Sunday, July 19, 2020

Dog Man (Virtual) Programs

This post is based on a blog post I wrote for Lincolnwood Public Library here on August 30th, 2019.

The Dog Man series by Dav Pilkey is a perennial favorite in our libraries and classrooms. We often literally cannot keep them on shelf because passionate readers check them out repeatedly. They get read and re-read and re-read and fall apart and have to be purchased again - and wouldn’t have it any other way. (If you haven’t read them yourself, I highly recommend it so you can engage with young people and their caregivers with knowledge about the zany hijinks, the delightful cast of characters, page-turning plot, wonderful art, and especially for grown-ups, talk about the powerful redemption arc that happens because of (spoiler alert) love.)

During one fateful Lego Club, I was chatting with a group of kids about their reading lives and they expressed their interest in us hosting a program about Dog Man by Dav Pilkey. I love being able to create programs based on young people’s requests and focus on their interests. Oftentimes we have to guess what they will enjoy, but with Dog Man, we know their fandom is strong.

Our Dog Man program took place in August 2019, so we hosted an in-person book release party for children K-5 and their caregivers. Many of the activities we did could easily be adapted for a virtual program, whether it’s live or an asynchronous program. I hope you will find these ideas and resources helpful. Feel free to add your ideas in the comments.

Book Birthday Video Ice-Breaker 
We started our program by making a movie! We gathered copies of the Dog Man series, along with three copies of the new book to raffle away at the program, for the kids to hold. We then made a joyous “happy book birthday” video for Dav Pilkey, which was shared on our social media accounts. It made my day when I saw that Dav Pilkey saw our fan video, liked it and commented on it.

And you are in luck! The next book in the series, Dog Man: Grime and Punishment, is coming out on September 1, 2020, so it’s the perfect time for a virtual book party! You could have patrons submit short “happy book birthday” videos to compile or tag your library/school. You could also create a video together during a live event - and then share an edited version on your social media feeds. (And if you already have your fall programs set, no worries because Dav Pilkey’s new series, Cat Kid Comic Club, which is designed to help young readers create their own comics, will be released December 1, 2020.)

Watch Videos
I always approach programs with the expectation that young people may not have had the chance to read the texts we’re discussing - so I can plan to make it as accessible and welcoming as possible. We started our program by watching a series of videos, including the For Whom the Ball Rolls Trailer. You can watch the latest Dog Man: Grime and Punishment trailer below.

We also watched a fascinating video with Dav Pilkey sharing the origins of Dog Man and his struggles with school. Some kids shared details that they knew from reading the author’s notes in the back of the Captain Underpants series. They were impressed that the idea for Dog Man came to him in 2nd grade! One young person shared that his differences became his superpowers. Since creating this program, there are even more incredible videos you can share. Make sure to check out the  collection of videos from Dav Pilkey at Home that offer drawing tutorials, behind-the-scenes insights, and read alouds.

Dog Man Storytime 
We then hosted a reader’s theater performance of the first chapter of the new Dog Man. We asked kids to play different characters – and the entire group was responsible for the sound effects and group parts.  Ann, our Early Literacy Librarian, led this fun activity, reading the narration dramatically and hilariously and signaling everyone when it was their part. This can easily be adapted into a PowerPoint Presentation that can be screen shared and parts assigned. (We scanned in the first chapter and did some editing to make the panels appear as we read the scenes…) I actually think the visuals can be more accessible for readers virtually, rather than having to strain to see a large screen in front of them in person. You could also type up the script and share that with readers ahead of time. (As always, be mindful about copyright. Please and thank you.)

Dog Man Scavenger Hunt 
But then… disaster struck when Dog Man and Petey were cloned throughout the room and it was up to our intrepid fans to find them. Our group divided up between the two rooms with their clone scavenger hunt sheets in hand. Their job was to find all of the clones by their numbers. (Dog Man + math, for the win!) Many kids pointed out that they really enjoyed this part of the program on the evaluations. One awesome kid proudly proclaimed that he had found all the Petey clones, so when others had trouble, he kindly helped them find the ones they were missing. When people completed the scavenger hunt, they handed in their sheets to get a post-it for our Supa-Epic raffle.

This activity can definitely be adapted for at home experiences. You can create Grab n’ Go Program kits with copies of the scavenger hunt. You could encourage caregivers/siblings to set up the scavenger hunt before the program. (Make sure to put them in visible places; it’s no fun if you have to move stuff to find them…) If you’re doing this live, I’d definitely add a timer so that everyone reconvenes at a set time. I think it’s also important to establish that it’s okay to not find all the clones - or to find them later. While people can’t physically hand in their sheets, you can include everyone in a virtual raffle for taking part in the program. You can access the Scavenger Hunt here.

Flip-O-Rama Craft 
We were then ready for our requested craft: Flip-O-Rama. We had tables full of art supplies, Flip-O-Rama templates, post-it flipbooks, and flip book templates to color. We put diagrams of how to draw the characters on the board, along with some Flip-A-Rama examples. Kids could participate in whatever way they felt comfortable. It was powerful seeing kids create art and be creative in their individual ways. You could always provide Flip-O-Rama directions and templates to use during the program and/or explore on their own. There are tons of templates and examples you can find online. Giving lots of options and freedom to create however they like is vital to this experience. It was incredibly helpful to have some already created Flip-O-Rama art along with blank templates to ensure everyone could participate. You could also provide handouts for drawing your own comics and tutorials for drawing characters from the Cat Kid Comic Club. There’s even super adorable Cat Kid Comic Club stickers you can print and add to your Grab n’ Go Program kit.

