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

The Greatest Thing takes a real look at adolescence, art, and anxiety

The Greatest Thing, by Sarah Winifred Searle, (Feb. 2022, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781250297235

Ages 13+

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.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, Middle School, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

‘Tis the season for great graphic novel reading!

I know, that was awful, but trying to find new graphic novel headlines is tough! With that, let the games begin.

 

Barb the Last Berzerker, by Dan Abso & Jason Patterson, (Sept. 2021, Simon & Schuster), $13.99, ISBN: 9781534485716

Ages 8-12

A young Berzerker warrior is on a mission to save her fellow warriors after a villain named Witch Head takes them captive. With the help of a Yeti named Pork Chop, and wielding the Shadow Blade that she took from Witch Head, Barb goes on a journey that changes her thinking: where she once fought monsters, she’ll learn that monsters – including sausage-eating yetis – aren’t all bad, and not all humans are good. She meets snot goblins, vampire goats, and a giant who’s sensitive about his foot odor while calling on the power of the Shadow Blade to help her in battle. But the Shadow Blade’s power is not something to be used lightly, and Barb may find that relying on it too much could hurt more than it could help. The first in a new series, Barb is chaotic and hilarious, with gross-out jokes and positive messages about independence and unlearning endemic bias. Readers will cheer for Barb and Pork Chop, who are a buddy movie waiting to happen. Dan & Jason are the creators behind the younger readers’ series Blue, Barry, & Pancakes; visit their website to find out more about their graphic novels.

Barb the Last Berzerker has a starred review from Kirkus. It hasn’t been nominated for a CYBILS yet, hint hint!

 

Whistle: A New Gotham City Hero, by E. Lockhart/Illustrated by Manuel Preitano, (Sept. 2021, DC Comics), $16.99, ISBN: 9781401293222

Ages 13+

Yet another great DC YA graphic novel, this time from award-winning author and National Book Award Finalist, E. Lockhart. Willow Zimmerman is a 16-year-old Jewish teen activist, living in the Down River section of Gotham. It’s a run-down neighborhood and she’s tired of it being overlooked; she takes to the streets in protest when she’s not at school or at home, caring for her mother, who’s going through treatment for cancer. She works part-time in an animal shelter and feeds her friend, a stray Great Dane she’s named Leibowitz, on the side. When E. Nigma – her mom’s estranged friend – gets in touch with Willow, she learns that he’s cleaned himself up and is a successful real estate entrepreneur who runs an underground gambling promotion on the side, and he wants to give her a job. Faced with mounting bills and the fear of eviction, Willow accepts and starts earning more money than she could have ever imagined. When she and Leibowitz are attacked by Killer Croc, who has a grudge to settle with Nigma, the two realize that they can understand one another – where other people hear assorted growls and barks, Willow hears Leibowitz talking! The two decide to become a superteam and do their part to clean up Gotham: even if it means playing double agents to Nigma, aka The Riddler, and Pamela Isley, who’s helping Nigma out as her alter ego, Poison Ivy. I love the origin stories DC’s YA authors have been putting out, and their new heroes are go good, I can’t help but hope they’ll eventually show up in the big titles. Willow is a smart, likable heroine faced with big, real-world issues: lack of healthcare, a single, ailing parent, and the aggravation of living in a neighborhood that’s ignored by all but real estate developers who will gentrify for cheap and push the incumbent citizens out. She combats this first by taking it to the streets; when that isn’t working fast enough, she learns to play both sides of the game. Leibowitz is her steadfast sidekick with a funny, sly sense of humor (once we can hear him talk), and it’s great to see some Gotham familiar faces (including a surprise cameo) and a new spin on The Riddler. All around, a solid hit from DC yet again.

Whistle has not yet been nominated for a CYBILS yet – you know what to do.

