Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Princess in Black Book Club

If I had to choose a fandom that our book club adores (other than Harry Potter, of course), I would choose Shannon Hale and Dean Hale and LeUyen Pham. We are super fans of Shannon Hale's collected works (and her co-authored books) and her work championing children's reading lives and #storiesforall. I've had the particular pleasure of informing my student that there are sequels (that's right, plural) to The Princess Academy, which helped that student restore her love of reading. Rapunzel's Revenge is also a bit hit at my library, especially with the way (spoiler alert!) Rapunzel saves herself. I was thrilled when The Princess in Black series was released and was excited to get an ARC of the latest book for the youngest members of our book club. Their love for Princess Magnolia, Duff the Goat Boy, and even the monsters (Eat Goats!), as well as LeUyen Pham's gorgeous illustrations knows no bounds. I wanted to make sure that our last book club session could be accessible for all ages, so when the kids asked for us to create a The Princess in Black themed book club session, I had to say yes. It was the most ambitious, theatrical, monster-filled book club ever!

My fantastic work study student worked together with one of our book club alumni (the mom of the kids who advocated for The Princess in Black) to create a reader's theater script of the latest book for us to perform. My amazing colleague, Dr. Shira Frost Roth bought us all the fixings to get our Princess in Black cosplay on, as well as goat masks for the Goat Avenger and his crew. We gathered our royal foodstuffs, as is our tradition, and invited our community to join us.

I began the book club by talking about why Shannon Hale and Dean Hale wrote The Princess in Black and the importance of challenging gendered reading. Our group was eager to begin the performance and happy to be given the roles we assigned. I had worried that some of the kids would be upset if they weren't The Princess in Black and planned for this conversation, but everyone demonstrated teamwork and flexibility, just happy to be part of the storytelling. (I still smile when I think about one of the kids who wanted to be in each scene dressed as The Princess in Black but didn't want to act out the role. You do you, my friend.) Adults were able to be silly and free, modeled by the kids. The kids were able to show off their creativity and dramatic flair, even ad-libbing at some points. We made sure to add audience participation into our script, so everyone could be fully engaged.

We were all able to appreciate the delightful language and characters, brought to life in this dramatic way. Sharing The Princess in Black through a reader's theater performance appealed to all ages, from the parents and college students to the youngest children. It also showed the kids that their input is essential to our community, that their interests and voices are heard. Putting children at the center of our final book club of the school year helped us recognize the value and importance of our reading community. Being readers ourselves impacts children's lives forever, which is a kind of superpower.

What happens after book club 

During NerdCamp Michigan, I had the chance to tell Shannon and Dean Hale about our incredible book club experience and how our reading community has united by our love of The Princess in Black. The conversation is mostly a blur from fangirling, but I'm so grateful for the chance to share our story with them.

One of our book club participants told me that her son dressed up as The Princess in Black for Purim, which rocked my world. Take that, gendered reading, conformity, and patriarchy.

Twinkle, twinkle little smash, indeed.

The Princess in Black Resources
Princess in Black Reader's Theater Script 
Reader's Theater Scenery Presentation 
The Princess in Black TeachingBooks 
A Conversation with Shannon and Dean Hale 
The Princess in Black website 
Shannon and Dean Hale introduce a superhero princess in 'The Princess in Black'
Candlewick's Five Questions (Plus One) with Shannon Hale
Shannon Hale: 2016 National Book Festival

And because you're now part of the Shannon Hale & LeUyen Pham fandom (welcome!), you must read Real Friends, which is a graphic memoir that makes me wish for many future true tales by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham. It gets real, which is what our readers are craving. One of my students said to me after reading it, "This is my life." Shannon talked about why she wrote it at #NerdCampMI & believe me, there wasn't a dry eye in the room. She told us she wrote Real Friends to let her daughter & other kids know there's a happy ending. By seeing the child Shannon, they know she turned out okay. Sob. I'm so excited for her NerdTalk to be shared on the NerdyBookCast in the future. Watch this space

