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.

A Review of Warcross by Marie Lu

by Hal Patnott

The title that I selected this week comes from an author already established for the popular appeal of her young adult literature, Marie Lu. Continuing with our theme of featuring books that demonstrate ALSC’s Core Values (collaboration, excellence, inclusiveness, innovation, integrity and respect, leadership and responsiveness), Warcross stands out for excellence and innovation. Stop by the Butler Center to take a look at our advanced galley.

Warcross

Warcross by Marie Lu, Penguin Random House/Putnam (2017)

Eighteen-year-old Emika Chen hunts alone. With her cracked phone and her second-hand, electric skateboard, she uses her hacking skills to track down the criminals in Manhattan that the police don’t have time for, Warcross Gamblers. The whole world is consumed by Warcross, a virtual reality game played by two teams that battle their opponents’ Artifact. Emika dreams of playing in the Warcross Championships, but her criminal record disqualifies her from ever entering the Wardraft as a one of the lucky Wild Card players that get selected by the teams each year. However, Emika’s dream comes true when one of her hacks accidentally glitches her into the All-Star Game of this Warcross season’s Opening Ceremony. The whole world sees and so does Hideo Tanaka, the mysterious, young billionaire who founded Henka Games and revolutionized virtual reality. Overnight, Emika’s world changes when Hideo flies her to Tokyo, enters her into the Wardraft, and hires her for her most dangerous and high-stakes bounty hunt ever.

Charged with suspense and action, Warcross is a fast-paced and immersive adventure. The story opens mid-hunt and the intrigue never dies away. Even the cliffhanger ending suggests Warcross is only the beginning of a much bigger plot. Cinematic action sequences and vivid, other-worldly, virtual landscapes add to the appeal. Although fans of team-based games like Overwatch and League of Legends will appreciate the style of gaming in Warcross, the mechanics of the game are well-developed throughout the book so that readers unfamiliar with video gaming terminology can get swept away by the action. This September release is an unmissable addition to young adult collections.

A Review of Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

By Hal Patnott

For this week’s post, I am excited to share my review of Mask of Shadows. It’s already one of my favorite upcoming young adult novels of 2017. In keeping with our theme of selecting titles that uphold ALSC’s Core Values (collaboration, excellence, inclusiveness, innovation, integrity and respect, leadership and responsiveness), Mask of Shadows demonstrates excellence and inclusiveness. Stop by the Butler Center to check out our advanced reader copy of this September release!

MaskofShadows

Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller, Sourcebooks Fire (2017)

All the nobles of Igna fear the might of the Queen’s Left Hand, four elite assassins known only as Emerald, Ruby, Amethyst, and Opal. When Sal Leon, a thief and a street fighter, steals a poster advertising auditions for the new Opal, they seize the opportunity to seek revenge on the nobles who betrayed Sal’s homeland during the last war. Kill or be killed, the auditions require strength and subtlety. Participants must eliminate their competition without arousing suspicion. Any moment might be Sal’s last.

A fusion of fantasy and political intrigue, Mask of Shadows is a dark and suspenseful read. Miller delves into themes of gender identity, prejudice, and privilege. The positive exploration of Sal’s genderfluidity makes this book an important addition to Young Adult collections. Sal’s identity is never portrayed as a hardship. Although Sal dresses to show how they wish to be addressed, they are not focused on cisnormativity, but rather on being who they are. They explain, “I always felt like Sal, except it was like watching a river flow past. The river was always the same, but you never glimpsed the same water. I ebbed and flowed, and that was my always.” Throughout the book, Sal grows as a character and learns to trust someone they initially saw as an enemy. Miller develops a compelling romantic subplot. The cliffhanger ending of this debut novel will leave readers dying for the next installment in the duology.

 

Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2017

By Alena Rivers

Bologna

Just over a week ago I returned from a trip to Bologna, Italy as part of a Dominican University SOIS graduate course on international children’s literature. The course featured attendance at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, an annual fair hosted in Bologna. It was an amazing experience!

This year the fair attracted 35,000 attendees and 1,300 exhibitors from 75 countries. At the fair, publishers have the opportunity to create impressive vignettes to showcase their books. The vignettes are creatively designed to look like tree houses, living rooms and other unique settings. The books were equally impressive. Picture books, in particular, really stand out here with a broad range of topics and illustrations. Given that most of the books were written in other languages, the illustrations were critical to telling stories we might not have otherwise understood.

