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

Booktalk this Book: Dress Coded

Dress Coded, by Carrie Firestone, (July 2020, GP Putnam), $17.99, ISBN: 9781984816436

Ages 9-13

I’ve been killing myself with anticipation over this book since I received the early galley last year. I finally put everything else aside and finished this in a day, because it’s that good. Told in short chapters and including podcast transcripts, text messages, and letters, Dress Coded is a perfect snapshot of what it’s like being a young woman in middle school today. Molly Frost is fed up: fed up with her vape-addicted brother, who’s wreaked havoc on her family; fed up with feeling invisible at school, and fed up with the school’s dress code, which seems hardwired solely to embarrass and harass female students of a certain body type. It all blows up the day her friend Olivia is humiliated by the dean and principal for wearing a tank top at school and refusing to take her sweatshirt off her waist to put it back on – a reason that makes itself clear as the story progresses. Several of Molly’s friends have been “dress coded” for similar offenses, and the humiliation and frustration are far greater than the suspected offense. Molly starts a podcast, Dress Coded, where girls speak up about their dress coding experiences and the mental and emotional fallout from run-ins with staff. The podcast grows into a movement to remove the dress code, and Molly, at the center of it, finds the power within her to stand up to her brother and the school bully, and the ability to help other girls find their voice. A primer in middle school activism and a scathing indictment of how women’s bodies are weaponized and sexualized from a young age, Dress Coded is simply essential reading. Please, educators, put this on your summer reading lists!

Dress Coded is author Carrie Firestone’s middle grade debut. I can’t wait to see what else she’s going to give my middle graders. The book is a Booklist Editors’ Choice Selection, a Texas Lone Star Reading List Selection, and a Rise: Feminist Book Project Selection. It has starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, Booklist, and Publishers Weekly. Submit your own dress coding story at Carrie Firestone’s author webiste, and learn about her other books, workshops, and author inspiration, too.

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 Fiction, Graphic Novels, Humor, Middle Grade, Middle School, Tween Reads

More Graphic Novels!

I’ve got more graphic novels! Let’s get to it.

Nori, by Rumi Hara, (May 2020, Drawn & Quarterly), $24.95, ISBN: 978-1-77046-397-4

Ages 10+

Three-year old Noriko – Nori, for short – lives in Japan’s Osaka suburbs and spends most of her time with her grandmother while her parents are working. Set in the 1980s, Nori is all about a little girl’s adventures as she explores the world around her, accompanied by her best friend: her grandmother. The book contains five short stories and is infused with Japanese culture; the events of World War II still reverberate with the adults around Nori, and cultural festivals bring the excitement of the city alive in the pages. Nori brings childhood memories alive for readers: a part in a school play; chasing rabbits and watching neighborhood kids play with crawfish and beetles; she even wins a trip to Hawaii for herself and her grandmother, which leads to a healing moment for a family who’s lost their own matriarch. Black and white artwork has one-color moments for contrast and interest. Nori is a celebration of childhood and the special relationship between a child and grandparent and middle school-aged readers and young teens will especially love this.

Nori has a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. Read an interview with Rumi Hara on We Need Diverse Books, and visit her website for more information about her work. Nori is a nominee in the 2020 Cybils Graphic Novel category.

 

Marge’s Little Lulu: The Fuzzythingus Poopi, by John Stanley, (Sept. 2020, Drawn and Quarterly), $29.95, ISBN: 9781770463660

