If you have tinkerers or a robotics league in your community, you may already be familiar with No Starch Press and their solid LEGO Mindstorms catalog. I’m a No Starch fan and regularly buy their computing books for both my kids and adult collections, but their Mindstorms books really are worthy of their own shout-out. I’ve used them in my own library when I had a robotics league, and they were a tremendous help to me and my team as we navigated getting the machines built and running. There are two new Mindstorms books coming out that are worth a look for your shelves.
Getting Started with LEGO® MINDSTORMS: Learn the Basics of Building and Programming Robots, by Barbara Bratzel & Rob Torok, (Oct. 2022, No Starch Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781718502420
Anyone embarking on LEGO Mindstorms robotics will find Getting Started with LEGO Mindstorms an essential reference to have on hand. Written with a friendly, easy-to-follow voice, the book provides information you and your readers will need to build your first robot, work with the Mindstorms app, and troubleshoot and refine your robots as you go. The book covers sensors, remote control, sound, light, and movement. Are you new to programming? The book introduces readers to Word Blocks, a visual programming language based on Scratch and is very user-friendly. If you’ve never delved into robotics, DON’T PANIC: this is a supremely intuitive guide that’s meant to foster an interest in programming, building, and working with LEGO Mindstorms robots. You and your readers are safe in Barbara Bratzel’s and Rob Torok’s capable hands.
Mastering LEGO® MINDSTORMS: Build Better Robots with Python and Word Blocks, by Barbara Bratzel & Rob Torok, (Oct. 2022, No Starch Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781718503144
You want your readers to expand their expertise on LEGO Mindstorms. Mastering LEGO Mindstorms will get them there. Moving up from basic Word Blocks programming, Mastering LEGO Mindstorms expands robotics builders’ skills by introducing Python language programming, letting users write text-based code. There’s still how-tos on designing and building, with expanded programming techniques to encourage the casual builder to grow their schools and move toward more sophisticated robotics engineering. There are chapters on gears and mechanisms, moving gyro sensors, and games and “Ultimate Challenges” to test your engineers’ mettle. Photos are incredibly helpful and the informative text is as supportive as it is educational. Bratzel is an elementary school STEM educator and Torok is a secondary STEM educator; both are Mindstorms educators who explain robotics in a way that respects the reader while challenging them.
Getting Started with LEGO® MINDSTORMS and Mastering LEGO® MINDSTORMS are excellent additions to your STEM/STEAM collections. If you have robotics leagues or maker labs in your community, they are essential.
See You at San Diego : An Oral History of Comic-Con, Fandom, and the Triumph of Geek Culture, by Mathew Klickstein, (Sept. 2022, Fantagraphics), $39.99, ISBN: 9781683966517
A definitive history of San Diego Comic-Con, See You at San Diego is a personal chronicle of fandom, as members of the convention and fandom community provide their own stories of the rise of Con. From a group of like-minded science fiction and fantasy fans grew a definitive event in comic book culture and fandom history. Here, creators and fan mainstays talk about their teen years, hanging out with Ray Bradbury, making ‘zines, and finding a space to hold a proper comic book convention. Over 400 black and white and color photos throughout show fans and creators, ticket stubs and programs, and featured geek culture luminaries include Neil Gaiman, Kevin Smith, Frank Miller, and the Russo Brothers. A great slice of comic book culture history for collections where you have pop culture readers. Younger readers may not gravitate to this one, but stock this for your teens and young adults if they’re comic book and pop culture fans. With New York Comic Con coming up, this is a good book to have on display; booktalk how San Diego started it all. Also great to display with works from featured creators.
Visit Matthew Klickstein’s website for more about his books and articles.
Belittled Women, by Amanda Sellett, (Nov. 2022, Clarion Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9780358567356
Don’t ask Jo Porter how she feels about Little Women: she lives it. No, seriously. Her mother is a bit obsessed; not only did she name her three daughters Jo, Meg, and Bethamy (a mashup of Beth and Amy), and refer to herself as Marmee. Oh, and they play their namesakes in a running show called Little Women Live!, with school visits coming to watch the family act out – and put unique spins on – scenes from the Alcott classic. Jo is sick to death of it all, she’s constantly at odds with Amy, and Meg is just tuned out of everything. When a journalist and her son show up to write article about the Porter family, Jo is intrigued: the journalist asks pointed questions that get her thinking about life beyond home, and Hudson, the journalist’s son, is giving her signals. When Jo strikes out on her own and lands in New York on what she thinks is an invitation to stay with the journalist and learn from her, and pursue a relationship with Hudson, she learns that the grass ain’t always greener. Narrated by Jo, there are hilarious moments – the dialogue between Jo and Amy is particularly biting and witty – and moments that most teens will understand, like being frazzled by family relationships. You don’t need to read Alcott to read and enjoy Belittled Women. A good first purchase for teen collections.