Speaking of illustrations, the Bologna Illustrators Exhibition showcased a stunning array of work by 75 illustrators representing 62 countries and selected from over 3,300 participants. One of these 75  illustrators will be selected to have his or her work featured as the main branding concept for the 2018 fair. After this year’s fair, the exhibition will travel to other countries including Japan, China and the United States. It provides these new and emerging illustrators with a tremendous opportunity for their work to gain exposure.

Ultimately, this was an incredible chance to view books that, many of which, will never reach the United States due to the inherent challenges in getting books translated, scheduled for publishing in an already competitive environment and finding the best way to market books that may look very different from those we regularly consume. Visiting the fair and discussing the merits of these books has enabled me to see the value in the few international books that do get published in the United States.

In the world of children’s literature, we are struggling to find ways to increase the diverse stories and perspectives from voices within our own country. Expanding those opportunities to include stories and perspectives from those currently living in other countries will continue to prove challenging but equally as rewarding. I encourage new and seasoned librarians to consider including books in translation from international publishers in your collections and make an effort to read them and share them with your family, friends, students and patrons.

Over the last few years, the Butler Center has purchased books from the International Children’s Book Fair. Some of the titles we acquired on this trip are listed below. We encourage you to visit the Butler Center to view these books and others in our international collection.

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Un Ticket Pour Shitamachi by Tadayoshi Kajino, Lirabelle (2014) – France

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El Camino de Marwan by Patricia de Arias, illustrations by de Laura Borras, Editorial Amanuta Limitada (2016) – Chile, a New Horizons Mention for the Bologna Ragazzi Award 2017

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‘45 by Maurizio A. C. Quarello, Orecchio Acerbo (2017) – Italy

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Spellbound: Making Pictures with the A-B-C by Maree Coote, Melbournestyle Books (2015) – Australia, a Non Fiction Mention for the Bologna Ragazzi Award 2017

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Planète Migrants by Sophi Lamoureux, illustrated by Amelie Fontaine, Actes Sud, Junior (2016) – France

Transgender Day of Visibility Storytime

By Hal Patnott

Last week at the Oak Park Public Library, I had the opportunity to celebrate Transgender Day of Visibility during story time for children ages four and up. Established in 2009, Transgender Day of Visibility is an international holiday honoring accomplishments and raising awareness about the lives of transgender and gender nonconforming people. While Day of Remembrance, observed on November 20th, mourns the lives of transgender folks lost to violence in the previous year, Day of Visibility combats transphobia through celebration and education. Visibility and dialog are more important than ever after the rollback of protections for transgender students in public schools. In her statement in February protesting the protections rollback, ALA President Julie Todaro said, “The Trump administration’s decision to revoke important protections for transgender students couldn’t conflict more with the library community’s fundamental values and principles upon which libraries are founded.” Although the conversation about equitable access for transgender and gender nonconforming patrons often focuses on bathrooms, libraries can and should offer more than just a safe place to pee.  

When I started planning what books and songs I would share, I knew I wanted to promote themes of love and friendship. Transgender is an umbrella term that encompasses a huge spectrum of identities. However, gender identity doesn’t need to be a complicated topic if it’s approached through the lens that everyone is happier when they get to be themselves. Since Day of Visibility is about celebrating the accomplishments of transgender people as much as it is about education and awareness, I also wanted to showcase music by a transgender artist. Before and after the storytime, I ended up playing songs by Steam Powered Giraffe. Their music is upbeat, so it fit the tone of the story time well.

Day of Visibility may be past, but transgender and gender nonconforming people still need allies to stand up and demonstrate their support. You don’t need to wait until next March or even Pride month to make your library and your programming more inclusive.

For those interested in running a story time at their library, here is a full list of the books and music I included in mine.

Books

I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas, Dial (2014)

Introducing Teddy: A Gentle Story About Gender and Friendship by Jessica Walton, illustrated by Dougal MacPherson, Bloomsbury (2016)

Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall, Greenwillow (2015)

Music & Rhymes

“Clap for Love” by Little Miss Ann (Clap for Love, 2008)

“Happy” by Pharrell Williams (GIRL, 2014)

The Hokey Pokey*

If You’re Happy and You Know It*

“Jumping and Counting” by Jim Gill (Irrational Anthem and More Salutes to Nonsense, 2001)

“Me & My Baby (Saturday Nights)” by Steam Powered Giraffe (The 2¢ Show, 2012)

The More We Get Together*

“One-Way Ticket” by Steam Powered Giraffe (The 2¢ Show, 2012)

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear*

*These we sang without accompaniment.

