Professional Nerd?!

Lovely fellow nerd blogger Kayla recently included me in her Professional Nerd Series on her blog https://goodlordthatsfunny.com/ for my work with graphic novels, comics, and manga! Thanks Kayla, and keep up this awesome project!

Check out the post about my work here 🙂

And her previous post about cosplayer Hillary Laine here!

 

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Black History Month (and Every Month!): New Titles From 2018

This past year I’ve been keeping track of some awesome new releases that feature POC stories, reflections, expressions, and histories. February is Black History Month, but these books are awesome reads year round! 🙂

Here are some fresh reads to check out, including fiction and non-fiction for readers young and old

(Note: I haven’t read every one of these myself yet- descriptions used were taken from the book jackets.)

 

Young Adult to Adult Readers

We are Not Yet Equal by Carol Anderson and Tonya Bolden

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“Carol Anderson’s White Rage took the world by storm, landing on the New York Times bestseller list and best book of the year lists from New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, and Chicago Review of Books. It launched her as an in-demand commentator on contemporary race issues for national print and television media and garnered her an invitation to speak to the Democratic Congressional Caucus. This compelling young adult adaptation brings her ideas to a new audience. ”

 

We Can’t Breathe by Jabari Asim

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“In We Can’t Breathe, Jabari Asim disrupts what Toni Morrison has exposed as the “Master Narrative” and replaces it with a story of black survival and persistence through art and community in the face of centuries of racism. ”

Lighting the Fires of Freedom by Janet Dewart Bell

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“A groundbreaking collection based on oral histories that plumbs the leadership of African American women in the twentieth-century fight for civil rights—many nearly lost to history—from the latest winner of the Studs and Ida Terkel Prize.”

 

Black Girls Rock! Owning our Magic, Rocking our Truth, edited by Beverly Bond

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“From the award-winning entrepreneur, culture leader, and creator of the BLACK GIRLS ROCK! movement comes an inspiring and beautifully designed book that pays tribute to the achievements and contributions of black women around the world.”

 

The Heritage by Howard Bryant

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“The Heritage is the story of the rise, fall, and fervent return of the athlete-activist. Through deep research and interviews with some of sports’ best-known stars—including Kaepernick, David Ortiz, Charles Barkley, and Chris Webber—as well as members of law enforcement and the military, Bryant details the collision of post-9/11 sports in America and the politically engaged post-Ferguson black athlete.”

 

Invisible: The Forgotten Story of the Black Woman Lawyer Who Took Down America’s Most Powerful Mobster by Stephen L. Carter

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“Moving, haunting, and as fast-paced as a novel, Invisible tells the true story of a woman who often found her path blocked by the social and political expectations of her time. But Eunice Carter never accepted defeat, and thanks to her grandson’s remarkable book, her long forgotten story is once again visible.”

Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Brittney Cooper

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“So what if it’s true that Black women are mad as hell? They have the right to be. In the Black feminist tradition of Audre Lorde, Brittney Cooper reminds us that anger is a powerful source of energy that can give us the strength to keep on fighting.”

A Girl Stands at the Door by Rachel Delvin

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“In the grassroots struggle to desegregate American schools, girls were the vanguard. In the late 1940s, parents filed lawsuits with their daughters, forcing civil rights lawyers to take the issue to the Supreme Court. After Brown v. Board of Education, girls far outnumbered boys as volunteers. These are the remarkable stories of the girls who saw themselves as responsible for the difficult work of crossing color lines.”

 

Well-Read Black Girl (Anthology) by Glory Edim

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“An inspiring collection of essays by black women writers, curated by the founder of the popular book club Well-Read Black Girl, on the importance of recognizing ourselves in literature.”

 

A Perilous Path by Sherrilyn Ifill et al.

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“This blisteringly candid discussion of the American dilemma in the age of Trump brings together the head of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the former attorney general of the United States, a bestselling author and death penalty lawyer, and a star professor for an honest conversation the country desperately needs to hear.”

 

How Long Till Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemsin

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“In the first collection of her evocative short fiction, which includes never-before-seen stories, Jemisin equally challenges and delights readers with thought-provoking narratives of destruction, rebirth, and redemption.”

 

Becoming by Michelle Obama

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“In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.”

