Friday, August 31, 2018

What My Book Club's Been Loving

Several years ago, my sister-in-law proposed starting a family book club. I posted about it way back in 2015 when we first started and we've been going strong, meeting nearly every month since then. Our book club has grown beyond strictly "family", but I consider them all part of my family, so we've kept the name.

We typically meet once a month and rotate who is hosting. Our meetings are typically on a weeknight evening and the host provides dinner and wine. Two of our ladies have young kids and they are always welcomed with joy - although we DO talk about books at book club, it's also a great time for us to get together and check in and snuggle babies and tickle toddlers.

As we've continued to meet, I think we've found out what types of books different book club members enjoy and what we all tend to gravitate towards. Our favorite books are stories of women and we often have conversations about feminism and female life. Some members prefer lighter books, some prefer heavier books, and I think we end up with a pretty good mix. Here are some of the books that have provoked the best discussions.

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover (Random House, 2018). This was our most recent read and we found it absolutely riveting. It's the true story of a young Idaho woman raised by off-the-grid end-of-days preppers with no schooling (not even homeschooling, really). Westover eventually realized that the only ticket out of her abusive family life was to go to college, so she taught herself to take the ACT, got into BYU and eventually earned a PhD from Cambridge. Our book club was amazed by her story and we talked for a long time about the difficulties she faced, the hardship of having no power as a woman in her family's culture, how schools might or might not "brainwash" students, what it would be like to life without modern medicine or hospitals, and more. 

Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain (St. Martin's Press, 2013). This was my first Diane Chamberlain, but it won't be my last. This is a historical fiction story based on real events. In the 1960s poor women were sometimes sterilized, sometimes without their consent, if they had real or perceived disabilities. Ostensibly for their own good, but also to keep the state's welfare bills down. This story follows a newbie social worker and a poor pregnant teen as they deal with the ramifications of this program. This one was a particularly good match for our book club because among us we have a social worker, a lawyer, a doctor, and two pharmacists. We all had lots of opinions to share about this little bit of American history. 

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (Penguin, 2017). This story, set in the planned community of Shaker Heights, OH, explores the concept of belonging (and not belonging) in many different ways. A custody battle over a Chinese-American infant threatens to split the town apart and we had a deep conversation about culture and nurturing children. Further reading for book clubs who discussed this book is the upcoming memoir All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung, adopted by a white couple in infancy, she decides to search for her Korean-American birth parents when she gets pregnant with her first child. 

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (Viking, 2017). Eleanor is, of course, NOT completely fine, but her truth is slowly revealed to the reader as we navigate her quest to meet and marry the man with whom she's fallen in love-at-first-sight. We talked a lot about the different characters in this book and how they related to Eleanor, as well as the reveals throughout the book and how they made us feel. This is a must for lovers of character-driven stories. 

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult (Ballantine, 2016). When African-American labor and delivery nurse Ruth Jefferson is requested to be reassigned by the white supremacist parents currently giving birth, things get complicated when the baby goes into distress and Ruth is the only one in the room. The baby dies and Ruth is accused of murder, starting a court case that will change her life and the lives of many others. This was a book that encouraged some deep discussion about race and privilege in our multigenerational, varying degrees of wokeness book club. 

What books have started the best discussions in your book clubs or among your friends or family?

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Diversify Your Booktalks - YOUR SUGGESTIONS!

Last week, I had the pleasure of presenting a breakout session at the Indiana Library Federation's Youth Services Conference. This conference (formerly called CYPD) is one of my favorite learning experiences for youth librarians - it's completely youth-centered, they always have amazing authors, and they have great sessions with practical ideas for programs and services. It was my pleasure to join them briefly to talk about diverse books!

Of course, in a 50-minute session that included info on resources for seeking out diverse titles to add to your booktalking and reader's advisory rosters, I could only include so many books. So I asked attendees to chime in and suggest their own favorites. And I now present our compiled list!

Here's the handout from the session, complete with everyone's additions. Y'all doubled the books I had on my list and added some really awesome titles that I'm so glad you shared! This is a GREAT list to work from if you want to read more diverse books.

And for everyone playing along at home, feel free to leave your suggestions for great diverse books you love to include in your booktalks, reader's advisory, and displays. Comments are open below!

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Sun Does Shine

So, a few years ago I read Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson's book about his work with the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice serving the poor and wrongly condemned. One client that he writes a lot about in that book is Anthony Ray Hinton, a man condemned to Alabama's Death Row for a crime he didn't commit. In 2015, after living on Death Row for 30 years, the charges against Hinton were dropped and he went free. The Sun Does Shine is his story in his own words.

You don't need me to tell you about this book - it's Oprah's latest Book Club pick and hopefully it's everywhere you look. What you might need me to tell you is that it is a compelling, readable story that's definitely worth picking up. This is one of those books that should be required reading for all Americans.

Hinton's the first one to tell you that he's not been perfect his whole life. He went behind the back of his girlfriend, dating her sister on the side, he even stole a car and served time for it (after he brought the car back and confessed). But when Hinton was accused of robbery and murder even though he had a solid alibi, he was astonished to be convicted and sentenced to death.

Hinton's book really puts the reader in his place as he writes about life on Death Row. He writes about trying to comfort his fellow inmates when they were upset, even though he couldn't physically go to them. He writes about the book club he started so that Death Row inmates might have something to occupy their minds besides their own impending deaths. He writes about banging on the bars of his cell whenever an inmate was taken to the electric chair (and later lethal injection) so that inmate would know he was not alone.

It's riveting, terrifying stuff and this book made me cry and it made me shake with anger. It is well worth the read for anyone, but especially anyone who read Bryan Stevenson's book will not want to miss this book.


For more about the Equal Justice Initiative and Bryan Stevenson's work with Hinton and other inmates, don't miss Just Mercy (2014, Spiegel & Grau). It's written with less immediacy than Hinton's memoir, but it's a fascinating look at the failures of our justice system.

Readers also may be interested in The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander (2010, The New Press).

