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2018 – 2019 Annual School Library Report

June 18, 2019


Two 2019 Titles I Can’t Wait On!

May 27, 2019

Cant Wait Lisa Simpson GIF - CantWait LisaSimpson HappyDance GIFs

Here’s 2 titles coming up in October that I just can’t wait for:  

  • Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds

  • Light It Up by Kekla Magoon



Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks by [Reynolds, Jason]ISBN 0781481438285. Grades 5 – 9.  Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy.  October 8, 2019.  208p.  $17.99 Hdc.  The book I’m most excited for is “Look Both Ways,” the new story collection by Jason Reynolds which features 10 stories about the events that occur during one daily walk home from school.  I can’t recall a more intimate of an experiences in terms of what goes on during that walk from the school to home. Now of course Jason’s new title deals with the walk shared from the bus stop to home, but in my small town, we didn’t have a school bus.  We walked, and I took this walk each day from 5th grade through 9th grade.  My walking buddies were not determined by popularity, lunch table groups, or recess partners and friends.  It was a much tighter-bound group: the girls who lived in my neighborhood.  This group was connected by territory and parental alliances that went back decades. At the beginning of our bond, our diverse group had only experienced school integration for a year.  Since I wasn’t allowed to walk home alone from school until I was ten years-old, I didn’t know about the walking-home group until my first day of fifth grade.  That day I walked home alone, behind an a group of females I recognized from the neighborhood.  I decided to follow them because I was a little frightened of this new challenge and I had no idea what the best route was.  When the group noticed me at their rear and stopped to wait for me to catch up, I remember the relief I felt from the sense of security this brought.  The older girls from junior high walked a different route, so our little diverse group operated with total autonomy.  In this late sixties’ time period, we had a lot in common, like: Girl Scouts, church on Sunday mornings, household chores,  poorboy tops and hip-hugger skirts, and knowledge of the latest bubblegum pop song lyrics.  We hit the same checkpoints everyday, cutting through each others’ yards and greeting neighbors on the way to our own house. Little did we know how timed this ritual was with the adults and how their antennas went up when we varied in our route or were 5 minutes behind (a clue that something happened to delay our travel). We worked out family problems, personal issues, and disagreements on that route from school to home. We shared our latest Avon perfume sticks, like Honeysuckle, which was my favorite (#throwback). . .and I’ll never forget us all reading Judy Blume’s “Are You There God? It’s me Margaret” which brought about my first peer-based independent literary conversation on a title that was reflective of a shared experience…the sanitary belt! Our conversations on this were riveting! Our unspoken code of honor was titanium!


Light It Up by [Magoon, Kekla]ISBN 9781250128898.  Grades 7 & Up.  Henry Holt.  October 22, 2019.  368p.  $18.99 Hdc.  With so much controversy over #BlackLivesMatter and so  many people of the dominant culture who STILL don’t understand what the hashtag means, here is another narrative which concerns the senseless racially profiled killing of yet another black child.  This time around Kekla places the story’s setting in the same neighborhood as her groundbreaking “How It Went Down,” the novel that inspired Jason Reynolds and Brendan Keily’s “All American Boys.”

In this new title, the story is told in the same multiple points-of-view as “How It Went Down” and it deals with the unnecessary death of a child from the neighborhood.  What amps it up is the author’s inclusion of white supremacists counter protestors.  I am waiting for my ARC from NetGalley.


[Review] Girls Like Us by Gail Giles

March 24, 2019

I just recently responded to a comment on this review, which stated that the writer of the comment was highly offended. I can’t imagine how this book which highly advocates for #metoo, before the hashtag was generated and gives such a powerful platform for the voiceless to be heard, would be offensive. Although the commenter has explained how this comes about because she is the mother of a special needs child, and the use of the word “retarded” is referenced in the text, I feel when writing for young adults, you have to show the issues authentically, not in a bleached out super hyper anti-bactarialized manner of expression. The impact would be missed. As I said in the reply to this comment, the issues in this book are very gritty but they were not presented to the reader in graphic contextualized depictions. It’s horrifying enough that people on earth exist that do such abusive things to youth. Please read my recent response to the comment for Girls Like Us by Gail Giles.

