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.

A Review of Honestly Ben by Bill Konigsberg

by Hal Patnott

This week’s review features the sequel to Openly Straight by Stonewall and Lambda Award-winning author Bill Konigsberg. Honestly Ben stands out for its achievement of more than one of ALSC’s Core Values (collaboration, excellence, inclusiveness, innovation, integrity and respect, leadership and responsiveness), but it especially shines for the inclusive way Konigsberg explores the complexity of identity. Stop by the Butler Center to take a look at our advanced reader’s copy of Honestly Ben.

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Honestly Ben by Bill Konigsberg (Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, 2017)

After winter break, Ben Carver returns to his boarding school still feeling betrayed by his ex-best friend Rafe who kept a big secret from him. Last semester Ben’s Calculus grade slipped to an unacceptable C-, when his social life got out of hand. With his father’s approval and a prestigious scholarship at stake, Ben is determined to leave Rafe in the past and focus on returning his GPA to perfection. However, his unresolved feelings for Rafe come back to haunt him as he develops a connection with an outspoken girl named Hannah. Ben struggles to understand his feelings and make sense of his identity in a society that demands he choose from labels that don’t fit him.

Companion novel to Openly Straight, Honestly Ben continues the story of Rafe and Ben from Ben’s perspective. Although the book takes place after Openly Straight, Ben’s narration provides enough context and setting that new readers can easily follow the story.  The characters are well-developed and flawed, often for a lack of awareness of their own privilege. Still, Ben, Rafe, and their friends remain lovable and sympathetic. Plenty of humor keeps the story engaging too. Konigsberg explores the themes of identity, honesty, and bravery in a thought-provoking way without offering easy answers to readers. Honestly Ben deserves an A+. This must-read book for teens is a necessary addition to the library’s young adult collection.

A Review of The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

by Hal Patnott

This week, our featured title is the first installment in a new series to watch out for. Among ALSC’s Core Values, Chupeco’s writing demonstrates excellence. Stop by the Butler Center to take a look at our advanced reader copy of The Bone Witch.

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The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco (Sourcebooks/Fire, 2017)

Tea grew up reading stories of the heroic and magical asha. She pretended to wield their war-ending, artistic powers. Although her sisters are witches with enough skills to make remedies and cast auguries, dark power like necromancy doesn’t flow in her bloodline. Her sister Lilac saw a marriage to a prince in her future. Instead, Tea’s life takes an unexpected turn when she raises her brother from the dead. Of all the asha, bone witches like Tea are the most feared and despised. For her own safety, Tea leaves her small town with a mysterious woman named  Mykaela who promises to train her. Among the many lessons ahead of her, Tea learns first “that the dead hide truths as well as the living.”

The chapters alternate between two first-person narrators, a man in exile seeking the truth and Tea, who tells him her story. Between the time she begins her training as an asha and when she meets the exile at the ends of the earth, almost everyone Tea loves betrays her. The book opens in the midst of action with a seventeen-year-old Tea preparing to unleash her revenge on the world. Chupeco’s bewitching prose enhances the suspenseful plot. While the social customs in Tea’s world rely heavily on a binary gender division, she and her friends question and challenge the rules. A wide variety of cultures converge in the city where Tea begins her training as an asha. The asha themselves are inspired by East Asian cultures. Prejudice and distrust of cultural differences is a central theme throughout the book. A cliff-hanger ending suggests that more awaits of Tea’s adventure. Overall, The Bone Witch is a riveting fantasy and perfect for a teen reader who loves intrigue.

A Review of The Pants Project by Cat Clarke

by Hal Patnott

As we start the new semester, we continue to look at titles that stand out for their representation of ALSC’s Core Values (collaboration, excellence, inclusiveness, innovation, integrity and respect, leadership and responsiveness). This week’s selection, The Pants Project demonstrates inclusiveness, and integrity and respect.

the-pants-project

The Pants Project by Cat Clarke (Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky, 2017)

Of all the middle schools that Liv could have attended, of course, Bankridge is the last one in the district with a dress code that forces girls to wear skirts. Although Liv knows he isn’t a girl, he hasn’t found the right moment to tell Mom and Mamma that yet. After all, “It’s not really something you can just blurt out at the dinner table. ‘Please can you pass the ketchup? Oh, and by the way, I think I’m a boy, not a girl.’” When Liv’s best friend ditches him for a group of mean girls, he refuses to stop fighting to change the archaic school rules and with the help of new friends he discovers the courage to be himself.