For another devastating true story of an innocent person convicted of a crime, pick up A False Report: A True Story of Rape in America by T. Christian Miller & Ken Armstrong (2018, Crown). This nonfiction book tells the story of a young woman who was raped and reported it but the police did not believe her story and accused her of false reporting. In fact, she had been raped and the rapist went on to attack more women.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

A Day in the Life

What does a Collection Development Librarian do all day long? Read on to find out. Click on the Day in the Life tag to find more (most recently for my collection development position, but older ones are from my Youth Services days).

8:00am - Arrive at work and start checking in books for Our New Branch! We're opening our first branch in a couple of weeks and it was time to get the books we'd ordered up there.

8:30am - While our processor keeps working on checking in new books, I decide I should process the weekly magazines that have arrived so I can go ahead and get those out to patrons who might be waiting for them. To do this, I barcode them, input the new issues into the system, mark our spreadsheet with the issues that have arrived, and put a "current issue" sticker on them so patrons know they don't check out yet. Newest issues of magazines can be read in the library, but only later issues can check out.

9:00am - I help a staff member collect the book drop (we always have two people get it together for safety reasons). When we come back in, a patron's waiting to use the meeting room, so I head down there and unlock it for her. Even though I'm in a behind the scenes position now, we all pitch in to help patrons whenever needed.

9:15am - Back in the office, I resume checking in the new books for the branch. Because it's a floating collection, the books are cataloged and processed just like the books for our central location, but they'll circulate as part of the branch collection for as long as the branch wants them. Patrons at either location can place holds for materials at either collection.

9:50am - I start setting up a placement experiment on Collection HQ for the titles that have been mentioned on our staff blog. Each month I set up this program to track the circulation of those specific titles so I can gather data on how our blog might be affecting circulation.

10:25am - Our Marketing Coordinator stops by for a chat about the blog - we talk about new users recently added and troubleshoot why the RSS feed is not working after changing the blog's URL.

11:00am - Time to head to the branch to deliver the new books! My staff in Collection Development come along since they have not yet seen the new location. They head back after about an hour, but I stay to try to get the books in some kind of order. When our new Branch Manager takes over, she may rearrange or relocate them, but I at least want her to be able to make sense of what we have. We have a VERY small physical collection since it's a tiny space. We're concentrating on digital access and our Makerspace up there.

1:15pm - Back at the central library, I now head home for lunch.

2:15pm - I'm back from lunch and I work on an Overdrive order of ebooks and e-audiobooks. I try to place an Overdrive order every week, even if it's a small one. Having new stuff added regularly encourages patrons to log in regularly and see what's new. I've found that it's really working to increase our circulation of our ebooks.

3:00pm - I finish up the Collection HQ placement experiment.

3:30pm - I need to investigate changing the email we use as contact for our Gale Courses and as I'm looking into this I fall into a little rabbit hole of marketing materials for our databases. I start brainstorming some ideas about how to increase their usage and make some notes about ways to market them.

4:00pm - Our new Branch Manager stops by and I show her the photos I took of the books at the branch and explain how I arranged them and basically how the collection works and what we think the procedure will be for moving materials around and handling holds both at the branch and the central library. Since this is our first branch, this is all new to us!

4:45pm - We wrap up our conversation and I have just enough time to check Library's Journal's Book Pulse and add some books to my weekly carts. I try to place orders once a week, but I work on the carts a little bit each day.

5:10pm - Got that under control, time to head home!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Path to the Stars

I was never a Girl Scout, but reading Path to the Stars: My Journey from Girl Scout to Rocket Scientist by Sylvia Acevedo has made me want to be one. This memoir written by the CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA is an engrossing book for those who like to learn about life in a previous decade. This book comes out September 4, so put it on your purchase list now - you will want this for your library!

Sylvia grew up poor in a small town in New Mexico. Her world was small - she mostly interacted with her family and a close circle of friends in their close-knit neighborhood. When her family bought a house in a more affluent - and white - part of town, Sylvia found herself on her own, not knowing how to bridge the gap between her experiences and the experiences of the white kids at her school. Her teachers assumed she was behind in school because of the lower income school district she had transferred from and put her in remedial classes.

All this changed when Sylvia was invited to a Brownies meeting with a classmate after school one day. There, Sylvia began to learn skills that she wouldn't have otherwise had access to. Her parents were not planners, they were not savers. In Girl Scouts, Sylvia learned how to plan for events and be prepared. She learned how to budget by selling cookies to fund the events her troop wanted to do. Eventually Sylvia's mother and younger sister got involved, as well. Her mother gained skills in money management by volunteering to help with the cookie sales. Sylvia's involvement with the Girl Scouts not only enriched her life by teaching her new skills, but it enriched the life of her entire family.

Sylvia Acevedo speaks so well and so passionately about the skills she learned in Girl Scouts and how they helped her gain confidence and build a future for herself that I found myself wishing I could go back in time and join myself. I kept flagging page after page where she writes about the various ways that the Girl Scouts helped her develop as a person.

This is an inspiring book about one girl building a future for herself and not giving up on her dreams, even though she was repeatedly told that girls couldn't fix cars/be scientists/etc. Repeatedly, Sylvia was shown ways that men and boys had more value than women. Her brother was given a library card without even asking for one, but when Sylvia asked for one, she was told she had to save up $5 to cover the late fees in case she wasn't responsible with her books. Through the Girl Scouts, Sylvia began to learn about her own value and that she could develop the skills to have any future she wanted for herself.

Of course you'll want to hand this memoir to passionate Girl Scouts, former Girl Scouts, and troop leaders. Also give it to kids who enjoy reading about others' real experiences or are curious about what childhood was like in the 1960s.


Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tonya Lee Stone (Candlewick, 2009) is another gripping story about women who are told they can't, but they go on trying anyway. Readers who are interested in more books about women in the sciences despite odds being stacked against them may enjoy this one.

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai (Little, Brown, 2014) is another memoir of a girl facing odds stacked against her and coming out in support of the education of women. Readers interested in personal stories about women standing up for their rights to have an education and careers may enjoy this one.

