A Home Run Debut! Review of Get A Grip, Vivy Cohen

get a gripGet A Grip, Vivy Cohen!
By Sarah Kapit
February 25, 2020
Published by Dial Books
Grades 3-8

Ever since VJ Capello showed Vivy how to throw a knuckleball three years ago at a fundraiser for autism, Vivy has been dreaming of the day when she will get to play as a pitcher for a baseball team. As luck would have it, after playing catch with her brother Nate, a coach notices Vivy’s talents and recruits her to play for his little league team. Things get even better when VJ responds to the letters Vivy has been sending him, updating her progress as a knuckleballer! Although she began writing to VJ as an assignment for her social skills class, the more the two write, the more they bond over their love of baseball and the challenges that they face in the game. For Vivy, challenges occur when kids on her team bully her because of her autism. Making matters worse, Vivy’s own mother questions Vivy’s ability to play the sport because of her autism. With the support of her dad, brother, and pitcher Alex, Vivy is able to prove once and for all what an amazing knuckleballer she is to everyone.
This epistolary novel vividly and honestly captures Vivy’s growth out on the field and in her personal life. As she grows confidence as a knuckleballer, she also becomes more confident in herself and in making friends. The novel has a diverse cast of characters– from Vivy, who is a young Jewish girl with autism, VJ who is African American, Alex who is Latino, and her brother, Nate, who comes out as gay. Kapit’s writing is thoughtful and nuanced, capturing the unique struggles that each of these characters faces in their day to day lives. As a chairperson for the Association for Autistic Community, Kapit writes knowledgeable about autism and perfectly depicts Vivy as a child on the spectrum. Kapits debut novel is a home run for sure!

Most Anticipated 2020 Middle Grade Titles

We’ve been getting a few advanced copies of 2020 titles and we thought it would be fun to share some of our favorites titles so far. Make room on your tbr list for these middle grade titles and make sure to grab them off the shelves when they come out!

get a grip.jpgGet A Grip, Vivy Cohen!
By Sarah Kapit
Published by Dial Books
February 25th, 2020
Ages 8-12
Vivy Cohen is determined to pitch for a real baseball team, but her mom is worried about Vivy being the only girl and only autistic kid on the team. Vivy writes to her hero, major-league pitcher VJ Capello, who writes back to her! As if this wasn’t already too good to be true, Vivy gets invited to join a team where she uses the advice she gets from VJ to be the best pitcher she can be. When an accident benches Vivy, she is forced to fight to stay on the team. Written by Sarah Kapit, chairperson of the Association for Autistic Community, this is an own voice title worth checking out.

blackbird girls

The BlackBird Girls
By Anne Blankman
Published by Viking Books for Young Readers
March 10th, 2020
Ages 9-12
When Chernobyl collapses in an explosion, rivals Valentina Kaplan and Oksana Savchenko are forced to escape and find safety while their government tries to keep the disaster a secret. Can the two rivals learn to trust one another long enough to survive? Told from three different perspectives, this book shows that even a nuclear disaster is no match for the power of friendship.

stand up.jpg

Stand Up, Yumi Chung!
By Jessica Kim

Published by Kokila
March 17th, 2020
Ages 9-12
Yumi dreams of being a stand-up comedian, even if she is shy and gets called “Yu-MEAT” by the kids at school because she smells like her family’s KBBQ restaurant. Instead of spending her summer watching and studying her favorite YouTube comedians, Yumi is enrolled in test-prep tutoring to try and qualify for a private school scholarship. An unexpected opportunity arises one day after class when Yumi stumbles upon a comedy camp taught by her favorite YouTube stars. The only problem is that everyone at the camp thinks she’s a girl named Kay Nakamura, and Yumi doesn’t correct them. This debut novel by Jessica Kim is a stellar and hilarious entry into middle grade fiction.

ghost squad Ghost Squad
By Claribel A Ortega
Published by Scholastic Press
April 7th, 2020
Ages 9-12
Right before Halloween, Lucely and her best friend Syd cast a spell that accidentally awakens an evil spirit that wrecks havoc all across St. Augustine. The two girl’s join forces with Syd’s witch grandmother, Babette, and her cat, Chunk, to reverse the curse and save the town before it’s too late.  Inspired by Ortega’s Dominican heritage and all things 80’s, this book blends nostalgia with the supernatural beautifully and puts a refreshing spin on this familiar tale.

place at the table

A Place at the Table
By Saadia Faruqi & Laura Shovan

Published by Clarion Books
May 12th, 2020
Ages 10-12

Sara feels completely lost at her new middle school, which is totally different from the small Islamic school she’s gone to her entire life. Elizabeth has problems of her own: her best friend seems to be pulling away and her British mom is struggling with depression. When the two girls are thrown together at an after school South Asian cooking class they don’t really hit it off. But when they learn that both of their mom’s are applying for American citizenship, they form a shaky alliance and make plans to win a spot on a local food show. They may make great cooking partners, but could they make great friends too?