Ages 6+

This collection takes me back to my childhood in the best of ways. I used to read Little Lulu reprints when I was growing up, alongside issues of Richie Rich, Casper, and Archie, to name a few. Little Lulu comics were all about the adventures of Little Lulu Moppet and her best friend/frenemy, Tubby; originally published by Dell Comics in the 1940s and 1950s, they’re all about childhood adventures like having snowball fights, trying to gain admission to the “No Girls Allowed” clubhouse, telling stories to a sick friend, and various – hilarious – money-making schemes. This is Drawn and Quarterly’s second Lulu collection, and is filled with reprinted Lulu and Tubby comics, “Lulu’s Diry” diary pages that ran in individual issues, and a cover gallery. The stories are loaded with imagination, like the clip where Lulu houses a ghost who’s been ousted when the house they haunt is torn down; imagines herself in a desert and has to retrieve a nickel from a sewer grate (still in the desert!) by using strands of her hair, leaving her bald. She foils a burglar claiming to be Santa Claus because “he didn’t have a twinkle in his eye!”, and rallies the neighborhood girls together to fight back when they find themselves targeted for snowball attacks by the boys.

Great for new readers who want fun, day-to-day stories of childhood and adults who grew up with Lulu, Tubby, and Alvin. This is a keeper. Read more about The Fuzzythingus Poopi and read an excerpt at publisher Drawn and Quarterly’s page; discover the impact Little Lulu has had on comics, culture, and feminism through this Comics Alliance article and this New Yorker piece.

 

Mary: The Adventures of Mary Shelley’s Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Granddaughter, by Brea Grant, (Oct. 2020, Six Foot Press), $18.99, ISBN: 978-1644420294

Ages 12-16

Mary is perfect for every goth tween and teen you know. She’s the 5 times great-granddaughter of Frankenstein author Mary Shelley, and she’s from a family of overachieving women dedicated to that legacy. They’re all writers of renown, especially her superstar author mom, who can’t understand… Mary’s ennui? Lack of interest? The fact that she’s not an overachiever in school or life just yet? The thing is, Mary does have a very special family gift, and it makes its debut in these very pages. Mary can heal monsters. Actual, real-life monsters do exist, and Mary discovers that one night when she reattaches one walking dead guy’s foot. He tells his friends, and they tell their friends… and so on, and so on, and so on, as the old commercial goes. Monsters of all sorts show up at Mary’s with some amusing results, and Mary doesn’t know what to do with herself and this gift! Does she walk away from this gift, or does she embrace it?

Work with me: this is relatable! Teens feel the pressure to know what they want to do with their lives by the time they’re seniors in high school. Imagine the stress of being Mary Shelley’s descendant? When there’s a shrine to your many times-great grandmother, who wrote an enduring classic at the age of 19, in your very own home? Imagine discovering you are good at something… it just happens to be something unusual, or different, and the extra stress that can carry with it! Mary is a teen trying to find her way in a family of high-achieving, highly valued women, and isn’t quite sure that being known for healing monsters is what she wants to be known for. To accept her gift and embrace herself is a journey that most tweens and teens can get on board with. Brea Grant’s moody artwork gives great atmosphere to the story, and the dialogue is wonderfully snarky and introspective all at once. Please buy this for your collections and the readers in your life.

Don’t believe me? EW has an excerpt and article on it. Check it out.

 

The League of Super Feminists, by Mirion Malle/Translated by Aleshia Jensen, (Oct. 2020, Drawn and Quarterly), $16.95, ISBN: 9781770464025

Ages 12+

A fantastic guide to feminism for tweens, teens, and beyond, The League of Super Feminists explains the basics of feminism: YES! you can still enjoy princess movies! NO! You don’t have to hate men! What we need everyone – EVERYONE – to understand is how to critically evaluate the media that makes men knights and dragon slayers, and women damsels in distress. That women don’t come in one size: skinny, white, blonde. That women need to build one another up, not tear each other down. That boys and girls can be friends! Diving into such topics as gender, representation, inclusivity, consent, and beauty, The League of Super Feminists uses a range of characters to illustrate and explain these concepts and deconstruct myths and falsehoods for readers. Written like a conversation between the friends, the book is fun, upbeat, and playful, but always self-aware and smart. Mirion Malle never talks down to readers; it’s straight talk that lets everyone know that feminism is good for all, leads to healthy thinking and self-image. A great beginning to an ongoing conversation. See an excerpt on publisher Drawn and Quarterly‘s webpage. Aleishia Jensen’s translation from the original French to English is flawless and picks up all the nuances set forth by Mirion Malle.