First Girl Scout: The Life of Juliette Gordon Lowe by Ginger Wadsworth (Clarion Books, 2012) is a great choice for readers who are Girl Scouts or who are interested in the history of the Girl Scouts.

Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio by Peg Kehret (Albert Whitman, 1996) is another great memoir to suggest to kids who are curious about what life was like for children growing up in the 1950s and 1960s.

Book info: 

Path to the Stars: My Journey from Girl Scout to Rocket Scientist by Sylvia Acevedo. Grades 5+ Clarion Books, September 2018. 320 pages. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

What I'm Reading

I'm in one of those periods where there are SO MANY BOOKS I want to read RIGHT NOW that I keep starting new books, even though I'm already in the middle of a bunch of great ones. I spent yesterday cleaning things out and putting together this brand new reading nook since I finally found a chair that I liked:

So of course all I want to do is sit in this sunny spot and read away! Here are the books I've got going right now: 

All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir by Nicole Chung (Catapult, October 2018). This one's eligible for the next LibraryReads selections, nominations due by August 20. It's a memoir about cross-cultural adoption. Korean-American Chung was adopted by a white couple in 1981 and spent her life navigating the world not knowing anything about her birth family. Celeste Ng called this one a book that everyone should read and I can see why. When my book club read Ng's Little Fires Everywhere we had a heavy debate about the adoption portrayed in the book and this memoir would be a great choice for book clubs who had similar debates! The e-galley is available on Edelweiss, so go get it today!

The Kinship of Secrets by Eugenia Kim (Houghton Mifflin, November 2018). This is another one that I'm seeking out for potential LibraryReads nomination. It's historical fiction set in the 1950s about two Korean sisters, one who is living in America with their parents and one who was left behind in Korea with other relatives. There have been so many great books about Korea lately and I'm so into it. I've only just started this one, but it seems right up my alley. 

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (Pocket Books, 1985). This one is for Book Riot's Read Harder Challenge, which calls for a western this year. I was glad to see this category on the challenge because I've never really read any traditional westerns and we have some library patrons that are die-hard fans so I've been meaning to pick some up. 

Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins, narrated by Kim Staunton (HarperAudio, 2016). This is another one for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: a romance novel by or about a person of color. I've actually already read one that would count in this category, but as soon as I saw it I knew it was time to try Beverly Jenkins. This one is historical (might also count as a western!) and I'm enjoying it on audio so far. 

Pitch Dark by Courtney Alameda (Feiwel & Friends, 2018). #Ownvoices YA horror set in space with a Latina protagonist. Yes, please. From the publisher summary: "In space, nobody can hear you scream . . . but on the John Muir, the screams are the last thing you'll hear."

Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, October 2018). I was hoping beyond hope that I'd get approved for an e-galley of this title because I keep hearing such great things about it. Contemporary YA about a Muscogee (Creek) teen dealing with relationships and figuring out life. I've only just started it but I already love it. 

Whew! I have a lot of reading to do! What are YOU reading??

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Darius the Great is Not Okay

You guys, I can't get Darius out of my head.

Darius is a teen who's half Persian and half white and he feels like that doesn't actually add up to a whole.

Darius loves tea and Star Trek and Tolkien. He feels like he's never good enough and that his dad is always disappointed in him. He's never had a true friend... until he meets Sohrab. Sohrab cares about him and makes his feel valued and seen and connected to... but the problem is that Sohrab lives in Iran and Darius is just visiting with his family.

There are so many things I loved about this book.

Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorran is a realistic story of a teen living with mental illness. Darius and his dad both have diagnosed depression and take medication. When Darius visits Iran, a country where mental illness has a seemingly impossible-to-overcome stigma, he's forced to confront his brain chemistry in a different way.

Darius's thought patterns are so realistic for someone with depression and anxiety. Throughout the book I wanted to pick him up and give him a hug or sometimes shake him. But his thoughts are his reality. The reader may realize that Darius's dad cares for him, but to Darius the reality that he's experiencing is that he's worthless and no one cares. That he doesn't have a place. This is exacerbated by his feeling like an outsider in many different ways - in America he's different because he's Persian, in Iran he's not Persian enough.

This is a story about a boy having feelings who feels like he's not allowed to have feelings. I think this is probably something that is pretty prevalent no matter where you're growing up, and it's great to read about a protagonist who not only has feelings but remains true to himself by expressing those feelings. Darius feels like he's an outsider no one will love because he can't help that he is the way he is. He doesn't realize that people might look up to him for staying true to himself even when it makes him an outsider.

Throughout the book there's this chorus of "That's normal. Right?" usually said about stuff that is not really okay with Darius. And the journey in this book is Darius beginning to realize and accept that sometimes he's not okay. And that it's okay not to be okay.

I loved experiencing and learning about details of Iranian life through Darius's story, too. Because Darius is visiting Iran for the first time, he's learning a lot too, so his sharing of details and explanations feels very organic. And I personally loved the Star Trek jokes throughout the book - not every reader will get those and that's okay, but it added something extra for those who are familiar with The Next Generation.

I'd hand this to fans of John Green looking for more thoughtful teen protagonists. It's out August 28, so pre-order now!

Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorran. Grades 7 and up. Dial, August 2018. 320 pages. Reviewed from galley provided by publisher.

Monday, July 30, 2018

What My NieceS are Into

My niece S just turned two and she is still SO INTO sharks. She has also increased her repertoire of words to include just about any sea creature you can imagine. She had the most amazing ocean-themed birthday cake for her party a few weeks ago:

Of course whenever I am reading reviews of board books or picture books I look for anything that she might like. I came across a new board book that looked super cute AND it was on super sale at Amazon, so I scooped it up and added another recent gorgeous board book that I had purchased for the library. 

Hello Humpback! by Roy Henry Vickers and Robert Budd (Harbour Publishing, 2017) is a gorgeous book featuring animals of the Pacific Northwest. The text is super simple and the illustrations are just so beautiful. It's a great book for talking about the pictures and naming different animals, including some that are rare to find in books like skate, halibut, and prawn. Roy Henry Vickers is a First Nations artist and this book truly celebrates the diverse life found on the West Coast. This would be a perfect gift for kids living in or visiting the Pacific Northwest or for any little ocean lover. 