Meow-velous Felines from History! A Review of Fearless Felines: 30 True Tales of Courageous Cats

71k2iypH6QLFearless Felines: 30 True Tales of Courageous Cat
By Kimberlie Hamilton
Illustrated by Allie Runnion and friends*
November 5th, 2019
Grades 3-8

Everyone’s heard of Balto, Lassie, and Laika–famous dogs that have changed the world–but has anyone heard of any famous cats? Well, now they have! Hamilton describes the lives of thirty kitties who have definitely earned their place in history. From library cats, space cats, ballerina cats, and war hero cats, these cats have done it all. Between passages on specific cats, Hamilton includes cat facts and trivia,  and refutes some popular myths about our feline friends. Hamilton does a fantastic job of explaining how and why these cats became famous, and why these cats are so beloved by the humans around them.
Different illustrators take on the task of depicting these famous felines. Each illustration perfectly captures the personality of the cat being described, with the colors in all of the illustrations popping off the page. The purrfect book for the cat lover or history buff in your life.

*Andrew Gardner, Becky Davies, Charlotte Archer, Emma Jayne, Holly Sterling, Hui Skipp, Jessica Smith, Katie Wilson, Lily Rossiter, Michelle Hird, Nan Lawson, Olivia Holden, Rachel Allsop, Rachel Sanson, Bonnie Pang, and Sam Loman

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month

September 15th-October 15th is Hispanic Heritage Month! The Hispanic experience is vast, with different cultures, languages, and races all falling under the Hispanic umbrella—therefore, no one book can define what the experience is like for any one person. With the political climate and rhetoric often disparaging Hispanic people and pushing forward policies that deny Hispanic people rights, it can be comforting to read books that extol the Hispanic experience. To celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we would like to share with you some of our favorite 2019 books about the Hispanic experience. This is by no means a comprehensive list of all the Hispanic books that have come out this year, but it is a start for those who wish to read more books where Hispanic culture and people are the focus.

Happy reading everyone!

other sideThe Other Side: Stories of Central American Teen Refugees Who Dream of Crossing the Border
Juan Pablo Villalobos
Translated by Rosalind Harvey
Farrar Straus Giroux, September 10, 2019
Ages 12-18
This is a non-fiction novel that depicts the experiences of ten Central American teens who crossed the border. To protect their identities, the names of the teens have been changed. Each experience is written in a narrative format that highlights the struggles that the teens had to endure in their home countries, traveling across the border, and in immigration detention centers. Reading about the challenges that these teens faced is heartbreaking. The back matter provides further details about what happened to each teen after crossing the border, as well as a list of resources and readings for those who want to learn more about the migrant crisis.

moon withinThe Moon Within
Aida Salazar
Arthur A. Levine, February 26, 2019
Ages 8-13
Celi is an eleven-year-old Afro-Latina living in Oakland who is dreading the day that she gets her first period. Her mother wants her to have a traditional ‘moon ceremony’ when Celi finally starts to menstruate to celebrate her transition from childhood into womanhood. If that wasn’t enough, the boy she has a crush on, Ivan, has been cruel to her best friend Mar who recently came out as genderfluid. Celi is forced to navigate the emotional waters of puberty, what it means to be a good friend, and who she wants to be. The back matter contains an author’s note discussing the cultural traditions of Mesoamerican peoples and a poem entitled “A Flower Song for Maidens Coming of Age” written in 1440. It is the only Mesoamerican precolonial document written about a moon ceremony. To accompany the poem, there is a moon calendar for those who are interested in tracking their menstrual cycles with the moon.

