Posted in Non-Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Authors explore an explosive year in 1789

1789: Twelve Authors Explore a Year of Rebellion, Revolution, and Change, edited by Marc Aronson & Susan Campbell Bartoletti, (Sept. 2020, Candlewick Press), $22.99, ISBN: 9781536208733

Ages 12+

America wasn’t the only one feeling growing pains in 1789. Marc Aronson and Susan Campbell Bartoletti, who edited and contributed to 2018’s 1968: Today’s Authors Explore a Year of Rebellion, Revolution, and Change, have put together another stellar examination of a contentious year in global history with 1789: Twelve Authors Explore a Year of Rebellion, Revolution, and Change. All-star authors, including Aronson and Bartoletti, Tanya Lee Stone, Steve Sheinkin, Joyce Hansen, and Cynthia Levinson and Sanford Levinson, take on the big events and questions that rocked the world that year: what does “The Rights of Man” mean? White men? Nobles and kings? What about enslaved people and indigenous people? The Bill of Rights was ratified in the United States while France burned toward revolution; fishwives took to the streets and Marie Antoinette’s portrait artist captured the human side of an untouchable royal. Sailors mutinied, slaves told their stories, and mathematicians calculated the digits of pi. Organized into sections entitled “Exhilaration”, “Abomination”, “Inspiration”, and “Conclusions”, essays cover the excitement of change and discovery, the horror of enslavement, and the journey toward progress. It’s a truly holistic view of a pivotal year in history, and each essay broadens the reader’s world as they connect the dots to come away with a full picture of how one event can, like a snowball rolling downhill, engulf all in its path.

Publisher Candlewick offers a sample chapter on their website as well as an educator’s guide. Back matter includes comprehensive author notes, source notes, and a bibliography. 1789 has starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly.

Posted in Graphic Novels, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

YA graphic novel roundup

These three graphic novels, all sent to me by Drawn & Quarterly for review, are smart additions to your young adult bookshelves. One of the biggest challenges in my graphic novels section in the YA area is making sure to strike a balance between the Marvel/DC/Image/superhero trades that circulate like wildfire, and building a strong graphic novel collection in the same fashion as I would build a middle grade or college fiction collection. There’s great literary fiction out there, and while middle grade is certainly experiencing a renaissance of graphic novel material these days, there is great stuff for your teens and young adults, too. Also not to be missed is the growing trend toward graphic autobiographies and memoirs – Mira Jacob’s Good Talk made a splash when it pubbed in 2018 – which makes for layered storytelling and allows readers to see subtlety in facial expressions, lighting, and details that may miss emphasis with merely written words.

Drawn and Quarterly and Fantagraphics are two houses I turn to, time and again, for graphic novels for my T/YA/Adult shelves. of I hope you will, too.

Perfect Example, by John Porcellino, (Feb. 2021, Drawn and Quarterly), $19.95, ISBN: 9781770464681

Ages 16+

Perfect Example is the author John Porcellino’s look back at the time between the end of high school and beginning of college. John P, as he’s known through the book – seriously, there are at least 3 guys named John in this – moves through house parties, hanging out with friends, a kinda-sorta girlfriend, and depression. It’s not something he can easily shake, and it rides on his shoulder through the book. Mr. Porcellino expertly captures the malaise and going-through-the-motions feel of depression fog of depression in his story, and the back matter, where he recounts his “resume and relevant information”; a biographical sketch. Black and white illustrations throughout are unfussy. Add Perfect Example to your shelves for its realistic look at lingering depression. John Porcellino’s a zinester whose website includes links to his Patreon, his books – most notably, King Cat, and his social media.