Brichi's Lit Spot

18404410Candlewick.  223pp.  May 27, 2014. 9780763662677.  Grades 7 and Up.  Just finished reading this and I’m honestly choking back the tears.  I can’t believe how skilled the author’s handling of the main 3 characters’ dignities with such poignancy.  There’s Biddy whose mother abandoned her to a grandmother that was filled with nothing but hate and resentment for a baby that survived an oxygen deprived birth and grew up to survive 2 separate rapes.  There’s Quincy who grew up in one foster home after another after surviving a traumatic head injury from a brick that was caused by her mother’s boyfriend when she was six.  There’s Ms. Elizabeth, the senior citizen that took both girls under her wings and helped them to understand, at last, what family really means. That both girls have survived such a traumatic life of sexual,emotional, and mental cruelty and still look to a future is extraordinary for…

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Readers’ Advisory was My Favorite SLJTeenLive 2018 Presentation, but Liz Knocked it Out of the Ballpark!

August 18, 2018


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This past Wednesday, August 15, School Library Journal held their annual online conference for FREE!!!!!! There were so many choices for selection.  I found myself literally virtually attending double sessions, even though I would be able to go back and catch the video.  There was just something about being there LIVE that brought the energy!

The day’s events opened with none other than the fabulous author of “Poet X” Elizabeth Acevedo who literally has the power to send me to war, if necessary, for she simply fires her audience up with what some say is passion.  I call it the eloquence of a lived experience that’s been silenced for so long that it comes out kicking…and she did not let us down!”


Girls DancingShe knocked it out of the ballpark to those that caught her opening address which expressed the needs for representation not only in the books we read, but literally in the classrooms of K-12 and Higher Education.  She mentioned the absence of voice in today’s curriculum-chase to master profit-driven standardized tests, which has resulted in the absence of opportunities to exercise student voice.   Her comments on the need to address POCs history and cultural differences which causes us to see with a totally difference gaze than those from the dominant society were so spot on, I felt like I was listening to a testimony in church.

While I’ve gushed on the opening session, I still must say one of the sessions that stood out for me was the Readers’ Advisory session which featured the best advisory praxis for the year from five public and school librarians around the country.  I can’t think of which one I liked the most. There was the social justice presentation on “Reading Woke” presented by a school librarian and another  that matched hip hop and rap turns to books, based on how well the lyrical content matched up with context of the novel.

The presentation at the top is a rendering of the slides from the live presentation for all five librarians in the session.”

“That Night” is a Statement on the Devastation Opioids are Doing to ALL Our Youth in this Country

July 24, 2018

Screen Shot 2018-07-22 at 6.59.42 PMCicely Wolfe’s That Night is more than a story of adolescent teen girls losing a friend to death, for we all understand the impact that loss has on youth. They are not at the point in their life to even think that there is an end to something they have only just started.  This at times, is why so many of our youth are fatalistic about the choices they make, the actions they take, and the procrastinating they do.  Not to say all of these themes are present in That NightIn the case of fatalism, that is definitely present, for readers are immersed into the emotional shocking accounts of Kayla –popular high school soccer player, friend and bestie with Sarah and Cass, and girlfriend to Paul– found dead from a heroin overdose at a house party.  What happens next is an account of the reactions these characters have to Kayla’s death, and their interactions with their peers, their families, and others in their community

What makes this book stand apart from other titles of this sort is that it gets the death out of the way; it gets the actual experience of opioid use out of the way; AND it pushes the impact the death and use of an opiate has on those that are left behind front and center.  Many who work with rehabilitating drug user will tell you that the user has no care for the trauma they bring to their families and love ones.  They will use them as they use the drug…until they use them up.  Even the drug addict that does care can’t control the physical need for the drug over their emotional senses.

This is not the case in That Night, however, for Kayla was not a user, Kayla was curious, someone whose first experience with opioids was the last.

There were many flags in Kayla’s story that led her to heroin, however.”