Do Good 
Our group was then given the opportunity to join Dav Pilkey in his Do Good campaign to make a positive impact in their community. Knowing our kids’ passion for animals, I knew the perfect way to Do Good together. Everyone enthusiastically accepted the challenge to create dog toys to donate to shelter dogs. You can learn how to make dog toys by following the video below. I actually put already started dog toys in our swag bags since I knew it would take too long to teach everyone how to make the dog toys. This activity is perfect for Grab n’ Go program kits. Patrons can drop off completed dog toys at your library/school to donate to a local shelter, you could partner with the shelter directly, or they could share their toy with a pet in their life. Doing good always starts at home. You can talk with your group about ways they want to do good and create future programs based on their feedback.

We ended our program by having everyone complete an evaluation about how the program went and how we can improve. This could always be adapted into a Google form. We gave everyone who completed the form a swag bag - but you can include merch in your Grab n’ Go Kit so they get it for joining the program. We also raffled off copies of Dog Man: For Whom the Ball Rolls and a MerryMakers Dog Man stuffed animal. You could easily do this with an online raffle generator with the names of the people registered for your program. You can hopefully partner with your local independent bookstore to purchase these items, as well as offer booksales for your program.

Supa Buddies
For our in-person program, I am grateful to have the help of Supa Buddies, Ann, Emily, & Matt who helped out during this program, ensuring everything ran smoothly and getting some amazing videos and pictures to capture this memorable event. It’s just as important to enlist help for virtual programs to manage the technology, moderate discussion and provide support for leading the program. I know it’s been invaluable having a buddy for the virtual programs I’ve been offering - and I’d recommend making it part of your planning process. Plus, it’s so fun to share this experience with your colleagues.

Grab n’ Go Program Kit
Knowing that this program is bound to interest many patrons, I’d suggest making extra Grab n’ Go Kits so even if people miss the live program, they can still enjoy the experience at home. There are so many amazing resources you can print out and include in your kits. The ALA store also has some wonderful bookmarks you could purchase to add to your kits including Dog ManVamos! Let's Go Read, and Reading Without Walls.

Dog Man Readalikes
But now I know you’re facing a quandary: your young reader has read ALL of the Dog Man books and is hungry for more hilarious, engaging, and fun books to explore! It’s a frequent question I have received at my library - so this was the perfect opportunity to curate some amazing readalikes. I put the readalike list in our swag bags.

Make Comics 
There are lots of wonderful ways you can extend the learning related to your program. One of the best ways is to help support young readers in creating their own stories by inviting authors to join you for comics workshops. I attended a fabulous virtual Miami Book Fair event, Telling Our Own Stories: A Making Comics Workshop, with comics creator Jarod Roselló, author of the delightful Red Panda & Moon Bear. It was so fun to be able to create along with him - and see how others made their comics. I highly recommend inviting Jarod to your school or library for a fantastic & fun learning experience.

Once you host the workshop, encourage kids to share the comics they've made. I've recently been adding comics that we've received from kids to a binder in our comics section so that kids can read each other's work ands see their comic in the library. It's all sorts of magical! To provide virtual access, you can also ask them for permission to post them on your social media or school site so they can see their art in the spotlight.

Our library is always finding innovative ways to connect and share with each other. It's my favorite thing to be able to share resources with other librarians and see what they create. I highly recommend partnering with a local library or school to host your program together. You never know what amazing things you'll make together!

Please feel free to share your ideas for these kinds of programs - and the awesome things you're doing.

Franklin Park Library Dog Man Party
National Book Festival Presents Dav Pilkey
Interview with Dav Pilkey (Mr. Schu)
Dog Man Teaching Guide 

Sunday, February 2, 2020

My #BookaDay Challenge (December 2019): Part III

This winter, I’ve been talking about writing more, thinking that if I said it aloud, I might follow through with my ambitions. The vast empty page felt pretty daunting but I could always find something to say about an amazing book I’d recommend. So this December, I tried to take part in Donalyn Miller’s #Book-a-Day Challenge and make it my own by posting a review a day of my favorite books and media from 2019, celebrating powerful stories and art that I’ve shared with young people and their caregivers, colleagues and friends, and things that have helped me grow & learn. I wrote these reviews for Instagram so I had to contend with character limits (Oh, why must I be so verbose?) and the minimalist style of social media. This also means I wrote these reviews before December 31, 2019, so some things (like the Youth Media Awards) happened after I wrote them. I’ve added comments from future me after the reviews with commentary. I also didn’t always post a review every day - so I ended up having to post a bunch of reviews on the same day. Taking on a daily writing practice was really hard, but made me feel really accomplished at the end, having followed through with my goal. I’m going to divide up my reviews into three posts, so it’s less overwhelming, so check out Part I and Part II.