 

Okay, Universe: Chronicles of a Woman in Politics, by Valérie Plante/Illustrated by Delphie Côté-Lacroix, Translated by Helge Dascher, (Dec. 2020, Drawn and Quarterly), $21.95, ISBN: 9781770464117

Ages 13+

Valérie Plante’s fictional memoir of taking on the male-dominated political scene to become the first woman elected Mayor of Montreal, Okay, Universe introduces us to Simone Simoneau, a wife and mother who decides that she’s “hit a plateau” at her job; when her community volunteering leads to the chance to run for municipal office. The story follows her through the relentless door-knocking, hand-shaking, and life juggling she undertakes on her path to the election. The story calls out gender inequality, from graffiti on her campaign posters to her mother praising Simone’s partner, Hugo, for “helping” rather than “doing his share”. The book focuses on Simone’s dedication to community service and the betterment of the quality of life for everyone, as well as her dedication to her family, and how hard that balancing act can be. The artwork is colorful, and readers will love reading this birds-eye view of entering the political arena.

 

The Contradictions, by Sophie Yanow, (Sept. 2020, Drawn and Quarterly), $24.95, ISBN: 9781770464070

Ages 16+

A fictionalized account of author Sophie Yanow’s life as a student abroad in Paris, The Contradictions introduces us to Sophie, a queer student studying art in Paris because she liked Paris’s comics. Lonely and looking for connection, she meets two New York students, one of whom is Zena, an anarchist-activist-vegan who shoplifts for her basic needs. The two decide to head out on a hitchhiking trip to Amsterdam and Berlin, where they dabble in couch surfing, drugs, and exploring. The book captures the time in college when an individual is still figuring themself out, trying on new ideas, and exploring the world around them. The black and white artwork is simple and uncluttered, with dialogue being the main point. This won’t be everyone’s book, but those who like road tripping memoirs should give this a look. The Contradictions was a webcomic from 2018-2020, and is an Eisner award winner. It also has a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly.

Posted in Realistic Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

My Name is Layla: spot on story about learning struggles

My Name is Layla, by Reyna Marder Gentin, (Jan. 2021, Touchpoint Press), $13.99, ISBN: 978-1952816086

Ages 10-15

Hitting right in the middle school hard-to-read spot, My Name is Layla is the story of 12-year-old Layla, an eighth grader living with her single mother and older brother, who has a secret: she has a hard time reading. The letters move on the page; she has to fight to focus, and it takes longer than the turnaround time to complete an assignment. When a new English teacher, Mr. McCarthy, sees her potential, Layla is terrified: she can’t have promise, can she? The teacher has to be imagining things! As parent-teacher conferences draw closer, Layla’s fear over her grades and her learning struggles being discovered, and she makes a choice that has big repercussions for herself, her family, and her relationship with her best friend. My Name is Layla is a realistic portrayal of a young woman living with dyslexia. Supporting characters all feel real, with back stories and realized lives off-page. Good for YA collections and middle school collections.

Posted in Graphic Novels, Middle School, Teen, Tween Reads

Tales from the Backlist: Graphic novels you may have missed

You know that TBR that just keeps growing? Well, I’ve got one of those on my computers, too: yes, plural. My work PC, my laptop, my backup laptop… I see exciting looking graphic novels, I download them, and they join the TBR club. When I get a chance to read them, I want to talk about them, because they’re seriously good books, and we all know, it doesn’t matter when the book is published, right? So here, I present some graphic novels you may have missed the first time around: add these to your own TBR.

 

Sarah’s Dream (The Grémillet Sisters, #1), by Giovanni Di Gregorio/Illustrated by Alessandro Barbucci, Translated by L. Benson, Edited by Lisa Morris, (July 2020, Europe Comics), $5.99, ASIN: B08CHH5L3F

