Relevant Reading

I know. You’re bored and you want to read something thought-provoking, right? No? Too bad. Here’s a short round-up of some relevant links from the last few months:

What’s the Story? Issues of Diversity and Children’s Publishing in the U.K.
“While it is important for children from BME backgrounds to see children like themselves in the books that they read, it is equally important for young people from other backgrounds to read about children who are different from themselves, and not just in issue-based books which focus on race or difference. Rudine Sims Bishop articulated the influential theory of books acting as both mirrors and windows in her influential essay, “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors.” She writes, “When there are enough books available that can act as both mirrors and windows for all our children, they will see that we can celebrate both our differences and our similarities, because together they are what make us all human” (Sims Bishop)…”

Industry Q&A with publisher Donna Bray
“Sadly, I simply do not get many submissions from writers of diverse backgrounds. There are probably many reasons for this – the publishing establishment (editors and agents) is largely white (and what might be called “elite” – upper-middle and upper-class; the lack of class and economic diversity is a whole other problem in this industry, but I digress…). Diverse writers may have less access or exposure to the publishing process…”

On Privilege and (a Lack of) Diversity on My Bookshelves
It is important to learn about and talk about the wider systemic, institutional problems with racism in publishing and society in general. But I cannot be an ally without examining how my own personal choices are reinforcing the oppression I profess to oppose, and then changing those behaviors…

And, of course, this is always worth a rewatch:
Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story
“And when I began to write…I wrote exactly the kinds of stories I was reading. All my characters were white and blue-eyed. They played in the snow. They ate apples. And they talked a lot about the weather, how lovely it was that the sun had come out. Now, this despite the fact that I lived in Nigeria. I had never been outside Nigeria. We didn’t have snow. We ate mangoes. And we never talked about the weather, because there was no need to….

What this demonstrates, I think, is how impressionable and vulnerable we are in the face of a story, particularly as children. Because all I had read were books in which characters were foreign, I had become convinced that books, by their very nature, had to have foreigners in them, and had to be about things with which I could not personally identify…”

Review: Romeo & Juliet

romeoTitle: Romeo & Juliet
Adapted by: Gareth Hinds based on the play by William Shakespeare
Genres: Romance, Historical, Tragedy
Format: Graphic Novel
Pages: 134
Publisher: Candlewick
Review Copy: Local library
Availability: On shelves now

Summary: Gareth Hinds’s stylish graphic adaptation of the Bard’s romantic tragedy offers modern touches —
including a diverse cast that underscores the story’s universality.

She’s a Capulet. He’s a Montague. But when Romeo and Juliet first meet, they don’t know they’re from rival families — and when they find out, they don’t care. Their love is honest and raw and all consuming. But it’s also dangerous. How much will they have to sacrifice before they can be together?In a masterful adaptation faithful to Shakespeare’s original text, Gareth Hinds transports readers to the sun-washed streets and market squares of Shakespeare’s Verona, vividly bringing the classic play to life on the printed page. — Cover image and summary via IndieBound

Review: When I saw the cover, I wondered what angle Gareth Hinds had as he crafted this adaptation. Was this going to be a West Side Story type? Hinds definitely meddled with the culture of the Montagues and Capulets, but otherwise, he left things alone for the most part. Other than omitting lines, Hinds stayed close to the original text and he kept the setting in historical Verona. He explains at the beginning in a note to the reader, “I chose to cast my retelling of Romeo & Juliet with multiracial characters in order to reflect how universal this story is. It is not a statement about racism or racial conflict.” There is no alteration to the storyline as a result of this cosmetic change. If you could not see the illustrations and only heard the text, you would have no idea that Juliet’s family is Indian. It made me wonder if this graphic novel could  ever be made into an audio book because the pictures add so much to this adaptation. The illustrations allowed for a bit more personality to be shown with the characters and of course inserted cultural identifiers. It also allowed me to keep the names straight from the very beginning since the cast of characters included pictures.