The huge one was the knee injury she suffered from playing soccer.  If anyone has an athlete in their home, they have experienced the desperation these children go through to get back on the playing field when they are injured. Some don’t seek out medical coverage for fear of being medically benched for the season.  This causes so many to play on the injuries, and this leads to prolonging and/or exacerbating the extent of what has been hurt.

For Kayla, she was going through similar issues of team-separation-guilt but was seeking medical attention.  The problem was that no one took her seriously about the pain she felt and her ability to cope with this pain.” 

tnquotePerhaps it was because they were fearful of her becoming addicted to the same thing that killed her, for it is well known that opiates have been used for centuries as a painkiller and that it is in many pain-killing drugs,  In a manner, this was one of the issues that really bothered me: the obsession of not having Kayla labeled an addict and the ignoring of her need for comfort from the knee injury.  As a reader, I found myself in constant irritation with the adults, due to the one fact that they refused to acknowledge and attend to her complaints and needs.  Just as Todd and Edward’s research* on the informational needs of teens who were addicted to drugs that looked in other places for help when no info was available in any of the libraries they went to (2004), youth do the same thing for almost anything they need help and information on.  Their sense of inquiry and need is so strong that if they can’t find it in one place, they start seeking out help from other places.  This can lead to serious trouble if they are not monitored, as in the case of Kayla.

Wolfe, who lives in Ohio and can speak on how the increase in drugs is nearly destroying towns and neighborhoods in the Ohio Valley Region, was not hesitant to put these issues up front and in the reader’s face.”

The loudest message for me is that the rampant availability of drugs in this country has so penetrated our society that it is now well ensconced in white middle-class America.  I say this because the use of drugs and its presence has been so stereotyped as an inner city issue involving the poor and people of color, until it seemed that no one even realized that the drug dealers who were selling to the users in the city were also selling in the suburbs and decided to increase their services where patrons could afford higher prices. It’s an even more scary issue that inner citer parents who have worked so hard to get their families out of the crime-laden inner cities, can’t get away from the drug sellers in the suburbs, and that suburbanites with history in the burbs can no longer see a safe _I loved the message of Kaylas story._- YA Books Centralfuture in a place they have lived for generations and felt as if they were safely cocooned from street crime.

To truly say this is one of the worse social issues we face in this society is an overstatement, for I feel the worse is that we face is that we are a country that fails to provide medical benefits to all its citizenry.   Our second worse social issue is that we are a country of wealth that grows food to feed the world, but not to feed us. It should not be an embarrassment that you are not rich enough to afford basics.  Our third is that with all this land and lumber and abandoned homes, there are homeless people.  My fourth is that I find it so strange that we can’t stop the illegal sale of drugs in this country when we know who’s selling, where they live, the route the drugs are delivered in, the dropoff points, the international points of origins. . .  My only answer is for this to continue in the manner that it is seen by the average citizen is because some folks in high up places are getting some pretty big payoffs, for this to continue.  The federal law enforcement and Drug enforcement are simply not that stupid.

I recommend this book for therapeutic reading circles with young adults who are experiencing grief from the loss of loved ones, stress from peers and family members who are users, as well as those who are and know someone who has a sports injury.”

This is also one of those stories that readers of  Gayle Forman’s If I Stay and Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall will be attracted to.”

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Cecily’s books, which include That Night, are available on Amazon.  Click the screenshot to go to her Amazon author site for more information.


Please click on the screen below to go to Day 3’s Interview of author Cecily Wolfe.

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*Todd, R. J., & Edwards, S.  (2004).  Information seeking and utilization in relation to drugs.  In M. K. Chelton & C. Cool (Eds.) Youth information-seeking behavior (pp. 353- 386).


Writing From the Heart!

July 10, 2018

DAY 2: Welcome to Day 2 of the Blog Tour for My Colorblind Rainbow!

This is a repeat of my previous review posting for My Colorblind Rainbow.  Since then, author Chanel Hardy has published two additional titles:  a mystery-horror Was It Her? (print and ebook format), and the retelling of Mahogany Tales: Modern Urban Retellings of Classic Fairy Tales.