Goodnight, Seahorse by Carly Allen-Fletcher (Muddy Books, 2018) is another gorgeous book about sea creatures. The text is very simple - each spread says goodnight to a different sea creature as seahorse heads to bed - but this one also includes some unusual words like wobbegong and lionfish that go beyond your typical book sea creatures. The back of the book identifies many of the background creatures found throughout the pictures and it would be fun to go back and search for them all. 

So, some new ocean books for my niece annnnnd I bought a book to welcome my new niece (!!!) due in September! 

We Sang You Home by Richard Van Camp, illustrated byJulie Flett (Orca, 2016). This has become one of my favorite new baby books to give. I touched on this one a little bit in a previous post, but I want to expand on that. This board book is written by a First Nations author and illustrator and features a family welcoming their new baby. The words are so affirming and perfect for reading to a new baby: 

We give you kisses to help you grow
And songs to let you know that you are loved
As we give you roots you give us wings
And through you we are born again

and so forth.... Just a beautiful message in a beautiful book that features a First Nations family but with a message that is so universal. 

I can't wait to welcome a new niece and find out what things she will be into as well! 

Thursday, July 26, 2018

If You Leave Me

1950s and a Korea at war in If You Leave Me by Crystal Hana Kim.

The country is splitting in half and Haemi feels like she's splitting in half, too. Her family has fled their village due to the fighting and they're now refugees, surviving day to day. And Haemi has a choice to make. She is in love with her childhood friend Kyunghwan and he loves her back... but another boy in the village, Jisoo, has proposed marriage to Haemi. Jisoo is well off, he can provide for her family, while Kyunghwan has nothing but dreams. Haemi yearns to follow her heart with the boy she loves, but her heart cares just as much about her ailing little brother who desperately needs food and medicine. Haemi must make a choice that will affect not only her own life but the life of her family for generations to come. And that's only the beginning.

I loved this multigenerational novel set in Korea during and after the Korean War. It was a book that I just wanted to keep reading forever because I loved the characters and I was fascinated to see how their choices took their lives in different directions. Crystal Hana Kim writes with such emotion and her prose is heartbreaking; I felt like I was living the story along with the characters. Readers get the story from multiple points of view allowing us to see the story from different perspectives.

The setting is just as important as the characters as there are many parallels between a country being split apart and the characters being split, caught between their desires and reality. The book brings the Korean War to life, too, illuminating how families were literally split - if your family resided north of the dividing line you would likely never see them again.

This book is out August 4 - preorder now!


Hand this to readers of multigenerational historical fiction. I would press this into the hands of Pachinko's many fans (Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, Grand Central Publishing 2017) or readers of The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (Knopf, 2013). Readers of character-driven historical fiction set in wartime like The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (St. Martin's Press, 2015) will also enjoy it.

Book info: 

If You Leave Me by Crystal Hana Kim. Adult. William Morrow, August 2018. 432 pages. Review copy provided by publisher at ALA.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Stopping by Bookstores on a Summer Afternoon

This past weekend my husband and I drove down to Nashville, TN for a long weekend. We had a ton of fun and one of the things I wanted to do was stop by one of my favorite independent bookstores, Parnassus Books. This is a wonderful bookstore co-owned by author Ann Patchett and I love to stop by whenever we find ourselves in Nashville and have a little time.

As a librarian I don't often need to purchase books. I have a whole library at my disposal and I often get access to galleys and e-galleys. But it's important to me to purchase books by diverse authors so that I can show publishers with my DOLLARS that I want diverse books. It's one thing to show them with my words, which I try to do, and with my library dollars, but I also want to show them with MY PERSONAL DOLLARS. So much better when I can do that and support a great independent bookstore at the same time!

I was so impressed by the diverse selection offered and displayed by Parnassus Books. They had diverse and own voices books heavily on display and faced out. There were many diverse books among their staff picks. They are doing what all libraries should be doing: championing marginalized voices and providing access!

Here are the books I ended up purchasing:

Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li (Henry Holt, 2018) was prominently on display as a staff pick and I have read some great reviews of it. Kirkus called Li "a writer to watch" and I love immigrant stories. 

I picked up The Book Club Journal off a display of the store's recent and upcoming book club selections. Although I already have a notebook designated as my book club journal, this one is specifically designed for the task with space to keep track of where the club met, what food and drink was served (always important!) and everyone's thoughts about the book. 

And of course I had to pick up some board books for my niece(s). I was so excited to see that they had two copies of We Sang You Home by Richard Van Camp, illustrated by Julie Flett  (Orca, 2016) on the shelf! This is a super sweet board book perfect for welcoming a new baby and it's written by a First Nations author. It features a First Nations family and the message of welcoming and surrounding a new baby with love is so universal. It's the perfect first read-aloud and will be my first gift to my new niece (ETA late September)! More on that in a future post. 

I also grabbed one of the newest Baby Loves Science books - Baby Loves Coding by Ruth Spiro, illustrated by Irene Chan (Charlesbridge, 2018) - and The Babies and Doggies Book by John Schindel and Molly Woodward (Houghton Mifflin, 2018). 

Monday, July 9, 2018

Summer Xylophone

This summer, my husband made us a PVC Pipe Xylophone for the front porch of our library.

A xylophone made of PVC pipes. 

Here is where we found instructions to make it: How to Make a PVC Pipe Xylophone by Frugal Fun 4 Boys.

We delivered it to the front porch of our library where it has lived musically since June 1 when our Summer Reading Program started.

I bought a handful of flyswatters and doctored them with fun foam to make a "mallet". They didn't walk off as I thought they might, but the fun foam only lasts so long with regular use as a mallet, so I have made two replacement "mallets" so far, which is about what I expected.

The signs are posted in our windows. 

I also made up some signs that we posted on the front windows near the xylophone to give families ideas of what to do with it. Most used, I believe, have been the songs. Since the pipes are color coded, anyone can play these color coded songs, no musical ability or music reading required. I'm posting the PDFs here and you're welcome to use them or edit them if you'd like to use them at your library:

The Xylophone cost about $75 for the supplies and my husband donated a day to working on it for us. If you don't have a handy partner, colleague, or friend or if you yourself are not handy, it might be worth asking your local hardware store if they know anyone who might volunteer their time and skills to build it. 