The Pants Project is a story about identity, friendship, and social justice with a diverse cast of characters. Liv is not alone in his worries about acceptance from his peers. In the end, even his popular friend Jacob has insecurities, but they learn to support each other and overcome their fears together. Clarke maintains a lighthearted and engaging tone with plenty of humor from start to finish. Representation of transgender boys in literature for children is scarce, so this book provides a new and needed perspective. Heartwarming and full of hope, The Pants Project is a valuable addition to every tween collection.

Stop by the Butler Center to take a look at our advanced reading copy of The Pants Project.

2016 End of the Year Selections

The semester is coming to an end and so is the calendar year. We’ve read a lot of fascinating books from our 2016 collection and we are happy to present our 2016 End of the Year Selections. This list features Butler Center staff picks from 2016 that would work well for book clubs, gift choices, or personal reading, on a variety of topics. In keeping with our focus on ALSC’s core values (collaboration, excellence, inclusiveness, innovation, integrity and respect, leadership and responsiveness), we’ve intentionally chosen books that exemplify one or more of these values. These books were selected by Diane Foote, Butler Center Curator (informational books), Alena Rivers (picture books and children’s fiction), and Hal Patnott (children’s and teen fiction).

We hope you find something that inspires your reading choices over the coming weeks.

INFORMATIONAL BOOKS 

capital-days

Capital Days: Michael Shiner’s Journal and the Growth of Our Nation’s Capital by Tonya Bolden (Abrams, 2016)

The nation’s capital is in the news these days, from the recent presidential election to nuanced issues about how to present (or not present) its history in literature for young people. Here is a factual, welcome volume based on primary source material from the journal of a man born enslaved, who lived through, observed, and wrote about happenings in Washington, DC from 1814 to 1869. Not least remarkable is Shiner’s literacy at a time when it was illegal for slaves to be taught how to read and write. (ALSC Core Values: Inclusiveness, Responsiveness)

circle

Circle by Jeannie Baker (Candlewick, 2016)

Intricately detailed collages bring to life the incredible journey of bar-tailed godwits, a type of shorebird that migrates immense distances. Along the way, various ecosystems are portrayed including the original beach, cities, woodlands, and parklands; subtle environmental messaging appears when a lone bottle mars an otherwise beautiful strand. The tactile look of the collages invite touch, especially on the downy godwit chicks in their nests. (ALSC Core Values: Excellence, Innovation, Inclusiveness)

comics-confidential

Comics Confidential: Thirteen Graphic Novelists Talk Story, Craft, and Life Outside the Box edited by Leonard Marcus (Candlewick, 2016)

Graphic novels are often a refuge for reluctant readers, and the best of them offer sophisticated story arcs, fast-paced action, engaging dialogue, and visual elements that help tie these elements together. Now, fans have a compelling reason to dive into informational books: In their own words, graphic novel creators including Kazu Kibuishi, Hope Larson, Gene Luen Yang, and ten more reveal thoughts on their own art and lives, along with an original short graphic piece to keep the visual interest up. (ALSC Core Values: Collaboration, Inclusiveness)

radiant-child

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe (Little, Brown, 2016)

At first glance, Basquiat’s energetic, colorful creations seem childlike with their unstructured composition and wild, bold strokes and splashes. Upon closer study they reveal layers of meaning and power that will resonate with young art lovers, along with the compelling story of young Basquiat’s life, put thoughtfully into context here for child readers. (ALSC Core Values: Excellence, Inclusiveness)

we-will-not-be-silent

We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement That Defied Adolph Hitler by Russell Freedman (Clarion, 2016)

Who better than Newbery and Sibert Medalist Freedman to help readers today understand the climate that first enabled Hitler’s rise to power, then the courage it took on the part of these young people to defy the Nazis? In his trademark factual, non-hyberbolic way, Freedman conveys the terror of these times but doesn’t allow current young readers to become overwhelmed by it. Source notes, an index, clearly captioned archival photos, and picture credits complete the package and make this an example of the very best in nonfiction, for any age. (ALSC Core Values: Leadership, Integrity and Respect)

vietnam

Vietnam: A History of the War by Russell Freedman (Holiday, 2016)

