclusiveness, integrity and respect, and leadership and responsiveness. This upcoming release deserves starred reviews. Our copy of Wild Beauty is an advanced review.

Wild Beauty

Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore, Macmillan/Feiwel & Friends (2017)

La Pradera blooms with the magic of the Nomeolvides women. They bless the land with their flowers, but in return they are cursed. Their lovers vanish and they can never leave their garden. If they try to run, the vengeful earth knows and poisons them until they return or die choking on pollen and blood. One hundred years ago, before the Briar family let the Nomeolvides women live at La Pradera, they were “las hijas del aire,” forced to flee from place to place and hide their magic. Like the generations of women before them, Estrella and her cousins feel the weight of the curse and their family’s sorrow. They hold their hearts close and protect each other from breaking. When the arrival of a new Briar threatens their home and a mysterious boy with no memories appears in the garden, Estrella and her cousins unite to save the people they love.

Anna-Marie McLemore contributes yet another original fairy tale for young adult readers packed with themes of identity, family, love, and home. She spins the narrative in the alternating perspectives of Estrella Nomeolvides and Fel, a boy who has forgotten his past. They learn to open their hearts to one another while discovering themselves. Place holds special significance in Wild Beauty. Through La Pradera’s curse, McLemore explores how the history of a land impacts the community who lives there and how oppression poisons the soil.  The resolution blossoms with healing and hope. Once again McLemore demonstrates her power to enchant with lyrical prose. Although McLemore’s past work already shines with excellence, this upcoming release is her richest and most thought-provoking book yet.

A Review of All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson

by Hal Patnott

This week’s featured title is a highly anticipated September release by Victoria Jamieson, creator of the Newbery Honor book Roller Girl. In keeping with our theme of selecting titles that uphold ALSC’s Core Values (collaboration, excellence, inclusiveness, innovation, integrity and respect, leadership and responsiveness), All’s Faire in Middle School demonstrates excellence. Stop by the Butler Center to check out our advanced reading copy of All’s Faire in Middle School.

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All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson, Penguin Random House/Dial (2017)

Every year, Imogene and her family work at the Florida Renaissance Faire. Her dad plays a villainous knight and her mom runs a shop selling flower crowns. For the first time ever, Imogene has a quest of her own—middle school. As much as she loves her geeky Ren Faire family, she isn’t sure what her new friend group will think. Between mean science teachers and learning the rules of popularity, the year ahead turns out to be a more fearsome challenge than Imogene expected.

Victoria Jamieson returns with another full-color graphic novel about navigating school, friendship, and identity. Not unlike Astrid from Roller Girl, Imogene shows determination throughout the story, even when she must confront her own mistakes. Although Imogene dreams of becoming a knight, she learns to recognize the dragon and the princess inside her heart too. All’s Faire in Middle School fully embraces the Ren Faire aesthetic. Each chapter begins with a page designed like an illuminated manuscript with dragons and jousters in the border art. This upcoming graphic novel is the perfect back-to-school read for tweens.

Groovy Joe Returns

by Hal Patnott

One of my favorite story time dogs is back with a second book. This week, I am excited to share Groovy Joe: Dance Party Countdown. In keeping with our theme of selecting titles that uphold ALSC’s Core Values (collaboration, excellence, inclusiveness, innovation, integrity and respect, leadership and responsiveness), this week’s featured title represents collaboration and excellence. Stop by the Butler Center to check out our advanced review copy of this September 2017 release.

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Groovy Joe: Dance Party Countdown by Eric Litwin, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, Scholastic (2017)

Groovy Joe, the ice-cream-loving dog, returns with all new moves—bow wow. He’s dancing and singing at his own disco party when all of a sudden he hears a knock at the door. More dogs show up to join his fun. Although Joe has less room to dance each time, he never gets upset. “Goodness no!” He is happy to share his rocking fun with all his friends. At the end Joe invites the reader to join in on the action.