It's been well worth the effort to see people of all ages interacting with it, experimenting with sound and creating music! 

Friday, July 6, 2018

Spinning Silver

You know the story of Rumpelstiltskin? They got it wrong. It's really just a story about paying back a debt. So begins Miryem's story in Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik. In Litvas, a land with a constantly encroaching winter, Miryem's family is starving. Her father is the local moneylender, but he's so softhearted that he will never collect what he's owed. So Miryem takes over and finds out that she has a skill for moneylending and making deals. When her ability to take silver and turn it into gold attracts the nearby magic folk the Staryk, rulers of ice and snow, Miryem finds herself captured by the King of the Staryk in a bargain that means much more than she knows.

So, Miryem is such a great, great character. She sees her family is in trouble and she takes matters into her own hands. She ends up not only saving them from starving, but building a comfortable life for them. Miryem is a lady with ambition. And, just as it does in so many cases, that ambition attracts some trouble. The townspeople are bitter that they can no longer get away with shirking their debts. And the Staryk see what she can do and want to capture that power for themselves.

And that's just one part of the rich tapestry that is this fantasy novel. We also hear from Wanda, a local peasant girl who comes to work at Miryem's farm to pay off her father's debt. And Irina, a plain girl whose father is determined that she will marry the tsar, no matter how unlikely that seems at first. All of their fates are intertwined, though none of them know it at first, and how they're connected is slowly revealed as you read farther and father.

This is a great summer read for when the temperatures are climbing. The magic land of ever-growing winter will have you shivering even as the heat index soars outside. This is a story of strong women who use their minds to solve problems and who refuse to settle for what society seems to want for them. There's a rich tapestry of magic here, too, and it's not always easy to see who the good guys are.

If you like fairy tale retellings and fantasy that completely transports you to another place, pick up Spinning Silver. This book is published for adults, but I think there's a lot of teen crossover appeal, too.

You might like this book if you liked:
  • The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (Del Ray, 2017). This is another rich, transporting fantasy novel that you can really sink your teeth into. It features a strong heroine and magic and a similarly cold and sweeping Russian-ish setting. 
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik (Del Ray, 2015). Novik's previous standalone fantasy novel won a Nebula Award for best novel. Based on Polish fairy tales, this is another story with a strong heroine, a rich forested fantasy setting, and lots of crossover appeal for teens. 
  • East by Edith Pattou (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2003). This fantasy novel is actually written for teens, but I think there's a lot of crossover potential for adults. This one is a retelling of the fairy tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon. Readers who like sussing out fairy tale retellings and strong girl characters will enjoy this one, too. 
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik (adult, with teen appeal). Del Rey, 2018. 448 pages. Reviewed from e-galley provided by publisher. 

Friday, June 29, 2018

The Kiss Quotient

So, I am a romance newb. In my new position developing adult collections, I'm trying to read a little bit of everything. I thoroughly enjoyed this romance I think because it has some great characters that are easy to root for.

Stella, a thirty-something economist in California, is feeling pressure from her mom to be in a relationship and maybe get married and have babies. Not super surprising, right? But for Stella, a woman on the autism spectrum, being in a relationship is not quite as simple as it seems. There's a guy at work who seems suitable, but Stella feels particularly uncomfortable with the physical side of relationships, something she knows will probably get in the way. So she decides to approach this problem like she would a problem at work. Need to know something? Get some training! And she hires an escort to teach her how to be better at sex. Of course the escort she ends up with turns out to be super hot, smart, and kind. Stella knows she's can't fall for him - this is just a financial and educational arrangement, right?

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang is a fun, steamy romance novel with characters that will stay with you. Even though Stella has to work hard at relating to people, she's a protagonist you'll love and root for. And you'll love her dreamy escort Michael, too. The heat here rivals our Southern Indiana summer heat for sure. This is one of those books where you just keep rooting for these crazy kids to get their acts together and end up together!  And since the author is also on the autism spectrum, you know she's writing from an authentic place.

There's a lot of talk about the amount of diversity in romance publishing (hint: it is lacking), so this is a great book to know about and to put on your library shelves for your patrons.


Readers who prefer modern day romance novels with likeable and well developed characters may also like The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory (Berkley, 2018). For more steamy stories among a diverse group of characters, pick up Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswall (William Morrow, 2017). And readers who enjoy the theme of a character with autism looking for love may enjoy The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (Simon & Schuster, 2013).

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Huang. Adult. Berkley, 2018. 336 pages. Reviewed from e-galley.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

What My Niece is Into: Swimming!

We had the absolute pleasure of going on vacation with my family earlier this summer and my niece (almost 2) is so into SWIMMING! She's made huge strides (strokes?) even just since our vacation a month ago. When my brother brought her to our parents' condo for Father's Day she could swim the entire length of the pool by herself (floaties on, of course, but no help from Auntie Abby!).

So, when I saw this book had just come out in board book format, I knew we needed it for our collection:

Fruits in Suits by Jared Chapman (Abrams, board book edition June 2018). Jared Chapman wrote and illustrated one of my favorite SURE BET readalouds, Vegetables in Underwear, which works with a wide range of ages and is hilarious to all. This book is a similar concept - fruits in all kinds of swimsuits - and it's just as adorable. Swimsuits aren't quite as funny as underpants (nothing is, really), but there's the one fruit who doesn't get it and tries to go swimming in his business suit. And of course someone tries it in its birthday suit! With bright, funny illustrations and a swimming theme, it's just the thing my niece is into right now!

This one's also available as a picture book, which would be a better format for sharing with groups. Try this one in fruit or food themes storytimes, summer or swimming storytimes, or insert wherever you need something to elicit the giggles.

Review copy purchased by moi.

