Posted in History, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Tween Reads, Women's History

Celebrate Latinitas!

Latinitas: Celebrating 40 Big Dreamers, by Juliet Menéndez, (Feb. 2021, Henry Holt), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250234629

Ages 8-12

This collection of biographies shines a light on 40 Latinx women from Latin America and the U.S. who have made outstanding contributions across the board: activists and advocates, educators, musicians, scientists, artists, politicians, and so many more. Some names will be familiar: Pura Belpré, Frida Kahlo, and Sonia Sotomayor are all here, as are names that will be new to many readers, like Rosa Peña de González, who built schools for girls in Paraguay; playwright and congresswoman Gumercinda Páez, who helped draft Panama’s new constitution in 1941, with an eye to Afro-Latinx rights and women’s rights; and Wanda Díaz-Merced, a blind astrophysicist who turned data points into rhythm and sound in order to create a “symphony of sounds for the stars, planets, and asteroids”. The women are outstanding, and this collection of stories should be the tip of the iceberg for more research. Hand-painted illustrations have beautiful folk art feel. Endpapers feature additional artwork with flowers representing each of the countries represented in the book. An inspiring collection with comprehensive back matter that includes brief looks at an additional 10 Latin women and full sources.

Latinitas has a starred review from Kirkus. Get a free activity kit and read a Q&A with author-illustrator Juliet Menéndez. Visit Juliet Menéndez’s author website to see more of her gorgeous artwork and more information about her books.

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Women's History

February graphic novels bring magical realism and STEM nonfiction

First Second is a graphic novel powerhouse. Every season, I know I’m going to see good stuff from the authors and illustrators that First Second publishes. Here are two we’ve got coming in February.

Snapdragon, by Kat Leyh, (Feb. 2020, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781250171115

Ages 10+

Magical realism infuses this story about a girl who befriends the town witch. Snapdragon’s heard the rumors about the “roadkill witch”, but when Jacks – a loner constructs skeletons from roadkill to sell to veterinary schools – rescues Snap’s dog, she finds herself cultivating a friendship with the loner, who takes her on as an apprentice. But Jacks also has rituals she goes through, to put those roadkill spirits to rest, and Snap is pretty sure that Jacks has a little bit of witchcraft after all.

Snapdragon is a story with depth. Lumberjanes writer Kat Leyh creates a magical, yet real cast of characters: Snapdragon, the daughter of a single working mother, is bullied at school and by her mother’s cruel ex-boyfriend. Her friend, Louis, who prefers to go by Lulu and wear skirts and nail polish, is tormented by his brothers. The two bond over their mutual love of a a horror movie series and Lulu finds comfort and safety in Snapdragon’s home. Jacks and Snap discover a connection between them in a subplot with Snap’s grandmother.

Snapdragon has a starred review from Kirkus.

 

Astronauts: Women on the Final Frontier, by Jim Ottaviani & Maris Wicks, (Feb. 2020, First Second), $19.99, ISBN: 9781626728776

Ages 8-12

Meet the first women to travel into space in this nonfiction graphic novel that has big appeal for Science Comics fans. Astronaut Dr. Mary Cleave navigates readers through the history of women and space travel, starting with the Soviet space program that made Valentina Tereshkova the first woman in space, and illustrates the long road American women had to take to get Group 9, NASA’S first mixed-gender class, to the stars.

The most frustrating thing about Astronauts is reading how seemingly determined the U.S. government was to keep women out of space. The graphic novel tells multiple stories from different points of view; the Mercury 13 and Women in Space Program both ended up going nowhere, while the Soviet Union focused on sending just one woman – Tereshkova – into space. (And she didn’t even tell her mother before she went.) It’s disheartening to read that science journalists imagined conversations between women – female scientists – and Mission Control consisting of, “this little thingamabob has jiggled off the gizmo”. Even when NASA got it together and began recruiting women for the space program for real this time, their concerns about dress codes and complete ignorance of basic physiology left me frustrated and even more determined to get my STEM/STEAM programming firmly entrenched here at my library. The second half of the book, focusing more on Mary Cleave’s space shuttle missions and NASA training, are a welcome relief. There are some great and hilarious anecdotes throughout, and Mary Cleave’s love for space exploration and science comes through, making me hopeful that this book will inspire many, many kids. There are references, a bibliography, and working sketches.