The Moon Within by Aida Salazar

The Moon Within by Aida Salazar, a novel in verse, dances with boundless energy & wisdom on each page. The cover, beautifully illustrated by Joe Cepeda, practically sings with music, the magic of transformation, & embossed flowers that serve as a powerful metaphor. Celi is a tween whose mother wants to celebrate her first period with a moon ceremony. Celi’s mother rejects shame and fear, encouraging Celi to take pride in her body’s changing, connecting her to her ancestors & her heritage. The impact of colonization - & work to disrupt it - is made clear, as Aida Salazer shares in her author’s note, “People in many cultures across the globe have honored this connection (with the moon) & practiced ceremonies and rituals (both big & small) for thousands of years… In the Americas, much of the knowledge of this natural connection has been lost, erased or went underground as its peoples were conquered & forced to take on the customs of their colonizers. Many of the oral histories, passed down by indigenous women, tell us that our moon cycle is something beautiful and worth celebrating and honoring" (223). In an NPR interview, Aida Salazer shares, “I wanted this book to be part of the movement to dismantle that — to take apart those notions, to reframe the idea that our menstruations are something dirty, or to be feared, or the "curse. I wanted to shed light on its power, and its beauty, and its really profound celebratory aspect.” Gorgeous verse conveys Celi’s emotions, ones so common in our tweens - & ourselves. Nonfiction guides to puberty are important, yet it’s fiction like The Moon Within that would have helped me if I would have been given it as a tween. I can’t change the past but I can make sure young people at my library have access to this extraordinary book. It’s truly one of the best books of 2019! But you don’t have to take my word for it: It is the winner of the International Latino Book Award for Middle Grade Fiction & has been selected as a Charlotte Huck Award Recommended Book of 2019. If you are looking for an informational guide to pair with The Moon Within, check out Wait, What? A Comic Book Guide to Relationships, Bodies, and Growing Up by Heather Corinna & Isabella Rotman. I think it could also be delightfully paired with the graphic novel, Go with the Flow by by Lily Williams & Karen Schneemann.


The (Other) F Word: A Celebration of the Fat & Fierce, edited by Angie Manfredi

The (Other) F Word: A Celebration of the Fat & Fierce, edited by Angie Manfredi has the power to change the way we view ourselves, to push back against fat shaming, to celebrate body positivity in all its intersectional and diverse facets, "with stories from queer fat people, disabled fat people, and fat IPOC (Indigenous/people of color)." There is such intentionality and thought put into every aspect of this gorgeous full-color anthology. Every page proclaims Angie’s message from the introduction: “We love you, and we want you to know that you’re not alone… Your body is perfect. Yes, yours. Exactly the way it is, right now in this second… Don’t ever forget it.” The toxic messages are really hard to deprogram & decolonize and they’ve sunk their teeth in deep, but just knowing this book exists planted seeds that there’s another way of viewing my body. It radiates with self-love and claimed joy, as David Bowles writes in his poem, Seven Things I Would Tell Eleven Year Old Me, “... You are a human being,/unique and wonderful,/unlike anything that has existed/or ever will. Fat? Yes. In body/and in soul, brimming…./You overflow with stardust… There is love in the world for you./It surrounds you now. Don’t you see it?... (63). I love how this book introduces readers to fabulous writers, creators, artists, and entrepreneurs who they can then follow and read more of their incredible work. It is designed by Hana Anouk Nakamura with illustrations by Lisa Tegtmeier throughout the book that artfully enhance the text. This book has my favorite endpapers ever. They literally dance with joy. I am so grateful for this book both personally and professionally. All libraries should ensure young people can access this book, which will affirm their identities and celebrate their full selves. It is truly one of the best books of 2019.

I’m usually pretty shy at ALA and feel awkward asking for ARCs, but it was my goal to ask for a copy of I Can Make This Promise by Christine Day (Upper Skagit) this past summer - and I was so glad I was brave. (This is especially so I could give my ARC soon afterwards to a young reader who loved it.) I’ve you’ve seen my posts or talked to me, you know it’s one of my favorite books of 2019. Just behold the gorgeous cover art created by Michaela Goade (Tlingit) and you’re instantly drawn in. Kids often cut me off mid-booktalk to tell me they’re already hooked and want this book. In my booktalks, I amplify the mystery of Edie finding a box with photographs and documents belonging to Edith and her journey to learn more about her family history. I make sure to emphasize that this is a contemporary Native story about a Suquamish/Duwamish girl seeking answers about identity and adoption - and these issues are present and ongoing. I tell readers that I am eager to discuss it with them when they’re done - and we’ve had some amazing chats. It recently received a 2020 Charlotte Huck Honor, which is an award for books that have “the potential to transform children’s lives by inviting compassion, imagination, and wonder.” Christine Day does so much so well - capturing the middle grade angst of changing friendships, conversations left unsaid, and identity exploration. I’d highly recommend pairing it with Christine Day’s essay in the anthology, Our Stories, Our Voices: 21 YA Authors Get Real About Injustice, Empowerment, and Growing Up Female in America. I’m so excited for her second novel, The Sea in Winter, which will be available in 2021 from Heartdrum, a new Native-focused imprint with HarperCollins, led by Cynthia Leitich Smith & Rosemary Brosnan.

I Can Make This Promise received a 2020 AILA American Indian Youth Literature Award - Middle Grade Book Honor! Congratulations, Christine!!

Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson

If you’re looking for a reading challenge for 2020, might I recommend diving deep into the works of Jacqueline Woodson, who has written all the things - picture books, poetry, middle grade, young adult, and adult works. I did that one summer - and I regret that I didn’t document the experience - but I remember the feeling of being immersed in Jacqueline’s extraordinary storytelling. How lucky we are that our young people can grow up with her work? Her latest novel, Red at the Bone, is one of her best books, a masterpiece of family, history, identity, race, gender, and love, crossing time and perspective to connect all the threads. I can’t even attempt to do it justice - just read it and you will know why it’s one of the best books of 2019.

