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Staff Picks: Books

Dumplin'

Dumplin', by Julie Murphy, is a teen novel set in small town Texas starring Willowdean Dickson. Willowdean is fat. But she's fine with it-or is she? She seems fine with it until she starts dating, then all these new feelings muddle her confidence. Her mother, former Miss Teen Blue Bonnet pageant winner and current pageant coordinator, doesn't make Willowdean feel any better about herself. The struggling adolescent eventually decides to join the pageant to prove to herself and to everyone else that just because she doesn't look like their perception of a beauty queen, it doesn't mean she shouldn't compete alongside everyone else. Moreover, she doesn't have to do anything extra to "earn" life's joys; she doesn't have to compensate for anything; she doesn't owe anything to anybody.

The parts of Dumplin' I liked most had nothing to do with the pageant; I enjoyed following Willowdean's experiences with life challenges: mourning her aunt, navigating romantic relationships and friendships old and new, and reaching an understanding with her mother. Kick back, relax, and ride along with Willowdean before the movie comes out this year.


Shade, the Changing Girl

 Have you ever felt like you don’t fit in? Like everyone else is doing a great job at life, and you’re just trying to make sure you don’t look like a fish out of water? Well amplify that feeling by a thousand, and you’ll understand what it’s like for Loma Shade. Bored with her life on the planet Meta, Loma steals the “madness coat” that belonged to her hero and poet Rac Shade and uses it to take over the body of a high school mean girl and experience life on earth.

 

But they don’t call it the madness coat for nothing. Loma’s struggling to get a grip on her new life, all of the feelings that come with the teenage experience, and reality itself. Each frame bursts off the page in psychedelic whimsy while the story itself stays grounded with award winning YA author Cecil Castellucci’s sardonic wit.  

Shade the Changing Girl is wonderfully weird, and available to check out today.  


Hey Dreamer

I keep reading and re-reading Jason Reynolds' new book,  For Every OneThe book is actually a letter in the form of a long poem that Reynolds performed at the Kennedy Center in 2011. It's a beautiful letter of encouragement to teens (or anyone) learning to make sense of their dreams. I hope to gift it to every graduate I know. The official release is April 10 and many copies are on order for KPL locations. You can place a hold through our website or by asking in person. 

I was happy to get a chance to read an advanced reader copy through our Teen Top Ten program here at the library. In this program, teens have access to hundreds of Advanced Reader Copies given to KPL from teen publishers. In exchange for access to not-yet-published books, teens write short reviews that get sent back to the publishers. To date, Kalamazoo's Teen Top Ten group has written over 250 reviews and has 60 registered members. We'd love to have you join us!  

 


Marley Dias Gets it Done: And So Can You!

In Marley Dias’s new book, the founder of #1000BlackGirlBooks describes the background of the movement that she created and how young people can organize to change the world. Dias writes about how reading Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming changed her life, how she realized that there were not nearly enough books that reflected kids like her. Her school reading list at the time was filled with stories about white boys and dogs: Shiloh, Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows… all great books, she says, but why no black authors? Great question. When Marley’s mom asked her what she would change about the world, she said she’d like to make it so that kids everywhere could read books with black girls - books that accurately reflect the wide range of kids' identity and experience. Children are better off when they see themselves reflected in the books that they read. As Jacqueline Woodson says, "Seeing a story on a page about a black child written by a black author ... legitimizes your own existence in the world, because you're a part of something else. 'Look, I'm here in this book.'" 

Marley Dias's activism has been effective in motivating change within the institutions that control how books are created and discovered. Read Marley Dias’s story, as she tells it, because it is inspiring. She includes practical information about how to be an effective activist and how their adults can help. Young people have always changed the world and Marley Dias, with support from caring adults, truly has done so. Here's an excerpt to get you started reading Marley's book right now, if you so choose.


Orbiting Jupiter by Gary Schmidt

Gary Schmidt, two-time Newbery Honor-winning author and National Book Award Finalist, offers an emotional and heartbreaking account of love and loss in his latest teen book Orbiting Jupiter.

After being incarcerated at a juvenile facility, Joseph is released into the care of a loving foster family. Though released into a new future, Joseph cannot separate himself from his past: a daughter named Jupiter. The product of a teenage pregnancy, Jupiter was relocated during Joseph's incarceration, and no one will tell him where she is. Joseph will sacrifice whatever he must to finally meet his daughter.

With themes of teenage pregnancy and juvenile incarceration, this book seems as if it would be hard to read. To the contrary, Schmidt's portrayal of Joseph, his foster-brother Jack, and the world in which they live give the reader an intense emotional connection that is somehow heartwarming and heartbreaking.