Ages 10-14

Three quirky sisters, one big secret: the first volume in The Grémillet Sisters series introduces readers to Sarah, Cassiopeia, and Lucille, three sisters with very different personalities. Lucille, the youngest, is an animal lover who spends most of her with the family cat or caring for strays; Cassiopeia lives with her head in the clouds, with princes and castles, and Sarah, the eldest, has strange dreams of trees and jellyfish. When she asks their mother about her past – a past the girls know almost nothing about – their mother becomes snappish and preoccupied, leading the girls to investigate, and discover a mysterious photo where their mother appears pregnant. But which sister is she pregnant with, and why was the photo hidden away? Originally published in French in 2020, Sarah’s Dream is lushly illustrated, with deep colors and gorgeous lighting throughout. The sisters have defined personalities have a realistic relationship with relatable ups and downs: Sarah, as the eldest, bosses the other two around; they go from being a cohesive “Three Sisters Club” one minute to never wanting to speak to each other again, the next. A good supplemental choice for middle school graphic novel collections. Content warning for pregnancy loss. Currently available as an ebook, it’s a purchase to consider if you have strong electronical graphic novel collections.

 

Jane, by Aline Brosh McKenna/Illustrated by Ramón K. Perez, (Sept. 2017, Archaia), $24.99, ISBN: 9781608869817

Ages 12+

This modern-day update of Charlotte Brontë’s classic Jane Eyre, spins the story into a thriller about a nanny, her young charge, and the mysterious businessman, Rochester. Jane is an orphaned girl when she ends up on her aunt and uncle’s door; she scrimps and saves until she has enough money to leave the home that never had room her  in Massachusetts and heads to New York City, where she has secured a scholarship at an arts school. To earn some cash and keep the scholarship, she takes a job as a nanny to a young girl named Adele. Adele’s father, Rochester, is a seemingly unapproachable, uninterested father until Jane confronts him about Adele’s withdrawn behavior in school. As Rochester begins coming down from his ivory tower and taking on a more active role as Adele’s father, Jane also sees that he’s a man with secrets – secrets he’s not willing to bend on. But the two fall for one another, and Jane worries that Adele’s life – and Jane’s own life – may be on the line. Part thriller, part romance, award-winning screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna’s take on Jane Eyre uses the source material as a jumping-off point for a new reimagining, with great success. You’ll notice bits of the original Jane Eyre peeking out in the earlier part of the story, along with some moments that will make readers familiar with one of McKenna’s movies, The Devil Wears Prada, smile with recognition. The artwork is moody, enhancing the overall atmosphere of the story and never quite letting the reader – or Jane – relax; it moves from murky, as Jane recalls her childhood memories, to stark and shadowy, as the story moves into a modern noir. I’m really happy about this new take on a classic favorite; into my library shopping cart it goes.

Aline Brosh McKenna is the award-winning screenwriter of The Devil Wears Prada, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. This is her graphic novel debut. Illustrator Ramón K. Pérez is the with Eisner Award-winning illustrator of Jim Henson’s Tale of Sand. The book received the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards Nominee for Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17) & Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team (for Ramón K. Perez) (2018).

The Not-So Secret Society: Tale of the Gummy, by Matthew Daley & Arlene Yiadom-Daley/Illustrated by Wook Jin Clark, (Aug. 2017, KaBoom!), $9.99, ISBN: 9781608869978

Ages 8-12

Take five science and candy-loving friends, a dose of STEM/STEAM, and a group of uber-over-achievers to go up against for the all-city science fair, and you’ve got the NS3: the Not-So Secret Society. This group of middle schoolers needs a project that will wow the judges at the science fair, and they come up with one when they create a machine that can bring candy to life! Their test run brings an adorable gummy bear to life, but Gummy has a sweet tooth that won’t quit – and neither will the growth spurts that follow! The NS3 has to track down Gummy, who goes on a sugar-eating rampage, before it’s too late, and they still have to make it to the science fair on time! This is an hilarious story of friendship, science, and candy, starring a group of middle schoolers that readers will love: Madison, the bookish one; Aidan, the inventor; Emma, the licorice-obsessed artist; Dylan, the comedian, and Ava, the tiny wrestling fan with a big temper. Readers who loved Eleanor Davis’s Secret Science Alliance will enjoy this comic. I just want to know why three years have passed without a new adventure! Back matter includes a parent reading guide and learning activities, along with Common Core standards info. Unfortunately, the website for the NS3 doesn’t seem to be up at the moment, but in the meantime, try some safer candy experiments in the spirit of the NS3, with no risk of giant gummy bear attacks. This Pinterest board never disappoints – I’ve made the candy slime with my library kids, and I’ve made the Ziploc bag ice cream with my own kiddo. If you want to go old school, show them a few episodes of the early 2000s cartoon, Codename: Kids Next Door.