Read more about The League of Super Feminists at publisher Drawn and Quarterly’s webpage, including an excerpt on representation. Read an interview with Mirion Malle on We Need Diverse Books.

Psst… makes an excellent holiday gift for the tween in your life. Just saying. The League of Super Feminists is a nominee in the 2020 Cybils Graphic Novel category.

And one to look forward to!

 

Forever Home, by Jenna Ayoub, (Feb. 2021, Boom! Studios), $12.99, ISBN: 9781684156030

Ages 9-13

This sweet, funny haunted house story is perfect reading for kids who are big on comedy. Willow’s a girl who’s been raised all over the world: her parents are in the Army, and that means moving around every couple of years. She’s had to say goodbye to friends too many times, and she doesn’t want to move again! Her parents have just bought Hadleigh House, an old, pink house in need of some TLC, and Willow is happy to finally set down roots: but Gladys and Viola, the ghostly Hadleigh sisters, want their home all to themselves – and the two ghosts that live with them, the Lady and Thomas, a World War I veteran. The sisters raise a ruckus, but they don’t count on the fact that Willow can see and hear them, and she lets them know she isn’t going anywhere. A touching story of belonging and family, Willow is a smart kid who has no problem digging in her heels to stay in the home she loves; Viola and Gladys are delightfully mischievous ghosts, and The Lady’s habit of killing husbands and fiancees is played for laughs as it’s alluded to, never quite addressed. Thomas’s backstory is poignant, and he emerges as a sweet, almost tragic figure. Forever Home has a little bit of comedy, a touch of bittersweet, and enough affection to make this a sure bet for readers who get a kick out of spooky comedies like The Addams Family and The Boxtrolls. Good for middle grade, great for middle school.

 

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

Pretty Funny for a Girl stands up for young women!

Pretty Funny for a Girl, by Rebecca Elliott, (Oct. 2020, Peachtree Publishing), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-68263-147-8

Ages 12+

Haylah Swinton is an English teen who’s not like the other girls. She’s a curvy girl and she knows it – she adopted the nickname “Pig” so the bullies would have nothing to hold against her – and she loves comedy. From Tina Fey to Caitlin Moran and beyond, she’s watched them all and would love nothing more than to have her name among theirs one day. For now, though, she’s helping her single mom raise her four-year-old brother, Noah, hanging out with her besties, Chloe and Kas, until Leo Jackson enters the picture. He’s good-looking, has a killer smile, and does a stand-up routine during a school assembly that leaves Haylah gobsmacked! Finally having someone to talk comedy with, she secretly sneaks jokes she’s written into Leo’s locker, and is thrilled when he incorporates them into his routine at his dad’s club. The two start spending time together when Leo asks for her help writing material for him to perform at an upcoming youth comedy contest in London, and Haylah’s crush goes stratospheric, but her friends wonder if he really likes her for who she is, or for what she can do for him: write the jokes that will put him in the spotlight?

Pretty Funny for a Girl is all about feminism, the funny, and the heartbreak of a first crush. Haylah is a brilliantly written character who owns who she is, even while struggling with body image, friendships, and family. She knows she’s curvy, and by calling herself “fat” and taking on cruel nicknames like “Pig” before anyone else can level them at her, she’s internalizing a lot of pain that she’ll need to deal with – but she’ll be darned if anyone else gets to her more than she gets to herself. A body-positive teen who wishes everyone else would get over it, she doesn’t want to change who she is at heart, and knows she has a lot to offer, whether it’s on the comedy stage or in a relationship (friend or romantic).

If you loved Dumplin‘, you’ll love Pretty Funny for a Girl. Put this in your YA collections and check out Book Riot’s list of body positive YA novels for more ideas. Publisher Peachtree has a free, downloadable discussion guide and excerpt available.

