Kings of B’more by R. Eric Thomas 

Against a summery orange background, that shows a ferris wheel and light-rail train, two young Black boys smile

by Eliana H.

R. Eric Thomas is a Baltimore-based television writer, playwright, and the bestselling author of Here for It: Or, How to Save Your Soul in America and Reclaiming Her Time: The Power of Maxine Waters. He is also the (temporary) Prudie, answering questions for the Dear Prudence column in Slate magazine through mid-summer. He is visiting in-person at the Elkridge Branch + DIY Center on Wednesday, June 15 at 6:30 pm. He will be discussing his debut young adult novel, Kings of B’more. I had the wonderful opportunity to read an advance copy, and I am so excited to share it with you.

Have you ever seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? In the popular movie from the 1980s, the title character, a high school student, skips school to take his best friend and girlfriend on a whirlwind adventure all over Chicago. When the main character of Kings of B’more, Harrison, learns that his best friend, Linus, will be moving to South Carolina in just a few days, he is inspired by the movie – which his dad has just made him watch – to plan an adventure all around Baltimore for the two of them. Despite his grand ideas and the help Harrison enlists, things (of course) don’t quite go as planned. The boys manage to have an epic day nonetheless.

Throughout the book, I was struck by the beauty of the friendship between Harrison and Linus. Author R. Eric Thomas captures a fresh, unique voice and perspective for each of them while highlighting the ways in which they complement one another. They can have entire conversations with their eyes, they see and value the truth of each other, and they show their affection in ways large and small. As two Black queer young men, they certainly face some challenges. But Harrison and Linus support one another as each discovers his own way to take on the world. I thoroughly enjoyed the language that Thomas uses, with vividly descriptive passages that bring the surroundings to life. Baltimore really becomes another character in this story, not just the setting. 

With ups and downs and so many adventures, Thomas has packed an entire coming-of-age tale into a story taking place over a single weekend. The growth each character experiences occurs in a way that is completely natural in terms of what they are going through. Harrison and Linus feel authentic and well-developed, and I was so glad to get to know them as I read. Despite a very satisfying ending, I would love to know what happens next. And I am definitely planning my next foray into Baltimore as soon as possible! 

I hope you will join us at the upcoming author event to hear more from R. Eric Thomas, ask questions, and consider purchasing a book for signing (if you want).

Eliana is a Children’s Research Specialist and Instructor at HCLS Elkridge Branch. She loves reading, even if she’s slow at it, and especially enjoys helping people find books that make them light up. She also loves being outside and spending time with friends and family (when it’s safe).

Teens Need Their Space. The Friends & Foundation of HCLS is Working to Provide It – Won’t You Join Us?

A series of photos showing teens at the library layer beneath two banners. One reads "Teens need their space." The other says, "Donate nowo to make it happen." Hashtag: Friends Make It Happen.

By Mickey Gomez, Board Chair, Friends & Foundation of HCLS

Howard County routinely ranks among the best places in the country to live (Money Magazine). We have it all, from downtown Columbia to Patapsco Valley State Park. Instrumental in our community’s success has always been Howard County Library System (HCLS), the only five-star library in Maryland (Library Journal).

The Library’s success comes from always striving to exceed our customers’ expectations. Not only does HCLS lend books and movies, but also tools and art. Not only does HCLS teach early literacy classes to children, but also brings in well-known authors and speakers for adults. Not only can you stream and download electronic books and audiobooks, but you can also conduct genealogical research and practice a new language with HCLS online resources.

Truly, our public library provides countless services and benefits the community in a wide variety of ways, striving to ensure that everyone who walks in the doors is met with a welcoming environment and dedicated space where learning, creativity, and friendships can flourish.

This year, HCLS is focusing particularly on teens.

Do you remember being a teenager? What was your favorite place to be? What made it so?

HCLS is poised to be the third place for teenagers: somewhere that’s not school and not home, but still safe and fun. Safe spaces are important for tweens and teens, a place to be themselves, cement friendships, and interact with adult mentors.

Teens have a healthy need for their own places, and HCLS is working to provide exactly that.

Each of the Library’s six branches has a designated location within the building set aside for middle and high school students. At present, the spaces tend to focus on academic needs – with tables and chairs for homework and silent study – but are absent furnishings and technology that invite teens to stay and engage with the resources and one another.

Your donation to Friends & Foundation of HCLS will help change that!

While the library will always remain an excellent place to learn and do schoolwork, HCLS wants to do even more!

  • The Library will outfit its teen areas with comfortable furniture that encourages connection, collaboration, and conversation.
  • HCLS will enhance offerings with even more opportunities of interest, including more hands-on STEM and Arts education, and other educational, fun, and even quirky things teens declare as important to them.
  • Library staff and community engagement teams plan to listen to these young customers’ thoughts on what they want and need, then work to fulfill those requests, creating lifelong Library patrons along the way.

We are asking for your help in providing these nurturing, welcoming spaces.

Howard County has very few places for teens to just be themselves, places that don’t require a purchase or a membership to be there. HCLS wants to be that free and open place, and your donation to the Friends can help make this happen.

The Friends & Foundation of HCLS is a nonprofit organization that supports HCLS in its mission to deliver high quality education for all ages, and most recently, with the new Pop-Up Library to meet the youngest customers in their neighborhoods and help them get ready for Kindergarten.

Now, HCLS is focusing equally on teenagers and providing what they need to thrive and succeed, and we invite you to join us in making it a reality.