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

A YA graphic novel about honoring your authentic self: Needle and Thread

Needle and Thread, by David Pinckney, Edited by Chris Sanchez/Illustrated by Ennun Ana Iurov, (Oct. 2021, Mad Cave Studios), $17.99, ISBN: 9781952303234

Ages 12 to 16

Noah is a high school senior who dreams of being a costume designer, but his parents are dead-set against his “hobby” being a viable career and pressure him to apply to more traditional colleges and think of a more “reasonable” career. Azarie is the daughter of a politician determined to show a perfect family picture to the public. Azarie is the lead cheerleader and the perfect student, a young woman who’s in with the in crowd, and nurses a secret love of comic books and a desire to be an actress. The two bond over their shared interests, and Noah introduces Azarie to his friends, who welcome her into their circle – much to the chagrin of the Mean Girls in Azarie’s school social circle, and her image-obsessed parents. When introducing Noah’s family to Azarie’s, her father insists that Noah and his first-responder parents (a firefighter and police officer) enter through the back door – the racial implications, atop the social, cannot be denied. But more than a story about an image-obsessed family of social climbers, Needle and Thread is a story about embracing your passions, honoring yourself and your dreams, and pursuing a supportive community. Azarie is welcomed into Noah’s artistic, cosplaying community and grow with that community’s encouragement, while hitting some bumps along the way. Characters are diverse, the story and artwork are interesting and work together to create a full narrative that YA readers will dive into.

Posted in Non-Fiction, Tween Reads

New Year, New Nonfiction!

There’s some great nonfiction coming up in just a few short weeks. From fandoms to crafting, freaky animals to an unusual pen pal, there’s a little something here for everyone.