Posted in Uncategorized

Books from Quarantine: Six Angry Girls

Six Angry Girls, by Adrienne Kisner, (Jul. 2020, Feiwel & Friends), $17.99, ISBN: 9781250253422

Ages 12+

This girl power teen novel is a fantastic story of friendship, knitting, and smashing the patriarchy. Raina Petree is on track to have a great senior year until her boyfriend dumps her, her drama club leaves her in the lurch, and her college dreams aren’t as secure as she initially thought they were. Meanwhile, Millie Goodwin is tired of being her father’s servant, and when her Mock Trial team votes her out in favor of lesser-qualified, newer guys – even after she’s been the backbone of the team for the last three years – she has HAD IT. Raina turns to an advice column for help on getting over Brandon, the ex-boyfriend, leading her to take up knitting as a hobby; a hobby that leads to a meeting of the minds with Millie, and the two come up with the ultimate idea: start their own Mock Trial team. There are no rules against it, and they manage to find a mentor in their school librarian. Now, they just have to fill the open spots on the team – with girls who are sick and tired of being discounted and looked down on by the boys and men who think they’re calling all the shots. It’s time to pick up the knitting needles, study those legal briefs, and take down the patriarchy.

With a fantastic cast of multicultural characters that smash the gender spectrum, Adrienne Kisner has given readers a group of characters that we’d all want to hang out with. They’re smart, driven, and fed up with B.S., whether it’s from a teacher, an ex-boyfriend or fellow student, or a parent. It’s such an upbeat book, filled with major crossroad moments and stand up and cheer scenes while taking on some very big issues. It’s an excellent discussion book that will spark deep conversations.

I loved this book and would gladly shout this out to my library teens. Give this to your Moxie fans and your Ashley Poston readers. And start a knitting club at your library to get them talking!

Check out Adrienne Kisner’s author webpage for more information about her books, links to her blog and social media, and to sign up for her newsletter.

Posted in Post-apocalyptic/Dystopian, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Dust Bowl Post-Cataclysm! Elysium Girls ride to battle

When you have a cover this amazing, you need to go full size.

Elysium Girls, by Kate Pentecost, (Apr. 2020, Little Brown),
$17.99, ISBN: 9781368041867
Ages 12+

When I was at a Book Buzz where this book came up, the publisher rep said, “I love this book! It’s hard to describe, but it’s so good! It’s so weird!” And really, that was all I needed to hear: I wanted to read a book with a big steampunk horse on the cover. I was not disappointed.

Elysium Girls is Dust Bowl-era dystopian fiction. In 1935, while America is in the grips of the Great Depression, a giant dust cloud rolls over Oklahoma. The goddesses of Life and Death have taken this little chunk of America and placed it in its own space and time, a chessboard for their own game. The survivors of the storm have 10 years to maintain order and set aside a third of their crops as a sacrifice for a chance to survive. Mother Morevna, an ailing witch in charge of a settlement called Elysium, takes on Sal, a teenaged apprentice, when a stranger calling himself Asa Skander arrives with supplies and a knack for magic himself. Sal and Asa are exiled from Elysium following a duel, where they meet a group of young women who have their own histories with Elysium and beyond. Facing the final days of the contest, a rising death toll, and plummeting spirits, Elysium and the group of women – and Asa – join forces once more to face the coming Dust Soldiers and attempt to break the game in order to win it.

This book is AMAZING. A dystopian historical fiction piece placing readers in Depression-Era Dust Bowl America? It’s a great concept, and Kate Pentecost touches on the endemic racism that endures even among the survivors; her description of the Dust Sickness that eats away at the populace is so gritty and raw that you’ll want a sip of water and to clear your throat as you read. Sal emerges as a smart heroine that comes into her confidence as a magic user, and Asa, who could easily have been sidelined as a cardboard supporting character, has a good backstory and has a character arc that really develops him nicely. Supporting characters all get fleshed out nicely, and should easily get reader investment.