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell & illustrated by Frané Lessac [Audiobook with Live Oak Studio]

We all knew we had experienced something powerful & special when we read We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell & illustrated by Frané Lessac, which chronicles a year with a contemporary Cherokee family, expressing gratitude with each season with their community.

I was so thrilled to hear Traci and Frané talk about creating this extraordinary book this summer at the ALSC pre-conference and meet them afterwards, truly a highlight of my ALA.

This year, Traci worked with Arnie Cardillo of Live Oak Media to create an audiobook adaptation that is truly extraordinary. When I first heard it, I could imagine the care, hard work, dedication and craft that went into producing this work of art. Thankfully, Traci and Arnie agreed to be interviewed for the Ear on the Odyssey blog - and shared the behind-the-scenes details to create this production. (I also had the amazing opportunity to review it here.) I think this production can serve as a model for other audiobook productions - ensuring that authenticity and accuracy are at the core of the work. I hope all library systems & classrooms add this audiobook to their collections. When you check out our library’s copy of We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga, the audiobook is affixed to the back cover, ready for a paired listening experience. You can even buy your copy of the audiobook from the Cherokee Nation gift shop! Thank you to Ears on the Odyssey for the opportunity to spotlight this amazing production!

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga received a 2020 AILA American Indian Youth Literature Award - Picture Book Honor! And an Odyssey Honor for the audiobook adaptation! I look forward to all the celebrations at ALA! I know it will be an incredibly special experience.

Lisa Jenn Bigelow’s middle grade book, Hazel’s Theory of Evolution is definitely one of my favorite books of 2019.
Here’s the publisher’s description:
“Hazel knows a lot about the world. That’s because when she’s not hanging with her best friend or helping her two moms care for the goats on their farm, she loves reading through dusty encyclopedias. But even Hazel doesn’t have answers for the questions awaiting her as she enters eighth grade. How can she make friends in a new school where no one seems to understand her? What’s going to happen to one of her moms who’s pregnant again after having two miscarriages? Why does everything have to change when life was already perfectly fine?”

Lisa Jenn has a talent for expressing middle grade voices in ways that feel both universal and unique in their specificity. She talks about things that matter - family, loss, grief, friendship, identity, dogs - in ways that are engaging and relatable, showing a deep understanding for young people’s concerns and understandings. Hazel’s voice is so clear and real, especially in the ways that she grows. Just behold lines like: “I felt like a grain sack wearing through at its seams. Soon I would spill... I felt like I’d taken a scalpel to my own chest, laying out my beating heart bare for Carina and Yosh. One sharp poke, and it might burst..” Who hasn’t felt that way? I absolutely LOVE Hazel’s conversation with Mimi towards the end, which I will not spoil for you, but it’s a talk I haven’t seen elsewhere in middle grade literature that basically communicates “there are so many good ways to be in this world” and validates her identity. Again, read the book for yourself so you can experience its beauty - and don’t forget her thoughtful author’s note. If the Longest Shortest Time was still in production, I’d dream of an episode about this book, along with the rest of Lisa Jenn’s books. But hopefully Hillary Frank will take it on for her new project about middle school. Either way, you need to read this book.

Indian No More by Charlene Willing McManis with Traci Sorell

Indian No More by Charlene Willing McManis with Traci Sorell is truly one of the best books I’ve EVER read, not just in 2019. Here’s the publisher’s description: "Regina Petit's family has always been Umpqua, & living on the Grand Ronde Tribe's reservation is all ten-year-old Regina has ever known. Her biggest worry is that Sasquatch may actually exist out in the forest. But when the federal government enacts a law that says Regina's tribe no longer exists, Regina becomes "Indian no more" overnight--even though she lives with her tribe & practices tribal customs, & even though her ancestors were Indian for countless generations. Now that they've been forced from their homeland, Regina's father signs the family up for the federal Indian Relocation Program & moves them to Los Angeles. Regina finds a whole new world in her neighborhood on 58th Place. She's never met kids of other races, & they've never met a real Indian. For the first time in her life, Regina comes face to face with the viciousness of racism, personally & toward her new friends. Meanwhile, her father believes that if he works hard, their family will be treated just like white Americans. But it's not that easy. It's 1957 during the Civil Rights era, & the family struggles without their tribal community & land. At least Regina has her grandmother, Chich, & her stories. At least they are all together. In this moving middle-grade novel drawing upon Umpqua author Charlene Willing McManis's own tribal history, Regina must find out: Who is Regina Petit? Is she Indian, American, or both? & will she & her family ever be okay?”

This powerful historical fiction novel is heartbreaking, eye-opening, & hopeful. I learned so much from both the narrative - & the extensive back-matter, which really is exceptional. (I really want the back-matter to be required reading for everyone.) Lee & Low also have a fantastic teacher’s guide that offers many resources for engaging young people in important conversations. I’d love to see this book used in lit circles, ProjectLIT clubs, classroom selections, all the things! I don’t think I could do this book justice in a review myself. If you want to read one that does, read Indigo’s Bookshelf: Voices of Native American youth review by Ashleigh!