Sunday, August 6, 2017

More Lovely to Beckon (Amy Day 8/09)

I wake up every morning with the call to beckon lovely. This isn’t because I’m naturally optimistic with the drive to seek beauty, but because I literally see the words “beckoning of lovely” on my bedside table as my eyes adjust to the sunlight, I begin my day with these words on my mind and I think about Amy.
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I was first introduced to Amy Krouse Rosenthal through John Green and Hank Green’s YouTube channel, the Vlogbrothers. Finding this community of nerds who were unabashedly enthusiastic was a lifeline for me. I strongly identified with the nerdfighter call to decrease world suck. In his video, John described Amy’s idea of “Positive Pranking” as a way to heed that call.

 And here's Amy's original Positive Pranking mission video.

Invited to become part of the “Positive Pranking” movement and desperately needing a way to bring more goodness into the world, my friend Simone and I wrote inspirational quotes on sticky notes and clandestinely affixed them to doors in our neighborhood for strangers to find and enjoy. It made us feel like we were doing something to make the world more beautiful, if even just for a moment.

I attended the Beckoning of Lovely gathering on 11/11/11 at the Bean in Chicago. While I had heard much about these community gatherings that Amy created (and watched the videos from the previous years), events with lots of people fill me with all sorts of social anxiety so I was nervous to participate. But I made myself resist my fear and was incredibly moved by this experience. 

She shared a flyer about her Beckoning of Lovely film, which I used for my end table project. It seems fitting to use something from an experience making things to make an object commemorating an experience (ALA 2013) that really made me.

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I met Amy Krouse Rosenthal at my first NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English conference) in 2011 in Chicago. I was very green to the world of educational conferences and had no idea what wonders I would find. Her presentation with Tom Lichtenheld, “Exploring Language in Wordplay in Picture Books” was a revelation and a window into their creative process. This led to a deep dive into Amy’s work, especially Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life, which magnifies the extraordinary in our ordinary lives. Later, during a signing in the exhibit hall, I was able to tell Amy how much I appreciated attending the Beckoning of Lovely the week before.  

After this experience, I made it a priority to seek out opportunities to see Amy whenever she participated in conferences or literary events like Printer’s Row here in Chicago. During the summer of 2014, Amy hosted a series of summer strolls, which concluded with a final stroll back at the Bean. Again, I pushed myself outside my comfort zone to become part of this experience. It was incredibly intimate and magical experience, with only a handful of people. Amy gave us each a light stick wand to illuminate our way. She revealed an entirely new side of the park and downtown, bringing us to the wishing pond near the Bean and supplying us with pennies. I don’t remember my wish but I remember that it was heartfelt. I was in charge of the chalk for people to write on the sidewalk. I always appreciate being given a job. As we took our walk, Amy made a special effort to talk with each person and get to know them. I was so lucky to spend some time with Amy and share my passion for teaching and literature with her. We journeyed to Buckingham Fountain as the sun set and I pushed myself to strike up conversations with those on the stroll with me, not an easy feat for this introvert.  At the end of this experience, I remember feeling frustrated with myself that I didn’t take full advantage of the opportunity to connect with others, but also proud that I even attempted to join this event. I also felt a fervent sense that everyone needed an experience like the Beckoning of Lovely stroll, where magical and unexpected things were possible. Fittingly, our walk ended at Crown Fountain, surrounded by people playing and splashing in the water, laughing with delight.

Last summer, I had the chance to return to the Bean with my friend Christina, a fellow nerdfighter and gifted writer, to celebrate the release of Textbook: Amy Krouse Rosenthal

I believe kismet follows her; I happened to stumble upon a signing she was doing at BEA in Chicago and received a galley of this phenomenal book, but more importantly, had a chance to reconnect with her. I was so moved when Amy remembered me from the stroll, which truly meant so much to me. Unlike other Beckoning events where I went alone, I was graced with a friend who shared the bliss of being in the presence of Amy's creativity, vulnerability and humor. Christina brought rocks for us to decorate for Amy, which we both did. We watched in awe as Tom Lichtenheld made incredible art. We got to celebrate the announcement of Amy Day from the city of Chicago. Christina and I had the opportunity to take a picture with Amy and express our love for all of the things she made. It was magical and meaningful.