Astronauts has starred reviews from Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly.

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Women's History

Taking Cover: Growing up during the Iranian Revolution

Taking Cover: One Girl’s Story of Growing Up During the Iranian Revolution, by Nioucha Homayoonfar, (Jan. 2019, National Geographic Kids), $18.99, ISBN: 9781426333668

Ages 10-14

Nioucha Homayoonfar’s memoir of life in Iran during the Iranian Revolution is equal parts joyful and heartbreaking. In 1976, at the age of 5, her family moves from Pittsburgh to Iran, where her father can be with his family again. For several years, Nioucha and her expat friends are educated in a progressive French-Persian school and enjoy the things most kids do, including listening to music, dancing, and swimming. But the revolution changes all that. Nioucha and her friends are segregated; they have to wear robes and hoods that cover their hair (and are threatened with burning in Hell, hanging on every visible thread of hair), and live in fear of being kidnapped by the Moral Police: a group called the Zeinab Sisters. Nioucha refers to them as The Black Crows, which brings a colorful, tongue in cheek image to mind, but these women are anything but humorous. The women patrol the streets in a van, capturing women and teens they deem immoral, hiding them in prisons, and beating them until they feel redemption is earned.

But there are wonderful moments of family and friendship in Taking Cover, too. Nioucha recalls her first Iranian Christmas, when she hopes Santa Claus will remember that she’s moved to Iran, so she’ll get her presents, and her family decorates her aunt’s house with a beautiful tree and presents. She talks about her relationship with her grandparents, who adore her and comfort her during her first sleepover away from her parents; going to concerts and driving around with her cousin, Sara, even learning French in an underground school run by her mother and her best friend’s mother. In the midst of explosions and oppression, Nioucha and her family managed to take joy where they found it.

Parallels to Persepolis are expected, and should be encouraged. Taking Cover is an excellent memoir and lead-in to Persepolis, allowing middle graders to expand their worldview and start a conversation on how the Iranian Revolution changed the world. The book includes a map of Iran and surrounding areas, and a timeline of Iranian history. There is a free, downloadable Educator’s Guide available.

Posted in Graphic Novels, Non-Fiction, Teen, Women's History

What Makes Girls Sick and Tired – great for YA collections

What Makes Girls Sick and Tired, by Lucile De Pesloüan/Illustrated by Geneviève Darling, (March 2019, Second Story Press), $13.99, ISBN: 9781772600964

Ages 12+

The time for conversations is here: there are a lot of things women are sick and tired of hearing. We’re tired of hearing the same old “jokes” and passive-aggressive comments and we’re not laughing it off with a simple eyeroll any longer. What Makes Girls Sick and Tired is a graphic novel – a feminist manifesto, as publisher Second Story Press states – that brings these obnoxious ideas, assumptions, and comments to light, in the hope that it will prompt discussion and understanding.

Geneviève Darling’s purple-and-white artwork gives visual understanding to Lucile De Pesloüan’s words and ideas, featuring  diverse, inclusive groups of women to get the points across. Girls and women are not cookie-cutter templates: we are different, have different tastes and experiences, come from different cultures and backgrounds, and have different ideas and beliefs. We don’t all want to be rescued, and we don’t want to be someone’s “score”. We don’t like it when you assume we’re weak, when you tell boys and men to “man up” or “stop crying like a girl”. We don’t want to be told to “act like a lady” or, for that matter, what a lady is, does, or looks like. These moments, and many more, are intelligently captured and plainly stated. It’s a powerful, smart book that I hope will inspire young women – and men – to read, discuss, and move forward with understanding. There are no solutions presented here: that’s for us to take on.

What Makes Girls Sick and Tired has received some great feedback from librarians and bloggers, and I’m looking forward to getting this on my shelves. Like Oni Press’s A Quick Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns, this is information that works well in graphic format for teen and college audiences.