Indian No More is the 2020 American Indian Youth Literature Award winner for best Middle Grade Book!! Congratulations!

Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson

Can you believe that we had the opportunity to have Laurie Halse Anderson talk to us personally this year? I’m talking, of course, about the audiobook of her groundbreaking memoir in verse, Shout, which she narrates. I read the text as a galley, but nothing compares to hearing her tell her own story with her signature passion, vulnerability, & rage, claiming her voice - and the voices of so many young people who have shared their stories with her. I am so grateful for the chance to spend this time listening to her audiobook, often stopping everything else to listen & weep and get really, really angry. I am so grateful to have the chance to hear her NerdTalk this summer at NerdCamp, where she inspired us all with the declaration, “If we shout together, we can change the world.” One of the most powerful lines from her book rings throughout my mind frequently: “Too many grown-ups tell kids to follow their dreams/like that’s going to get them somewhere/Auntie Laurie says follow your nightmares instead/cuz when you figure out what’s eating you alive/you can slay it.” May we all come together to slay more dragons in the new year.

Shout has been named to 2020 Rise: A Feminist Book Project Top Ten! The audiobook was included in YALSA's Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults 2020 Top Ten!

Unreserved with Rosanna Deerchild; All My Relations Podcast; Native American Calling, This Land hosted by Rebecca Nagle [Podcasts]

If you get into a conversation with me, I will invariably say something like, “That reminds me of a podcast.” I listen to lots of podcasts and am always seeking new ones. Some podcasts pass the time - and others have the power to change our perceptions, to open our eyes, to offer representation and community, to awaken action, and are powerful, beautiful works of art. I’m so glad to have encountered these amazing Indigenous, Native and First Nations focused podcasts this year, which always are illuminating and insightful. They are: Unreserved with Rosanna Deerchild (Cree from O-Pipon-Na-Piwan Cree Nation at South Indian Lake in northern Manitoba), All My Relations Podcast hosted by Matika Wilbur (Swinomish and Tulalip) and Dr. Adrienne Keene (Cherokee Nation), Native American Calling, This Land hosted by Rebecca Nagle (Cherokee Nation). It’s especially exciting when our world of children’s literature is discussed on these podcasts. It was so cool to hear Muscogee Creek author Cynthia Leitch Smith on both the Unreserved Podcast and Native American Calling, talking about Heartdrum, a Native-focused imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books. I highly recommend listening to all of these podcasts. When they appear on my feed, I always prioritize listening to them first. And if you know of other podcasts, I’m always seeking recommendations.

At the beginning of 2019, during the Center for Teaching through Children’s Books institute, I had the opportunity to see Young People’s Poet Laureate Naomi Shihab Nye in conversation with extraordinary educator Kass Minor, talking about literacy, engaging young people and the power of poetry. I had Naomi sign my copy of her book, The Tiny Journalist: Poems, & spend time listening and learning and just being in her presence. How fortunate are we to start 2020 with her new book, Cast Away: Poems for Our Time? Her poetry always makes me want to see more possibilities - & make them realities. And also write more poetry.

Thank you so much for checking out my Book a Day reviews! You can see the rest of them in Part I & Part II. Which books have you loved this year? Feel free to let me know in the comments.

My #BookaDay Challenge (December 2019): Part II

This winter, I’ve been talking about writing more, thinking that if I said it aloud, I might follow through with my ambitions. The vast empty page felt pretty daunting but I could always find something to say about an amazing book I’d recommend. So this December, I tried to take part in Donalyn Miller’s #Book-a-Day Challenge and make it my own by posting a review a day of my favorite books and media from 2019, celebrating powerful stories and art that I’ve shared with young people and their caregivers, colleagues and friends, and things that have helped me grow & learn. I wrote these reviews for Instagram so I had to contend with character limits (Oh, why must I be so verbose?) and the minimalist style of social media. This also means I wrote these reviews before December 31, 2019, so some things (like the Youth Media Awards) happened after I wrote them. I’ve added comments from future me after the reviews with commentary in brackets. I also didn’t always post a review every day - so I ended up having to post a bunch of reviews on the same day. Taking on a daily writing practice was really hard, but made me feel really accomplished at the end, having followed through with my goal. I’m going to divide up my reviews into three posts, so it’s less overwhelming, so check out Part I and Part III.

I am the Night Sky & Other Reflections by Muslim American Youth by the teen artists and writers of the Next Wave Muslim Initiative

I am the Night Sky & Other Reflections by Muslim American Youth by the writers and artists of the Next Wave Muslim Initiative, is an extraordinary #OwnVoices anthology of poems, essays, artwork and stories written by young people telling their own stories, reflecting the diversity and beauty within the community. It shows the power of self-expression, supporting young people’s creative & collaborative process & providing a medium for them to be heard. As author Hena Khan writes in the introduction, “Like the stunning collage art throughout the book, their lives are a composite of elements that blend into something layered, nuanced, and beautiful.” I had the incredible opportunity to attend Shout Mouse Press’s book launch in Washington, D.C. right before ALA Annual this summer - & I am truly grateful for the chance to hear these young people share their stories. The refrain from the teens throughout the night was about claiming their stories, creating representation that they didn’t find before, and bringing their full selves to this project to be seen. I am in awe of these young people & we need to do more to make sure this book, and ones like it (like the other Shout Mouse Press books) are found in all of our classrooms and libraries. Again, can distributors like Baker & Taylor please make this book available for purchase? I can imagine so many young people finding this anthology & gaining inspiration to share their truths - and for many, finding a mirror, as Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop coined, of their own experiences. I am the Night Sky truly is one of the best books of 2019. (A note from Shout Mouse Press: "The book is available through Ingram and Follett distributors, and if you can buy directly through our website then the most proceeds go back to supporting our author communities.")