The shifting perspective, from Sal’s first-person narration to third-person narration, takes a little getting used to, but I feel into the rhythm pretty quickly. The action is fast-paced, and dialogue will keep readers turning pages as different plots and subplots become revealed. I loved this one, and really, REALLY, want my own metal horse now.

Give this one to your new generation of post-cataclysm readers. (I can’t believe there’s a new generation of them, but wow: Hunger Games, Maze Runner, and Divergent are all a decade old, and then some. Wow.)

 

Posted in Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

Lumberjanes Fans! Encyclopedia Lumberjanica is coming!

Lumberjanes and Lumberjills, BOOM! Studios has got a book for you!

From the publisher:

BOOM! Studios announced THE ENCYCLOPEDIA LUMBERJANICA: An Illustrated Guide to the Hardcore Lady-Types of Lumberjanes, from writer Susan Coiner-Collier, gathering a veritable who’s who of famous and incredible folks throughout history who have inspired the Lumberjanes, available in stores September 2020.

Step inside the world of the New York Times best-selling Lumberjanes like never before with an illustrated look into the lives of the lady-types that the Lumberjanes have taken as their role models – along with fun facts and humorous insights from the Lumberjanes themselves!

From The Arts, Sciences, Activism, Politics, and Social Work to Groundbreakers and the Generally Rad, you’ll learn all about incredible figures such as Juliette Gordon Low, bell hooks, Bessie Coleman, Sally Ride, and more! THE ENCYCLOPEDIA LUMBERJANICA is perfect for teachers and caregivers, and an unforgettable keepsake for Lumberjanes fans.

“What better way to celebrate the Lumberjanes than to put the spotlight on the role models who best embody the spirit of the camp and its residents,” said Jeanine Schaefer, Executive Editor, BOOM! Studios. “Lumberjanes of all ages can dive deep into the exciting lives and accomplishments of real life heroes who have inspired hardcore lady-types everywhere!”

THE ENCYCLOPEDIA LUMBERJANICA is the latest release from BOOM! Studios’ award-winning BOOM! Box imprint, home to groundbreaking original series such as Lumberjanes by Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Brooklyn Allen, and Noelle Stevenson; Giant Days by John Allison, Lissa Treiman, and Max Sarin; The Avant-Guards by Carly Usdin and Noah Hayes; Smooth Criminals by Kirsten ‘Kiwi’ Smith, Kurt Lustgarten, and Leisha Riddel; Fence by C.S. Pacat and Johanna The Mad; and Goldie Vance by Hope Larson and Brittney Williams. 

Print copies of THE ENCYCLOPEDIA LUMBERJANICA will be available for sale in September 2020 at local comic book shops (use comicshoplocator.com to find the nearest one), bookstores or at the BOOM! Studios webstore. Digital copies can be purchased from content providers, including comiXology, iBooks, Google Play, and Madefire.

For more on LUMBERJANES and other projects from BOOM! Studios, stay tuned to www.boom-studios.com and follow @boomstudios on Twitter.

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

Go With the Flow needs to be in every school, in every library, available to everyone, everywhere

Go With the Flow, by Lily Williams and Karen Schneemann/Illustrated by Lily Williams, (Jan. 2020, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781250143174

Ages 12+

Hazelton High School has a problem: there are never feminine hygiene products available to their students. There never seems to be funds available to get these products in stock for students. But there always seems to be money to get new uniforms or equipment for the football team. What the heck? Sophomores Abby, Brit, Christine, and Sasha are 100% DONE with the leadership in their school blowing off their complaints and their needs, so they take matters into their own hands in this brilliant graphic novel by the creators of The Mean Magenta webcomic Lily Williams and Karen Schneemann.