I have read Romeo and Juliet at least five times as a play for classes or for fun. What I loved immediately was the novelty of reading this story as something other than a script. With the illustrations, stage directions are unnecessary and names aren’t required along with every bit of the dialogue. The text flows more easily this way. He also kept the clothing of the families color coded. The Montagues are wearing shades of blue and the Capulets are in various shades of orange. This made the relationships easier to follow especially during the action scenes. The graphic novel format is one step closer to seeing the play acted out. This adaptation will be very accessible for the reluctant Shakespeare reader whether they are a young adult or a not so young adult.

As Hinds pointed out, he wanted to show that this is a story that transcends cultures. Star-crossed lovers can be found anywhere and anytime. Mixing up the culture a bit certainly does help demonstrate that everyman quality. I wasn’t sure how to take that though. It seems to be an example of the “casual diversity” that Betsy Bird spoke of recently. It’s not an issue in the story, it just exists. But it makes me wonder. Are cultures that easy to swap out and should they be? In this instance, as an illustrator he is adding diversity to a text that he didn’t want to alter. It also reinforces his theory that this tragedy could happen to anyone regardless of religious background, skin color, culture or age.

For Romeo’s family, skin tone and hair styles were basically the only racial or cultural markers. They appeared to be of African descent. What I appreciated was that Hinds did not have everyone in the family look pretty much the same. There is a wide variety of body types, faces, and hairstyles. He provided diversity within the culture. With Juliet’s family, Hinds included a few more clues beyond skin tone and facial features, but this was mainly in the area of clothing. The most obvious being that Capulet wears a Sikh turban and Lady Capulet has a head scarf, but there were others. The only truly jarring note was the mishmash of modern and older dress. The younger characters like Juliet were sometimes in more contemporary clothing like her short skirt. It would jerk me out of the story more than any of the other things that were going on in the illustrations. That the time periods of the costumes were not matching was a bit disconcerting. It didn’t stop me from enjoying the story though.

Overall, the illustrations were rich and truly brought out the emotions of the story. I know that I would have loved to have this as an option when I was first reading Shakespeare as a teen. It will likely draw new readers to Shakespeare.

My Recommendation: If you are a graphic novel or Shakespeare fan, I would get this one soon. Otherwise, I would still recommend that you check it out sometime. It is a gorgeous way to experience Romeo & Juliet. You may preview it here.

Cover Reveal: Drift

I am so excited to read Drift, M. K. Hutchins’s debut book. It will be out from Tu Books this spring, and I already have it on my wish list. Who else is looking forward to it?

Drift FC Tenjat lives on the shores of Hell, an ocean filled with ravenous naga monsters. His island, a massive Turtle, is slowed by the people living on its back. Only those poor enough to need children to support themselves in old age condescend to the shame of marriage. Tenjat is poor as poor gets, but he has a plan.

In the center of the island rises a giant Tree, where the Handlers—those who defend and rule the island—live. Against his sister’s wishes, Tenjat joins the Handlers. He couldn’t have picked a more dangerous time. The Turtle is nearing a coral reef where it desperately needs to feed, but the naga will swarm just before they reach it. Even novices like Tenjat are needed for the battle.

Can Tenjat discover his sister’s secrets in time? Will the possibility of love derail all his plans for a richer, marriage-free life? Long-held secrets will at last be revealed in this breathtaking debut from M. K. Hutchins.

Join Us for a Group Discussion

We’re going to start off the spring with a group discussion of When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds. We hope you’ll join us!

greatest In Bed Stuy, New York, a small misunderstanding can escalate into having a price on your head–even if you’re totally clean. This gritty, triumphant debut captures the heart and the hardship of life for an urban teen.

“A lot of the stuff that gives my neighborhood a bad name, I don’t really mess with. The guns and drugs and all that, not really my thing.” Nah, not his thing. Ali’s got enough going on, between school and boxing and helping out at home. His best friend Noodles, though. Now there’s a dude looking for trouble–and, somehow, it’s always Ali around to pick up the pieces. But, hey, a guy’s gotta look out for his boys, right? Besides, it’s all small potatoes; it’s not like anyone’s getting hurt.