[I'm overjoyed that I am the Night Sky is on the 2020 Rise: A Feminist Book Project List. I'm also happy to see I am the Night Sky on the CCBC Choices 2020 list, the annual best-of-the-year list of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Check out these fantastic teaching ideas for sharing I am the Night Sky developed by Kathy Crutcher, Shout Mouse Story Coach.

In addition to selecting core texts for Coming Together, we were also tasked with creating a Supplemental Text list and I'm really proud to include I am the Night Sky on our list. We also included another extraordinary Shout Mouse title, Voces Sin Fronteras: Our Stories, Our Truth by Latino Youth Leadership Council of LAYC, to our Supplemental Texts.]

Dog Man: For Whom the Ball Rolls by Dav Pilkey

Sometimes our book favorites are not just about the content of the stories, but the community that is created when sharing them. Dog Man by Dav Pilkey is a core text in many of our libraries - and impossible to keep on the shelf. When the kids asked for a Dog Man party to celebrate the release of Dog Man: For Whom the Ball Rolls, we wholeheartedly agreed and created a magical fandom celebration. If you want to make a Dog Man party, you can do it too! We even took on the #DoGood challenge by sharing materials to make dog toys for shelter dogs. I keep a copy of the latest book at my desk to share with kids when our copies are inevitably checked out. You may not know this but Dog Man is an epic story of redemption, change, love, family, and bravery... okay and also explosions, hijinks, and puns. The layers run deep - and I highly recommend reading the series. I have been able to connect with caregivers about its value and appeal because I read them.

Most importantly, kids LOVE Dog Man, often selecting them as one of the first books they read on their own. They are getting something invaluable from this reading experience & choice and self-selection are what leads to becoming a lifelong reader. If you need a gift for a young reader in your life, they will most likely adore you forever if you give them the latest Dog Man: Fetch-22 - or any of the books in the series.

Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe

I will never be finished reading Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe, who uses non-binary e/em/eir pronouns. I'll never be done, not just because I’m pouring over every page, with its watercolor-style, autumnal, atmospheric color palette by Phoebe Kobabe, although I do that, but because I have continually returned to this book & gained something new with each re-read. Maia Kobabe uses comics brilliantly, from the panel layout, typography, character design, all the things, to make eir story to come to life in this profoundly personal, vulnerable memoir. Visual metaphors especially express meaning in concise, beautiful ways. Maia has described it in a Smash Pages interview as “a story of coming of age focused on gender identity, sexuality, and coming out to family and friends. But it’s also a book about being a nerd who reads a lot.” I am here for all the fandom references from Harry Potter, One Direction, Adventure Zone, Alanna the Lioness, Lord of the Rings, manga & more. I appreciated how fandom and fanfiction provided spaces for community and self-expression. (For more, make sure to check out eir Harry Potter and the Problematic Author fanzine.) As a graphic memoir, you can read it quickly, but the seeds planted stay with you. Cisgender educators, caregivers & medical professionals should especially seek out this book as a guide for self-education. Books can be rehearsals for conversations irl - and there are many scenes that are super helpful for this learning (see: p. 206). For those whose experiences mirror Maia’s, this book can be transformative, affirming & essential, recognizing they are not alone and there are communities of support and love. I’m so glad it’s been nominated for YALSA’s 2020 Great Graphic Novels for Teens; it needs to be on this list and also, ALL the lists. We need more queer books like this in our collections. It truly is one of the best books of 2019. Also, how ready are you for Maia’s future picture books, middle grade and YA graphic novels? Publishers, make this happen!

[Gender Queer has received a Stonewall Book Award - named an Israel Fishman Non-Fiction Award Honor Book! It's also a 2020 Alex Award winner! And it's officially been included in YALSA's 2020 Great Graphic Novels for Teens! Congratulations, Maia and Phoebe!]

Hands that Flow Like Water by Amina Dzananović

I first heard Amina Dzananović perform during during the 2018 Coming Together program, “What’s Your Story? Voices of Muslim Women” at Skokie Public Library, together with my former coworker, Ainee Fatima, where they shared stories and poetry in powerful ways. Their extraordinary, open, vulnerable performances were unforgettable. I was so grateful that some of my storytelling students also attended this event & had the chance to hear them live. This year, Amina published her first chapbook, Hands that Flow Like Water, and I had the chance to attend her book release party, marvel at her mother’s beautiful paintings, & get my own copy of this book. (You can get your copy on Amazon.) This book of original poetry is personal, transformative, lyrical, eye-opening, insightful, and evocative. I could never do it justice to summarize this book, so here’s the official blurb: "Hands that flow like water" is a collection of poetry formed from stories of war, survival, love, heartbreak, and more. Like a river, these poems do not flow in an obvious pattern. They are to be taken as they come. You may find yourself in some of these poems, and hopefully you tell them they are with friends. Readers of this book should be prepared to reflect, heal, and crash in every direction.” I eagerly flipped through my copy to see if the poem Amina shared at the library event would be in this collection - & was grateful she included “Mama’s Blues,” one of the most extraordinary performance poetry pieces I have ever seen. Each poem is a gift, as she writes, “This book is about those/who flow in and out of our lives/and change the direction of our waves,/only to meet us somewhere in the lines of poetry” (58). I hope this book finds its way into library collections and homes - and I eagerly await Amina’s future performances and publications.