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A historical fiction that reads contemporary.

Hardy, Chanel.  My Colorblind Rainbow.  132pp. Self Published. $8.99. ISBN978-0692973875.  Ages 13 and Up.  The feedback given by young girls who have read copies of this title have been spell-bounding positive and the feedback by adults more in the negative, of which based on the conservative state I live in, comes as no surprise, yet I am angry at our still slow catharsis move to open-mindedness (sic: don’t know if it’s a word or not) and acceptance.

Touching on the taboo subjects of colorism, race separatism, religious didacticism of the black church (simply from a personal) and acceptable societal appearances this book provides much food for thought and dialogue by its readers. Although I have mentioned the black church, this is prevalent at extreme measures throughout a plethora of religious practices. It’s just my experience in the black church amongst a people that are suffering…to be taught that God’s love is for all people and to go against what is natural to them and ostracize that child from the family circle as was done in this book, due to pride and societal backlash, is insanity to me. I as a mom that carried a child in my womb for nine months and pushed it out to this mean old world would never send that child into the world unprotected from my love, shelter, and support. But these things have always been done and still are, which is why the book reads so contemporary-like.

There is a serious need to address colorism within cultures of color. As long as there is melanin production and skin tone hues, this will exist and as long as we try to act as if this is an insult to our sensitivities, there will be no healing. Colorblind Rainbow, in its compactness, has managed to address this issue from the historical pretense of Durham, NC in the 1940s. This was not the primary purpose, however. That purpose was recognition of the issues faced by one black and one white American adolescent female who identified as lesbian and yet stood up against the pressures of their world to embrace their love and attraction and suffer the consequences.

What makes this book an easy stand-out is that it is historical but reads contemporary due to the gender identity issues. I have personally not read anything addressed to the teen reader that is so direct in the issues of segregation, racism, and gender bias all rolled into 132 pages. It’s short and punching and controversial. In dialogue with some of my white peers, it has been received as text filled with stereotypes. In dialogue with black peers, its an attack on the inside issues of colorism that CONSTANTLY gets pushed to the side and the lacking of social justness from church and society on LGBT issues and the extensive acts of rejection that is dumped on these youth, which is yet another play on the “blind” in colorblind. When you don’t mention it, it doesn’t get addressed. In this book, the blindness was of race, religion, and gender binary, and it certainly is mentioned in what I might say as an eloquent and clean write. There are stereotypes, but I found that more in the black character’s move to Asheville and the white character’s move to the Village (NYC). There’s also the biases that all white people are racist, of which we know is not and never has been true. As Dr. King said in his B-ham letter addressing the issues of whites and racism: the problems will continue to fester due to “the appalling silence of the good people”. So the issue is not the racism of all white people but the silence of those in the majority in reference to the injustice.

We are still not a kumbaya society, as some people think and I personally don’t believe in placing a silencer on issues, but at some point in our development, we need to start teaching truth in our educational system.  Why did it take Trump referencing a Caribbean nation as a pigsty for the news to bring to our attention that nation’s contribution to our own nations fight for freedom to the point of memorial statues placed in public squares in commemoration of members of this nation’s valor? At this point in our country’s development, I am also tired of explaining to someone in the majority why something done to a member of a minority is not fair. Obviously, if it needs explaining…something is wrong.

Many blacks do not like to talk about their intra-group prejudices and are more comfortable speaking on how society treats them on the whole, when in fact, society has also caused them to develop mannerisms against their own kind, due to historical preferential treatment modeled in slavery. This colorism is not just a black American thing. Just look at the pushback experienced by Amara la Negra, the Dominican singer who prefers to wear an afro than a more accepted long and straight hair weave.  This stuff is a metastasized wart. Many whites are uncomfortable in having these discussions.  Many people of color try to not bring this issue up in fear of hurting someone’s feeling, and some black and whites even accuse those that approach the conversation as over-reacting, preferring to overlook the bumps.  This leaves the typography of race, social, and gender biases with a lot of festering sores.

In terms of this independently published title, I say “Bravo, Chanel Hardy! Keep writing from the heart!”