juana y lucas big problemasJuan & Lucas: Big Problemas
Juana Medina
Candlewick, May 14, 2019
Ages 5-8
Juana lives in Bogota, Colombia with her Mami and her dog (and best friend) Lucas. Juana grows worried as she begins to notice that her Mami is changing. She’s wearing makeup, perfume, changing her hair, and going out more often. Then one day, Juana meets Mami’s new friend Luis. Is Luis going to take Mami away from Juana? The illustrations are simple and vibrant, showing the things that are the most important to Juana. The book contains some Spanish words throughout the text, making it feel more like Juana herself is speaking.

a new homeA New Home
Tania de Regil
Candlewick, April 9, 2019
Ages Pre K-6
A little boy and a little girl are moving to a new city. The little boy is moving to Mexico City while the little girl is moving to New York. Each of them reflects on the things that they will miss about their city, each hoping that they will enjoy their new homes. The illustrations are phenomenal. The colors and details showcase the differences and similarities between the two cities. The last two pages of the book describe some of the locations within the book, explaining their significance to their respective cities.

vamos¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market
Raul the Third
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 2, 2019
Ages 4-8
Little Lobo and Bernabe have to deliver supplies to the people at the market. At the market, Little Lobo and Bernabe run into many different people, each new person more interesting than the last. The illustrations are reminiscent of a comic, with the color palette evocative of the desert. Spanish is used throughout the text, with a glossary at the end of the book that translates Spanish words into English. Mexican culture is prevalent throughout the book, not just in the foreground but in the background as well.

 

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.

 

 

 

Precious Feathers: A Review of Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers

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Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers
By Celia C. Perez
September 3, 2019
Grades 3-7
Lane DiSanti comes from one of the most important families in all of Sabal Palms. According to legend, her ancestors brought the winter sun orange to south Florida, but did the DiSanti family really bring the winter sun orange to South Florida? That’s what Aster Douglas’s grandfather wants to find out. Frustrated by her overprotective parents, Ofelia goes to work with her mom at the DiSanti house looking for a story she can use for the Qwerty Sholes Journalism Contest. The winner of the contest goes to New York, and the chance to experience the world without parental supervision.  Meanwhile, Cat Garcia—an avid bird enthusiast—has decided to leave the Floras (a girl scout troupe) in protest of their use of a feathered hat for the Miss Flora pageant.
Rejecting her grandmother’s idea of joining the Floras, Lane forms the Ostentation of Others and Outsiders by leaving secret messages for potential friends to find. When the girls all come together for the first time in the tree-house, things start off a bit rocky. When Cat opens up to the other girls about her disdain for the Floras’ hat because of its use of real bird feathers, the girls rally together to stop the Floras from using the hat in the next Miss Flora pageant. Their plans initially backfire, and the girls must decide whether or not they should give up or escalate their efforts. As their convictions strengthen, so too does their friendship.
The book is phenomenal and effortlessly shifts perspectives between the girls in each chapter. The book focuses heavily on what it means to be an activist, and how often the consequences of activism are not always equal. Ofelia, Cat, and Aster are all people of color and come from various socioeconomic backgrounds. Ofelia and Cat are both Cuban, and Aster is Bahamian. Although each girl enters the group with her own hidden objectives, by the end of the book they all come together with one objective—to return the feathers.

Apples and Ectoplasm: A Review of The Right One for Roderic

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The Right One for Roderic
By Violeta Noy
July 9, 2019
Pre-K to 2nd Grade

Roderic is the smallest ghost in his family and longs to stand out. He often feels like his family doesn’t notice him, which makes him feel smaller than he already is. Everyone in Roderic’s family wears white sheets which makes them all look the same.  Reflecting on what he can do to make himself more noticeable to the other members of his family, Roderic decides to change how he looks. He tries wearing hats, scarves, and even taking off his white sheet and changing his wardrobe entirely, but his family does not approve of his fashion choices. Thinking that people in the city will appreciate his fashion sense, Roderic leaves to the city only to find that they don’t notice him either. When he returns home his family is relieved to see him and cover him in a white sheet. Not wanting to settle, Roderic finally finds the perfect outfit—a white sheet with apples on it. Roderic announces to his family that he does not care if his family wants to wear white sheets, he is going to be different. Roderic is not only accepted by his family, but his family follows his lead and starts to experiment with their fashion too.

The digital illustrations are simple and the use of color helps to highlight the loneliness that Roderic feels in the beginning of the story, and later the acceptance he feels at the end of the story. While the message itself is nothing new, the book is quite touching, once again reminding  readers that is okay to be yourself.