[I am so grateful for the opportunity to include Hands that Flow Like Water by Amina Dzananović as a Supplemental Text for Coming Together 2020!]

The Dark Fantastic: Race & the Imagination from Harry Potter to the Hunger Games by Dr. Ebony Elizabeth Thomas 

If you’re at all interested in representation in children’s lit, fandom, pop culture, fantasy, literacy, & media, The Dark Fantastic: Race & the Imagination from Harry Potter to the Hunger Games by Dr. Ebony Elizabeth Thomas is essential reading. Engaging, personal, scholarly, & brilliant, you can’t just read it once; it changes you with each reading.

Here’s some of the publisher’s description:
“The Dark Fantastic is an engaging & provocative exploration of race in popular youth & young adult speculative fiction. Grounded in her experiences as YA novelist, fanfiction writer, and scholar of education, Thomas considers four black girl protagonists from some of the most popular stories of the early 21st century: Bonnie Bennett from the CW’s The Vampire Diaries, Rue from Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, Gwen from the BBC’s Merlin, & Angelina Johnson from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. Analyzing their narratives & audience reactions to them reveals how these characters mirror the violence against black & brown people in our own world. In response, Thomas uncovers & builds upon a tradition of fantasy and radical imagination in Black feminism & Afrofuturism to reveal new possibilities. Through fanfiction and other modes of counter-storytelling, young people of color have reinvisioned fantastic worlds that reflect their own experiences, their own lives. As Thomas powerfully asserts, “we dark girls deserve more, because we are more.”

I requested the eaudiobook from Skokie Public Library and thankfully, they purchased it. Janina Edwards’ clear and engaging narration made it feel like I was listening to a literary podcast, helping me understand the complex, nuanced ideas. I really appreciate being able to access this powerful text in this format. While listening, I kept reacting aloud to Dr. Thomas’s thought-provoking critiques about race and gender, helping readers understand media & our world in new ways. I am so grateful for Dr. Thomas’s extraordinary efforts to create this groundbreaking work. It’s the perfect gift for a fantasy fan/reader/creator/showrunner.

A Map of Myself by Sara Abou Rashed & directed by Larry Smith [Show in Chicago on 11/16/19]

I first saw Sara Abou Rashed perform her spoken-word poetry at #NCTE18, where she shared her memorable poem, “I am America.” I appreciated how a conference focused on serving young people began with centering their experiences and voices. If you haven’t watched her TEDxColumbus talk, “Hidden Treasures of a Refugee’s Journey,” go to YouTube now and watch it. I was overjoyed when I learned that Sara’s show, A Map of Myself, was coming to Chicago this fall to Studio 773. It is written & performed by Sara Abou Rashed & directed by Larry Smith, creator of the Six-Word Memoir project. It is a “70-Minute, One-Woman Revolution on War, Immigration, Language, Home, History, DNA, and Everything in Between. Sara is a 20-year-old Palestinian-Syrian-American who didn't know a word of English on her first day of high school six years ago, and now stars in a one-woman show about her journey from war-torn Syria to an America that welcomed her in a performance that combines acting, storytelling and Sara's dynamic spoken-word poetry. Called “a power voice and an inspiration” by Children's Defense Fund President Marian Wright Edelman, Sara Abou Rashed wrote her first poem in Arabic at the age of eight and has been writing since.” Nothing compares to the theatrical experience of Sara sharing her truths with a live audience in a beautifully crafted performance with visceral, evocative language, visuals and props that amplify the storytelling, and a story about politics, migration and identity that is deeply moving and affirming. Sara is an extraordinary writer and performer who inspires others to share their stories. I hope more communities bring Sara’s A Map of Myself to their cities, selling out huge theaters so more people can hear her story. I’d love to see the Chicago Humanities Festival and the Family Action Network (FAN) collaborate with local communities to make this experience possible. I dream of the opportunity to put books that she’s written on shelves in my library where young people can meet her within the pages - and then also invite her to visit our library. I am so grateful for the chance to see her show this year, truly one of the best shows I have ever seen.

Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos by Lucy Knisley

When I first read Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos by Lucy Knisley as a galley, I stayed up until the wee hours of the night reading it on my phone's ereader, unwilling to listen to the demands of sleep (and future work) and stop reading this compelling memoir. I love how Lucy embedded the history of reproductive healthcare. There's so much that I did not know, which was fascinating and angry-making. It really made me reflect on the huge gaps in my education and ideas that have seeped in my mind from culture and religion... What made me keep reading (and re-read it again & again) is Lucy's own journey to becoming a mother. She's always been vulnerable in her comics, but this book feels even more personal - and fills an incredible need for more stories about people's experiences with miscarriages, pregnancy and traumatic birth experiences. I'd love to see this book in Heath and Parenting collections, in addition to the comics section. Can this book please be required reading for anyone working in the healthcare field? I was absolutely delighted when one of my favorite podcasts, The Longest Shortest Time, which was hosted by Andea Silenzi, hosted an episode with Lucy & John after I suggested it. I think Kid Gloves would also especially appeal to Bodies Podcast fans too. Both of these storytelling mediums have done much to help me think differently about the human body this year.