What’s better than one book by Russell Freedman? Two books by Russell Freedman! The Vietnam War marked a turning point in American history; the intertwining issues of domestic policy, foreign policy, geopolitics, and American culture including the maturing antiwar movement, are all effectively addressed here, again, fully supported by clearly captioned and credited photos along with backmatter including a time line, source notes, a glossary, and an index. Now that “fake news” is having an impact on our national discourse, Freedman’s approach is more welcome, and more necessary, than ever. (ALSC Core Values: Inclusiveness, Excellence, Integrity and Respect)

PICTURE BOOKS  

du-iz-tak

Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis (Candlewick, 2016)

A group of insects ponders the presence of an unknown plant that continues to grow in front of their home log. An invented language advances the story as readers use context clues from the illustrations to decipher the insects’ conversation. Young children will be enthralled by watching the small yet meaningful changes unfold in the intricately drawn images that carry from page to page in a muted, earth-tone color palette. The insects’ invented argot risks being perceived as “pidgin,” and may distract rather than appeal, but it does present an opportunity for discussions about language and fluency with both children and adults. (ALSC Core Value: Innovation)

maybe-something-beautiful

Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell, illustrated by Rafael Lopez (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016)

A young girl who loves to draw shares her art with members of her community. She is invited by a muralist to join him in creating a vibrant colored mural on a building in their otherwise gray neighborhood. They are soon joined by their neighbors whose enthusiasm for the project ignites a block party filled with music, dancing and painting the walls, sidewalks, benches and utility boxes. The lively text is complemented by colorful illustrations. Inspired by a true story, Maybe Something Beautiful is a reminder that everyone’s efforts can impact change and that art is a powerful tool for transformation.(ALSC Core Values: Collaboration, Leadership, Responsiveness)

CHILDREN’S FICTION

As Brave As You

As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds (Simon and Schuster/Atheneum, 2016)

Twelve-year-old Genie and his older brother Ernie spend a month with their grandparents in North Hill, Virginia while their parents spend time together sorting out their fading marriage. Genie struggles to adapt to an environment unlike his home in Brooklyn and make sense of the growing concerns he has for his parents’ marriage. Readers will laugh and empathize with this coming of age story as Genie deepens his understanding of himself, his family history and his role within the family. (ALSC Core Values: Integrity and Respect)

The Girl Who Drank the Moon

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill (Alongquin, 2016)

Everyone knows a witch lives in the swamp, because every year the people of the Protectorate sacrifice their youngest child to keep peace with her. What they don’t know is how she transforms the lives of their abandoned children with starlight and magic. A book about the power of stories and the dangers of sorrow, The Girl Who Drank the Moon has enormous heart. (ALSC Core Values: Innovation, Excellence)

snow-white-a-graphic-novel

Snow White: A Graphic Novel by Matt Phelan (Candlewick, 2016)

Samantha, or Snow as she becomes known, is sent away to school as a young girl by her cruel stepmother. While she is gone her father passes away and upon her return her own life is threatened by an assassin hired by her stepmother. Snow runs to safety and finds herself in an alley with a band of seven boys who protect her from the evils of their city and Snow’s stepmother. Set in 1928, New York City, Phelan has created an engaging retelling of a classic fairy tale in a graphic novel format. (ALSC Core Value: Innovation)

 TEEN BOOKS

if-i-was-your-girl

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo (Macmillan/Flatiron, 2016)

Amanda moves in with her father after her transition for a fresh start and to escape the prejudice in her old town. She wants to fit in at her new school, but she has to decide how much of her past to share with her friends and the boy she is starting to fall in love with. An important book from an authentic voice, Amanda’s story is both heartbreaking and hopeful. (ALSC Core Value: Integrity and Respect)

Saving Montgomery Sole

Saving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki (Macmillan/Roaring Brook, 2016)

Montgomery Sole, a girl with a passion for the unexplained, discovers a dark and mysterious stone with the power to punish her enemies. When a new preacher, hell-bent on saving the “American Family” from “sinners” like her moms, moves to town, she must decide what it means to be a hero and whether to risk her friendships by wielding the stone’s dangerous power. This book has a strong theme of overcoming prejudice and taking the high road.  (ALSC Core Values: Leadership, Responsiveness)

A Review of The Singing Bones by Shaun Tan

by Hal Patnott

Over the last two weeks, we have looked at titles that stand out for their representation of ALSC’s Core Values (collaboration, excellence, inclusiveness, innovation, integrity and respect, leadership and responsiveness). This week’s selection, The Singing Bones by Shaun Tan, demonstrates three of these values—collaboration, excellence, and innovation.

