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!

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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.

A Review of The Book of Mistakes

By Alena Rivers

In just a couple of days, I will be attending the Bologna Children’s Book Fair with 11 other Dominican University SOIS students as part of a Special Topics in Youth Services course led by adjunct instructor and the Butler Center’s former curator, Thom Barthelmess. Through this course, and at the fair, we will have the opportunity to explore the international children’s book publishing industry. I am particularly excited to see the Bologna Illustrator’s Exhibition and I was inspired to write today’s post on a picture book we recently received titled, The Book of Mistakes by Corrina Luyken featuring an illustrator’s creative journey.

We continue to select books featuring ALSC Core Values (collaboration, excellence, inclusiveness, innovation, integrity and respect, leadership and responsiveness. The Book of Mistakes represents excellence and innovation. Visit the Butler Center to see this galley proof scheduled for release April 18, 2017. We also invite you to visit the Butler Center Facebook and Twitter pages over the next few days to see highlights from the Bologna Children’s Book Fair and an upcoming blog post featuring some picture books collected from the fair.
The Book of Mistakes

The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken (Penguin, 2017)

“It started…” as a simple shape on a two-page spread. Young readers may notice that it is the beginning shape of a child’s face. However, the illustration on the following page shows, “…one mistake” where one eye on the child’s face is drawn bigger than the other. No worries, our illustrator can fix that by adjusting the image and adding glasses. Over several pages, this drawing becomes a girl on roller skates and readers are invited to share the illustrator’s experience in the happenstance technique of developing a drawing. Smudges on the paper become leaves flying through the air while an accidental splotch on the girl’s face turns into a cap on her head. By the final pages readers see the compilation of these images in an elaborate and playful scene of several children playing and building forts in a large tree.

Luyken gives readers a sneak-peak behind the artistic process and simultaneously creates an illustration that tells its own story. She keeps readers engaged as she plays with perspective and encourages exploration of the creative process.  Limited text brings focus to the illustrations that evolve from a simple shape into a complex image. Illustrations were created using black ink, colored pencils and watercolors in muted yellow, green and pink. The Book of Mistakes reminds readers to see mistakes as opportunities and would make a great addition to any picture book collection.

Connect with the Butler Center in March 2017!

By Alena Rivers
The Butler Center is buzzing this month with lots of exciting events! Please consider joining us for one or more of these upcoming opportunities.

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B3 – Butler Book Banter –  Our next B3 is tonight, March 6th from 6-7 p.m. Snacks and books will be out at 5:30.  We will be exploring gender identity, from picture books, to graphic novels, to young adult fiction. You can find a list of the books for this evening’s discussion at https://butlerspantry.org/2017/02/08/march-b3-butler-book-banter/. You do not have to read the books to come!
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Illinois Youth Services Institute – Create Your Adventure! at the Crowne Plaza in Springfield, IL on March 10-11. The Butler Children’s Literature Center is an event sponsor and exhibitor. Visit us in the exhibits to learn what’s happening on campus, and enter our raffle to win a free set of Holly Black’s books.
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The Butler Lecture 2017 featuring Holly Black, renowned children’s and teen author of the Spiderwick Chronicles, the Newbery Honor Book, Doll Bones, and The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, among many other titles. The Lecture will take place March 16th at 6 p.m., with a reception and book signing to follow. The event is free and open to the public, with registration required at  http://sois.dom.edu/butler2017.  We expect a capacity crowd, so register ASAP!
 
We look forward to seeing you!

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.