Thursday, February 19, 2015

We Need Diverse Books

Every year, the Cooperative Children's Book Center tracks how many books are by, or about, people of color. They just released the numbers for 2014.

It's not pretty.

For some context--they estimate 5000 books for kids and teens were pubbed. They looked at 3500 of them. I took the number of books about an ethnic group and divided it by 3500 to get the percentage. I then did the number of books by an ethnic group and did the same thing. (CCBC breaks it out into two numbers--how many are about that ethnic group, and how many do not contain significant cultural content of that group. I added those two numbers together to get a total.)

I then graphed those percentages against the percentage of the US population of the same ethnic group. (Source: 2013 Census Bureau info) (I added the numbers for Asian and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander to get a number to compare to CCBC's Asian Pacific/Asian Pacific American)

Ideally, all of these percentages should be equal.

They're not:



We can certainly do better than this.



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Monday, February 16, 2015

Coming Soon (and I can't wait)

Looking through the upcoming hardcover adult fiction lists for work, here are some books that caught my eye:



Paris Red: A Novel by Maureen Gibbon. A novel exploring Olympia--the model the posed for it, the painter who painted it, and how it changed everything in their lives. Pubs April 20

Mademoiselle Chanel: A Novel by CW Gortner. A fictionalized biography of Coco Chanel. I've recently made my peace with fictionalized biographies (they're literary biopics!) and they're a fun way to read more about someone I wouldn't necessarily read an actual biography of. Pubs March 17

The Scapegoat: A Novel by Sophia Nikolaidou, translated from the Greek by Karen Emmerich. Based on a true story, a school student is assigned the task of finding the truth in the murder of an American journalist in Greece in 1948. The killer was found, but after serving his time, claims his innocence. Out now



Me and My Daddy Listen to Bob Marley: Novellas and Stories by Ann Pancake. I've been getting into short stories lately and these take place in rural Appalachia--a place that is so geographically close to me, but is a whole different world. Out now.

A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab. Library Journal gave it a star and this part of a sentence is what sold me "the three Londons we see (and rumors of the one we do not)..." Pubs February 24

Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction: A Novel by Judd Trichter. Eliot fell in love with an android, and she's been kidnapped and sold off for spare parts. Now he has to buy up the parts, reassemble her, and then hunt down the people who did this to her. Out now.




Bones & All: A Novel by Camille DeAngelis. Kirkus said this coming-of-age story about a ghoul who keeps eating people read like a cheesy episode of Buffy. Like that was a BAD thing. Pubs March 10.

The Last Flight of Poxl West: A Novel by Daniel Torday. Eli idolizes his uncle Poxl--debonair fighter pilot and WWII hero, but as Eli learns more, he realizes that there is a darker side to Poxl's life and the legend he's built up for himself. Pubs March 17.

A Love Like Blood: A Novel by Marcus Sedgwick. Um, Marcus Sedgwick wrote an adult book. The only other thing you need to know is that is it's out now.



The Prince: A Novel by Vito Bruschini, translated from the Italian by Anne Milano Appel. The most promising of a handful of mob books on this month's lists. This one covers the true story of how mafia began in Italy, Irish and Italian gang turf wars in New York, and WWII. Pubs March 10

A Dangerous Place: A Maisie Dobbs Novel by Jacqueline Winspear. New! Maisie! Dobbs! Pubs March 17.

The Devil's Detective: A Novel by Simon Kurt Unsworth. A detective novel about a serial killer--but it takes place in Hell. Intriguing. Pubs March 12.



The Mouth of the Crocodile: A Mamur Zapt mystery set in pre-World War I Egypt by Michael Pearce. It's the subtitle that got me--pre-WWI Egypt. This is the 18th in a series I'm unfamiliar with, so I'll have to start at the beginning with The Mamur Zapt & the Return of the Carpet). This new one pubs on March 1.

Murder in the Queen's Wardrobe: An Elizabethan Spy Thriller by Kathy Lynn Emerson. Ladies in waiting that double as spies? Elizabethan England and the Russians are involved? Please download this into my brain ASAP. Pubs March 1.