This past March Amy passed away and we wept. Many were introduced to her for the first time through her Modern Love piece, You May Want to Marry my Husband. I struggled to put into words how Amy had impacted my life. These small moments are everything and yet, they did not seem to have form. Just being in her presence made me more aware of being alive - and her work called me to try to live my best life, to, as she always said, “Make the most of your time here.”

*Purchase this poster from Blue Bunny Books, created by Peter H. Reynolds. Proceeds from the sale of this poster will be donated to the AKR Yellow Umbrella Foundation.

I had told my students to make found poem as a creative practice - and had my answer. I created a found poem about Amy after immersing myself in other’s responses and using their words to express myself. Holding back tears (barely), I told them about Amy and read my poem to my students.

Amy Krouse Rosenthal Found poem 
Made of articles, videos especially Christina's below, eulogies, her own words, her Modern Love piece, tweets and other words not my own because I can’t find the words

I wish you more
days of yellow umbrellas
beckoning at the bean
for the sole purpose of making something
Positive pranking
random acts of kindness
more stories than stars
On March 13, Amy Krouse Rosenthal died
No wonder the word cancer and cancel look so similar.
Plan “Be,” existing only in the present
This plus that
All done + time to go = the end
I wish you more umbrella than rain

Amy's genius was in her generosity
something from nothing
we sang songs
we drew on rocks
we felt gratefully at home in her presence and somehow instantly more alive
we knew her through the words she wrote
For her, writing wasn't a way to make a living. Writing was living.
In the incredibly generous spirit of making the world a better place
blessed to have shared the journey
we’ll miss you—your stories will be with us forever
She loved words, ideas, connections.
the goddess of picture books
lived life in the moment
We're here because, we're here because, we're here

A Modern Love story
Amy’s final essay,
titled You may want to Marry my Husband
written under the most difficult of circumstances,
a love letter to her husband Jason,
was the ultimate gift to him and also to the rest of us
She seemed, quite appropriately, powered by love
As a parent, a writer, a spouse, and a friend,
Amy Krouse Rosenthal was who I wanted to be when I grew up
No one saw the world the way she did
“Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?”
At the very least, I want to look at trees a million more times. Is that too much to ask?”
life’s seemingly small moments are not really small at all.
the ordinary is the extraordinary

A legacy of love and beauty and kindness
a delicate friendship based on small things that feel huge
you made us all a bit more lovely
“My first word was 'more.' It may very well be my last.

Later, during our Humanities unit, I read I Wish You More aloud, listened to Emily Arrow’s song and created our own “I Wish You More” art. For my storytelling class, I collected their I Wish You More art (inspired by the #moreforakr community, especially Kirby Larson) into a collaborative poem to help my students make something more together and see themselves as poets.  

We left them displayed in our classroom long after the semester ended, which I hope inspired others who encountered them.

I was lucky enough to visit Carrie Secrist Gallery's Amy Krouse Rosenthal: A Beauty Salon exhibit the day it opened and mingle among the crowds of fans and friends. According to Carrie Secrist Gallery, “All of Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s (AKR) work had a profound simplicity to it. Whether it was her children’s books, adult books, visual art, happenings, musical events, videos, radio segments, or performances, she made the ordinary into something extraordinary. Her focus on the magic in seemingly small, mundane things cultivated a sense of community and universality. AKR: A Beauty Salon will be an amalgam of experiences designed to encourage visitors to experience and participate in the generous creative energy that AKR represented and offered.” I made my mark on the wall, explored the Little Pea dummy, compelled myself to beg for a quarter for the missions machine, and discovered books by Amy that I had never seen before, including The Book of Eleven.