And two more recent swimming books, which are a little old for my niece right now (toddler attention span, dontchaknow), but are still awesome are:

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall (Candlewick Press, 2017). Jabari is so ready for the high dive this summer, but it turns out it's not quite as easy as he thinks it will be. It's... awfully high. Maybe he ought to do some more stretches first. And he needs to figure out what kind of awesome dive he's going to do... Or maybe he just needs some special encouragement from his dad. (Review copy provided by my local library!)

Saturday is Swimming Day by Hyewon Yum (Candlewick Press, 2018). Saturday is the day for her swim lessons, but one little girl has a stomachache. It turns out she always has a stomachache when it's time for swimming lessons, but one kind instructor's gentle encouragement can make all the difference. This is a great choice for kids who are reluctant to learn to swim or afraid of the water. (Review copy provided by my local library!)

Monday, June 25, 2018

Musical Petting Zoo

Image of an orchestra playing
This is a program I have wanted to do for literally years and with our Libraries Rock summer reading theme this year, this was the summer to do it: a musical petting zoo. I was inspired by Anna's awesome marching band storytime (a post from 2013, so you can tell how long this has been percolating!) because band was one of the great loves of my life as a kid. I wanted to present a program that might inspire young kids to want to pick up an instrument.

First, I needed a partner. My first choice was to recruit teen volunteers because I wanted to give teens a chance to show their talents and talk to younger people about their music. Teens learn so much from opportunities where they can teach and lead others, so I knew I had the opportunity to make this program a double-whammy: a learning experience for young children and a leadership experience for teens. I didn't really have any connections to the music programs in my local schools, so I started with some cold emailing. Luckily, I hit the jackpot and our local high school orchestra teacher was excited to bring some of her students in for the program.

In addition to the orchestra students, I was able to recruit adult volunteers to play the harp and accordion (!!) and a staff member who plays the trumpet. I also brought in a few instruments that I play (with wildly varying levels of expertise): a flute, a piccolo, a guitar, and a ukulele. You don't have to actually play instruments yourself to make this program happen. Many musicians are happy to demonstrate their talents to inspire future generations of musicians.

If I hadn't hit the jackpot with my high school volunteers, I next would have reached out to local community orchestras (we have a couple around here), college music programs, or local music stores. You can even put the call out to your colleagues, Board members, and Friends of the Library. Many more people play or own instruments than you might expect!

Here's what we did at the program:

The orchestra kids had just finished up a week of "summer strings" and had some pieces they could play for us, so we started with them playing a few songs so the attendees could hear how the instruments sound playing together. Then I asked each of the kids and volunteers to talk a little bit about their instrument and play a little scale or something so we could hear what the instruments sound like on their own.

After we'd gone through all the instruments we had, I told the audience it was time for the "petting zoo" part of the program. They could come see the instruments up close, touch them or play them if it was okay with each musician, and ask any questions. I also put out a box of student rhythm instruments (triangles, tambourines, etc.) that we had as part of our storytime props.

I learned a ton at this program, too! I had never actually seen a harp up close and Ms. L showed me what the pedals are for and how she tunes it. Mr. T showed us the inside of his accordion so we could see what hitting the keys does.

I had intended to read some books at the program and had pulled Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin by Lloyd Moss, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman (Simon & Schuster, 1995) and The Remarkable Farkle McBride by Jon Lithgow, illustrated by C.F. Payne (Simon & Schuster, 2003), but with the way our audience trickled in there wasn't really a great opportunity to do that. I did pull a book display with titles our families could check out afterwards. I had also thought about pulling some teen books that would appeal to musicians and doing some brief booktalks for them, but I wasn't sure how many kids would be coming, so I skipped this. I would definitely add it next time because I think I had some teens who would have been into it.

Both attendees and volunteers had a great time and we had a nice turnout, which is especially pleasing on a Saturday for us. There were a lot of in-depth conversations happening about different instruments and I hope that more kids will now be inspired to pick up an instrument or take music classes when they have the chance.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Saturday Reads

Sadly, I am not at the ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans. I am following along via Twitter and hoping my colleagues bring me back lots of great galleys.

Happily, I am in the middle of some great books! Here's what I'm reading Right Now:

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik (Del Ray, July 2018). This book comes out the day before my birthday! Happy birthday to me! It's a rich fantasy retelling of Rumpelstiltskin by the author of the rich fairy tale novel Uprooted, which I also loved. This one's atmospheric and haunting - in a world where all fear the ice faeries the Staryk, a teenage girl catches their attention by turning silver into gold.

Miryem is the daughter of a terrible moneylender. Terrible because he can't bring himself to force people to repay their debts, so Miryem's family starves which those who borrowed their money (her mother's money) live fine lives. When Miryem has finally had enough of starving and watching her ailing mother's health decline, she takes her father's account books and starts collecting the debts owed to her family, bringing them fortune but also attracting the attention of the Staryk. If you're looking for a fantasy fairy tale to sink your teeth into, do pick this one up when it comes out next month. If you enjoyed Katherine Arden's The Bear and the Nightingale or Novik's previous fantasy retelling Uprooted, you will like this one, too.

The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, May 2018). This one has been my pool book for the past week and UNFORTUNATELY it's been rainy and busy this week, so I'm still at the very beginning. I loved Goo's previous YA romance I Believe in a Thing Called Love and so far this one is standing up to it. It's funny and I can't wait to see what will happen next - maybe I can make it back to the pool tomorrow?!

And on audio, I have Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of WWII by Liza Mundy, read by Erin Bennett (Hachette Audio, 2017). I'm only at the beginning of this one, too, but I'm drawn in by this untold women's story. It's reminding me a lot of Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly and Rise of the Rocket Girls by Nathalia Holt, both of which I enjoyed a lot. Many women were recruited from top colleges to join the US Navy and US Military as code breakers during WWII. Why don't we know their stories? Now we will. Historical feminist nonfiction is my jam, so I think I'll enjoy this quite a bit.

What have you been reading lately?

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The Summer of Jordi Perez

This book is just what I wanted to kick off summer: a light, fun romance with enough meat on its bones to keep it interesting and great characters. I would definitely recommend starting this season with The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding. I mean, just look at that bright rainbow cover and you know what a fun book you're getting into.