Duet in Beirut: A Thriller by Mishkla Ben-David, translated from the Hebrew by Evan Fallenberg. A spy thriller written by a former Mossad agent. Ben-David's a best seller in Israel and this is his first novel translated into English. Pubs on April 14.



Leaving Berlin: A Novel by Joseph Kanon. Alex fled the Nazis for America, but in the McCarthy era, his pre-war activities mark him for deportation. He strikes a deal with the CIA--he'll return to Berlin, as their agent, and earn his way back to the US. But the CIA wants him to spy on those it was hardest to leave the first time. Pubs on March 3.


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Monday, February 02, 2015

Diversity Wins at the Youth Media Awards

ALA's Youth Media Awards are always an exciting day for those who love youth literature. This is when the big prizes (Newbery! Caldecott! Printz! more!) are announced.

There are several specialized awards, such as the Coretta Scott King awards for books by African-Americans about the African-American Experience, and there has been some worry that these awards "ghetto-ize" books by diverse authors. While committees can't explicitly take it into consideration, are books by diverse authors unintentionally overlooked for the bog awards because oh, they'll just win the other one, that's "for them"?

Not today. Not today. Not today. It was SO EXCITING to see overlap between the awards and see so much diversity recognized and celebrated. Let's hope this isn't a one-year change, but long-term one.

Here are some of the diverse titles awarded today Caveats: I'm only listing books where diversity wasn't a criteria, so I'm not listing winners of the Schneider Family Award, Coretta Scott King awards, Pura Bel Pre, Stonewall, or Batchelder because listing all of them inflates the numbers. Many of the books listed also won these awards though, because they're awesome books. I may have also missed a few titles.



The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

El Deafo by Cece Bell

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson



Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales, photographs by Tim O'Meara

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson



Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Howell, illustrated by Christian Robinson

H.O.R.S.E.: A Game of Basketball and Imagination by Christopher Myers, narrated by Dion Graham and Christopher Myers (yes, I know this links to the book. It won for audio, but Amazon doesn't seem to carry it)

Five, Six, Seven, Nate! written and narrated by Tim Federle



Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen




Laughing at My Nightmare by Shane Burcaw

The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin

Bingo's Run: A Novel by James A Levine



Confessions by Kanae Minato, translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder

Everything I Never Told You: A Novel by Celeste Ng

The Terrorist's Son: A Story of Choice by Zak Ebrahim with Jeff Giles

AND! In addition to the books, the 3 authors honored were... Donald Crews, Sharon M. Draper, and Pat Mora.

It's an awesome list, no?


Updated 2/20: I'm adding The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat


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Friday, January 02, 2015

2014 in Review

Well, it's a new year, so of course it's time to look back on the year that was. I hate doing my "best of" lists or my stats before the clock strikes midnight because I CAN STILL TOTALLY READ MOAR BOOKS!

But first, a look back and the highlights of this year (I'll save the lowlights for when we're sharing a bottle of wine face-to-face).

At the beginning of the year I finished up my work on Outstanding Books for the College Bound. Almost a full year later and I'm still really damn proud of that list.

Shortly after, I was able to drop the "Acting" from my job title of Acting Branch Manager. I also joined the adult collection development committee, which has been really great.

In May, I did my last storytime. I'm sure I'll do it again, maybe if it's just filling in, but it is no longer part of my regular job duties, and probably won't be again for quite some time. It's been bittersweet. (BUT! This fall, with the new storytime schedule, and me working a slightly different work schedule, there is now a storytime that I can take L to! So now I get to go to storytime, which is great.)

In June, I transferred to a much larger branch in my system, which was a big change, but one I'm really enjoying. After about a week there, I went off to Las Vegas for ALA. Angela and I got to present on tips and tricks for reader's advisory with nonfiction and I got to hang out with old friends and make new ones. We took the most epic group selfie to make Rachel jealous. But I got her twitter handle wrong when mocking her with it. And then, in the airport on the way home, I won $40 in the Dolly Parton slot machine.