 

We Matter: Athletes and Activism by Etan Thomas

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“In We Matter, Thomas strives to show the influence professional athletes can have when they join the conversation on race, politics, and civil rights. ”

 

The Life of Frederick Douglass: A Graphic Narrative of a Slave’s Journey from Bondage to Freedom by David F. Walker et al.

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“A graphic novel biography of the escaped slave, abolitionist, public speaker, and most photographed man of the nineteenth century, based on his autobiographical writings and speeches, spotlighting the key events and people that shaped the life of this great American.”

 

Black Fortunes by Shomari Wills

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“By telling the little-known stories of six pioneering African American entrepreneurs, Black Fortunes makes a worthy contribution to black history, to business history, and to American history.”—Margot Lee Shetterly, New York Times Bestselling author of Hidden Figures

 

Let it Bang: A Young Black Man’s Reluctant Odyssey Into Guns by RJ Young

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“Let It Bang is an utterly original look at American gun culture from the inside, and from the other side—and, most movingly, the story of a young black man’s hard-won nonviolent path to self-protection.”

 

Junior Readers and Up

Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams by Lesa Cline-Ransome and James E. Ransome

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“With vibrant mixed media art, nonfiction superstars Lesa Cline-Ransome and Coretta Scott King Honor winner James E. Ransome share the inspirational story of two tennis legends who were fierce competitors on the courts, but close sisters above all.”

 

Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop by Alice Faye Duncan and R. Gregory Christie

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“This historical fiction picture book presents the story of nine-year-old Lorraine Jackson, who in 1968 witnessed the Memphis sanitation strike–Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final stand for justice before his assassination–when her father, a sanitation worker, participated in the protest.”

 

Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness by Anastasia Higginbotham

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“Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness is a a picture book that invites white children and parents to become curious about racism, accept that it’s real, and cultivate justice.”

 

Hammering for Freedom by Rita Lorraine Hubbard and John Holyfield

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“Born into slavery in Chattanooga, Tennessee, William “Bill” Lewis learned the blacksmith trade as soon as he was old enough to grip a hammer. He proved to be an exceptional blacksmith and earned so much money fixing old tools and creating new ones that he was allowed to keep a little money for himself. With just a few coins in his pocket, Bill set a daring plan in motion: he was determined to free his family. Winner of Lee & Low?s New Voices Award, Hammering for Freedom tells the true story of one man?s skill, hard work, and resolve to keep his family together.”

 

Can I Touch Your Hair? Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship by Irene Latham et al.

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“How can Irene and Charles work together on their fifth grade poetry project? They don’t know each other . . . and they’re not sure they want to.

Irene Latham, who is white, and Charles Waters, who is black, use this fictional setup to delve into different experiences of race in a relatable way, exploring such topics as hair, hobbies, and family dinners. Accompanied by artwork from acclaimed illustrators Sean Qualls and Selina Alko (of The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage), this remarkable collaboration invites readers of all ages to join the dialogue by putting their own words to their experiences.”

 

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Boy by Tony Medina & 13 Artists

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 “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Boy by Tony Medina offers a fresh perspective of young men of color by depicting thirteen views of everyday life.”

 

Don’t Touch my Hair by Sharee Miller

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“An entertaining picture book that teaches the importance of asking for permission first as a young girl attempts to escape the curious hands that want to touch her hair.”

 

Black Women Who Dared by Naomi M. Moyer

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“Beautiful, colorful illustrations tell the inspirational stories of ten black women and women’s collectives from 1793 to the present.”

 

Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights by Rob Sanders and Jared Andrew Schorr

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“Through sparse and lyrical writing, Rob Sanders introduces abstract concepts like “fighting for what you believe in” and turns them into something actionable.”

 

Betty Before X by Ilyasah Shabazz and Renee Watson

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“Betty Before X is a powerful middle-grade fictionalized account of the childhood activism of Betty Shabazz, Malcolm X’s wife, written by their daughter Ilyasah Shabazz.”

 

Young, Gifted and Black by Jamia Wilson and Andrea Pippins

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“Meet 52 icons of color from the past and present in this celebration of inspirational achievement—a collection of stories about changemakers to encourage, inspire and empower the next generation of changemakers.”


 

Did I miss any great titles that came out in 2018? Please let me know and I will add them to the list!

ALAMW: What Happened, and What Should Happen Next

At The Intersection

**Update at the bottom of this post

TW: racist and misogynistic trauma

It seems I will never be able to attend an American Library Association meeting without encountering some kind of racist, sexist trauma. ALA just isn’t a safe space in our profession for me. And I’m not the only one.