Outrageous Animal Adaptations: From Big-Eared Bats to Frill-Necked Lizards, by Michael J. Rosen,
(Jan. 2018, Lerner Publishing), $37.32, ISBN: 9781512429992
Good for readers 10-15
Animals with unusual adaptation take center stage here, from the frill-necked lizard that runs across the desert on two legs to a vampire squid, who uses its bioluminescence to startle predators. Outrageous Animal Adaptations is loaded with full-color pictures and facts; each featured animal has callouts on its adaptation, curious facts, and a box with classification information. At only 96 pages, though, the price is steep for my wee budget, so if this isn’t a centrally purchased book for my collection, I have to be honest; I’ll probably see where I can find a more reasonably priced option.
Fandom: Fic Writers, Vidders, Gamers, Artists, and Cosplayers, by Francesca Davis DiPiazza/Illustrated by Shauna Lynn Panczyszyn,
(Jan. 2018, Lerner Publishing), $37.32, ISBN: 9781512450491
Good for readers 12-16
What a time to be a fan! Fandom has gone behemoth; New York Comic-Con is the new San Diego, and people are writing their academic theses on fanfic. I feel like my tweenage self has finally been vindicated; now, if only my Wookiees Need Love, Too t-shirt still fit. Fandom: Fic Writers, Vidders, Gamers, Artists, and Cosplayers is a great, in-depth look at some of the most-loved facets of fandom: fan fiction, cosplay, vidding, gaming, and fan art. There are color photos and input from fans; tips and advice, and a nice history of fandom for newcomers and old guard alike. There’s a strong emphasis on the communities we build as fans, and extra attention paid to the more recent Cosplay is Not Consent movement taking place at fan conventions and meetups. The book looks at the positive aspects of fandom – there’s been a lot of ink spent on the in-fighting and “fake geek girl” foolishness out there – and it’s nice to read an upbeat book about fan communities. The big sticking point here is the price. At over $37 for this book, I can buy two copies of Sam Maggs’ Fangirls Guide to the Galaxy – a great readalike and an awesome book, but I’d love to have both on my shelves, you know? It’s a hard call, because this really is a good book, well-written and well-presented, and readers will definitely be drawn to it. If you’ve got the budget, go for it.
The Craft-a-Day Book: 30 Projects to Make with Recycled Materials, by Kari Cornell/Photos by Jennifer S. Larson,
(Jan. 2018, Lerner Publishing), $39.98, ISBN: 9781512413137
Good for readers and crafters 12-16
Written with an eye toward high school and college students, crafter Kari Cornell talks about finding inspiration and repurposing everything from old tin cans to mismatched socks to create new crafts. She’s big on thrift store shopping and materials swaps with friends, and she’s all about reduce, reuse, and recycle. There are 30 projects, with varying degrees of difficulty and skill, for teens to take on and make their own. Step-by-step instructions help crafters navigate projects. The crafts are fun and I love Kari Cornell’s ideas for inspiration, but there wasn’t a lot of new craft ideas to be found. I’d rather stick with books like Generation T, Sophie Maletsky’s Sticky Fingers duct tape book, and Quirk Books’ craft line of books, all of which have similar projects and… yup, they’re more affordable.
Dear Komodo Dragon, by Nancy Kelly Allen/Illustrated by Laurie Allen Klein,
(Feb. 2018, Arbordale Publishing, $17.95, ISBN: 9781607184492
Good for readers 4-9
A story about a girl with an unlikely pen pal – an honest-to-goodness, real Komodo dragon, gives kids loads of facts and teaches environmental awareness.  A young girl named Les writes to a Komodo dragon who goes by the name Komo (fair enough). She and the dragon learn about one another through fun dialogue; Les wants to know if he breathes fire, Komo is amused and corrects her knowledge with facts. The dialogue is often humorous; very tongue-in-cheek, and we see Les go from a girl dressed like a knight and ready to fight a dragon to someone who understands the threats Komodo dragons live with, be it from other, bigger dragons or from man. The artwork is soft, yet realistic; the letters appear on each spread, over the artwork, almost scrapbook-like in format. Kids will enjoy learning through the dialogue between dragon and human. As with all Arbordale books, there is a For Creative Minds session with additional facts and information. There will be a Spanish translation available.
Maggie: Alaska’s Last Elephant, by Jennifer Keats Curtis/Illustrated by Phyllis Saroff,
(Feb. 2018, Arbordale Publishing), $17.95, ISBN: 9781607184508
Good for readers 5-10
Based on a true story, Maggie: Alaska’s Last Elephant is the story of Maggie, an elephant living at the Alaska Zoo with an older elephant named Annabelle. When Annabelle dies, Maggie is left alone and becomes despondent. Elephants are social animals; with no other elephant to befriend, and living outside of her own habitat, Maggie spends years holding onto a tire. Zookeepers ultimately make the decision to send Maggie to live at the PAWS Sanctuary, where she now lives with a herd of elephants. Maggie’s story is heartbreaking; the realistic artwork beautifully and achingly conveys emotion, from Maggie’s joy with Annabelle to her despondence, clinging to her tire, alone in her pen. This is a strong story about making good decisions and making the decisions that benefit others; putting others first, and living with empathy. The Creative Minds section includes a Q&A with elephant keeper Michelle Harvey, and touches on Maggie’s care at PAWS; the PAWS website has several videos available, including Maggie’s arrival from Alaska in 2000, and Maggie joining the herd of elephants. I’ve become an Arbordale fan since encountering their books at KidLitCon this year; they put out consistently good nonfiction for younger readers and have extra resources available online to extend learning.
Posted in geek, geek culture, Humor, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Love at ComicCon: The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love

geek's guideThe Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love, by Sarvenaz Tash (June 2016, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), $17.99, ISBN: 9781481456531

Recommended for ages 13+

Sixteen year-olds Graham and Roxana are the best of friends, sharing a love of Harry Potter, comics, and all things geek. Lately, though, Graham has started feeling more than just friendship for Roxy. He’s decided that New York Comic Con is the place to declare his undying love to her, especially since Robert Zinc – the reclusive creator of their all-time favorite comic book,The Chronicles of Althena – is going to be there! AND there’s going to be a John Hughes retrospective! It’s the perfect romantic setting, right? Unfortunately, not everything goes as planned, and Graham realizes that what looks good on paper is often very different from what works in real life. But he also may learn that surprises show up in the most unusual places: like ComicCon.

This was the sweetest, wackiest YA romance I’ve read in ages. I loved all the comic and geek world references, and I’ll be the first to admit I kinda had a moment when I realized that the beloved John Hughes movies of my adolescence are now awesome retro movies to today’s teens. (I loved it, I just can’t comprehend that Andie and Blaine shared a prom kiss 30 years ago.) Graham is one of those good guys that you really want to see get a break, and his long-suffering buddy Casey is hilarious as the semi-clueless foil to Graham’s hopeless/helpless romantic. The characters didn’t feel like caricatures; they lived and breathed and interacted in the bookspace, which I appreciated.