 

 

Friends Forever, by Shannon Hale/Illustrated by LeUyenPham, (Aug. 2021, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781250317568

Ages 9-13

The third installment in Shannon Hale’s autobiographical “Friends” series sees Shannon in eighth grade and dealing with anxiety over her looks, her grades, and her popularity. She sees her friends dating, but worries that no one wants to date her. She wants eighth grade to be her perfect year, but she just can’t seem to be happy. She becomes increasingly anxious, with OCD behaviors starting to creep into her daily life. A solidly relatable, realistic picture of the big emotions and worries facing kids as they become teens, Shannon’s adolescence in the 1980s is still every bit as relevant to tweens and teens today; with mental health issues gaining more mainstream attention today, Friends Forever can spark important conversations about the pressures tweens and teens face and coping mechanisms that can help. Friends Forever is about change and finding the courage to accept and love yourself. Beautifully illustrated, and with back matter that includes an author’s note from Shannon Hale that addresses mental health, actual school photos, a peek at LeUyen Pham’s sketchbook, and notes from Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham to one another, just like real friends share. Download a free activity kit with discussion questions and a Readers Theater script, and find activities for all three Friends books at the Real Friends website.

Friends Forever is a first round Graphic Novels CYBILS nominee.

More to come!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Book bundle: Back-to-School Strong

I’m back after a brief staycation! How’s everyone doing? I needed to get some time before my little guy goes back to school, and help get my teen settled for his first week of college. I thought I’d start off my grand return with some books about feelings, emotions, and inner strength as our kids head back to school, so let’s see what we’ve got.

Born to Sparkle : A Story About Achieving Your Dreams, by Megan Bomgaars/Illustrated by Pete Olczyk, (Sept. 2021, Flowerpot Press), $12.99, ISBN: 9781486721108

Ages 5-8

Megan Bomgaars, a leading Down syndrome spokesperson, artist, and star of A&E’s reality TV show Born This Way, gave a powerful speech in 2010 called “Don’t Limit Me”, which inspired this book about working hard and finding your sparkle. It is unshakeable in its upbeat tone, filled with inspiring thoughts for readers: “You can sparkle. / There are no limits. / Anything is possible. / Don’t limit yourself”. The important thing here is that Megan Bomgaars follows through and lets readers know that you have to work for it, nothing that “dreams are not like wishes. You can’t just wish upon a star and then wait”, letting readers know that there are no limits but those which we place on ourselves. Colorful illustrations show a cartoony group of jungle animal friends supporting a young lioness who wants to share her sparkle and be a singer. Sparkly endpapers and a glittered texture cover make this an eye-catching, texture-friendly book for young readers, and a great storytime read. Kids starting the new school year could use this wonderful dose of encouragement.

Learn more about Megan Bomgaars by visiting her Instagram page @meganbomgaars.

 