During Council Forum, a small, informal discussion session for ALA Council and general ALA membership, a fellow councilor, a white man, verbally attacked me. He accused me of being a hypocrite, for doxxing people and making “racial innuendos” on my blog. He accused me of being uncivil and unprofessional (yes, he accused me of this in a tirade in a public forum amongst our colleagues). Then, he ended by claiming that I give him “nightmares.”

There were about 30 people sitting around witnessing this, including the Council facilitators; including some Councilors who have served repetitive terms for the last…

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Letting Go: On KonMari & Books

You must have been living under a mountain of joyless t-shirts for the last month if you haven’t seen the memes, or at least heard about Marie Kondo’s new Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, which was released on New Year’s Day.

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I’m a fan of Marie Kondo- I’ve read all of her books and I just finished the Netflix series yesterday. Marie has three bestselling books about her KonMari method of tidying and decluttering, which involves sorting your possessions into categories and confronting every item individually with the question “does this spark joy”?

Her method is spreading fast since the show came out, with legions of new fans tidying up everywhere and thrift stores rejoicing.  However, one category in the tidying advice given by KonMari is getting more consternation than others: books.

 

My Twitter and Facebook feeds have been inundated with memes like these, as well as the resulting rebuttals and defenses of KonMari.

The controversial book advice supposedly offered by KonMari has been debunked: she finds 30 books to be a reasonable number for herself personally, but throughout her works she acknowledges that everyone has their own unique formula for what brings them joy.  The flexibility and customizability of the KonMari method is part of why I like it so much- it is practical and inspiring but can also be tailored to suit the lifestyles and interests of just about anyone.  Read her books and you will see that “joy” comes in many forms- it’s true meaning, as meant by Kondo, is deeper and more complex than the word “joy” in the English language conveys.

But, the books…

Book lovers are proud of their collections, often as protective of their bookshelves as dragons guarding hoards of treasure. Having more books than one knows what to do with is a common non-problem in book communities, with people artificially bemoaning their massive TBR (to-be-read) piles while simultaneously feeling the special joy and contentment that comes with knowing you’ll never run out of books to read (and even if you did, re-reading is always an option!).

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It’s not uncommon for book lovers to collect more books than they have shelves for, resulting in teetering towers of books stacking up ever-closer to the ceiling. The popular solution always seems to be obvious: more bookshelves needed! The contrasting choice,  paring down a book collection to fit a deliberately chosen fixed-space, is a frightening prospect to many collectors of books. Yet, the large majority of people don’t have never-ending bookshelf space, and I’ve started to see the benefits of re-evaluating my own book collections and asking myself “does this book spark joy”?

One of Us, One of Us

Now, lest this post go viral for some reason and I find myself at the mercy of the booklr, bookstagram, and other passionate online book communities, let me state I am NOT prescribing what people should or should not do with their books, but offering my own perspective on what I’ve learned works for myself.

I drool over pictures of window reading nooks and built-in alcove shelving, too. I sniff my books. I collect novelty bookmarks. I’m one of you, I swear. Here’s my proof.

Let’s count the bookshelves:

 

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

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***Edit I forgot the cookbooks! What a recipe for disaster!

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And this doesn’t even count the books in my parents’ attic, or the books I keep at work (I work at a library and I still keep some personal books at my desk…).

I am lucky to have access to so many books. I live a privileged life. My house has no shortage of books, and this is after my most recent book purge. I donated a ton of books to the library where I work, and gave away plenty to eager friends as well. A small few books even made their way (GASP) into the paper recycling. How did I do this? Am I a monster? What was my reasoning?

At first it was hard. Books feel untouchable for book lovers.

As KonMari explains, honing your sense of what sparks joy takes time. Yet, even something as precious as books can be examined and questioned. There came a time that I realized, if I continued my book-amassing ways unhindered, I’d someday be a candidate for Extreme Hoarding: Book Lover’s Edition: “Shauna has been living in the same house for 60 years, surrounded by piles of books. She realized she had a problem when the floor in the ‘spare room’ collapsed under the strain of 6400 cookbooks. Still, ‘the books make me happy’ she asserts, as she sits in the only remaining 4 square feet of space left open in the house, her nose in a slim hardcover.”

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When you know it’s joy

I want every single book on my shelves to be a book that I truly cherish.