the-singing-bones

The Singing Bones by Shaun Tan (Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, 2016)

A man promises his daughter to the devil. Two children stumble across the house of a witch in the woods. Jealous and spiteful, a queen casts a spell on her step-sons and turns them into swans. Unable to resist his nature, a cat betrays and devours his mouse friend.  Shaun Tan presents a new contribution to the vast treasury of retellings and works inspired by Grimms’ fairy tales. Seventy-five photographed sculptures accompany excerpts from each of the selected tales. Crafted from papier-mâché, air drying clay, and paint, the texture and the shadows in every piece bring to life a haunting atmosphere. In the forward, Neil Gaiman writes, “They feel primal, as if they were made in a long-ago age of the world, when the stories were first being shaped, and that perhaps the sculptures came first.” Along with the plates for seventy-five tales, The Singing Bones includes a forward, a historical introduction by Jack Zipes, an afterward with more details about the art from Shaun Tan, an annotated index, and suggested further reading. This collection is worth exploring for long-time lovers of fairy tales and newcomers alike.

A Review of NewsPrints by Ru Xu

by Hal Patnott

In keeping with our reaffirmation of the core values of children’s librarianship (collaboration, excellence, inclusiveness, innovation, integrity and respect, leadership, and responsiveness), we are intentionally highlighting books for children and teens that exemplify one or more of these. Many of the titles will of course be appropriate for more than one core value. We feel today’s entry, NewsPrints, exemplifies “collaboration,” “inclusiveness,” and “leadership.”

newsprints

NewsPrints by Ru Xu (Scholastic/Graphix 2017)

Ten years of war with Grimmaea orphaned the children of Nautilene. Instead of attending school, the girls sell cookies and the boys sell newspapers to fund their food and shelter. Blue, one such orphan, finds a new home as one of the Bugle Boys, selling papers on the street. She loves her family of fellow orphans and respects the Bugle’s dedication to print the truth. The only problem is that Blue isn’t a boy. If anyone finds out her secret, she could lose everything. When Blue meets Crow, a boy who has also been cast aside and denied the opportunity to be himself, she decides to stand up for herself and for her new friend to give others the courage to stop hiding who they are.

NewsPrints, a debut graphic novel by Ru Xu, begins in the midst of action and never slows down as mysteries unravel around Blue. The full-color art and dynamic layouts bring Blue’s world to life. Although the story is set in a made up country with elements of science fiction, Blue’s struggles to be herself, protect her friend, and fight for truth are real. The adults in Blue’s life are complex—while some have good intentions, they don’t’ always do the right thing. Ru Xu crafts a narrative with a strong theme of the need tolerance and inclusiveness without providing overly simplified solutions for how to achieve this. Her characters have to take risks with life-altering consequences, but even when they do, they don’t necessarily save the day. The resolution suggests there is more to look forward to of Blue’s adventure.

Stop by the Butler Center to check out our advanced reader’s copy of NewsPrints.

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

by Hal Patnott

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We Are Okay by Nina LaCour (Penguin Random/Dutton, 2017)

The day after her grandfather disappears into the ocean forever, Marin boards a plane from San Francisco to New York determined to disappear too, even if it means leaving behind the people who care about her. At her college in the city, far away from her old life, she can become someone new, pretend her phone is secondhand and that the girl named Mabel sending her messages is a complete stranger. However, some relationships mean too much to end. As Marin’s grandfather once tells her, “[Sometimes] two people have a deep connection. It makes romance seem trivial. It isn’t about anything carnal. It’s about souls. About the deepest part of who you are as a person.” Neither Marin or Mabel can forget about their bond. After months of silence from Marin, Mabel still refuses to give up on her best friend, the girl she fell in love with during the summer of their senior year. She’s willing to fly three thousand miles to learn the truth and convince Marin to come home to the people who want to support her.

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour is a haunting coming-of-age story about love and moving on after betrayal. The novel is written in first-person from Marin’s perspective. Chapters alternate between the present and flashbacks to her senior year of high school. LaCour’s lyrical prose and her sparing use of dialogue beautifully convey Marin’s loneliness and longing. Despite the heavy sorrow that fills the pages,the book ends on a note of hope. Grab a box of tissues. We Are Okay is a must-read of 2017.

Check out our advanced reading copy of We Are Okay at the Butler Center!