Fans of Groovy Joe: Ice Cream & Dinosaurs will recognize Joe’s upbeat and welcoming personality. Readers who enjoy Pete the Cat’s go-with-the-flow response to new challenges will discover the same laid-back attitude in this title.The purple and disco patterned backgrounds set the mood for Joe’s party. Rhyming and repetition make Dance Party Countdown an excellent read-aloud for story times. Litwin introduces simple addition skills every time more guests arrive to dance. An invitation at the end of the book presents an opportunity for readers to join the fun with a dance party of their own. Like the last Groovy Joe title, readers can download the “Disco Party Bow Wow” song from Scholastic’s website. Overall, Dance Party Countdown provides a fun story with a positive message about sharing and inclusiveness.

A Review of Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

by Hal Patnott

I returned from ALA Annual last week with an ARC of one of my most anticipated reads of 2017, Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust. This feminist fairy tale retelling does not disappoint. In keeping with our theme of featuring titles that uphold ALSC’s Core Values (collaboration, excellence, inclusiveness, innovation, integrity and respect, leadership and responsiveness), this week’s selection stands out for excellence, and leadership and responsiveness.  

Girls Made of Snow and Glass

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust, Macmillan/Flatiron (2017)

Every day Princess Lynet looks more like her mother Emilia, the beloved queen who she never met. King Nicholas and everyone at court constantly remind Lynet of her destiny to take Emilia’s place. No one but Mina, Lynet’s stepmother, understands that she wants to find her own path. She dreads the day she’ll wear the crown and lose herself forever. At sixteen, Mina moved against her will to Whitespring with her father Gregory, a reviled and power-hungry magician. Charm and beauty won Mina the throne, but not the love of the court who see her as an outsider or the widowed King who loves his grief for his dead wife more. As Lynet’s sixteenth birthday approaches, Mina realizes her reign will soon end. Once she loses her crown, she’ll have nothing left but her darkest secret, a heart made of glass.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass reimagines Snow White as an empowering fantasy with female leads who stand strong together in a society that tries to pit them against one another. The chapters alternate between Mina and Lynet, revealing each woman’s struggle for control over her own narrative. Bashardoust develops compelling characters, including a confident, teenage surgeon named Nadia, who is determined to make a difference. Nadia’s romance with Lynet is worth melting for. Readers who love fairy tales and fantasy will be swept away by the enchanting prose and the suspenseful plot. This standalone, debut novel is a must-purchase for young adult collections.

See You at ALA!

Attending ALA Annual Conference in Chicago this week? We are! The 2017 ALA Annual Conference, 6/23-26 at McCormick Place in Chicago, is jam-packed with children’s and teen related programming, including celebrations of the very best in books and media for youth. Connect (or re-connect) with us at the Dominican SOIS booth #4736 in the exhibit hall or on social media. Let us know what sessions you’re attending and what you’re most excited for.

Look for Butler Center Curator Diane Foote at the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Breakfast on Sunday, June 25, 7:00-9:30 a.m.; she’ll be chairing the event’s Local Arrangements Committee, and the Butler Center is sponsoring a table. Associate Professor Sujin Huggins, a member of the current Coretta Scott King Book Awards Jury (which will name its winners at Midwinter 2018), will be there as well. This year’s winners are particularly exciting, including Author Award Winner Representative John Lewis for March: Book 3, Illustrator Award Winner Javaka Steptoe for Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, and all of the Author and Illustrator Honorees.

The Coretta Scott King Book Awards Breakfast kicks off a full day of celebration that continues in the afternoon with the Pura Belpré Award Celebración and into the evening with the Newbery Caldecott Wilder Banquet.

Monday is a big day for ALSC, beginning with the 2017 ALSC Awards Presentation of the Geisel, Siebert, Batchelder, and Carnegie Awards; continuing with the ALSC Membership Meeting where Past President Ellen Fader will receive her Distinguished Service Award, and the Charlemae Rollins President’s Program,“Plugging Into the Digital Age: Libraries Engaging and Supporting Families with Today’s Literacy.” Since Annual wouldn’t be Annual without schedule conflicts, the Stonewall Book Awards program is also taking place Monday morning, where ALSC will receive the GLBTRT Award for Political Activism as a result of the cancellation of the ALSC Institute scheduled to take place in Charlotte, North Carolina in response to the HB2 legislation in that state.  The Odyssey Awards, co-administered by ALSC and YALSA for the best audibooks for kids and teens, will be presented Monday afternoon.