Be Strong, Pat Zietlow Miller/Illustrated by Jen Hill, (Aug. 2021, Roaring Brook Press), $18.99, ISBN 9781250221117
Ages 3-6
Tanisha, a young girl of color, faces down the rock-climbing wall at school. Her friend Cayla can easily climb it, but Tanisha struggles doesn’t reach the top. This gets her thinking about strength and what her family says about strength. Different members of her family see strength in different ways, from showing up to help neighbors, speaking up to make changes where you see problems, and never giving up. Tanisha mulls this advice over and decides to be strong: she helps other kids at school, whether with classwork or with feeling lonely; she takes up playing an instrument, and keeps practicing. She also understands that being strong also means accepting a helping hand, because “when I’m not strong enough alone, I can be strong with someone else”. A powerful, eloquent statement for kids to hear, Be Strong is the companion book to Pat Zietlow Miller and Jen Hill’s 2018 book, Be Kind and is an essential for preschool and early classrooms.
Teaching children that strength takes so many forms – including knowing when to ask for help! – is an important and necessary lesson in creating strong, kind future adults. Gouache artwork shows a diverse group of people helping one another: a neighborhood comes together to help families who have lost their homes and lobby for safer streets. Illustrations show that doing the right thing isn’t always the easy decision, as we see Tanisha watch friends play outside as she stays indoors during recess, helping friends with math work. Images like this are so important, because we know that sometimes we’re split in what we want to do versus what we know we should do: it’s honest and affirming to see images like this, and know that Tanisha made the truly selfless decision to show up for what she knows is being kind and strong. Great for starting discussions, Be Strong is a great book for getting the school year off to a strong start.
Be Strong has a starred review from Publishers Weekly.
Small Knight and the Anxiety Monster, by Manka Kasha, (Sept. 2021, Feiwel & Friends), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250618795
Ages 4-7
A Small Knight feels pressured by their parents to be a perfect princess, but that’s not what they see for themselves. They want to go on adventures with their Teddy Bear! Worrying about how to explain this to their parents brings on an Anxiety Monster that follows Small Knight everywhere until the Knight and Teddy realize that they have to save themselves on this one. They set off on a journey and discover that the answer to defeating the Monster lies inside themself.
This is such a good book for kids to see: a nonbinary child lets all children see themselves in Small Knight’s place; the scribbly menacing anxiety monster that only Knight and Teddy can see – and that parents dismiss as imagination or “just part of being a princess” – understands that kids feel unheard or told to just endure some things as “part of childhood”; the understanding that the key to defeating the monster lies with Knight believing in themselves to call out the monster lets kids know that they have all the tools they need to beat their own anxiety monsters, no matter what those forms take. Told as a fairy tale, the watercolor and ink illustrations give us softly colored kings and queens, an adorable knight with a soft blue shirt, helm, and sword, and an anxiety  monster that kids can draw on their own and defeat in any type of class or library exercise. The artwork shows us a young hero on their journey, and it’s a hero that all kids can look up to.
Small Knight and the Anxiety Monster is a Kids’ Indie Next List Pick.
When I See Red, by Britta Teckentrup, (Sept. 2021, Prestel Junior), $14.95, ISBN: 9783791374949
Ages 3-5
A beautiful and moving meditation on anger by Britta Teckentrup, When I See Red takes readers through a young girl’s anger from beginning to end. In verse, we view her anger as a storm, untamed; the artwork dramatically whirling and spinning our heroine in the middle of her own emotional storm. She roars at the sea, her anger giving rise to tornadoes and hurricanes; we understand that anger can be a force for confidence as we see her rage propel her above the waves, allowing her to stand tall. When I See Red is about the cleansing power of unbottling rage, using one’s words, not forcing things down where they can hurt us (or unleash our own anxiety monsters!). Beautiful verses weave the girl’s anger into something powerful, propelling her forward, until, anger spent, her “monsters and dragons have disappeared”. Rage as a journey and a tool for moving forward, this is an excellent book to explain the power of positive self-expression for preschoolers and kindergarteners.
Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Mindi and the Goose No One Else Could See looks at childhood anxiety

Mindi and the Goose No One Else Could See, by Sam McBratney/Illustrated by Linda Ólafsdóttir, (March 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536212815

Ages 3-7

A young girl named Mindi is afraid of an invisible goose in her room. Her parents do their best to ease her fears, to no avail. Mindi’s father brings Mindi to visit Austen, a wise farmer who has a wonderful, gentle way to get that goose out of Mindi’s room. Sam McBratney, author of the childhood classic Guess How Much I Love You (1994), created a kind, gentle story about listening to children and understanding childhood fears and anxiety. The author, who passed away last year, had an intuitive way of telling stories that allow children to see themselves, and a wonderful way of showing adults how to put themselves in a child’s place and see the world through their eyes. Linda Ólafsdóttir’s mixed media artwork brings soft colors and gentle artwork to this wonderful story.

Mindi and the Goose No One Else Could See has a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

Posted in picture books

Sensitive Storytelling: A Place to Stay

A Place to Stay: A Shelter Story, by Erin Gunti/Illustrated by Estelí Meza, (Aug. 2019, Barefoot Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9781782858249

Ages 5-9

A young girl and her mother seek housing at a shelter. The girl is uncomfortable with her surroundings: this isn’t her home, her bed, her kitchen, but her mother tries to smooth over the situation using positive visualization and imagination. No, it’s not her home; it’s a grand palace! The beds become rocket ships that shoot into space, and the dining room becomes a banquet hall, where people from all over come to break bread together. In between fantasy trips of the mind, the girl’s mother tries to put her daughter’s mind at ease, telling her that they are lucky to have a place to stay, encouraging her to greet others she meets at the shelter. Mother and daughter befriend another mother and her children at a nearby table; the two girls discover they are reading the same book at school. The protagonists are white, but there is a multicultural group of residents at the shelter, and the family she and her mother meet are brown-skinned.