These are some of the criteria that contribute to the joy I get from my books and help me know that I truly want to keep them:

  • usefulness of content
  • gorgeous writing
  • excellent story
  • lovely artwork
  • pleasing tactile feel
  • aesthetic and design
  • or usually a combination of some or all of these things.

Exceptions:

  • I don’t make decisions about my husband’s books (he is pretty good about managing his collections)
  • I do hold on to some books I haven’t yet read but WILL get around to reading in the near-ish future- books I truly intend to read. I can make a decision on them after i’ve read them.

When it’s time to donate

I’ve donated a lot of books to the library lately, and given some to friends- all good books, but not books that were bringing me joy any longer.

Reasons for Donating:

  • It’s not you, it’s me: All of the books I donated once brought me joy, but as I grow as a person I grow as a reader and my experiences and values change. For example, a book that was life-changing in my teen years might no longer hold any inspiration or amusement for me, so I know I can let it go. If I want to read it again randomly someday, there’s always the library!
  • Time: I realized that I had so many books and so little time to read that if I did have more time for re-reading I would rather read series that I adored than these stories that I enjoyed but didn’t love.
  • Joy for Another: Someone else might read these books and love them. They are currently not being actively loved by me but could be useful, inspiring, or entertaining to someone else right now.
  • Different Versions: Sometimes I have a book I adore but a version of it that I don’t love (whether it’s abridged, has cover art that irks me, it’s the one paperback when I collected the rest in hardcover, etc.)- in these times it’s easy to donate because I know I will get a different copy someday that will make me happy every time I read it. Alternately, while I always prefer a physical copy of a book, I do have some books in ebook format and sometimes that’s good enough for that title for me.
  • Multiple copies: This might seem obvious or easy, but it’s not… book lovers often end up with more than one copy of a book, especially if it’s a favourite. I had 4 copies of Dracula at one point. I decided to keep 2 that I love- both were gifts and both are bound gorgeously in different ways (one has a blood red hardcover with a matching silk bookmark, and the other was hand-bound with unique artwork on the cover).

When it’s time to discard

This is not something book lovers want to think about, but sometimes books are candidates for disposal- as in the trash or the recycling.

How can this be? Aren’t books sacred? Aren’t more books always better than less?

Working in my public library has enlightened me on the process of “weeding” where we pull books that are no longer needed to make room for new titles. A lot of criteria go into choosing which books to weed (popularity, condition, number in a series, age of book, number of copies, etc.). Studies have shown that when collections are well-weeded, the circulation of books actually increases in libraries because in a well-weeded collection people can better find what they’re looking for (or what they didn’t know they were looking for)- sometimes less IS more. Often weeded books will be used in other ways (i.e. the sale shelf, or craft projects) instead of tossed.

However, sometimes a book is truly not needed anymore and can be discarded in the recycling. This isn’t an act of censorship – these are books (mainly non-fiction) that are so outdated they have become irrelevant and have no use or interest to virtually anyone anymore. Some made up examples:

  • “Troubleshooting Windows ’98 For Dummies”
  • “Y2 OKAY! Assessing the job market for the New Millennium”
  • “You and Your Taxes: 2010 Edition”
  • “Psychology in Focus, 2008”

But wait! you say- can’t these items be donated instead? Maybe SOMEONE would use them for… something?

I’m sorry, but no Value Village, used bookstore, or library wants your old stained National Geographics, ancient textbooks, or outdated reference material. Same goes for water damaged, musty, mouldy or otherwise soiled books. Even when outdated books are in good condition, unless you know someone who is conducting a research project (?) regarding outdated books on a specific topic (highly unlikely) or wider society develops a sudden and neverending compulsion to create Pinterest-inspired recycled book and magazine craft projects, there’s a limit to how many old books would be useful to keep for such things.

As hard as it can be to accept, sometimes a book has reached the end of its life. You can try passing it on to someone else (nobody will blame you) but at some point somebody has to make the hard decisions (or store them indefinitely in the garage…).

They Lived Happily Ever After

Okay, to end this on a happy note closer to the point, the reason for tidying and assessing your book collection, if you so choose, isn’t to chase some minimalist ideal- it’s to surround yourself with books that you truly love and enjoy. May you and your books live out your lives with purpose, loved and appreciated!

GRAPHICNOVELBASEstars

 

The Drama about Drama

Drama, a popular graphic novel by Raina Telgemeier, was recently ordered removed from Catholic elementary schools in Ottawa. The decision was swiftly reversed amidst much criticism.