When Abby scores the fashion internship of her dreams at a boutique store near her home, she's determined to do a good job. She's heard that this summer internship usually leads to a part-time paid position in the fall and Abby is determined to get the job and start her career in fashion. She has no idea she's going to meet the girl of her dreams, fellow intern Jordi Perez. Abby goes to school with Jordi and rumors fly about how Jordi committed arson and went to Juvie, but all Abby can think about is how good it feels to earn a rare Jordi smile. Oh, and the fact that they're competing against each other to earn the fall job.

And Abby's got abundant free time to obsess over Jordi since her best friend is newly in a relationship and her older sister is not coming home for the summer for the first time ever. Luckily, a new unlikely friend, lacrosse-playing Jax, recruits Abby for a quest to find the best burger in Los Angeles. And Jax is a ready sounding board for Abby's pursuit of her crush. 

The combination of summer romance, a quest for burgers, and Abby's passion for fashion made this a really fun read that's perfect for light summer reading. I really appreciate Abby's body positive attitude - she's defined vaguely as "plus sized" - and her quest to enjoy and promote fashion fun at all sizes. I also think this was a very realistic portrayal of a bigger girl being body positive but also being unsure about some things. Abby doesn't love having her photo taken and refuses to post her own photo on her fashion blog. She's self-conscious about being in a swimsuit, even just with her friends. Even though Abby's on the path to body acceptance and she's an advocate for enjoying fashion at any size, she's still got her hangups and that's very realistic.

This is a light romance without a lot of physical action, so a good choice for teens who like romance but don't want graphic physical scenes. Hand it to teen romance fans looking for a breezy, fun summer read.


Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour is another teen lesbian romance that has a similar light, romantic tone and gives a peek into the world of film production much like Jordi gives a peek into the world of boutique fashion.

I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo is another light teen romance with an upbeat, breezy tone and that doesn't have a lot of physical romance.

Book info: 

The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding. Grades 7+ Sky Pony Press, April 2018. 224 pages. Review copy provided by my local library. 

Thursday, May 31, 2018

#MiddleGradeMay Wrap Up

It's been a blast concentrating on reading middle grade books this month. Now that I'm not a youth specialist anymore, it's easy to let that reading slip as I'm concentrating on building up my skills in other areas of collection development and reader's advisory. I read some great books this month and had a lot of fun recording some video booktalks to highlight books to go along with Akoss's weekly themes.

I read a lot of the books from the TBR pile that I started with, but not all of them. And I ended up picking up some other titles as I was inspired to throughout the month. I did a lot of reviewing, as you may have noticed, and it was great to get back in the habit of writing in depth about what I'm reading.

Here are the middle grade books I read this month (some pictured above):
And speaking of middle grade... are you following Heavy Medal, SLJ's Mock Newbery blog? Usually they are quiet this time of year and pick up the discussion in the fall as we approach award season, but this year they're compiling suggestions of titles just like the actual committees do. I LOVE this not only because it gives a greater feel of what being on the actual committee is like, but because it gives all of us a head's up on what books we might want to pay attention to because they're getting award buzz. 

Each month, anyone can submit up to 4 suggestions of already-published eligible books and the Heavy Medal bloggers are compiling the suggestions, grouped by number of suggestions. So if you're wondering what middle grade to check out this year, books with multiple suggestions on their lists are good bets to be books people will be talking about. This is a great resource for collection development, too!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

#MiddleGradeMay: The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora

Save the restaurant, save the world.

Okay, not really, but it feels that way to Arturo in The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya. Since before Arturo was born, his family has run their restaurant La Cocina de la Isla. La Cocina is a special place in a close-knit Latino neighborhood. Arturo's abuela knows every regular customer by name and it's a place where many in the community feel like family. Now, it's being threatened by a developer who wants to move in and build condos and destroy their neighborhood.

In addition to saving his restaurant, Arturo's trying to win over the girl of his dreams, his god-cousin Carmen who's come to visit for the summer after the death of her mom. She's into poetry and activism; how can Arturo get her attention? And he's starting his first kitchen job in the restaurant - not a prep chef like he'd imagined, but a dishwasher which is harder than it sounds!

It's a lot for one thirteen-year-old boy. Can Arturo make it work? Or will it all be an Epic Fail?

I don't know why I waited so long to pick up this book, but I'm so glad I did. It won a Pura Belpre honor, so that definitely tells you something. I fell in love with Arturo and his family and their neighborhood. This is a great story about the power of people to stand up to bigger, richer forces and defend their neighborhoods and their way of life. It introduces the concept of gentrification in a way that makes sense and really digs into the issues surrounding it. Arturo and the other kids in his family really take an active role, seeing the urgency in their situation even as others in his family want to pretend it's not happening to protect their ailing abuela from the devastating truth.

It's funny and it's serious, which is my favorite kind of contemporary story. I like to laugh AND cry.

I listened to the audiobook, which is read by the author and it's great. Pablo Cartaya is an actor, which makes sense since he reads really well and does voices for the characters. Audiobook is a great way to experience this book if you, like me, don't always know how the Spanish words should be pronounced. Or if you're just looking for a fun listen. This would be a great family listen for families with tweens, too.

Hand this one to activism-minded kids or kids who like realistic stories about kids making a difference in their communities.


An oldie but a goodie: Hoot by Carl Hiaasen about a kid trying to save the burrowing owls in his Florida home from development, this is another book for kids who want to save the world.

The tone and characters of the book reminded me a lot of Gordon Korman, so maybe try Ungifted. And readers looking for stories about boys told with a mix of humor and serious subjects might like Ms. Bixby's Last Day by John David Anderson. 

For kids drawn to Arturo's experience in the kitchen and restaurant life, hand them All Four Stars by Tara Dairmen.

For kids looking for more stories about Latino families, try Enchanted Air by Margarita Engel, Stef Soto Taco Queen by Jennifer Torres, or Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar.

The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya. Grades 5-9. Viking, 2017. 230 pages. Audiobook is 5 hours and 6 minutes. Review copy provided by my local library. 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

#MiddleGradeMay Week 5: Diverse Books!