A Place to Stay is sensitive to a child’s concerns over staying in a shelter, using the main character to communicate those fears, and her mother, to assuage them. A Place to Stay also explains what a shelter is, what purpose one serves to the communities, for those families that may have a pre-existing notion of the “kinds of people” that stay in shelters. Back matter includes notes on shelters and homelessness, including how shelters help and why people stay in shelters. A Place to Stay is an important addition to your libraries.

Author Erin Gunti wrote A Place to Stay: A Shelter Story after working as a child abuse and neglect investigator, to open a dialogue between adults and children about childhood homelessness. Her experiences come through with subtle nuances throughout the book: the use of creative visualization to ease anxiety and fear; having moments like the “treasure room” for kids in the shelter, where they can play and be children not defined by their situation; meeting other families and bonding over common ground like a book from school. Artist Estelí Meza uses soothing, soft colors to bring her story to life.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Ahmed’s Journey is a study in mindfulness

Ahmed’s Journey: A Journey of Self-Discovery, by Jill Apperson Manly, (Jan. 2019, Jabu Books), $16.95, ISBN: 978-0-9980220-0-0

Ages 4-7

Yogi, author, teacher, and award-winning author Jill Apperson Manly creates a quietly eloquent tale of mindfulness against a backdrop of the Arabian peninsula. A boy named Amend and his family have traveled across the desert to race their camel in the famous camel races. As Ahmed feeds the camels, he start to feel anxious about the race. As he meditatively rubs his favorite camel’s ear, he stands still, in the moment, and senses his surroundings, and his place within his surroundings. He senses a sandstorm building, and notices that his anxiety is causing a storm within him, too. He breathes, he takes an inventory of himself and his emotions, and rides out both the inner and outer storms. At the story’s conclusion, Ahmed feels strong, peaceful, patient, and wise; he’s confident that everything he needs within him.

Ahmed’s Journey uses techniques to walk readers through the process of mindfulness and being present. Ms. Manly uses visual and verbal cues to help readers get in touch with all of their senses, even bringing the tactile to life as she describes the grittiness of the sand, the discomfort of anxiety, and the warmth of love. The title refers to both the outer journey Ahmed and his family make to the races, and his internal journey to inner awareness. Gentle, earth-toned watercolor illustrations create a desert landscape and present a calming influence on readers. The text is brief and impactful, making this a wonderful story to read during a yoga or mindfulness storytime. A nice add to multicultural and yoga/mindfulness collections.

 

Award-winning author of Nothando’s Journey, Jill Apperson Manly’s second book, Ahmed’s Journey, deepens the themes of exploring thoughts, emotions and sensations. Manly uses international cultural festivals to educate the reader and teach the importance of  self-love. Jill is a certified iRest® teacher and Somatic Yoga Therapist and loves sharing yoga and meditation with children and adults, coaching girls’ high school basketball, and being a mom to her four children. She lives with her husband and children in Newport Beach, CA.

 

Some questions for Jill, courtesy of JKS Communications:

How important is it for kids to explore and know their own emotions?

Jill: There is nothing more important.  It is essential to learn and value who you are.

Do you think that emotional lessons can be integrated into school studies?

Jill: Yes, Absolutely! Globally and in the U.S. we are seeing this done right now. My first book, Nothando’s Journey, is part of part of an SEL curricula created by Think Equal (www.thinkequal.com) currently in 147 schools across 15 countries. The pilot program is being evaluated by Yale Center for Emotional Learning. Kids live in present. There is no better time to discuss how a child is feeling then when  it is occuring. Of course, you cannot disrupt the class to deal with each emotion so therefore, it is better to have a set time within a lesson, for example in social science, to include a SEL lesson.

How did your experience teaching and studying in Saudi Arabia affect the writing of Ahmed’s Journey?

Jill: My overseas teaching experiences with children gave me great joy. Picking stories from “far-away places” gives a different perspective and we all benefit by learning about others. It’s fun to think about riding a camel. Kids in America don’t get to do that. It is even more fun to think about racing one!

 

 

What aspects of yoga do you bring to writing children’s books?

Jill: Yoga is seen in mainstream America as primarily a form of exercise, in my books, some of the deeper benefits of yoga or any mindful (peaceful) practice are explored.

How were the emotions and sensations that Ahmed experienced in the book reflections of your experiences traveling abroad or those of your own children?