Captured on Camera

by Hal Patnott

In both of the titles featured this week, the teenage protagonists find themselves coerced onto camera. They are cast into roles based on appearances and pressured to meet expectations, sometimes with the stakes of life or death. Additionally, both titles explore the value of thinking critically, and how easily the public buys into misinformation for the sake of entertainment. Continuing our trend of choosing books that uphold ALSC’s Core Values (collaboration, excellence, inclusiveness, innovation, integrity and respect, leadership and responsiveness), The Special Ones and Waste of Space demonstrate Responsiveness. Stop by the Butler Center to check out our advanced reader copies of these July 2017 releases!

The Special Ones by Em Bailey, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2017)

He watches them on cameras hidden throughout the house. Esther has never met him, but she knows she must play her part as a stoic, spiritual guide or she’ll get “renewed” like Lucille. It’s only a matter of time until her careful façade slips and she’s forced to leave Harry and Felicity. Every night, Esther and the other Special Ones chat with thousands of followers who watch their videos, purchase their handmade products, and rely on their teachings. When Harry brings home their new Lucille, the balance in the house shifts and Esther can’t stop their lives from changing forever. High stakes and the suspense of a threat without a name or a face makes The Special Ones hard to put down. Esther’s unreliable narration keeps readers questioning. This psychological thriller will appeal to teens who enjoyed The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly.

Waste of Space by Gina Damico, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2017)

“Catchphrase Forever!” With the help of NASAW, reality network DV8 launches a brand new television series that goes farther than any other reality show ever before—into outer space. Ten teens with forceful personalities and tragic backstories suit up for the mission of a lifetime, or so DV8 hopes the entire country will believe. The network promises twenty-four hour online access to the luxury spaceship’s confessional room and live footage every week. Despite all the evidence pointing to the show’s fraud, millions of viewers tune in for the drama, romance, and space action. Waste of Space is an over the top adventure full of satire. Written as a series of transcripts, the story moves quickly and will appeal to teens who love memes and pop culture references.

Books We Love by Holly Black

by Alena Rivers and Hal Patnott

The Butler Lecture 2017 will be held tomorrow, March 16th at 6pm. We are excited to welcome our featured lecturer, Holly Black, renowned children’s and teen author of many titles including, the Magisterium series, the Newbery Honor Book, Doll Bones, and The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. If you haven’t read anything by Holly Black, take a look at the ones we’ve highlighted below.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black, Little, Brown (2014)

In this chilling twist on vampire romance, seventeen-year-old Tana wakes up after an all-night party to a house full of corpses. To protect herself and the ones she loves, Tana, her irritating but charming ex-boyfriend, and a mysterious vampire boy set off on a quest for the last place Tana ever wanted to go, Coldtown. Although many teens dream of an eternal youth in the high-luxury prison, Tana doesn’t thirst for a life of blood and murder. Teen Readers craving a high-action, suspenseful story with a powerful, female lead will devour The Coldest Girl in Coldtown.

Doll Bones by Holly Black, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler, Simon & Schuster/Margaret K. McElderry (2013).

Ever since they were young, Zach, Poppy and Alice have been playing an imaginary game filled with the adventures of mermaids, pirates and thieves who are ruled by a bone-china doll they call the Queen.The three friends are in middle school now and their enthusiasm for the game suddenly comes to a stop when Zach puts an end to the game without a convincing explanation. Meanwhile, Poppy has been having dreams of the doll Queen and the ghost of a young child whose grave is empty. Poppy is compelled to find the ghost’s grave where the doll can be buried in place of the missing child and she convinces Zach and Alice to join her on the quest. Adventure, secrets, and strange occurrences will engage middle school readers.

The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, Scholastic (2015).

In this Harry Potter meets Avatar the Last Airbender adventure, Callum Hunt dreads his first day at The Magisterium, a school for children with magical power. His attempts to flunk the entrance exam impress neither his future teachers nor his fellow classmates. Callum’s father warned him of the danger and certain death that awaits him at the school. However, unexpected friendships and mysteries to solve open Callum’s mind to a new world of enchantment and wonder. Perfect for the middle grade collection, The Iron Trial includes a diverse cast of characters and subverts tropes of fantasy.