Follow Us to Day 3 of our Tour and the Long Awaited Review on In the Margin’s Website!

Laurie Halse Anderson, Shares Personal Experience on MeToo With New Book “Shout” Due February 26, 2019

June 15, 2018

“Laurie Halse Anderson shocked readers with a book about rape. She’s at it again.”

Author Laurie Halse Anderson as a teen. In her upcoming book, she writes frankly about being raped at age 13. (Courtesy of Laurie Halse Anderson)

Long before there was #MeToo, there was “Speak.” Published in 1999, Laurie Halse Anderson’s semi-autobiographical novel about rape was a bestseller and later a movie starring Kristen Stewart. It remains revered and controversial, appearing on high school curriculums across the country and on the American Library Association’s most-banned-books list.

Now Anderson is stepping up to the microphone again, this time with a little more anger and a little more candor. Her new book, to be published in March by Viking Children’s Books, is called “Shout,” and in it she writes not only about her own experience as a rape victim but also about the pain and heartache readers have shared with her in the two decades since “Speak” appeared.

“Speak,” by Laurie Halse Anderson (Square Fish)

In the intervening years, Anderson has addressed untold numbers of young people — in schools and libraries across the country — about sexual assault. She has shared her own experience of being raped at 13, one year younger than the protagonist in “Speak,” and how, like her, she kept silent about it. (Anderson waited 25 years before telling a therapist what happened to her.)

Going public has turned Anderson into something of a confessor. “I have not spoken at an event where one or two people haven’t come up to me in tears afterward,” she said in a phone interview from her home in Philadelphia.

The notes come to her through email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram — even on crumpled pieces of paper handed to her after events. The message is almost always the same: Me too. I was assaulted by a boy, my friend, my dad, mommy’s boyfriend.

Anderson typically directs young people to groups such as RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) and encourages them to talk to safe adults. But given the outpour — amplified in part by the #MeToo movement — she felt a need to do more.

“I see my responsibility as helping people move away from ‘me too’ to ‘us too,’ ” she says — to create a sense of community to combat the isolation that Anderson felt as a young woman and a rape victim. “I hope that some readers will find it and feel less alone,” she said. “America’s teenagers are hungry for honesty and they are hungry for hope — and that’s what I’m trying to give them.”

Anderson began working on “Shout” in October of last year and says that it came more quickly than any of her other books, which include “Chains,” a National Book Award finalist; “Wintergirls ”; “The Impossible Knife of Memory”; and others, including a graphic novel version of “Speak,”published this year. All told, Anderson’s books have sold more than 8 million copies. Viking has announced a 200,000 first printing of “Shout.”

Author Laurie Halse Anderson. (Joyce Tenneson)

“When I started ‘Shout,’ it was just my rage: Why can’t we talk about these things?” she says. “Watching these brave people speak up as part of #MeToo just let me take the lid off, and that felt good. It was a second liberation for me.”

“Shout” is written in free verse. In the first half, Anderson shares her own experience and how it led to the writing of “Speak.” The second half is what she calls a manifesto about “listening to and reflecting on a culture where sexual violence is rampant.” The language is sometimes graphic and often empowering:

We should teach our girls that snapping is OK, instead of waiting for someone else to break them.

As such, Anderson’s book fits in the growing movement among kid-lit writers to speak out more directly about social issues. Books such as “The Hate U Give,” by Angie Thomas, and “Long Way Down,” by Jason Reynolds, have led to frank conversations about violence and teens. The #MeToo movement has sparked authors to talk about sexual misconduct in their own ranks. The shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., spurred writers such as Raina Telgemeier toward greater activism.

Anderson expects that “Shout” — aimed at high school students and up — will be challenged just as “Speak” still is by some readers who object to its unvarnished discussion of sexuality and violence. But Anderson, now 56 and a grandmother, is undaunted.

“All of those teenagers were kind to talk to me,” she says. “They educated me.” She sees “Shout” as a kind of thank-you note to them and a “shot of advice about how liberating it is when you write about what you’ve been through.”

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