And then there’s Needles. Needles is Noodles’s brother. He’s got a syndrome, and gets these ticks and blurts out the wildest, craziest things. It’s cool, though: everyone on their street knows he doesn’t mean anything by it.

Yeah, it’s cool…until Ali and Noodles and Needles find themselves somewhere they never expected to be…somewhere they never should’ve been–where the people aren’t so friendly, and even less forgiving. — Cover image and summary via IndieBound

The discussion will be posted at the end of April. Run to your local bookstore or library soon so you can pick up a copy of the book and have enough time to read it. We’re looking forward to hearing what you thought of it!

Cover Reveal: Rebellion

Get your first look at Rebellion, the final book of the Tankborn trilogy by Karen Sandler. It is one of the upcoming spring releases for Tu Books, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it! Isn’t the cover gorgeous?

Rebellion FC In the wake of a devastating bomb blast, severely injured Kayla has been brought to the headquarters of the organization that planted the bomb—and many others like it in GEN food warehouses and homes. Her biological mother tells her that Devak is dead and that Kayla must join her in the terrorist group, which is ramping up for something big. Now Kayla must pretend that she embraces this new role in an underground compound full of paranoia as she plots a way to escape and save her friends.

Meanwhile, Devak has emerged from his healing in a gen-tank, only to be told that Kayla is dead and his family has fallen from grace. Can he overcome his grief at the loss of his power to see the clues that point to Kayla being alive?

As Kayla and Devak overcome the multiple obstacles put between them while trying to free GENs without further bloodshed, the Tankborn trilogy rushes to a thrilling conclusion!

New Releases

A whole slew of new books coming out this week! How very exciting and my reading list just keeps on getting longer and longer. Is there anyone out there who would pay me to just read books? Anyway, onto the list. We have 2 series ending this week, 2 sequels, a historical novel, and well…one that seems to be purely sci-fi fun.


The Worlds We MakeBy Megan Crewe

The virus has taken away Kaelyn’s friends, her family, her home.

And now a deadly enemy threatens to take the one hope she has left: THE CURE.

When Kaelyn and her friends reached Toronto with a vaccine for the virus that has ravaged the population, they thought their journey was over. But now they’re being tracked by the Wardens, a band of survivors as lethal as the virus who are intent on stealing the vaccine no matter what the cost.

Forced onto the road again, Kaelyn and her companions discover the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta is their best hope for finding scientists who can reproduce the vaccine. But with the virus already spreading among them, the Wardens hot on their trail, and hundreds of miles to cross, Kaelyn finds herself compromising her morals to keep her group alive. Her conscience seems a small price to pay if protects them and their precious cargo. Unless even that is not enough…

In the final installment in Megan Crewe’s captivating the Fallen World trilogy, Kaelyn is on the run from her biggest adversaries yet. While she continues to face horrific loss, her resolve is still strong. But to survive this shattered world, will she have to sacrifice all that’s left of the girl she was?


feral by Cynthia Leitich Smith

The second installment of New York Times best-selling author Cynthia Leitich Smith’s thrilling Feral series delivers danger, romance, and suspense in an all new action-packed adventure.

The adopted daughter of two respectable human parents, Kayla is a werecat in the closet. All she knows is the human world. When she comes out to her boyfriend, tragedy ensues, and her determination to know and embrace her heritage grows. Help appears in the lithe form of sexy male werecat Yoshi, backed up by Aimee and Clyde, as the four set out to solve the mystery of a possessed antique carousel while fielding miscast magic, obsessive strangers, and mounting species intolerance. Paranormal fans will go wild for this rousing second Feral adventure.


gameworld by Christopher John Farley
Black Sheep

Dylan Rudee’s life is an epic fail. He’s bullied at school and the aunt who has raised him since he was orphaned as a child just lost her job and their apartment. Dylan’s one chance to help his family is the only thing he’s good at: video games. The multibillion-dollar company Mee Corp. has announced a televised tournament to find the Game-Changers: the forty-four kids who are the best in the world at playing “Xamaica,” a role-playing fantasy game that’s sweeping the planet. If Dylan can win the top prize, he just might be able to change his life.