 

 

Mouse Guard Alphabet Book, by David Peterson & Serena Malyon, (Sept. 2017, Archaia), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1684150106

Ages 3-6

I can’t believe I’ve never written about Mouse Guard. One of the first graphic novels my now 21-year old son enjoyed, Mouse Guard is the award-winning, fantastic tale of a group of mice and the predators they must always be on guard against. It’s Dungeons & Dragons, Tolkien-esque fantasy for children and a perfect stepping stone to the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. Breathtaking high-fantasy, medieval artwork is the hallmark of the series, and this abcedary showcases beautiful illuminated manuscript artwork for each letter of the alphabet, incorporating elements from the Mouse Guard series, and rhyme in pentameter. If you’re like me and want to introduce your Kiddos to fantasy at an early age, concept books like this are gold. Psst.. there’s a coloring book and a roleplaying game available, too.

The Mouse Guard website also has free, downloadable craft ideas and MP3s of songs featured in the Mouse Guard books.

 

Posted in Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Graphic Novels for Tweens and Teens

I’m back with more graphic novels! It’s an all-consuming joy of mine; I love them all. I’ve got some newer and up-and-coming books, and some backlist that shouldn’t be missed. I’ve got books for middle grade/middle school, and I’ve got teen/YA, so let’s see what’s good!

Sylvie, by Sylvie Kantorovitz, (Jan. 2021, Walker Books US), $24.99, ISBN: 9781536207620

Ages 9-13

An autobiographical graphic novel that really hits the sweet spot for middle schoolers but will also appeal to upper elementary and high schoolers, Sylvie is the story of the author and illustrator’s life, quirks and all. She grows up in a school where her father was principal. She loves art from an early age, but her mother is focused on her pursuing a career in math or science. The book follows her family as they add more children to the family and Sylvie’s mother doggedly pushes her academically. As she grows in confidence, and seeks her father’s council, Sylvie takes control of her own future. Artwork is cartoony and friendly, and easy-to-read, first-person narration makes Sylvie readers feel like they’re talking with a friend. Discussions about racism and anti-Semitism in ’60s and ’70s France sets the stage for discussion.

Candlewick/Walker Books US has a sample chapter available for a preview.

 

Tell No Tales: Pirates of the Southern Seas, by Sam Maggs/Illustrated by Kendra Wells, (Feb. 2021, Amulet), $21.99, ISBN: 9781419739668

Ages 10-14

Another middle school-geared book, Tell No Tales is a fictionalized account of pirate Anne Bonny, pirate Mary Read, and their female and non-binary pirate crew. They have a growing reputation, but a privateer is on their heels: Woodes Rogers, a failed pirate turned pirate hunter for the Crown, has sworn to wipe the stain of piracy from the seas. There are strong positive female and non-binary characters, based on characters from history, but the overall story falters, leaving readers to look for the thread in between the individual stories of Bonny’s crew, all of which are fascinating. The artwork is colorful, manga-inspired, and will grab viewers. Back matter includes a word on the real-life exploits of Anne Bonny and Mary Read, notes, and a bibliography.

Publishers Weekly has an interview with Sam Magga and Kendra Wells. 