Pages from newly discovered book by Amy, The Book of Eleven
Was this the origins of the Beckoning of Lovely? 

Was this the beginning of This Plus That: Life's Little Equations?

And now we’re going back to the Bean on Amy Day on 8/9/17. On August 9 at 5:05, we will meet at the Bean, at Cloud Gate, and celebrate Amy Krouse Rosenthal. We will then walk in a Yellow Umbrella Parade to the Carrie Secrist Gallery for talks/presentations/performances. More information can be found here.

I hope you will join in celebrating Amy Day, whether that's in person in Chicago or wherever you are, seeking ways to beckon lovely. As Amy said in her 2012 TEDxSMU talk, "We all of us together beckon and harness enough lovely together to save the world."

I'll be there with quarters to spare for anyone who needs them.

Amy’s influence will continue to shape me and anyone who has ever known her or encountered her work. As I was working on this blog post and trying to travel back in time to my experiences with Amy, I came across this video that I had completely forgotten. In this video, Amy speaks the words that I sent her for my friend, Simone. I had failed to share this video with her in the past, so instead, she received this message now, when she needs it the most. 

So even now, Amy continues to bring so much goodness and light into my life. She brings me more.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Mock Newbery 2017

On the night before the ALA Youth Media Awards, I finally remembered that I haven't posted about our annual Mock Newbery program, which doubles as our Book Club's anniversary. It helps us take stock of how our community has grown and changed over the year. It has been a singular joy to have new people join us, especially children who bring a unique perspective to our discussions and provide a constant reminder of why we do this work. It's also wonderful to reconnect with alumni and former classmates, who have brought their children to our book club. (And now I feel old...) From generation to generation, indeed. We were also honored by the presence of my fellow 2015 committee member, Janet Thompson, who always adds so much to our discussions! For this year program, we tried to be a little less ambitious (not that we really know how to do that) and limit the amount of books we would put on our list to allow for more discussion time. We got into some amazing conversations about the importance of access to information, stories within stories, the logistics of drinking moonlight, questions we ponder, and much more! 
Our Mock Newbery is customized to provide more of a booktalk style so everyone can engage in the experience. Our group votes for the books they are most interested in reading next. The winner of our Mock Newbery becomes our first book we read in the spring semester. This tradition helps our participants maintain a sense of ownership and agency. Each year we try to provide John Newbery-style products (like that pincushion of yesteryear) that connect to our list. It's always great fun trying to come up with creative connections to the stories. Here are the products we shared this year:

Booked by Kwame Alexander 
(Soccer-themed pencils for poetry writing & chocolate soccer balls)

The Girl who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill 
(Moonlight vials with warning labels (people really shouldn't drink them), star cookies and candy)

​The Inquisitor's Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog 
by Adam Gidwitz, illuminated by Hatem Aly 
(That's onion soup with cheese, of course)

When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin
(Red candy inspired by the Red Stone)

 As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds
(Genie's notebook for recording all of our questions, courtesy of Dr. Roth)

The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner 
(Fish candy (thanks to Carrie S.) and hot chocolate)

A Poem for Peter by Andrea Davis Pinkney, 
illustrated by Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson

(Snowflake lollypops, courtesy of Dr. Roth, made by Illinois Nut & Candy)

Catching a Storyfish by Janice N. Harrington 
(Origami fish)

The Winner of our 2017 Mock Newbery is.... 

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

We will read this book for our first book club in the spring (in February), as is our tradition. 