Hot Pink!

New York Fashion Week has come to a close, but London Fashion Week is just starting up! That’s right, we are right in the middle of the first Fashion Month of 2018, a time I personally refer to as The Highlight of my Instagram Feed.

 

While it is always a delight to see the latest trends sashay down the runway, a true fashionista knows that you can’t really understand where fashion is going until you know where it’s been.  Many are familiar with the revolutionary influence of Coco Chanel, but few know about her contemporary, the avant garde visionary Elsa Schiaparelli.

A mastermind ahead of her time, Elsa Schiaparelli set in motion all of the fashion paradigms we take for granted today. Make sure to check out this book to read about the inventor of runway shows, ready to wear collections, bolero jackets, culottes and most importantly—hot pink!

Also, click here to see some of her most famous works


Poems come out of wonder, not out of knowing

Save the date: Kwame Alexander is coming to visit Kalamazoo on February 28th

In the book Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets, Kwame Alexander, with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth, use original poems to celebrate twenty poets who, for the three authors of this book, had to be interesting people with poems that they loved. I love how Kwame Alexander opens the book with the premise that poetry can be fresh and freeing. You can make up your own rules about writing! What a wonderful notion that the connections around different senses of words and the way punctuation looks on the page conveys a feeling to other people. These original elements of style are unique to the poet and their poetry. The poems in the first part pay tribute  to Nikki Giovanni, Naomi Shihab-Nye, Langston Hughes, and others in this way.

Poetry expands our thinking about everyday things. You definitely do not need to know the twenty poets that the poems in Out of Wonder celebrate. You might want to read them after you read these poems celebrating Robert Frost, Gwendolyn Brooks, Billy Collins, Chief Dan George, Mary Oliver, and many more. The collage illustrations by Ekua Holmes, who also illustrated Carole Boston Weatherford's Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, add to the sense of the poems and make it even more accessible to young readers and listener watchers. The title, Out of Wonder, Alexander writes in the preface, comes from a quote by renowned poet and children’s book author Lucille Clifton who wrote, “Poems come out of wonder, not out of knowing.”

For more information about Kwame, visit his website. His new literary focused web show, Bookish, airs weekly on FB Watch.


Dear Martin

I devoured this book. Earlier this year I was struck by PIECING ME TOGETHER by Renee Watson, and THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas. DEAR MARTIN by Nic Stone was right up there with them. Justyce McAllister is a good kid, an honor student, and on his way to Yale. One night he's trying to help his drunk ex-girlfriend get home, only to be the one that lands in handcuffs (which is putting it mildly). After his encounter with police profiling, he starts to really notice the injustices and inequalities in his life from all directions. Justyce decides to write Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. letters to express his frustrations and study his writing to try and understand what MLK would do in those situations. What I loved about this book that I didn't get out of the other two mentioned, was how Justyce asked questions not just about the white people he encountered but about his own standing and where he came from - how does he fit in? He says in one of his letter, "It's like I'm trying to climb a mountain, but I've got one fool trying to shove me down so I won't be on his level, and another fool tugging at my leg, trying to pull me to the ground he refuses to leave." Nic Stone does an amazing job capturing nuance and complexity in this book. We'll be reading this for our January Pizza & Pages program at Central. Teens can register starting December 19!


Far From the Tree(2)

I can't say enough good things about Far From the Tree by Robin Benway. This book was the 2017 National Book Award winner for Young People's Literature, an award given through the National Book Foundation in November of each year. In this complex story about family dynamics, adoption, love, and more, teenagers Grace, Maya, and Joaquin discover they are biological siblings. As they get to know each other, the reader watches their individual lives unfold and their definitions of family expand. I completely agree with the NBA judges' citation. This book is "uplifting and big-hearted". 

This year's Young People's Literature longlist also includes authors who've visited Kalamazoo Public Library in the past, like Mitali Perkins just recently in 2017, and Jason Reynolds in 2015 and 2016. The whole list is here.  

The National Book Award list is one of my favorite "Best of" lists each year. I mean, other than the KPL "Best of" lists. The entire list is impressive and the winners are chosen by a committee of book industry experts and established authors who work all year long, reading and critiquing books to find the best of the best in each category. You might recognize some big Young Adult author names from this list of judges: Meg Medina (Chair), Brendan Kiely, Kekla Magoon, Alex Sanchez. 


National Book Award Winners

The winners of this year's National Book Awards were announced in a ceremony in New York last night.

Fiction:
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Non-Fiction:
The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia by Masha Gessen

Poetry:
Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016 by Frank Bidart

Young People's Literature:
Far from the Tree by Robin Benway

You can check out all the winners at KPL.