Fantastic Tales of Nothing, by Alejandra Green & Fanny Rodriguez, (Nov. 2020, Katherine Tegen Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9780062839473

Ages 8-13

One of the most beautifully illustrated graphic novels I’ve ever seen, Fantastic Tales of Nothing is one of heck an epic fantasy for middle graders and tweens, and early teens. Nathan is a human living what he considers a pretty ordinary life until that fateful day when he wakes up in the middle of nowhere and meets a being named Haven and a race of shape shifters called the Volken. As the unlikely group find themselves on a quest, Nathan also learns that he isn’t that ordinary – he has mysterious power in side of him, and the fate of Nothing lies in his hands. Vivid color, breathtaking fantasy spreads, and solidly constructed worldbuilding lays the foundation for what could be a groundbreaking new fantasy series for middle graders, with nonbinary and Latinx representation to boot. Where are the starred reviews for this book?

Tales of Nothing received IndieNext Honors. The website has more information about the characters, authors, and upcoming projects.

 

Poems to See By: A Comic Artist Interprets Great Poetry, by Julian Peters, (March 2020, Plough Publishing House), $24, ISBN: 9780874863185

Ages 12+

Illustrator Julian Peters has taken 24 poems by some of the most recognizable names in the art form, and brought them to life using different art forms, from manga to watercolor to stark expressionist black and white.  Organized into six areas of introspection: Seeing Yourself; Seeing Others; Seeing Art; Seeing Nature; Seeing Time, and Seeing Death, Peters illustrates such master works as “Caged Bird” by Maya Angelou, “Annabel Lee”, by Edgar Allan Poe, and “Juke Box Love Song” by Langston Hughes. It’s a great way to invite middle school, high school, and college students to deep dive into some of the greatest works of poetry.

Marvin: Based on The Way I Was, by Marvin Hamlisch with Gerald Gardner/Adapted and Illustrated by Ian David Marsden, (Feb. 2020, Schiffer Kids), $12.99, ISBN: 9780764359040

Ages 9-13

This graphic adaptation of PEGOT (Pulitzer, Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) winner Marvin Hamlisch’s biography is one I did not see coming! The legendary musician, composer, and conductor discusses his family’s flight from Hitler’s Austria and settling in America, Hamlisch’s admittance to Julliard at the age of 6, and the intense anxiety that plagued him before every performance. He tells readers about attending high school with Christopher Walken and Liza Minelli, and playing the piano for Judy Garland as a teen; about composing pop radio hits and learning to compose music for a motion picture as he went along. By the time he was 30, he’d won his first major award. Hamlisch’s voice is funny, warm, and conversational throughot, and Marsden’s realistic art has touching moments, particularly between Hamlisch and his father. A great read for theatre and music fans – this one is going to be my not-so-secret weapon.

Posted in Fantasy, Graphic Novels, Non-Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

More graphic novels to add to your shelves and your TBR

I have been reading a metric ton of graphic novels over the last year. I mean, I’ve been reading comics and graphic novels forever, but I found them comforting this past year in a whole new way. When my mind couldn’t focus on words and putting thoughts together, graphic novels were there to guide me through, with artwork and words coming together for storytelling. And there are such great books coming out now! My Kiddo and I are reading them together (most of the time… there are some that aren’t appropriate for him just yet) and sharing laughs and talking about big things, little things, lots of things. Here are a few of the books I’ve read over the last couple of weeks: these are a little less appropriate for littles, much better for teens and young adults.

Freiheit! The White Rose Graphic Novel, by Andrea Grosso Ciponte, (Feb. 2021, Plough Publishing), $24, ISBN: 978-0-87486-344-4

Ages 12+

In 1942, a group of students joined together to oppose Hitler and the Nazi Party. They questioned the system and distributed leaflets encouraging their fellow Germans to do the same. The White Rose engaged in passive resistance in a time where speaking against the government carried a death penalty; by the time  the short-lived movement came to a halt in 1943 when the core members were arrested and sentenced to death by guillotine by the Nazis, their actions set a resistance in motion. Freiheit! chronicles the story of the key members of the White Rose: siblings Sophie and Hans Scholl and Christoph Probst. The narrative was tough to follow at moments; more of a collection of memories than a cohesive, linear narrative. That way of storytelling works for some, so keep that in mind when considering it for your library. The moody, often murky artwork gives heavy atmosphere to the pacing.