Display and booktalk this one with Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl and, if you’re lucky enough to have scored a copy, her book, Kindred Spirits. If you’re having a comic con event at your library this summer, this is a perfect book to evangelize to the masses. For the burgeoning fangirls, make sure to put out a copy of Sam Maggs’ awesome Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy, so they can check out references to Firefly, The Princess Bride, and Harry Potter. Show some John Hughes movies, while you’re at it!

Sarvenaz Tash writes YA and middle grade books. Her author site has links to more information about them, plus links to social media, events, and news.

 

Posted in Fiction, geek culture, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Creep Con – Cosplay does *not* equal consent or reality!

creep conCreep Con, by Kim Firmston (Sept. 2015, Lorimer), $14.95, ISBN: 9781459409774

Recommended for ages 12+

Comic book and superhero fan Mariam’s the new girl in school and feeling lonely until she meets Tya, who’s hardcore into the manga/anime fandom. The two bond over their mutual fandoms and love of cosplay and conventions, and plan to attend an otaku – anime and manga fandom – con together. All is well until Tya can’t go to the con because she has a family wedding to go to, leaving Mariam to go on her own. While she’s there, she meets up with a group of cosplayers from the same manga, who invite her to join their group. The leader of the group, Rick, seems to have a hard time keeping fantasy and reality straight, though, and starts getting way too familiar with Mariam, insisting that they play out their character’s romance. Can Mariam get away from Rick before things go too far?

If you’re a cosplay/convention fan, you’re doubtlessly familiar with the Cosplay is NOT Consent movement, a movement that exists because some con-goers said and acted inappropriately to their fellow fans. Creep Con is an interesting look at this situation, particularly as it takes place in the otaku fandom, where the costumes can get a little outrageous. There are some great references to both comics/superhero and otaku fandoms here, that teens will be familiar with and appreciate. The story brings the danger of cosplay being mistaken for consent home, and at the same time, reminds teens that they need to be honest and upfront with their parents and guardians – safety first.

I did find Mariam frustrating in that she let herself be ordered around by this guy she didn’t even know. She had two people she knew and wanted to become closer friends with at the con, but talked herself – several times – into listening to Rick, who left charming behind and went right into creepy early on in the book. I can see where it was an honest portrayal, particularly for a new girl who was trying to make friends, but I would have liked a stronger protagonist who wasn’t so easily manipulated.

This is one of Lorimer’s new novels for reluctant readers. The line is strong, covering current topics like cosplay and fandom; LGBT and abuse with their Side Streets line; sports; historical fiction, and true crime. Struggling and reluctant readers will appreciate the no frills storytelling that gets straight to the point and covers topics that meet their interests.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

LI PopCon was a Blast!

Whew! I’ve done it. I’ve spoken on my first panel. I was a guest at the first (hopefully annual) Long Island PopCon, a pop culture conference for librarians, educators, and students held at St. John’s Oakdale Campus. I got a nice nap on the LIRR in, and after a couple of coffees, was ready to go. I met some great exhibitors, got to hear Raina Telgemeier give a brilliant keynote at our lunch, and attended great panels – there were so many great panels lined up, I need to look into cloning technology for next year, so I don’t miss out on anything.

lipopcon

 

The anime/manga panel was a huge help for me. I tried to get an anime/manga club going at Pomonok Library for my tweens and teens earlier this year, but couldn’t sustain it past a few sessions. Now that I have resources recommended by both academic and public librarians, I feel more confident in offering this over the summer and seeing what I can get.

My panel, The Image of the Librarian and the Librarian’s Image, was filled with some great ladies, all of whom shared a love of pop culture and a firm tongue-in-cheek sense of humor when it comes to the classic image of the bunheaded librarian. We looked at our collective image from pop culture/media crit, sociological, and literary standpoints, and I hope that our audience learned from us as much as we learned from one another.

lipopcon_2

If you ever have a chance to go to St. John’s Oakdale campus, I highly recommend it. It’s gorgeous and green, and the Bourne Mansion is stunning. My fellow pop culture librarians and I are already talking about what panels we can put together for next year.

If you want to keep up to date with the Con, you can follow them on Facebook and their website, where you can also find a copy of yesterday’s program, complete with speaker information for your networking needs.