Our Honor books are: 

The Inquisitor's Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog 

by Adam Gidwitz, illuminated by Hatem Aly 

As Brave as You by Jason Reynolds


Sunday, October 2, 2016

Unlocking Curiosity’s Door: Stranger Things Podcasts #StrangerPodcasts

If there’s one thing about me, it’s that everything reminds me of podcasts. I consume them like auditory popcorn, my appetite for captivating stories unable to be sated. My curiosity knows no bounds. Memories of podcasts invariably pop up during random conversations and reader’s advisory sessions, compelling me to make connections and share recommendations. I am a librarian, after all… So as I binge watched Stranger Things, (some of it with the sound off and my finger on the fast forward button, just in case), my mind instantly went into the realm of podcasts, the audio Upside Down. I considered the hidden worlds within ours, character-driven, fascinating, beautifully designed, sometimes macabre, maybe even nostalgic stories. Stories that might make our skin crawl at times, but we are utterly transfixed, offering humor within terror, bravery in the dark, magic beside monsters. After all, the world we know often has stranger things than we can dream of… so here are some of my podcast recommendations for Stranger Things fans who are now waiting with bated breath for Season 2. 

With its slogan “movies for your ears,” The Truth offers immersive and dramatic short stories that linger within your mind. You will need to listen with headphones on to fully appreciate their exceptional production and sound design that takes storytelling to the next level. Surprising twists and turns are the hallmarks of The Truth episodes - but you’ll never see them coming. You will probably gasp in surprise while you’re riding the train and strangers will give you disapproving looks, but really they’re just jealous of the delights inside your ear drums. My absolute favorite episode of The Truth is Sylvia’s Blood, which is based on Philip K. Dick's short story "Upon the Dull Earth,” about a woman who has a connection with angel-like creatures who are not as they appear to be. If you enjoyed the nostalgia of Stranger Things and the continual D&D references, Chaotic Neutral, an episode about a game of Dungeons & Dragons gone awry is a great place to start. Ever think about the possibility of worlds underneath our feet in the subways of the past? Then you’ll love In Good Hands. The Truth has just released one of their creepiest, spine-tingling episodes yet, Sleep Some More, about Dan’s college roommate who talks in his sleep about authorial intent and blood. It’s perfect for back to school! You will also definitely want to check out The Truth’s new series, Songanauts.  The basic premise is “Doc, Penny, & Jojo had a band that was going nowhere...Until they found a drum machine that transported them into their songs.”It’s sort of a musical Upside Down as the band travels into another dimension and has to battle anti-music for the sake of mankind. It’s meta, humorous with an 80s cartoon flair, with great, catchy songs! Also, there are ducks and cookies.

I heard about Cthulhu on Here be Monsters and then Cthulhu followed me on Twitter; that can’t be a coincidence. The real world can be infinitely stranger than what we imagine in our fiction. Here Be Monsters dives into the unknown, into our deepest fears, to the darkness within and without. The experience can be unsettling and jarring like any jump into uncharted territory. Encountering people who live and think differently is one of the best parts of the podcast revolution and is the hallmark of Here Be Monsters stories. My favorite episode, Flaming Sword of Truth, is about Patti Negri, a witch who uses astral travel/astral projection during her sessions. The lines between journalist and subject blur during this episode in unexpected ways. Listening to Here Be Monsters often feels like astral projection into other worlds and reveals how much there is still to know about each other. Here Be Monsters has something to satisfy everyone’s curiosity from a tales of a girl who pretends to be dying to a Satanic Prayer Hotline to an Etsy Witch to crow funerals. You will never be the same after giving Here Be Monsters a try.

Like Here Be Monsters, Lore exposes the underside of reality, but it is the tales of the past that intrigue creator, Aaron Mahnke, who crafts creepy, artfully polished tales about the darkness within mankind. Told like the best traditional tales (add your own digital campfire app) by a natural storyteller, Mahnke uses haunting musical scoring and exceptional writing (as the author of supernatural thrillers would) to weave his truly frightening tales from folklore, myth, and history. Simplicity is key in Lore; with just his voice, Mahnke transports listeners deep within the woods, off the beaten path, and into the shadows. They are made all the more gruesome by Mahnke’s detailed research that creates an auditory painting that awakens the senses. I appreciate the way Mahnke draws conclusions at during each episode about the nature of the tales and our drive for scary stories, especially within the context of the society and history. Why are we obsessed with tales of the undead and keep retelling them (I'm looking at you, Twilight)? Why do we tell our children stories like Hansel and Gretel and other macabre cautionary/traumatizing tales and why are the woods so darn appealing? (Curious about the origins of the term "step" as in stepparents or stepchildren? Check out The Allusionist with Helen Zaltzman, where Aaron Manhke stops by to share how this terminology evolved.) Lore offers insights to these questions and more, leading us inevitably to even more questions.