If you’re interested in further reading on the White Rose, the National WW2 Museum has an article on Sophie Scholl, the Jewish Virtual Library has an essay on the group, as does Smithsonian Magazine. There are lesson plans on the resistance available online: ELT-Resourceful has a lesson plan on Sophie Scholl and the White Rose, geared toward ESOL students; Study.com has study aids, and A Teacher’s Guide to the Holocaust has a detailed lesson plan for grades 6-12 complete with Sunshine State Standards.

 

Windows on the World, by Robert Mailer Anderson & Zack Anderson/Illustrated by Jon Sack, (June 2020, Fantagraphics), $24.99, ISBN: 978-1-68-396322-6

Ages 17+

Based on the screenplay from a 2019 film, Windows on the World is, on the surface, a story about a young man searching for his father in the aftermath of 9/11; upon reading, you realize that it’s also a blistering commentary on America and its treatment of undocumented people. Fernando is a young man living with his family in Mexico, watching September 11th unfold on TV; for his family, the terror hits hard: Balthazar, Fernando’s father and the family patriarch, works at Windows on the World, the restaurant at the top of the World Trade Center. Fernando’s mother refuses to believe he’s a casualty of the attack, a belief seemingly confirmed when she swears she sees him on a newsreel, escaping the Towers. Fernando heads to New York to learn his father’s fate, but discovers a very different America: He must pay coyotes – predatory smugglers who take immigrants across the US/Mexico border – to sneak him into the country. When he arrives in New York, he discovers that his father, undocumented, working in the States and sending money back to Mexico to support his family, has disappeared into the morass of people. Because he was undocumented, he isn’t on any of the employee lists, as he didn’t “officially” work in the Towers. Fernando has no money and no place to stay, so he takes to the streets, encountering racism and danger as he desperately tries to locate his father. A strong commentary on how America, as Solrad magazine states, went from “9/11 to Build The Wall”, Windows on the World is a hard, necessary, relevant look at racism in America.  Content warnings for younger readers.

Windows on the World has a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

The Cloven, by Garth Stein/Illustrated by Matthew Southworth, (July 2020, Fantagraphics), $24.99, ISBN: 9781683963103

Ages 13+

Garth Stein, better known as the author of The Art of Racing in the Rain and co-creator of the TV series Stumptown, released his first graphic novel; number one of a planned trilogy. James Tucker is a young man who’s different: he’s a genetically modified science project, created in a lab, and he’s a cross between a human and a goat, a species called The Cloven. Tuck just wants a normal life, but he’s on the run and searching for answers. Flashbacks flesh out Tuck’s story and the story of the Cloven project, which reminded me of the Weapon X program that created Wolverine’s offspring, X-23/Laura Kinney.  Artwork makes great use of moody lighting and shadows to help tell the story. A skillfull mix of science fiction and thriller, teens will love this book and want to see where Tuck’s story takes him.

Posted in Fantasy, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Disney Noir: City of Villains

City of Villains, Book 1, by Estelle Laure, (Jan. 2021, Disney-Hyperion), $17.99, ISBN: 9781368049382

Ages 12+

Mary Elizabeth Heart is a high school senior and a police department intern for the Monarch City Police Department. Magic, once part of the populace’s lives, has seemingly left the world and taken countless lives with it, leaving denizens of magical families called The Legacies left to fend for themselves against the up-and-coming Narrows families, who seek to gentrify the neighborhood now known as the Scar.  A victim of horrific loss, Mary Elizabeth is Legacy, as are her friends, many with recognizable names: Mally, the withdrawn teen whose pet raven is the only thing who brings her comfort; Ursula, Mary Elizabeth’s boyfriend, James and his best friend, Smee. When Legacy teens start disappearing from the Scar, Mary Elizabeth is put on the case, along with detective Bella, but they are in no way ready for what they find once they start digging into what’s really going on in the Scar.