Read Amanda Sellett’s laugh-out-loud Belittled Women FAQ on her author webpage.
Raising the Horseman, by Serena Valentino, (Sept. 2022, Disney-Hyperion), $17.99, ISBN: 9781368054614
The Disney Villains series is one of series I can’t keep on my teen shelves. My library teens devour them and they devour the Disney Twisted Tales series faster than authors can write them, which goes to show you can’t go wrong with the classics, especially when there’s a fun change-up. Serena Valentino, author of the Disney Villains series, takes on the Headless Horseman and the legend of Sleepy Hollow in her newest book, Raising the Horseman. Kat Van Tassel is the latest in a long line of Katrina Van Tassels; the famed heroine of Sleepy Hollow was her many times great-grandmother and every woman in her line has been named for her. She’s straining against that legacy, though: she wants to leave and go to college; she doesn’t want to get married and stay in Sleepy Hollow like every other Katrina, despite her mother’s gentle pushing her toward the very thing. Kat finds herself captivated by a new girl in town just as she’s drifting further apart from her boyfriend, Blake: Isadora Crow challenges Kat to see Blake and his gaslighting behavior and to consider a life beyond expectation. As the 200th anniversary of the Headless Horseman’s rise approaches, Kat’s mother gives her Original Katrina’s diary, and Kat begins unraveling the secrets held within. What really happened that night, so long ago? Valentino gives readers a fun, female-forward twist on the classic spooky story, a smart, bisexual heroine who knows there’s more to life than reliving a legend, and a warning about toxic relationships. There are moments where the story struggles with repetition, but the action is fast-paced and the developing relationship between Kat and Isadora, plus the deftly placed twist in the original Sleepy Hollow story, make this worth the time.
Bottom line? You can’t go wrong with Disney YA. A good purchase.
The First to Die at the End, by Adam Silvera, (Oct. 2022, Quill Tree Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9780063240803
The prequel to 2017’s They Both Die at the End follows two teens who fall in love against the backdrop of New York City during the Death-Cast launch. Orion is a teen convinced he’s living on borrowed time thanks to his serious heart condition. He signed up for Death-Cast – an app that alerts subscribers on the day they are going to die – so that he would know when it was coming. Valentino just arrived in New York; a young model ready to take the City by storm, he signed up for Death-Cast on a lark after almost losing his sister to a car accident. The two meet and the attraction is instant: but one of them receives a call and the other doesn’t. Is Death-Cast real, or is it a hoax? The two don’t have time to mull it over; they have a day to create a lifetime. While it isn’t necessary to read They Both Die at the End before reading The First to Die at the End, you’ll want to. It’s a gorgeous story, and you’ll get a little more context from characters who make an appearance in this prequel. Using the space of one day, Silvera creates a story that is filled with expectation, joy, tension, and longing. His fully realized characters have no time to waste; they spend the most memorable day together, moving through relationship milestones and daring to to love in the face of the unthinkable. Thought-provoking discussions between the characters will translate well to discussion groups, and supporting characters and the connections made over the course of the day expand the Death-Cast universe and make this an unputdownable story that teens will devour. An essential first purchase.
Visit Adam Silvera’s author website for more about his books.
