Books for Back to School

by Sarah C.

Ahhhh, back to school, it’s that time of the year, folks – yes, it will be a different kind of school compared to last fall, but we can still read some great books as school starts. I’ve got a selection here of my latest faves for your enjoyment and education:

The cover depicts a young woman dressed for work, in gray pants and shirt and a red headscarf, holding up a fist.

Amazons, Abolitionists and Activists: A Graphic History of Women’s Fight For Their Rights by Mikki Kendall                                                    
An excellent and diverse addition to your history section, this nonfiction graphic novel reads like a fast-paced movie. It’s full color and far-reaching, and it will keep readers interested (full disclosure: this is my second time reading it, because it’s just that good!). Teen and adult readers alike are guaranteed to meet many new faces from the past and learn their interesting and important stories.

The cover depicts two boys back-to-back, one wearing a yellow jacket and green hood and one in a red and black plaid shirt.

Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes (also available as an ebook)
How does it feel to go to school where you are one of the only Black boys, and you have a light-skinned brother there who, for some reason, doesn’t seem to face the same problems that you do? This novel tackles the hard questions as Donte learns about colorism, privilege, and racism in schools, as well as how to fight for justice, how powerful family support can be, and a new sport he was skeptical of at first and bullied into bypassing, but now loves — fencing!

The Cover depicts a split-screen image of two young women, one in front of a green background and one in front of a building with fire stairs.

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo (also available in ebook and eaudiobook)
Two sisters, one in the Dominican Republic and one in New York, unknowingly share the same father and live vastly different lives until those lives are shattered by a tragic accident. Now Yahaira and Camino have to untangle their father’s secrets in an achingly raw and emotional novel written in verse that tackles grief, anger, forgiveness, and family.

Tamamo the Fox Maiden and Other Asian Stories edited by C. Spike Trotman, Kate Ashwin, and Kel McDonald

Filled with mythology, monsters, and magic, this collection of 21 cautionary tales and fables from various Asian countries entertains and intrigues. Recommended for manga and anime fans as well.

Related, I just handed my teen The Dragon King Chronicles by Ellen Oh, and he devoured them — if anyone is looking for fast-paced and epic fantasy adventures, battles fought for honor, brave warrior outcasts, and a ton of Korean mythology and monsters, look no further! (The first book in the trilogy is called Prophecy and is also available as an ebook).                                                                                                                                            
Cats of the Louvre by Taiyo Matsumoto (manga)

A bizarre but fascinating story, this book is written manga style, so read back to front (which I might have forgotten for the first six pages). This hefty novel is full of incredibly detailed and well-developed, yet still mysterious, characters (half of them being magical cat people), and is set against the backdrop of one of the world’s most famous art museums.

Broken Places & Outer Spaces: Finding Creativity in the Unexpected by Nnedi Okorafor (also available in ebook and eaudiobook)

An inspirational mini-memoir by the author of Akata Witch and Binti (check those out, too) about how she was temporarily paralyzed as a young adult. A botched spinal surgery and subsequent painful journey of recovery and self-discovery led to the birth of her creative writing style and development of her amazing sci-fi/fantasy talent. Also of note: she discusses a handful of great artists and writers through history who also grappled with severe hardships and how it challenged them and brought them to new heights. The slim volume offers solid lessons for turning limitations/struggles into strengths/power.

Eight Will Fall by Sarah Harian

SCARY but I couldn’t put it down, this dystopian quest takes a group of young people with “illegal” powers deep down underground in a desperate bid to find a fabled king banished hundreds of years ago for his dangerous and incredible power. Along the way, they encounter many horrific cave beasts and various violent deaths, but also solve the mystery of why they were selected by the queen to make this doomed journey, and the origins of their powers. Above ground, their world is falling apart; can they survive the deep and deadly mission and rescue it in time?

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

This graphic adaptation blew me away, and if you have not read anything by this author (possibly one of the greatest sci-fi writers EVER) then do so immediately. Her many books usually contain themes of harsh survival in dystopian worlds and feature strong, fierce African-American female main characters. Read the print versions or the graphic novels, either way, just read her work!

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera (also available in ebook and eaudiobook)

A truly adorable “meet-cute” and more, this realistic fiction novel follows Arthur and Ben as they collide in NYC and fall head over heels into love at first sight…but what happens after that magic moment? Opposites might attract at first, but what happens when real life interferes? And how many times will they lose each other and find each other, including awkward repeat date do-overs?  