If you don't follow Lucy on Instagram, you are missing out on delightful comics about John, Pal & her cat of blessed memory, Linney. And you can get your own copies this February when Go to Sleep (I Miss You): Cartoons from the Fog of New Parenthood comes out. [I'm super excited for the upcoming book launch at Women & Children First on Monday, February 24, 2020 at 7:00pm!]

Many of our teens/tweens love her books, so I'm thrilled to be able to give them her upcoming middle grade graphic novel, Stepping Stones, from Random House Graphic, the highly-anticipated new imprint led by Publishing Director Gina Gagliano, out this May. Basically I'm here for all things Lucy Knisley.

Call Me Max by Kyle Lukoff, illustrated by Luciano Lozano

I’m so excited to share and celebrate Call Me Max, the first book in the new Max and Friends series by Kyle Lukoff, illustrated by Luciano Lozano, from the inaugural list of titles from Reycraft Books. This is a new press whose “mission is to create books of interest for ALL children, with a special focus on #OwnVoices books.” I really hope libraries and schools notice the amazing books they publish and seek them out - & encourage their distributors to make them available. The Max & Friends Series is a powerful & necessary addition to our shelves of books for young readers. For transgender kids, it can be a mirror of some of their experiences, offering language and opportunity for self-expression and affirmation. For those who care about them, it can provide insights about ways to be supportive, to listen more & show our love. I especially appreciate the conversations about rejecting gender stereotypes & binary thinking through Max’s conversations with his friends Teresa and Steven. It is a book about friendship, finding community, communicating and listening, and a celebration of the wonderful person that Max is. As it says in the final spread, “Being a boy isn’t better than being a girl,” he concludes. “But being myself is the best.”

I had the opportunity to attend Kyle’s author visit at Evanston Public Library where he read Max and the Talent Show, the second book in the series, which caused all sorts of feels, as Max seeks out ways to support his friend, Steven. The illustrations in these books are gorgeous, playful and bright with subtle facial expressions and details that enhance the text. There’s so much to explore and share in these fantastic books! And there’s going to be more of them in this series. Make plans to order the first two books and pre-order Max on the Farm, coming Spring 2020!

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, adapted by Jean Mendoza & Debbie Reese

I wish I could express the feeling of my first time reading An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, adapted by Jean Mendoza & Debbie Reese (Nambé Pueblo), when I read it as a galley. I could feel the stories I had been told throughout my education being disrupted with the truth of settler colonialism revealed. I learned that there is so much that I didn’t know - and so much I still have to learn. My own copy is annotated and highlighted because I wanted to fully engage with this text, taking notes now that I’ll learn from the next time I read it. It is a book that I will read many, many times. The way this book tells the story of Indigenous peoples’ from their own perspective makes this book essential. I hope that curriculum developers, administrators, department chairs, educators, school boards, anyone who cares about education etc., considers it for adoption for their curricula; it’s perfect for humanities, social studies, civics, ELA, libraries, pretty much everything. The sidebars are exceptional, engaging readers in activities, thought provoking asides, & opportunities for reflection, a perfect resource for educators. There’s even a teacher’s guide created by Dr. Natalie Martinez, available at the Beacon Press website. They also have a companion website with resources, feedback, interviews & more! I am so grateful for the countless years of dedication & hard work that Jean Mendoza and Dr. Debbie Reese put into creating this book & sharing it with us, among everything they do to work for authentic representation of Indigenous peoples in literature. I had the incredible opportunity to attend their book launch in Chicago this summer & learned so much from them in person, adding new layers to my understanding of their book.

It was a powerful learning experience when our youth services staff selected it for our professional book club this fall. It made me so happy when a caregiver remarked how happy she was to see this book on our display, leading to a long conversation of resource sharing & idea generation. When I think of groundbreaking, individually distinct, transformative works, this book comes to mind first.

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People received a 2020 AILA American Indian Youth Literature Award - Young Adult Book Honor!  Congratulations!!

Birthday by Meredith Russo

Spoiler alert here.. And I guess for all my posts… Sorry in advance…I pretty much read Birthday by Meredith Russo within the last 24 hours, taking breaks only for sleeping, eating, cleaning, and errands… I had seen it on the library shelf and kept meaning to read it, and oh my goodness, Past Self, listen to that voice more often! Two best friends, Eric and Morgan, are born on the same day, who share this day every year. The story is told in two voices in six years of their shared birthday. It is an artistic masterpiece, an achievement in style, voice, and story structure, conveying these moments in time, these adolescent voices, the shape of friendship, family, loss, and love. As the tagline says, it’s a “love story eighteen years in the making.” Birthday is a book to read in one sitting, a book that pulls at your heart, a book that is heartbreaking and painful but dealt with sensitively and thoughtfully. It also has a page-turning romance that provides all the feels (literally all emotions possible). You feel deeply for Morgan struggling to express her true self, to tell Eric and her family that she is a girl, and weep with joy when she gets the support and affirmation and resources she needs and deserves. Don’t be like me and wait this long to read it. Read it now. It’s truly one of the best books of 2019.

Thank you so much for checking out my Book a Day reviews! You can see the rest of them in Part I & Part III. Which books have you loved this year? Feel free to let me know in the comments.