The Forgotten Memories of Vera Glass by Anna Priemaza, (Nov. 2021, Harry N. Abrams), $18.99, ISBN: 9781419752599
Do not let the cover fool you: The Forgotten Memories of Vera Glass is a fantasy mystery that will keep you guessing. Vera Glass is a high school student living in a world where everyone has a magic gift; Vera’s is the ability to open locks, while her mother’s intuition magic makes her a wonderfully empathetic and comforting parent. She lives with her scientist parents and siblings, has a strong faith community, and a solid group of friends, but something just isn’t right. No one can quite voice it, but there’s something missing; something leaving a hole in more and more people’s lives, and Vera is determined to find out what it is. There are a few suspects, including a group of “witches” from the Goth kid group and the organization that Vera’s parents work for. The strength here is in the jarring disappearances that pop up throughout the book: a character is part of the scene, and then they’re just… not. And Vera pauses, trying to remember something just outside of her memory, not able to quite grasp what’s changed; just that there’s an ache she can’t quite shake. Heartbreaking and very readable, Vera is the first-person narrator, written with deep feeling by Anna Priemaza. Vera’s faith doesn’t come across as preachy; it’s a facet of her life, and she has an inclusive group of friends that also includes some atheist representation. The Forgotten Memories of Vera Glass examines the feelings we have for those in our lives that go deeper than the surface; deeper than memory.
Radical: My Year with a Socialist Senator, by Sofia Warren, (June 2022, Top Shelf Productions), $24.99, ISBN: 9781603095129
New York State senator Julia Salazar first found herself on Brooklyn cartoonist Sofia Warren’s radar in 2018 when the then 27-year-old was a Democratic Socialist running for state senate. Her grassroots campaign inspired and motivated followers, including Sofia Warren. When Salazar won the election, Sofia Warren asked the newly minted state senator if she could chronicle the first year of her tenure; Salazar accepted, and Radical was born. Radical chronicles what happens after the balloons and confetti have been cleaned up and it’s time to get to work. Salazar, whose main focus was affordable housing, had a team of community organizers going up against wealthy landlords and entrenched ways of doing things: the twenty-something Socialist and her followers had their work cut out for them. Sofia Warren spent a year traveling with and speaking to Salazar and her team in order to create an honest portrait of a state senator’s first year in office: traveling to and from Albany; meetings, meetings, meetings; angry public meetings, staff disagreements, gaining and losing ground, all on the way to create legislation. The beginning of the story reads similar to an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez memoir; something the author is aware of, and Radical will appeal to AOC followers and anyone interested in the inner workings of grassroots politics. Excellent for high school and college courses.
The Greatest Thing, by Sarah Winifred Searle, (Feb. 2022, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781250297235
A fictionalized memoir, The Greatest Thing follows Winifred as she starts the school year after her two closest friends go to a different school. Winifred is talented, creative, and plagued by anxiety. Uncomfortable with her body, she engages in habits like “tricking” her body into “forgetting it was hungry by making it sick”. When she meets new friends April and Oscar, her world opens up: the three friends love art and also deal with self-esteem and anxiety; together, the three find their voices by creating a zine, Gutterglimmers. Eventually, Winifred – with the help of her supportive mom – seeks help, and starts finding comfort in real life as well as the pages of her zine. Filled with helpful instructions on making a zine, and positive portrayals of nonbinary and pansexual characters, The Greatest Thing provides an honest and raw look into adolescent anxiety and depression, and the role art can play in working through emotions and feelings. If you haven’t purchased this book for your YA graphic novels collections yet, you really should.
Visit Sarah Winifred Searle’s website and seem more of her artwork and learn about more of her books.
Reputation, by Lex Croucher, (Apr. 2022, St. Martin’s Griffin), $16.99, ISBN: 9781250832832
Georgiana Ellers is a 19-year-old young woman living with her aunt and uncle in Regency-era England. Her parents have rather unceremoniously left her in their care, selling their home and moving to the shore under the guise of her mother needing to look after her health. Resigning herself to the boredom and stress of society parties at the elbow of her ton-conscious aunt, Georgiana is delighted when she meets Frances Campbell – a somewhat scandalous member of society’s in-crowd, who immediately takes Georgiana under her wing. Frances and her crowd are given to wild partying, spending copious amounts of money, and spending an improper amount of time in the company of the opposite sex. Georgiana loses herself in the abandon of it all, but she feels like she’s falling just short of fitting in most of the time. She also falls hard for one of the young men on the fringes of the group, Thomas Hawksley, but he tends to pull back from the wilder group antics.
This book is riding high on the Bridgerton wave, and with good reason: it packs all the glamour of Regency-era Britain, with Shonda Rimes’s diverse additions making for a more exciting, interesting experience. Reputation certainly doesn’t overlook the issues rampant in Britain at the time; a biracial central character certainly experiences her share of side glances and comments. An LGBTQ+ subplot running through the main story, and there are themes of consent, agency, and social class.