In August, I started a tumblr documenting my attempts to explain pop songs to L. L now has more tumblr followers than I have on all my other social media accounts combined. And then multiplied.

This fall, I was asked to give my ALA presentation again at a staff day in a nearby library system, which was really nice. And now I'm working on updating it (highlighting new books) because I'm giving it again this May at the Maryland and Delaware Library Association Annual Conference, which is very exciting.

I also started a new project on the website, suggesting read-alikes for the books with the longest holds lists. That's been a really fun challenge that I (hope) is something our users are finding useful.

And, of course, I read a lot. After 2 years on YALSA committees, this was a bit of a recovery year. I read a lot less. I've also found I'm much more willing to drop a book part-way through if it's just not working for me at that moment. And, now that I'm no longer officially a youth services librarian and am doing more with adult collections, I read a lot more adult titles, which is a really big shift.

So... I read 147 books. 58 were YA, 7 were middle grade (?!) and a whopping 79 were adult. (yes, I know that math doesn't quite work.)

77 were by women, 67 were by men. 37 were titles I would consider diverse. 20 were translated works. 57 were comics and 11 were adult romances. 37 were nonfiction, which is a low percentage for me especially as many were 'required' but it makes sense after 2 years of nonfiction-heavy years because of my committee work. And only 43 books were required reading (so, for committee work [last minute OBCB reading and my pre-Cybils reading] and assigned reviews).

So... that's my year. Next year, I want to read more diverse titles and more works in translation and more romance.

How was your year? Oh, and here are some of my favorite books of the year:









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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Cybils books about Trans* people

Leelah Alcorn was a trans* teen who commited suicide this weekend. Her parents wouldn't accept her, her friends, either. She was alone with no support, and she killed herself. Her mother then posted on Facebook about how her son had been hit by a truck, implying it was a horrific accident. There is a beautiful hashtag right now, #RealLiveTransAdult to let trans* teens know that there is hope.

Four books about trans* people were nominated in the Cybils YA Nonfiction category this year. 4. That's tied with perennial favorite subjects of the Civil Rights Movement and WWII. I've read them and had reviews written on each of them, picking apart their merits and weaknesses, judging how they may or may not be award worthy. Some obviously compare against others, pitting themselves against each other in my judge-y reader's brain.

You know what? In light of this? Fuck that. I just can't pick them apart when the importance that they even exist is so painfully obvious today. None of them have fundamental flaws, they are all worthy of recommendation, and here they are:


Rethinking Normal: A Memoir in Transition Katie Rain Hill. A college student when she wrote this, Katie tells her story of growing up in a body that didn't feel right--the body of a boy. She tells of her depression and pain and the sheer relief of discovering that transgender was a thing--there was a word for what she was and she wasn't alone. She details the process of coming out and transitioning, the support of her mother and the bullying at school, her advocacy work in Oklahoma, and starting college. A wonderful memoir.





Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen Arin Andrews. A high school senior, this is also a memoir of a trans* teen, detailing his life growing up, his depression and his problems at his very conservative Christian school, as well as coming out and transitioning. There is also the real heartbreak of falling in love and a painful breakup after his girlfriend goes to college. This one has a little more medical information than Rethinking Normal

I would read these two as a set, as Arin and Katie are both from the Tulsa area and had some very similar, and some very different experiences. They also used to date and their relationship (and messy breakup) is well-documented in both books so they can be a sort of he said/she said set. Having two (sometimes drastically different) takes on the relationship (including different versions of events and conversations) might be a very successful way to hand sell the set to teens who might not be otherwise interested in reading a trans* memoir.





Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out Susan Kuklin. Kuklin interviewed several trans* teens for her book, editing their conversations down to a narrative in the teen's own voice. In the range of interviews and photographs, Kuklin captures a wide-range of trans* experiences and showcases the diversity within the trans* community. (Also, it's just a plain gorgeous book. I'm usually all about a smaller trim size for YA nonfiction, but yes, this is a book that can justify being larger.)