Jill: I hope my experiences do not create experiences for others. I hope they are only a springboard for a discussion of everyone’s self potential. There is SO MUCH in our kids and in ourselves that gets stuffed down or swallowed up or is undervalued. I hope my books encourage and support kids and adults to value who they are on the inside.

Why is it important for kids to experience cultures different from their own?

Jill: We are more alike than different. As we see others, we see ourselves.

What is some advice you can give to parents who have children experiencing fear and anxiety like Ahmed?

Jill: The best advice is to have the conversation around these topics. Our children have lots of anxiety and being able to help them address their anxiety around their fears is very empowering. My website has additional resources both for the child and adult on this topic.

 

How is Ahmed’s Journey a continuation of your first book, Nothando’s Journey?

Jill: It takes kids and parents to another place in the world to learn about others and, at the same time, to learn about themselves.

Posted in Animal Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Hector’s Favorite Place shows kids how to face their fears

Hector’s Favorite Place, by Jo Rooks, (Aug. 2018, Magination Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781433828683

Ages 4-7

Hector is a hedgehog whose favorite place is home. He doesn’t go out that often, because everything he needs is home; home is “cozy and snuggly and safe”. At the same time, though, Hector wants to do things with his friends! He’s invited to the most exciting things: playing in the snow, ice skating, going to a party. But every time Hector accepts an invitation, he starts thinking about all the things that could go wrong, becomes anxious, and cancels plans. He decides to confront his anxiety, be brave, and head to the Winter party in the forest; when anxiety rears its ugly head again, he closes his eyes and imagines himself having fun and dancing at the party – and discovers that he’s having fun! After the party and some hot chocolate, Hector’ decides that he’s ready to take on new adventures outside of his home.

Hector’s Favorite Place is a child-friendly look at getting past fear. The author uses cute animals and age-appropriate text to communicate situations that may make kids nervous. Having Hector use creative visualization by imagining himself having fun is a great way to communicate this strategy to kids, giving them the tools to tackle worry and fear of everything from going to a friend’s party to starting the first day of school. Back matter gives parents some helpful advice on managing worry in kids and how to model helpful behaviors.

Magination Press is a publishing imprint of the American Psychological Association. The publisher’s website offers links to brochures and research from the APA, links to social media, and and links to the APA Book and APA Style blog. KidPsych is a kid- and parent-friendly site with games and activities.

I’ve been enjoying the Magination Press books for toddlers and kids. I like the topics the authors explore, and I love the way the authors and illustrators come together to create a story that appeals to kids and speaks to them in a way that respects and understands their feelings and challenges. So far, every book I’ve seen from Magination Press earns a spot in my library.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Dexter Dino takes on show & tell! Plus, a giveaway!

He’s back! My favorite neurotic toy dinosaur is back in his second adventure!!

Sorry, Rex, it’s not you.

 

 

It’s… DEXTER DINO!

It’s Show and Tell, Dexter!, by Lindsay Ward, (Aug. 2018, Two Lions),
Ages 3-7

 

Dexter’s fully recovered from his experience in the pediatrician’s waiting room, and he and Jack are back together to take on a new adventure: SHOW AND TELL. But Dexter’s worried again… he wants to wow the class! Should he wear a costume? Learn an exciting new routine? OH NO! WHAT IF HE’S THE… BORING TOY? Dexter’s latest story takes on performance anxiety and worries about self-image. Thankfully, the omniscient reader is there to let Dexter know that being himself is the best way to go: and sure enough, the Dexter Dino chant makes him the most popular dino in the class and on the bus!

I have such love for this fun series and for author Lindsay Ward. Dexter is adorable, neurotic, and totally relatable. He worries about being cool enough to hang with his buddy, Jack; he worries about not being exciting enough to hold a kids’ attention, and he works through his anxiety for everyone to see, letting kids (ahem… and some adults) know that we’re not alone. By pointing out physical manifestations of what nerves can do to us: pit in the stomach, fidgety claws, awkward smiles, and all, Dexter lets readers know that we all get anxious about something, and that it’s okay. Being oneself is the best solution.