Gritty, with memorable Disney characters and a taut, well-paced storyline, City of Villains is the first in a new YA series that acts as a new origin point for Disney villains. There’s a gritty feel that makes for a perfect noir setting; our favorite villains are goth without being over the top, and I loved every second of their complex backgrounds. The subplot of magical families versus gentrifiers who want magic by association is brilliant fantasy writing that takes storytelling in a fresh direction, and Mary Elizabeth’s traumatic family history sets the stage for bigger reveals in future books. Give this to your teen Disney fans that are ready for some new stories about their favorite villains. Talk this up to any of the teens you’ve been feeding the Twisted Tales books to – they will thank you.

Posted in Non-Fiction, Puberty, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Welcome to Your Period! A welcome wagon for pre-teens and young teens

Welcome To Your Period!, by Yumi Stynes & Dr. Melissa Kang/Illustrated by Jenny Latham, (Jan. 2021, Walker Books US), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536214765

Ages 10-16

An inclusive, illustrated guide to getting your period from a award-winning podcaster and writer and a celebrated doctor whose medical column ran for more than two decades in a popular teen magazine? Yes, please! Welcome To Your Period!, by Yumi Stynes and Dr. Melissa Kang, is a straight-talk, friend-to-friend, guide to navigating your period and all the weird, messy, moody, and snacky feelings it brings. It’s loaded with case studies and first-person accounts, with a folx from a variety of ages chiming in on their experiences. Topics covered include packing a period pack (let’s hear it for emergency chocolate!), how to deal with cramps, different choices in supplies, how to tackle period challenges like school, sports, and sleepovers, and how to support your friends! I love that the authors talk about throwing first-period parties for friends and the importance of sharing. It’s a really stressful moment when you look in that go-bag and realize there’s nothing there, but a perfect stranger that’s willing to help you out can go a long way. The illustrations are fun, positive, and inclusive, as is the language used throughout the book. Medical illustrations provide a road map to our bodies, and the authors encourage us to take a look down there for ourselves and get to know what’s what. There are points on menstrual equity, what to do when you aren’t able to talk to your parents, and advocating for yourself. Have a teacher who doesn’t want to let you get up to go to the bathroom? You assert yourself and tell them you need to go and why! There’s nothing to be embarrassed about here, and that’s the main point the authors and illustrator communicate here. This is a natural, normal part of nature, and nothing to be hidden away and ashamed of. Non-binary and transgender teens will find support here, too; the authors address how frightening and stressful puberty can be, and the importance of finding both a doctor and an adult you can trust and talk to regarding period options. A glossary provides helpful terms to “expand your period vocabulary” and a list of resources gives teens social media accounts, podcasts, apps, advocacy, phone numbers to have handy for reference. Display this with graphic novel hit Go With the Flow and support your tweens and teens. If you have the budget and are in an area in need, have some period packs available so your teens can come to you: you can be that trusted adult.

Published in Australia in 2018, Welcome to Your Period arrives on US shelves this month.

Posted in Fantasy, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Black Canary’s YA novel starts the new year off with a Canary Cry

Okay, 2021. Let’s see what you’ve got. Please be gentle with us, we’re still reeling from 2020. Thankfully, there were books. So many great books. And 2021 is shaping up to have just as many great books – seriously, look at the upcoming Latinx titles, and lists from Here We Read, Brightly, and Beyond the Bookends, for starters. And let’s dive into the first book I finished this shiny new year.