Whew! What a month it has been! I don't know about you, but I have really cherished the time I spent this month dedicating my reading to middle grade books. I read more than I normally do and I read and blogged about some truly great books. Let's hope I can keep the momentum going as we head into summer. (My first summer in 10+ years that I will not be stressed out about the Summer Reading Program...)

Our final week of Middle Grade May 2018 is all about diverse books. Akoss asked us to talk about books that portray diversity in an uplifting way. I couldn't narrow it down this week, so I have six booktalks for you with some of my favorite recent diverse reads.

Books mentioned in this video:

Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokski (Disney-Hyperion, 2018)

The Serpent's Secret by Sayantani DasGupta (Scholastic, 2018)

Stef Soto, Taco Queen by Jennifer Torres (Little, Brown, 2017)

The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste (Algonquin, 2015)

The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Perez (Viking, 2017)

Rebound by Kwame Alexander (Houghton Mifflin, 2018)

How'd your Middle Grade May go? Did you read some great middle grade books? I'd love to hear about them - let me know what you've been reading!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

#MiddleGradeMay: Ghost Boys

You guys. This book. My heart. I just... This is one not to miss if you've got kids asking questions about social justice or things they've heard (or seen or experiences) about police violence. It's incredibly tough and beautiful, and it would make an excellent conversation starter.

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes is narrated by Jerome. Jerome wasn't doing anything.

He was playing.
In his neighborhood.
With a toy guy his friend had given him.

Until he wasn't.
Until he was shot.
Until he died.

Now Jerome's stuck as a ghost. He desperately wants to move on; he doesn't want to see his family in pain. He doesn't want to see them moving on and living their lives without him. But Jerome, and all the ghosts of boys killed due to racial injustice, can't move on.

The first ghost that Jerome gets to know a bit is the ghost of Emmett Till who was killed in 1955. That's a lot of years for ghost boys to be waiting for change, for the world to get better so that there stop being more ghost boys.

This book absolutely broke my heart. It's a hard read. And it says such important things. It starts a conversation essential to have with middle schoolers.

The only character in the book who can see Jerome as a ghost is Sarah, the 12-year-old daughter of the police officer who killed Jerome. Not only does this show essential similarities between the two children - they're the same age, they're the same height even though Officer Moore describes Jerome as being massive and threatening - but it humanizes Officer Moore. He's a person. He made a terrible decision. He has a family. His daughter cares what happens to him. As Sarah learns more about the trial and hears corrections from Jerome about what went down that day, she has to figure out how she feels about her father and what she's going to do with those feelings.

Middle school kids who aren't ready for books like The Hate U Give or How It Went Down need this book. This is an essential purchase for library shelves. It deserves to be read widely and taught and discussed.


Readers looking for more moving stories of atrocities against people might try How I Became a Ghost by Tim Tingle, narrated by a Choctaw boy who does not survive the Trail of Tears.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

#MiddleGradeMay: The Parker Inheritance

A great middle grade mystery story puts child heroes into the position where they are the only ones who can solve the mystery. Sometimes it's because they don't trust the adults in their lives enough to involve them. Sometimes it's because adults aren't present. And sometimes it's because the adults around think the mystery is a joke. The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson is one of the latter kind.

Candice is spending the summer in her late grandmother's house due to some complications with her separated parents and their house in Atlanta. When she meets Brandon, the boy across the street, and discovers that he loves reading almost as much as she does, she thinks she might have found a friend. And when she discovers a long-forgotten letter in her grandmother's attic, a letter that speaks of a fortune hidden in town awaiting the person who can solve the puzzle, she knows she and Brandon have to try to find it. Her grandmother tried and failed. But now Candice has another chance.

Everyone thought Candice's grandmother was crazy for pursuing the Parker Inheritance, and when she didn't find it, they forced her to resign from her position as City Manager. So of course everyone thinks that the fortune is a myth. And it's going to take two kids with the power to believe and the perseverance to solve the clues to figure it out.

Candice and Brandon begin to decipher the clues in the letter, a challenge that will lead them to research the town's history, racial injustice, forgotten heroes and a true love story. But can two kids do what no adults have been able to do in decades? Can they solve the mystery before time runs out and the answers fade back into the past?

Kids who like puzzle mysteries and solving riddles are going to eat this up. And it's a story with meat on its bones. As Candice and Brandon are researching, they discover a lot of unsavory stuff that happened to the African Americans who started the whole thing in the 1950s. They learn a lot about their families and their town and themselves as they try to piece together where the fortune came from and where it might be hidden.


Hand this one to kids who like puzzle mysteries. Then also hand them any or all of the following:

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (Puffin, 1978). The original? fortune-hunting children's mystery story, this is still a classic beloved by many. Candice reads it in the book, a fitting homage.

The Emperor's Riddle by Kat Zhang (Aladdin, 2017). Take an armchair travel trip to China as Mia tries to find her aunt and maybe a fortune beyond imagination.

Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald (Dial, 2014). This art history mystery will especially appeal to kids who like the historical and research themes in The Parker Inheritance.

The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson. Grades 4-8. Scholastic, 2018. 352 pages. ARC provided by publisher.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

#MiddleGradeMay Week 4: 2018 Debuts

This fourth week of #MiddleGradeMay is all about those debut authors and there have already been some FANTASTIC debut books coming out this year! I'm really excited to tell you about four of my favorites that have come out so far this year in the video below. (Do you like the videos I'm making? I am a totally newbie at YouTube, but I have been enjoying it.)

Books mentioned in this video:

Front Desk by Kelly Yang (Scholastic, May 2018) - comes out next week on May 29!

P.S. I Miss You by Jen Petro-Roy (Feiwel and Friends, March 2018)

Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake (Little, Brown, March 2018)
Whoops - this is not actually a debut novel, but it is Blake's first middle grade novel and also I want you to know about it, so I'm leaving it in there!)

Like Vanessa by Tami Charles (Charlesbridge, March 2018)

These debuts are awesome! You should definitely check them out and I hope that we'll