Posted in Middle School, Non-Fiction, Tween Reads, Women's History, Young Adult/New Adult

House of Dreams looks at a classic author’s life

House of Dreams: The Life of L.M. Montgomery, by Liz Rosenberg/Illustrated by Julie Morstad, (June 2018, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763660574

Recommended for readers 10+

This illustrated biography of Maud Montgomery, the author of the Anne of Green Gables series, is a must-have for middle school and up biography readers. Her mother died when she was a toddler; her father left her in the care of her grandparents, and Maud grew up wanting more: passionate love and affection; education; a career as an author. She dealt with anxiety and depression throughout her life, and married for security rather than love. Drawing on correspondence and her unpublished journals, Liz Rosenberg draws a picture of a woman who led an often difficult life and who struggled against her circumstances to create one of the most memorable literary characters of all time.

It’s not always an easy read. Reading about Maud’s struggle against greedy publishers and her own gold-digging son can be rage-inducing, as is her fight to continue her education against the grandfather who refused to help her. Her callous uncle left Maud and her widowed grandmother to live in horrible conditions, waiting for his own mother to die so he could inherit her home, left to him by his father. But we also read about Maud’s devotion to her Prince Edward Island home, her lifelong love of writing, and her success at being able to sustain an income by writing.

L.M. Montgomery was a complex, conflicted woman and her struggles with mental health and financial independence make her more real, more three-dimensional, to readers who will understand and be inspired.

Posted in Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Women's History

Votes for Women! Suffrage was a fight every inch of the way.

Votes for Women! American Suffragists and the Battle for the Ballot, by Winifred Conkling, (Feb. 2018, Algonquin Young Readers), $19.95, ISBN: 9781616207342

Recommended for readers 12+

Winifred Conkling is emerging as a definitive chronicler of women’s history. Passenger on the Pearl told the story of Emily Edmondson, who escaped slavery and dedicated her life to education young African-American women; Radioactive! gave long-overdue props to Irène Curie & Lise Meitner, whose work on radioactivity was often overlooked in a male-dominated field; now, Votes for Women gives us a comprehensive history of the fight for American suffrage, long before women finally won the right to vote in 1920. For readers who may only be familiar with Susan B. Anthony, this volume is indispensable, introducing readers to Elizabeth Cady Stanton; Susan B. Anthony’s counterpart and founder of the suffrage movement, and Alice Paul, who took her cue from the more action-oriented British suffrage movement, and went to jail for the cause, where she and fellow protestors suffered deplorable conditions and were force-fed. We meet Victoria Woodhull, the first female Presidential candidate, and revisit Sojourner Truth’s famous speech, “Ain’t I A Woman?” Most importantly, we learn about the beginnings of intersectional feminism; when abolitionists and suffragists found common ground – and then diverged under political fire.

This is a comprehensive book, complete with photos, primary sources, and writing that never turns away from the more difficult moments in the battle for the vote: from racism to violence, it’s all here. It’s a good book for your nonfiction collections and women’s history collections for middle school and high school, with extensive primary source references, a timeline of American women’s suffrage, a bibliography, notes, and an index. Booktalk this with the graphic novel, Sally Heathcote: Suffragette by Mary M. and Bryan Talbot, which features a fictional character from the British movement, and is a great hook to get teens interested. A Mighty Girl has a strong list of additional reading, filtered by age, on suffrage.

 

 

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Science Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Women's History

Stories of Fearless Females – First Second’s got you covered!

First Second consistently puts out great graphic novels for readers, no matter what age. Fiction or non-fiction, kids, teen, or adult, if it’s coming from First Second, I read it, love it, and get it on my shelves. This spring, there’s something for everyone, with some amazing ladies taking the reins and heading up their own books – plus, a nonfiction collection profiling women who broke the rules and beat the daylights out of the mold-maker, while they were at it.

Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World, by Pénélope Bagieu,
(March 2018, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626728691
Recommended for readers 12+

First up is Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World; profiles of 29 outstanding women from across time, across the world. We know many of their names, but did you know their accomplishments? Did you know that Margaret Hamilton, who defined Wicked Witch with her portrayal of the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz, embraced her terrifying alter ego  – and used her as a bargaining chip for higher pay in Hollywood? How about Temple Grandin, whose research on farm animals led to major changes in the factory farming industry and a push toward animal well-being? Not bad, for someone whose father wanted her institutionalized when she was diagnosed with autism as a child.

I could gush on and on about Brazen. It’s a must-add to your collections; display and booktalk right next to Sam Maggs’ Wonder Women, Jason Porath’s Rejected Princesses, and National Geographic’s Book of Heroines. Bagieu creates perfect, bite-sized biographies of these phenomenal women, making readers want to know more. A list of 30 more rebel ladies who rocked the world whets appetites at the end of the book, and we even get a little bio on our author/artist, Pénélope Bagieu. I’ve enjoyed her previous graphic novels, Exquisite Corpse (for grown-ups) and California Dreamin’, the story of musician Mama Cass. Don’t pass up putting Brazen in your teen space.

 

Star Scouts: The League of Lasers, by Mike Lawrence,
(March 2018, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781626722811
Recommended for readers 8-12

The much-anticipated sequel to 2017’s Star Scouts is here! Avani Patel is rocking the Star Scouts, so much that she’s been invited to join a secret society of elite scouts: The League of Lasers. Sounds awesome, right? But there’s a catch: she has to survive her initiation challenge. While on her way to the planet where she’s supposed to undergo her challenge, her ship throws her off course and crash lands onto a strange planet. With a methane atmosphere. And she’s stranded with Pam, her nemesis. Together, the two Scouts have to figure out how to survive – and to do that, they need to put their differences past them.

I love this series for so many reasons: there’s a child of color leading the pack; there are messages about resilience and teamwork; and most importantly, it’s just so much fun! Mike Lawrence’s dialogue between characters is never slow and never dull, and always believable. He tackles middle grade situations like disagreements and jealousy between friends, but always makes sure to bring things to a resolution through talking and mutual understanding. The humor is smart and the artwork is engaging. Give this to all your Zita the Spacegirl fans and tell them to make space in their hearts for the Star Scouts.

 

Scarlett Hart, Monster Hunter, by Marcus Sedgwick/Illustrated by Thomas Taylor,
(April 2018, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781626720268
Recommended for readers 10-13

YA author Marcus Sedgwick (Saint Death, Ghosts of Heaven) writes for middle grade with the start of a new series about a teenage monster hunter following in her parents’ footsteps. Scarlett Hart is the orphaned daughter of legendary monster hunters, determined to carry on the family business. The only thing is, she according to the Royal Academy for the Pursuit and Eradication of Zoological Eccentricities (just call it The Academy), Scarlett’s underage, and hunting monsters is against the law. Luckily, Scarlett’s manservant, Napoleon, is there to help, driving Scarlett around London and acting as the face for her kills so they can get paid on hang onto their family estate. The sticky wicket is Count Stankovic, her parents’ – and now Scarlett’s – archrival, who always manages to show up and take credit for her work while threatening to rat her out to the Academy. Naturally, the monster situation gets out of control, and Scarlett roars into action, danger and the law be darned!

Scarlett Hart is a fun monster-catching adventure romp, with a dieselpunk feel and a spunky young heroine. Thomas Taylor is the original illustrator of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and knows fantasy art. There’s humor, adventure, and fun to be had; a nice start to a new graphic novel series. Give these to your Delilah Dirk readers, and consider re-introducing readers to Shannon, Dean, and Nathan Hale’s Rapunzel’s Revenge and Calamity Jack.

 

The City on the Other Side, by Mairghread Scott/Illustrated by Robin Robinson,
(April 2018, First Second), $16.99, ISBN: 9781626724570
Recommended for readers 9-13

It’s early 20th-century San Francisco, and Isabel is bored. Her high-society mother expects her to be quiet, well-behaved, and flawless – clean, pressed, clothes in perfect repair. She’s shuttled off to her artist father for the summer, but he’s too wrapped up in his work to pay much attention to her, either. Taking matters into her own hands, Isabel explores the woods by her father’s home and stumbles into a fairy world: a world where two kingdoms are at war! She receives a magical necklace to keep safe, and, with the help of some new companions, sets off to end the war before it destroys the fairy world and our own world.