The removal of Drama came after complaints from parents about LGBT content; Drama, which centers around a middle-school theatre production, features a panel where two boys kiss onstage.

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The School Board had asserted that the choice was made to remove the book not necessarily because of LGBT content, but because of relationship content:

“It is not a book we really need younger kids reading without guidance.”– Robert Long, Ottawa Catholic School Board

I’ve read Drama, and I feel confident that if the LGBT characters were instead presented as a boy-girl coupling there would have been no perceived “issue” and no censorship of this title by the School Board.

Drama features young students, some of which have crushes on other students (shocking, I know), but the book isn’t heavily focused on romantic relationships- it’s also an intensely readable comic featuring diverse characters who are excited and passionate about theatre. The students are busy addressing all of the intricacies of designing a set, planning the lighting, creating the costumes, rehearsing and getting ready for their big performance.

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Scholastic recommends Drama for ages 10-14, which covers about grade 4-9. Age recommendations aren’t set in stone though, and I take them with a grain of salt- readers often enjoy titles above and below their “reading level”, especially if the content is relatable to them. When I was in elementary school and middle school, I was involved in several school plays, and this is just the kind of comic I would probably have enjoyed.

While the decision to ban Drama was thankfully reversed due to the pushback, we can still learn a lot from this act of censorship.

What does it say when we remove a book like Drama? The School Board had claimed that the book’s relationship content was age inappropriate, but the book was originally contested because of LGBT content (a gay character, a kiss). If the school was truly concerned about relationship content and kisses they would have a lot more titles to ban, including heaps of classic fairy tales, bestselling kids’ novels, and tons of picture books.

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Take a look at the cute picture books up there created for young readers- why does society readily accept the love and affection of entire menageries of animals and creatures in a children’s picture book, but as soon as a boy kisses another boy in a comic people become uneasy?

Sadly, comics and graphic novels are subject to hyper-vigilant scrutiny on a regular basis. There’s something about the visual nature of comics that gets people all riled up, and this controversy over Drama is one more story showing that censorship is alive in Canada.

By purposefully removing Drama from a school library collection, the school board was effectively removing representation of LGBTQ+ characters. This removal insinuated that board members had concluded gay crushes are problematic and can only be handled by more mature readers. It implied that it’s unnatural for boys to like boys, it’s unmentionable for a boy to kiss a boy, that kids shouldn’t see LGBT relationships as normal, and that school libraries shouldn’t contain these types of content.

Representation isn’t trivial- it’s vital. Statistics show that in Canada, as in many other parts of the world, LGBTQ+ people are targeted at disproportionately high levels when it comes to violence, sexual assault, and discrimination.

We need stories with LGBTQ+ content to normalize LGBTQ+ people and relationships if we are to stop the violence that is directed toward them.

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This book wasn’t being used for a class- it was available in the library, where students had the choice to read it or not read it as they liked. Parents can control what their own kids read, but when a book is banned and removed from a school library it eliminates EVERYONE’S chance to read it.

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Drama could be the book that sparks a love of reading for a child. It could be the book that makes them feel less alone in the world, the book that they see themselves reflected in. It could inspire them, comfort them, entertain them, educate them, and more. It could do all of these things or none of these things, because every person is different and every reader brings their own ways of knowing into what they are reading. When the book is available, at least they have the chance to read it- if they don’t want to read it, nobody is forcing them to.

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I’m glad that Drama is back in the elementary school libraries. Telgemeier’s graphic novels are popular for a reason, and kids read them voraciously. Drama could be just the book that a student needs.

 

 

 

Mini Review: A Pocketful of Crows by Joanne M. Harris

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As posted on my Goodreads:

With A Pocketful of Crows, Joanne Harris has proven to me yet again why she deserves many spots on my meticulously curated bookshelves.

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This is a quick read, but full to the last page with poem, prose, wild imagery, and earthy illustrations by artist Bonnie Helen Hawkins.

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It has all the trappings of a classic fairy-tale, but with a protagonist who is strong-willed and true to herself even as she falls into the clutches of a deep and all-consuming infatuation (and especially as she rises out of it).

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This tale is charming, witchy, gorgeously written, and sometimes as cruel as nature itself.

Not only is it lovely between the covers, but the hardback edition is sumptuously bound with golden lettering.

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