With the tagline, “storytelling with a beat” Snap Judgment stories are provocative, humorous, engaging and moving - and also terrifying, chilling, unbelievable and weird. They do it all. The synthwave score of Stranger Things definitely matches the style of Snap Judgment. They know how to create musical cues that make you feel all the things. The host, Glynn Washington, always starts each episode with a story of his own that frames the entire episode and shows how to tell compelling personal stories. You never know what curious things you’ll encounter on an episode of Snap. Some recommended episodes to get started include Monsters, Superheroes: Origin Stories, Crossing Borders and Tales from the Library. Each year Snap Judgment produce a very special Halloween episode called “Spooked” that is perfect listening to fill your horror stories fix. Get ready for Spooked VII, which is purported to be the scariest one ever! You should also check out Campfire Tales I & Campfire Tales II for more creepy tales. You will also probably want to leave the lights on afterwards. You’ve been warned. 

We’re all nerdy about something, whether it’s D&D, Goonies, E.T., Buffy, The X-Files, or science fiction shows on Netflix that we binge watch way too late at night (hypothetically). Nerdette Podcast hosts Tricia Bobeda and Greta Johnsen help us embrace our inner nerds and fuel the fire by talking to some of the most interesting people on the planet, from scientists, comic book creators, comedians, writers, musicians, the works. (They also host the delightful Nerdette Recaps Game of Thrones with Peter Sagal Podcast that is worth listening to.) The Venn diagram between the interests of Stranger Things viewers and Nerdette Podcast guests is probably a straight up circle. If you love Eleven and the ways gendered tropes are subverted, you’ll love their Great Lady Nerds of History segments and their plethora of awesome nerdy women guests. Pick a person you admire and chances are the Nerdette Podcast has interviewed them, so it’s easy to start listening now. You can also be part of the show by sharing your Nerd Confessions. With the Nerdette Podcasts, you can most definitely fill the void with other wonderful nerdy things until Season 2 - and then after Season 2 and so on. 

What I loved most about Stranger Things was the nuanced character development. I couldn't stop watching it because I cared about the characters who were facing incredible odds and almost unsurmountable challenges. How much more so when those stories are true and extraordinary lives are captured on tape. Lea Thau, the creator and host of Strangers, produces powerful, intimate conversations with people that feel like you're with friends, listening in. Strangers stories are "about true stories about about the people we meet, the connections we make, the heartbreaks we suffer, the kindnesses we encounter, and those frightful moments when we discover that WE aren’t even who we thought we were." Oftentimes people can even be strangers to themselves and we join them on the journey of self-discovery, which makes for incredibly compelling radio. Some of my favorite episodes include the first episode, A Father's Story -- Then and NowHenry and Jane, The Teacher Who Couldn't Read, and Falling Slowly. I also appreciate Lea's willingness to be vulnerable, sharing her own tales of heartbreak in the Love Hurts series. Strangers is a catalyst for empathy, a window and mirror into worlds unknown, a dose of human connection.  Is there anything stranger than the way we're all not so different after all? 

And because I am a librarian, I must share some Stranger Things read-alikes.

The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste is one of my favorite books to booktalk to encourage students to read without walls. I have hesitated to read suspenseful, scary books but once I read The Jumbies (at the recommendation of a young voracious reader - always trust kids' reccs), basically in one sitting, hooked and unable to turn the lights off at the end of the night, I knew that I had foolishly limited myself from experiencing incredible worlds and wonders. In The Jumbies, Corrine does not believe in the folklore on her Caribbean island about the fearsome creatures who reside in the forest - until she comes face to face with a jumbie with an agenda of her own, one that may change Corrine's life forever. Suspenseful, riveting, engaging, thought-provoking, and delightfully creepy and spine-tingling. 

