What it’s about: Why you should follow your dream even if you can’t be sure of achieving it.
What made me pick it up: I adore Jason Reynolds and all he does for teens and readers. I enjoy his work so of course I’d like a pep talk from him.
My favorite parts: It’s short and powerful. He packs a big punch with his story of continuing to try to make art and live the creative life despite detractors telling him it was not a viable option. I liked that he was a not yet successful writer writing that it’s not success you’re after. It’s following your path and all the joy and struggle that brings. Like he says repeatedly: jump anyway.
Who it’s great for: Everyone. May be especially useful for new grads.
It’s National Library Week! Time to celebrate our favorite community centers and workers. If you love libraries as much as we do feel free to send or tell your positive thoughts to your local library worker. No hugs or gifts are necessary. At the very least go visit your local library. Using library services is thanks enough.
What’s it about: A graphic novel about a black teenage boy who is shot and killed by a police officer who mistook the hanger in his hand for a gun. The story follows his friends and family in the aftermath of his death and his own journey as those who have previously lost their lives to police violence lead him through the process of understanding and accepting his death.
What made me pick it up: A colleague put this on hold for me because she thought I was probably going to read it anyway.
My favorite things: Alfonso Jones is shot on the first page, but his story doesn’t end there. I love that we still get insight into his life and that the authors take the time to remember the details of the lives lost to police violence like Amadou Diallo and Anthony Baez. There’s an interesting juxtaposition I haven’t seen in fiction before between police treatment of black and brown men who haven’t committed violent crimes and that of typically white school shooters.
Who it’s great for: A good read for teens and adults looking to understand the motive for the Movement for Black Lives. Good for fans of The Hate U Give, Dear Martin, and March.
What it’s about: A little girl has to draw a picture of where she is from but she left her homeland when she was only a baby so she can’t remember. She turns to neighbors and family members to help her create her picture.
What made me pick it up: I’m a huge fan of Díaz and was delighted when I found out he was turning his talents to picture books.
My favorite parts: I loved the beautiful descriptions of her place of birth, and the way the illustrations show how a young child might literally interpret them. I also like the use of a general “monster” to simplify the explanation of conflicts that caused many people to flee their nation. The colors are lively and it will make you want to book a trip to hear the music, and revel in the pardisio. (I also listened to this on audio, which is read by the author so it is excellent for that reason and includes vibrant music which only adds to the story.)
Who it’s great for: Díaz fans. Littles who can’t quite remember their birthplace. Anyone missing the island where they used to live. Readers looking for diverse books.
What it’s about: The author’s weirdness being her career super power, and how you can too.
What made me pick it up: I’m… a little weird and this seemed like something that applied.
My favorite parts: This book truly lives up to its title. It’s about a weirdo telling other weirdos how to best fly their freak flag in the world of normals. Aside from that I appreciated her insight into careers and how best to go about one. Be nice. Work hard. Understand that you are unique and your career will also be. But most importantly, you and your experience are just right for whatever is to come.
Who it’s great for: Anyone looking to make a change. Readers wondering if their brand of offbeat is too different. (It’s not.)
What it’s about: The iconic Amalia Hernández and the traveling dance company she created 60 years ago – Mexico’s Folkloric Ballet.
What made me pick it up: I had just returned from a trip to Mexico where students had performed some of the traditional dances mentioned in this book. When I saw a review for it, I knew I had to get my hands on it.
My favorite parts: I was inspired by the tenacity of Hernández to not only follow her dreams to dance, but build something to blend traditional dances into ballet and modern dance and take it around the world to showcase the culture of her home and her pride in it. I hope to see this one day. It sounds magical.
Who it’s great for: Dancers. Anyone who has been to Mexico and been awed.
What it’s about: I’m here to sadly report that the banana is at risk of dying off. Current practices aren’t sustainable and a suitable replacement has yet to be found or created. In the meantime the bad fungi are taking out this slow to evolve fruit.
What made me pick it up: Well I’d heard about this banana problem and wanted to learn more. Also it is a book about bananas. And I needed a new audiobook.
My favorite parts: Learning so much history of the banana. Like that we don’t have the good tasting one (that one died off when our grandparents were young). That they are hard to reproduce. That GMOing might be the only way to create a sustainable new banana. And most importantly that much of the developed world subsists on these. If we lose them, yes our smoothies will be a tad more boring but people will starve. People are already starting this process in parts of Africa losing their bananas.
My least favorite parts: There is a lot in here that is uncomfortable to downright despicable about Big Ag and American power in the developing world which will rightfully disgust you. I’m not sure if the right course of action is to boycott bananas or keep buying them, but it is clear something needs to change.
Who its great for: Trivia nerds. Banana lovers. History, agriculture, and food science geeks.
What it’s about: Miriam Makeba, a South African musician who used her music to tell the story of apartheid to the rest of the world and request their aid.
What made me pick it up: I was checking out the Wikipedia pages of some local authors and found out Erskine had put out a picture book about Africa. Win win.
My favorite parts: Once again a picture book for young children teaches me about history I never knew. Erskine lived in South Africa when she was younger and always wanted to tell this story. I have read many stories about apartheid but not heard this one. I appreciated having the history fleshed out and learning about a musician who used her gift to not only get out of deteriorating South Africa but ask for help from everyone she could. Truly powerful and inspiring.
Who it’s great for: Anyone interested in the history of Africa, South Africa, apartheid, or music.
What it’s about: Why you should follow your passion one tiny step at a time.
What made me pick it up: It was mentioned in When To Jump, which I read recently.
My favorite parts: This is colorful and short and full of inspirational quotes and the tiny push you might need to begin following your calling. You don’t have to quit your job or go on an intense spiritual journey or backpack around Asia for any period of time, unless you feel you really need to. Just get up a few minutes early to paint or write or do whatever it is you feel you need to do. See where it leads. I do appreciate reminders now and then that you can listen to your inner voice and see what it’s telling you without disrupting your entire world. Or maybe it will and that will also be a fun adventure.
Who it’s great for: Anyone wondering if this is it.
What it’s about: A book of poetry about abuse and assault and theoretical revenge. But mostly about how powerful women are, and how we will overcome.
What made me pick it up: It was available from my library’s downloadable collection on Freading so I could check it out right away. I had read Lovelace’s first collection and enjoyed it.
My favorite parts: I loved the messages of self love and acceptance. I could read poems that tell me how ass-kicking women are all day long. I also enjoy the reminders to pull other ladies up with you. We’re all in this together. I appreciated the trigger warning she included in the beginning. This content will punch you in the stomach, especially if you have familiarity with abuse, assault, or harassment. I definitely took screenshots of some of these poems to carry with me. Get angry, fantasize about getting even, but more than anything know how valuable you are.
Who it’s great for: Anyone sick of being quiet and nice and polite and proper in the face of abuse, harassment, threats, or assault. It’s our time.