 

The City on the Other Side is high fantasy mixed with historical fiction, making for an exciting adventure for middle grade fantasy fans. The heroine is a girl of color, of Spanish origin; she’s smart, determined, and sick and tired of being treated like she’s an object for someone’s mantelpiece. She’s a good role model for readers who enjoy Zita, Avani from Star Scouts, and Maddy from Jewell Parker Rhodes’ Bayou Magic.

 

Crafty Cat and the Great Butterfly Battle, by Charise Mericle Harper,
(April 2018, First Second), $13.99, ISBN: 9781626724877
Recommended for readers 8-10

The third Crafty Cat comic book has Birdie – whose alter ego is crafty superheroine Crafty Cat – ready to take the lead role in her school play about bugs. The problem is, everyone wants the role: it’s a butterfly! Anya is back, and she wants to be the butterfly, too – and Anya always seems to get her way. Looks like a job for Crafty Cat!

I really enjoy the Crafty Cat series, and so do my library kids. Birdie is a likable character who always manages to find a way to make the best of a lousy situation; she uses crafts – and by extension, her superhero identity as Crafty Cat – to help her focus and see different possibilities. Crafty Cat is an optimistic book with an upbeat character, and it’s great fun for kids to have as a go-to on the shelves. This volume comes with five butterfly-related crafts, including a butterfly with moving wings, a hair clip, and a bookmark.

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction, Women's History

The Girl Who Ran: The Story of Bobbi Gibb

The Girl Who Ran: Bobbi Gibb, The First Woman to Run the Boston Marathon, by Frances Poletti & Kristina Yee/Illustrated by Susanna Chapman, (June 2017, Compendium), $16.99, ISBN:  978-1-943200-47-4

Recommended for readers 5-12

Believe it or not, there was a time not too long ago when women weren’t allowed to run marathons. The Boston Athletic Association, in fact, said women were “incapable” of running 26.2 miles. (But we can carry and give birth to children. That makes sense.) Bobbi Gibb set out to prove them wrong in 1966 – told you it wasn’t that long ago – and The Girl Who Ran, by Frances Poletti and Kristina Yee, tells her story in beautiful inks, prose, and poetry.

Starting with Bobbi’s childhood, we learn how she loved to run, as kids do. But one day, all of her friends stopped, and she kept going. Her father took her to see the Boston Marathon when she was older, and she was determined to do it. Susanna Chapman’s art is incredible, creating swirling tornadoes of negative words each time Bobbi is told why she can’t run: “girls can’t run marathons”, “what a strange idea”, “what if you injure yourself?”, and “rules are there for a reason”. Each time, Bobbi physically pushes those words away and endures; she trains where her parents can’t see her, running cross-country; she dresses in baggy clothes to hide her gender, and joins the Marathon, where she finds an outpouring of support for her fellow runners. When she reveals herself, the support reaches a crescendo, illustrated with vibrant reds and oranges. Wellesley girls support her with cheers and signs, and as she nears her last steps, the book opens into a gatefold to welcome Bobbi to the finishing line. After the race, Bobbi wonders what else could be proven wrong? And that, my friends, is the question we still need to ask.

Photos of Bobbi Gibb, with a brief biography and illustrated timeline of the Boston Marathon complete this gorgeous book. I’m always on the lookout for biographies that go beyond the usual names on our shelves; this is certainly one I want my Queensboro Kids to see. This fits in with the Build a Better World summer reading theme, too: ask your kids what else can be proven wrong as they look around their world today; and how did Bobbi Gibb contribute to building a better world in 1966 and beyond? Bring up Title IX, a federal law passed in 1972 which prevents gender discrimination in education programs and activities, and led the way to girls competing in school sports. Did Bobbi Gibb contribute to this landmark decision?