I wish I could give The Order of Odd-Fish by James Kennedy to Lucas, Dustin, Mike, and Eleven, as well as the young actors playing these characters. I think they would appreciate the outrageous fantasy that dances a tightrope between humor and horror with rapid-fire literary wit. It has at times been associated with Lemony Snicket, Roald Dahl, Douglas Adams, Hunter S. Thompson, Eddie Izzard, Douglas Adams, J.K. Rowling, H.P. Lovecraft, Monty Python, Franz Kafka, and Lewis Carroll. The story revolves around an awesome, 13 year old heroine who is labeled as dangerous. Seriously. Sound familiar? Jo Larouche is left in her Aunt Lily’s laundry room with a note on her blankets: “This is Jo. Please take care of her. But beware. This is a DANGEROUS baby.” Through a series of strange events, Jo leaves home for otherworldly Eldritch City and “there, Jo learns the scandalous truth about who she is, and she and Lily join the Order of Odd-Fish, a colorful collection of knights who research useless information. Glamorous cockroach butlers, impossible quests, obsolete weapons and bizarre festivals fill their days, but Jo’s dream turns to nightmare when she learns that instead of a hero of Eldritch City, she may in fact become its destroyer.” The Order of Odd-Fish defies quick summarization, but once you start, not even a demogorgon will tear you away from its pages. There is the Belgian Prankster. Apology guns. An apocalypse prophecy. A Dome of Doom. Aznath, the Silver Kitten of Deceit. There are parfait-like layers here for readers curious enough to dare to unlock them. 

Set in the 80s. Check.
Bikes. Check. 
Mystery only kids can solve. Check. 
Sharp Dialogue. Check. 
Otherworldly creatures up to no good. Check.
Here's the premise of Paper Girls: "In the early hours after Halloween of 1988, four 12-year-old newspaper delivery girls uncover the most important story of all time. Suburban drama and otherworldly mysteries collide in this smash hit series about nostalgia, first jobs, and the last days of childhood." 

Enjoy stories with a great ensemble cast, people taking friendship to the max, mysterious supernatural goings-on, and bewildered adults? Then you'll love Lumberjanes! Jo, April, Molly, Mal and Ripley are campers who encounter strange creatures at Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiquil Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady-Types and work together to solve mysteries. The Lumberjanes are the heroes our young readers need and deserve. 
"It came from the woods. Most strange things do."

Truly terrifying graphic (in both senses of the word) horror tales that are beautifully creepy and unforgettable. These dark fairy tales are sure to satisfy your craving for scary stories, but maybe don't do what I did and read it right before going to sleep. And by that, I mean the night of no sleep. But that's the sign of a good book staying with you...literally. 

Neil Gaiman's 2009 Newbery award winning book, The Graveyard Book, is perfect for Stranger Things fans. Actually, his entire collected works is certain to satisfy readers eager for tales of otherworldly realms within ours, beautiful, heart-expanding writing, and characters you carry with you. So go read that, too. The Graveyard Book is about a boy, Nobody "Bod" Owens, who is adopted by the eternal residents of the graveyard and grows up among the headstones and crypts. The Graveyard Book has everything our crooked hearts can dream of (and some things we can't): murder, dancing with ghosts, a witch, friendship, folklore, coming of age, and exceptional prose. As a master storyteller, I highly recommend listening to the audiobook read by Neil himself. You can also check out the Audie award-winning full-cast version. And don't forget to explore the beautiful graphic novel, illustrated by P. Craig Russell. This and also this may delight you. 

Other fabulous people have created reading lists that I have compiled here. 
Betsy Bird's booklist for adults and kids 

What would you recommend to Stranger Things fans?