Go With the Flow is crucial reading for everyone, because the problem of access to and affordability of feminine hygiene products is a growing crisis. Using a microcosm of high school, Go With the Flow illustrates the value placed on sports programs versus providing free and accessible pads and tampons to their students. As the girls come together to brainstorm solutions, they realize that this isn’t just a schoolwide problem, it’s a global problem. Using statistics, research, and infographics, Lily Williams and Karen Schneemann blend these facts and figures in with a storyline that will empower and rile up female-identifying readers – and hopefully male- and non-binary-identifying readers, too! There’s an LGBTQ+ positive subplot, fleshed-out, likable and relatable characters (I cringed in sympathetic recognition as the new girl bleeds through her pants on her first day at school). The two-color artwork will be familiar to Mean Magenta readers. Back matter includes comprehensive information about menstrual equality, including links to further reading.

Give this to your realistic graphic novel readers first and let them spread the word. Have menstrual equity resources available for anyone who wants them. Here are a few to start:

The ACLU’s Menstrual Equity Handbook

Period.org: The Menstrual Movement

PBS.org: How Access to Period Products Removes a Barrier to Education

Girls Scouts NY: These Girl Scouts Brought “Menstrual Equity” to 200 Brooklyn Schools

BRAWS.org: Bringing Resources to Aid Women’s Shelters

Tennessean: Lack of Feminine Hygiene Products Keep Girls Out of School

 

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Blog Tour: The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner

I’m excited to be a stop on The Okay Witch blog tour! I picked up a copy of this graphic novel at BookExpo this year, and loved it. Now, without further ado…

Magic is harder than it looks.

Thirteen-year-old Moth Hush loves all things witchy. But she’s about to discover that witches aren’t just the stuff of movies, books, and spooky stories. When some eighth-grade bullies try to ruin her Halloween, something really strange happens. It turns out that Founder’s Bluff, Massachusetts, has a centuries-old history of witch drama. And, surprise: Moth’s family is at the center of it all!

When Moth’s new powers show up, things get totally out-of-control. She meets a talking cat, falls into an enchanted diary, and unlocks a hidden witch world. With that revelation, Moth’s adventure truly begins – an adventure that spans centuries, generations, and even worlds – as she unravels the legacy at the heart of her life. (from the publisher)

Where to start gushing about The Okay Witch?

The story stars a heroine of color, and the main storyline addresses it from the beginning: Founder’s Bluff’s leader wanted, as Moth’s mother, Calendula states, “a town of sober, obedient, lily-white Pilgrims”. Women – especially women of color – who had any kind of independent spirit? Women of color? That didn’t fit into Judge Kramer’s mold, and it didn’t fit into colonial America’s mold, so they were hunted until Moth’s grandmother and her coven tore the fabric between worlds to create a safe space of their own: Hecate. Moth is a child of color in a mostly white town, where she’s bullied by young white men, one of whom happen to be a descendant of one of the founding families, who even asks Moth where “she’s FROM from”. Moth is a teen coming into her own power and struggling with the decision to embrace it or suppress it to “be normal” as her mother, who eschews magic and witchcraft, begs her to. When Sarah, Moth’s grandmother, shows up to see her granddaughter, there’s a power struggle on either side of Moth that represents her internal struggle.

We also get a sassy talking cat, Moth and Calendula’s friend reincarnated; who also happens to have the sweetest backstory (and gives the story an LGBTQ nudge, further establishing Moth and her family as awesome socially aware folks). Using witchcraft and witch hunts to address prejudice and racism, The Okay Witch makes history and current events equally relevant – and sadly, we see that not much has changed.

The Okay Witch is a fantastic coming-of-age story with characters you’ll love and return to long after you’ve finished the book. Give this to your Roller Girl readers, your BabyMouse readers that are ready to take on more challenging material, and your Raina Telgemeier readers.

The Okay Witch, by Emma Steinkellner, (Sept. 2019, Aladdin)
$12.99, ISBN: 978-1-5344-3146-1
Ages 8-12

 

About the Author

Emma Steinkellner is an illustrator, writer, and cartoonist living in Los Angeles, California. She is a graduate of Stanford University and the illustrator of the Eisner-nominated comic Quince. The Okay Witch is her debut graphic novel as an author. You can visit her webpage to see more of her illustration work.

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.