Speaking of YALSA, if you’re arriving early enough, don’t miss the Printz Award program and reception on Friday June 23, 8:00-10:00 p.m., administered by YALSA and sponsored by Booklist.

We hope to see you there!

A Review of Meet Cute

by Hal Patnott

Our featured title for this week is Meet Cute, an anthology of short stories by fourteen different authors. Continuing our theme of highlighting books that uphold ALSC’s Core Values (collaboration, excellence, inclusiveness, innovation, integrity and respect, leadership and responsiveness), our selection for this week demonstrates collaboration and excellence. Stop by the Butler Center to view our advanced reading copy of this January 2018 release.

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Meet Cute, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2018)

Trains pass in a busy city. Strangers lock eyes through the windows. Against all the odds, their hearts meet. Whether by statistical probability, fate, or magic, lives intersect—if only for a moment—and love changes them. Meet Cute, a collection of fourteen short stories by award-winning and bestselling authors, explores the power of unexpected encounters. This anthology includes stories across genres from realistic to futuristic and fantastic.  In “Click” by Katharine McGee, a dating app and a missing phone bring together a photographer and a computer scientist. Emery Lord tells the story of Cass and Johanna, two seniors bound for college in the Fall who meet in airport security. Cass is rethinking her future at NYU until Johanna encourages her to take a chance and step out of her comfort zone. On the Isle of Meridien, in “The Way We Love Here” by Dhonielle Clayton, Vio and Sebastian travel through time in search of their destinies. Some of the stories, like “Print Shop” by Nina LaCour, “259 Million Miles” by Kass Morgan, and “The Department of Dead Love” by Nicola Yoon, are about learning to move on from the past, while others, like “Somewhere That’s Green” by Meredith Russo, feature characters challenged to overcome prejudice. Every story sparks with tension. The cast of characters and writing styles are diverse. Meet Cute is a perfect match for teens who love romance.

A Review of Looking for Group by Rory Harrison

by Hal Patnott

This week I am excited to share Looking for Group by Rory Harrison. It’s, without a doubt, one of my favorite reads of 2017 so far. If we starred our reviews here on Butler’s Pantry, I would star this one. Continuing our theme of selecting titles that uphold ALSC’s Core Values (collaboration, excellence, inclusiveness, innovation, integrity and respect, leadership and responsiveness), Looking for Group stands out for excellence, inclusiveness, and integrity and respect.

Looking for Group

Looking for Group by Rory Harrison, HarperTeen/HarperCollins (2017)

Dylan might not be dying anymore, but he isn’t well either. His cancer is gone, but he doesn’t know how to start his life over again. It doesn’t help that he’ll never convince his mother, who works a late night shift, to come to his high school so he can re-register for the spring semester. Instead of starting classes, he steals his mother’s car and drives to Amaranth to find his only friend Arden, who he met online in World of Warcraft. Arden is perfect—“Everything dark burns away when she smiles”—but they come from different worlds. She has everything and has been everywhere, while he has nothing except the fifty dollars in his pocket and some Tic Tacs. Still, Arden wants to escape from her father who won’t accept her gender identity and she’s ready for adventure when Dylan invites her on an IRL quest. Together they embark for California to find a sunken pearl ship lost in the Salton Sea. Along the way they discover friendship, life, and love.

Funny, geeky, and hopeful all at once, Looking for Group explores what it means to love others and yourself. Dylan struggles with his feelings for Arden, because he has always been sure that he’s gay. He doesn’t want to love her for the wrong reasons. Overcoming self-doubt and rekindling his desire to live are central to his character development throughout the novel. Harrison’s portrayal of Arden, a transgender teen, is strong for its resistance of cisnormativity. The character’s identity and expression are never glossed over or depicted as a deficit. While over the last few years transgender teens have become more visible in mainstream young adult literature, books often focus on characters who “pass” as cisgender or who aspire to pass. What makes Harrison’s portrayal of Arden special and groundbreaking is that Arden does not pass, but she is unashamed and beautiful. Although the last chapter brings the book to a sudden ending, it doesn’t detract from the overall value and quality of the narrative. This 2017 Spring release deserves a place in every young adult collection.