It turns out that Dylan is the greatest gamer anyone has ever seen, and his skills unlock a real-life fantasy world inside the game. Now actual monsters are trying to kill him, and he is swept up into an adventure along with his too-tall genius sister Emma, his hacker best friend Eli, and Ines Mee, the privileged daughter of Mee Corp.’s mysterious CEO and chief inventor. Along the way they encounter Nestuh, a giant spider who can spin a story but not a web; Baron Zonip, a hummingbird king who rules a wildly wealthy treetop kingdom; and an enchantress named Nanni who, with her shadow army, may be bent on conquering Xamaica and stealing its magic.

In order to save his sister and his friends, Dylan must solve a dangerous mystery in three days and uncover secrets about Xamaica, his family, and himself. But will he discover his hidden powers before two worlds–Xamaica and Earth–are completely destroyed?


willowby Tonya Cherie Hegamin

In 1848, an educated slave girl faces an inconceivable choice — between bondage and freedom, family and love.

On one side of the Mason-Dixon Line lives fifteen-year-old Willow, her master’s favorite servant. She’s been taught to read and has learned to write. She believes her master is good to her and fears the rebel slave runaways. On the other side of the line is seventeen-year-old Cato, a black man, free born. It’s his personal mission to sneak as many fugitive slaves to freedom as he can. Willow’s and Cato’s lives are about to intersect, with life-changing consequences for both of them. Tonya Cherie Hegamin’s moving coming-of-age story is a poignant meditation on the many ways a person can be enslaved, and the force of will needed to be truly emancipated. – Cover image and summary via IndieBound


tinker king by Tiffany Trent
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Science and magic mean danger in this sequel to “The Unnaturalists,” which “School Library Journal “called “an entertaining mix of steampunk and fantasy.”

After Vespa, Syrus, and Bayne defeated the Grue and restored order to their world in “The Unnaturalists,” they thought their future was secure. Empress Olivia, committed to peace and equality for humans and Elementals alike, was a fair and just ruler. And the Creeping Waste had vanished, giving them hope for the first time.

But rebellion is brewing in the far-off city of Scientia, and dark Elementals are plotting war in the ruins of New London. Before they know what’s happening, Vespa, Syrus, and their friends are plunged into a new swamp of intrigue, deception and magic–and the cost of survival may be more than any of them are willing to pay.  – Cover image and summary via IndieBound


three by Kristen Simmons

Tor Teen

Kristen Simmons’ fast-paced, gripping YA dystopian series continues in Three.

Ember Miller and Chase Jennings are ready to stop running. After weeks spent in hiding as two of the Bureau of Reformation’s most wanted criminals, they have finally arrived at the safe house, where they hope to live a safe and quiet existence.

And all that’s left is smoking ruins.

Devastated by the demolition of their last hope, Ember and Chase follow the only thing left to them—tracks leading away from the wreckage. The only sign that there may have been survivors.

With their high profile, they know they can’t stay out in the open for long. They take shelter in the wilderness and amidst the ruins of abandoned cities as they follow the tracks down the coast, eventually finding refugees from the destroyed safe house. Among them is someone from Chase’s past—someone he never thought he’d see again.

Banding together, they search for a place to hide, aiming for a settlement a few of them have heard about…a settlement that is rumored to house the nebulous organization known as Three. The very group that has provided Ember with a tiny ray of hope ever since she was first forced on the run.

Three is responsible for the huge network of underground safe houses and resistance groups across the country. And they may offer Ember her only chance at telling the world her story. At fighting back. — Cover image and summary via IndieBound