Dexter’s bright color and body postures make him awkward and lovable, and his empowering Dexter Dino chant gets an entire room up and stomping, making this PERFECT for storytimes. I tested this one out with a pre-k Kindergarten visit (they’d had a test run with Don’t Forget Dexter!), and they all jumped up and joined me for some chomping and stomping. I had a couple of kids let Dexter know it was okay, too: leave room for kid reactions when reading it out loud and watch empathy in action. My own 6-year-old was so excited to get the book in the mail, he had his own stomping party! Have a show and tell storytime, and encourage kids to talk about their cool things. Have some toys on hand for anyone who shows up empty-handed, and encourage some imagination by asking kids about what they like most about their toys and objects. Maybe you’ll get a new rhyme or two out of the experience, and don’t forget to have Dexter coloring sheets on hand!

 

 

Lindsay Ward is the author of the Dexter T. Rexter book Don’t Forget Dexter! Though she never got to bring an orange dinosaur to Show and Tell Day, she did once take all four albums of her sticker collection. She is also the author and illustrator of Brobarians, Henry Finds His Word, and When Blue Met Egg. Her book Please Bring Balloons was also made into a play.  Most days you can find Lindsay with her family, writing and sketching at her home in Peninsula, Ohio. Learn more about her at www.LindsayMWard.com or on Twitter: @lindsaymward.

 

Praise for It’s Show and Tell, Dexter!

“Ward’s gentle art features cut-paper forms with residual pencil outlines, providing an ad hoc quality to the spreads. Readers prone to anxiety over big events should be tickled by the idea that a toy has concerns too.” —Publishers Weekly

“Ward’s illustrations, made with printmaking ink, colored pencil, and cut paper, wonderfully capture Dexter’s every emotion and over-the-top ideas.” —Kirkus Reviews

 

One lucky winner will receive a copy of both Dexter T. Rexter books–Don’t Forget Dexter! and It’s Show and Tell, Dexter!, courtesy of Two Lions (U.S. addresses). Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway.

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 Graphic Novels, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Archival Quality is SO GOOD, and not just because I’m a librarian.

Archival Quality, by Ivy Noelle Weir/Illustrated by Steenz, (March 2018, Oni Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781620104705

Recommended for readers 14+

First, the scoop: Cel Walden is a young woman who loves working with books. But she loses her library job, because she’s also dealing with crippling anxiety and depression. She finds another job, this time as an archivist, at the Logan Museum, where she’s responsible for putting records in order and digitizing them. Sounds pretty cool, right? (You know it does.) She meets Abayomi, also called Aba, the secretive curator, and the fabulous Holly, librarian extraordinaire. Cel starts scanning and archiving, but notices strange things afoot at the library and the archivist’s apartment on library property; she also starts having some strange dreams about a young woman who needs Cel’s help. Cel becomes consumed with finding out this woman’s identity and what happened to her, which puts her job, relationship, and possibly, her mental health, at risk.

Now, the raving: Archival Quality is a great story on so many levels. It’s a ghost story; it’s got secrets; it takes place in a library – where better to have a ghost story?!; and it takes a strong and sensitive look at mental health and takes an hard look at mental health treatment in the past. Cel is on a mission to find out what happened to the ghostly girl who shares her initials and her mental health challenges. The ghost’s story gets under Cel’s skin because she empathizes; she understands, and she wants to help put an uneasy, persecuted spirit to rest: and that certainly has a double meaning, as we see the toll this takes on Cel through the story.

The characters are wonderful. Cel stands on her own as a fully realized character, and her friends: the mysterious Aba has his own fears and frustrations to work with, and Holly is strong and witty. Holly and Aba are characters of color and Holly’s got a girlfriend whose family has its own ties to the Logan Museum, giving us a tertiary character that has a realistic connection to the story and isn’t just there to be window dressing for Holly. Archival Quality is a solid story that works to bash away at the stigma of depression and anxiety. I love it, and I can’t wait to get it into the hands of the readers at my library. I’d hand this off to my upper-level middle schoolers and high schoolers, and keep copies handy for the college kids.

Ivy Noelle Weir and Steenz also happen to be former librarians. See? LIBRARIES ROCK. Check out Ivy Weir’s webpage for more webcomics (with Steenz) and general awesomeness. Check out Steenz’s Tumblr for more art.