Transgender Lives: Complex Stories, Complex Voices Kirstin Cronn-Mills. Much like Beyond Magenta, this book focuses on several trans* narratives (although not exclusively young people) and the personal stories of trans* people. Interspersed are chapters to offer background and context--challenges faced by trans* people (covering topics such as legal, health, and social), trans* people in history, introduction to trans* issues, how trans* people and issues are viewed in different cultures, and more. It's hard to tell in the photo, but the cover is a shiny silver, making it a fuzzy mirror.









Books Provided by... my local library, with the exception of Transgender Lives, which was given to me at a publisher dinner with the author at ALA.

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Eyes Wide Open

I am a Cybils second round judge. I am currently reading the all the nominated books in a fun "armchair readalong" way with the first round judges. My reviews and opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the work of the committee.

Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines Paul Fleischman

Fleischman (who’s probably most known for his Newberry Prize winning Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices) offers a book about the real issues facing us environmentally while, at the same time, teaches teens how to evaluate their sources and be an informed consumer of news. It’s a really great call to action, pointing out how we need to change things, and maybe should have changed them yesterday.

I really liked the design of the book, but I think it would have worked even better in color.

The margins contain a lot of extra reading or watching for more information. It was a great way to recommend some great titles. I also really like what he chose--a good mix of books, articles, movies, and videos. Additionally, a lot of the things he chose are for adults, but are things teens could totally read and understand. It shows a respect for his audience that I really appreciate.

It also has excellent back matter and extensive endnotes--not only are all the sources documented, but many also give further information.

That said, there is a “how-to-think how-to manual” vibe to the book that grates a bit--it seemed condescending. I’m also wondering at who it’s aimed at--are teens no longer cynical about what they’re being told by THE MAN?

Fleischman’s writing often uses many of the same logical fallacies he warns readers against falling for. And, some of his points were interesting, but he didn’t have anything to back them up (like lack of food is what led to the Rwandan genocide and the crisis in Darfur. I think that’s an interesting argument to make, but the argument has to actually be made.)

Two things really irked me though--one is that he really hates think tanks (wonder if he feels the same way about the left wing environmental ones?) and paints them with such a brush that what he describes just doesn’t resemble what they are (and yes, this is personal, and yes, I know a lot about think tanks from the inside.) He tends to equate them with lobbyists (they’re not the same thing) and also all lobbyists are bad (what about the ones who lobby for the environment? According to Fleischman it doesn’t matter, because they’re not as well funded. Um, no. If you have a problem with the tactics, you have a problem with the tactics, if you have a problem with funding imbalance, that’s something else.) He also says that all talking heads on the news are PR flacks. Nope.

The other is the overblown hyperbole he resorts to. According to him, Foundations are a way for think tanks to hide where their money comes from and is the same thing as how drug cartels launder their money. Also, when talking about the psychological phenomenon of regression (trying to make the point that people would rather watch TV, play video games, care about a sports fandom or hang out on social media than face reality and learn about the world around them, which is problematic enough, but wait) he talks about how it regression causes childish reactions--his examples? Credit cards [note: not credit card debt, but credit cards in general] and tax revolts are childish reactions to wanting it now and not being able to save for the future or long term. And shootings are a crazy-people childish reaction to annoying people.*

And then my head exploded.

He makes some great points, but so much of it is undermined by his tone and writing, that it undoes everything that's right about this book.


Exact quotation: “With the daunting issues facing us, it’s easy to see the appeal of retreating to a childlike stage without responsibility. This is the defense mechanism regression. Where can you see it? Credit cards. You haven’t saved enough money but you really want something now? Go ahead and buy it anyway! Tax Revolts. Maturity demands looking beyond our narrow interests. Contributing to the public good from our private pockets causes some adults to throw tantrums. Shootings. Don’t like your boss/ex-wife/gum-chewing coworker? Blowing them away is a childish fantasy with such appeal that some mentally unstable people act it out.” p. 69


Book Provided by... my local library

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