There’s a Bobbi Gibb website, and ESPN has a good article discussing Bobbi Gibb’s place in history and a statue that’s underway commemorating her historic run. The Girl Who Ran received a starred review from Kirkus and is an Amelia Bloomer Project nominee. It’s a strong addition to biographical, sports, and feminist collections.

Posted in Graphic Novels, Teen, Women's History

The life of a legend, through the eyes of those who knew her: California Dreamin’

california_1California Dreamin’, by Pénélope Bagieu, (March 2017, First Second), $24.99, ISBN: 9781626725461

Recommended for ages 12+

Mama Cass is a music legend. A member of The Mamas and the Papas folk group in the late 1960s, I grew up hearing the group bemoan Monday mornings and dream about California when the winters got too cold. There’s been a lot of ink spilled, writing about the dysfunctional group and its members, but Pénélope Bagieu pays homage to Cass by looking at her earliest years, before and leading up to the formation of the group, in her graphic novel, California Dream: Cass Elliot Before The Mamas and the Papas.

Beginning with her birth, California Dreamin’ tells Cass’ story through the eyes of the people in her life; her family, her friends, her band members. We learn something about each of them as they reveal their stories about life with Cass, and we get a glimpse into some of the singer’s defining moments: her work with Denny Doherty and the band, The Mugwumps; the group coming forming while performing in the Virgin Islands; Mama Cass joining The Mamas and the Papas despite John Phillips’ insistence that she was just providing “guest vocals”, and that the band was himself, Michelle Phillips, and Denny Doherty.

The art is expressive and touching; Bagieu makes her characters cartoony but real; touching and intense. Making Cass’ story a graphic novel will hopefully appeal to a younger audience who may not know the singer or her group, but will appreciate her ability to make things happen for herself and never take no for an answer.

Pénélope Bagieu’s first US graphic novel was 2015’s Exquisite Corpse..

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Posted in Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Tween Reads, Women's History

Life in Motion: Misty Copeland’s inspiring autobiography, edited for young readers

misty-copelandLife in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina (Young Reader Edition), by Misty Copeland, (Dec. 2016, Aladdin), $17.99, ISBN: 978148147979

Recommended for ages 8-12

Misty Copeland is amazing. The first African-American principal dancer for American Ballet Theatre didn’t start ballet until her early teens and has faced poverty, racism, criticism, and injury to do what she loves. In this young readers edition of her autobiography, she tells readers about the trials and triumphs she’s lived, the hard work she’s put in, and the sacrifices she’s made to get where she is in the dance world. We read about the custody battle between her mother and ballet teacher when she was 15; the rampant racism she’s endured, and she holds up to the light the eating issues that run rampant in the ballet community. We also read about amazing achievements, like her dancing on tour with Prince and her joy at meeting the dancers that inspired her the way she inspires a new generation of children.

Misty does not shy away from diversity here: she embraces it, giving us the names of the African-American dancers that went before her. She also doesn’t hide the fact that she’s taken some heat for being “too mainstream”; that bringing ballet to the masses is looked down upon – thankfully, that’s something she disagrees with. Ballet and dance, the arts, are for all – if she can inspire another kid to put on a pair of toe shoes, or sign up for hip hop classes because it’s something they love, she’s done right. Copeland is all about embracing your passion. Her confidence and gratitude come through in equal measure, and she dispenses advice for living and building one’s self-esteem throughout the book. Embrace your strengths and never give up – these are the lessons that kids will come away with after spending some time with Misty Copeland.

There are photos in the finished book (I’ve got an egalley), and more on her home page. You can also find her on the American Ballet Theatre page, which also has a section on education and training for readers interested in learning more. Display and booktalk this with Copeland’s picture book (illustrated by Christopher Myers), Firebird.

This book is a must-add to biography collections. Booktalk and display this if, like me, you’ve got kids that need to see someone smashing stereotypes and making it to the top of her (or his) game. If you have dancers in your home or your life, give this book to them and let them watch this ABC Sunday Spotlight from 2014.