Black Canary: Breaking Silence (DC Icons #5), by Alexandra Monir, (Dec. 2020, Random House Books for Young Readers), $18.99, ISBN: 9780593178317

Ages 12+

I’ve been a Black Canary fan for a while now (thanks, Arrow!), and getting an email inviting me to read the new Black Canary YA novel sent me over the moon. The fact that it takes place in a dystopia where Gotham City has been taken over by the Court of Owls – some of the best storylines in the Batman universe –  made me salivate. The Court of Owls, in the comics, is a secret society that quietly oversees the machinations of Gotham City, always looking out for the wealthy founding families’ interests. In Breaking Silence, the Owls have taken on a fundamentalist-type role, sending women back into the home and relegating them to second-class citizens in the name of “decency” and “morality”. Penguin, the iconic Bat-villain who sided with the Owls during their takeover 20 years prior to the events in Breaking Silence, engineered a toxic gas that stole the singing voices away from women in Gotham; finding a way to silence them while still allowing them to function. The overthrow of Gotham and Silencing, the culminating event that stole women’s singing voices, was sparked by the death of Bruce Wayne – Batman – who died of old age; the revolt also saw the deaths of Commissioner James Gordon and superheroes at the hands of the Owls and their enforcers, the Talons. Dinah Laurel Lance has grown up under the boot of the Owls. Her father, Detective Larry Lance, works for the Gotham City Police Department and treads lightly between the Owls and his duties for the GCPD, while raising his daughter as a widowed father. Now a high school senior, Dinah listens to forbidden music in private and is already on the Owls’ watch list. Between a cautious romance with new student Oliver Queen and discovering the hidden truth about her mother, Dinah’s heading into strange new territory. The Owls had better be ready, a revolution is coming.

I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED Breaking Silence. Smashing the patriarchy and literally finding one’s own voice? Sign me up! Dinah Laurel Lance comes right off the pages; her frustration and fear are palpable and serve as a motivator and a hindrance; it isn’t all black and white here. Alexandra Monir gives us a smart teen heroine who navigates family secrets, a secret society, and the frustration of being a woman in a male-dominated society with skill. Her father, her male friend Ty, and the super-handsome, mysterious rich boy Oliver Queen all lament the current circumstances with her, but they don’t – can’t – get it: they’re men. They have freedom and privilege that they just can’t comprehend not having. There’s a DC cameo or two that made my heart sing, too… Read this book, add it to your booktalks, and get it into the hands of other readers. Then, go read Black Canary: Ignite and get some Birds of Prey trade paperbacks! (Psst… Gail Simone’s run is unparalleled).

Posted in Fantasy, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

A Deadly Education – this ain’t Hogwarts

A Deadly Education (The Scholomance #1), by Naomi Novik, (Sept. 2020, Penguin Random House), $28.00, ISBN: 9780593128480

Ages 14+

Naomi Novik’s latest fantasy series takes place in a magical school located in the Void, called the Scholomance. There are no teachers, homework and textbooks seem to appear as students need them and cast spells to bring them. There are no Houses, but there are enclaves from major areas like New York and London – and every spellcaster in that school is jockeying for a position in them. Oh, and there are demons and monsters wandering around the school waiting to kill you. Or your fellow students will, if you’re too much of a threat. You think a Zoom graduation stinks? The Scholomance graduation is when all the monsters rush the seniors as they try to leave the building. It’s an all-out brawl for survival to graduate, because to graduate is to live. Enter El, short for “Galadriel”, a half-Indian, half-Welsh magic user with incredible destructive power. She’s also misanthropic to the point of mania, in part because of a rough childhood (see: destructive power) and the fact that her father died protecting her pregnant mother at graduation.

But El realizes she’s got to make friends to survive, and a shining knight named Orion Lake, the school good guy, is determined to get through that antisocial exterior. He saves her life multiple times, to her frustration, but she also discovers that his good deeds are causing major fallout in the school – and a group of students have to come together to set things right.

While I loved the premise of the “dark magic school”, I didn’t fully connect with A Deadly Education. El got on my nerves quickly as the “lone wolf” schtick wore me out; Orion’s stubborn insistence on being the good guy grated, and there were moments when the book just didn’t move forward for me. I normally love Naomi Novik’s writing, but this one wasn’t my book.

A Deadly Education has starred reviews from BookPage and Publishers Weekly.