Other Words For Home by Jasmine Warga  (also available as an ebook)

Jude is a seventh-grade Muslim girl who flees Syria with her mother, leaving behind her father and older brother. They move in with an uncle in Cincinnati and try to begin a new life, and Jude navigates new customs, culture, and language while missing her family and friends. She is smart, hopeful, and brave but also sometimes fearful and confused, a very relatable character. The story is well-written and in verse, also age-appropriate (honest but gentle) when it touches on war, stereotypes, and prejudices – with inclusive perspectives and world views.

Disclaimer: As one of your teen librarians, I’m talking to ages 13-18 and their parents with my recommendations, but as always, everyone is free to read whatever they like.

Sarah C. is the teen instructor at HCLS Savage Branch and she always has time to talk and listen: about books, comics, school or whatever you need to talk about.

My Teen is Bored!

A student seated in front of a curtain peeks over the monitor of her computer.

By Lori C.

The traditional summer job or internship probably didn’t appear as an option this year, so what’s a bored teen to do? And how’s a frazzled parent going to keep them occupied while social distancing? 

Now’s the time for your teen to fully utilize the most powerful card in their wallet – their library card! HCLS offers so many fun and engaging ways to expand on your teen’s interests and hobbies with our online eContent.    

Gale Courses: This resource offers more than 300 six-week structured online classes on topics ranging from business to hobbies. Is your teen a budding entrepreneur? Take a class on starting your own business. Maybe photography or writing are of interest to your high schooler. If so, there are classes for digital photography as well as creative writing and publishing.  Gale also offers 44 personal enrichment classes ranging from an introduction to journaling to starting your own edible garden. 

Lynda.com: Find more than 3,600 streaming video tutorials taught by experts on technical skills, creative techniques, and business strategies with your HCLS access to Lynda.com. From individual classes to entire learning paths, your teen can explore a wide range of skills and hobbies from 3D animation to becoming a digital illustrator.  

ArtistWorks: Learn an instrument, vocal techniques, or art skills from award-winning teachers with these free, self-paced online video classes. Classes include traditional instruments such as piano and guitar, as well as less common ones such as mandolin and ukulele. Entice your teen with Hip Hop scratching lessons or dabble in a music theory class. Better yet, dust off that old harmonica and have your teen learn some songs to enliven summer nights in the backyard.  

Opportunities to expand your teen’s horizons abound with HCLS’ eContent. Not only will they gain new skills and grow their repertoire of talents, but they also can use these courses to boost their resumé and college applications. Future employers and admissions officers will be looking for teens who used their summer stuck at home to discover a newfound passion or to deepen their knowledge in a current hobby.   

My next post discusses how your high schooler can supplement their educational goals using the power of their library card and the eContent offered by HCLS.  Look for it soon!

Lori C. has worked at the Glenwood Branch for six years.  She loves to read and knit and is excited for the return of baseball. 

Teens Read the Rainbow

The cover of When the Moon was OUrs by Anna-Marie McLemore has a deep blue cover with a water tower in black. White moons hand from tinydoted lines amd the title and two figures stand out in yellow against the black. There are roses decorating the text.

Reviews by Sarah C.

Looking for some excellent teen fiction featuring LGBTQ+ main characters and/or written by LGBTQ+ authors and illustrators? Look no further! We have you covered with different books from various genres, as well as our Rainbow Reads teen reading list from 2019. Many of the authors listed below have other titles, too. So if you find one you really like, keep reading!

The hard part is choosing which to review, but that’s a great problem to have, honestly. Each year we see so many more awesome books published, and are especially excited to see those written in our own voices because representation matters. ❤️

The Best At It by Maulik Pancholy follows seventh grade Rahul as he tries to find his place in the world. He navigates the ups and downs of middle school and his supportive, but at times super embarrassing, Indian family. Clever, funny, and an anxious perfectionist at heart, Rahul slowly realizes he might have a crush on his popular neighbor, Justin. While the book is technically part of the teen collection, I would easily recommend this to late elementary readers as well.

If It Makes You Happy by Claire Kann features Winnie, a self-confident fat queer Black girl from a small town, who enters a cooking competition to try and save her family’s diner.  On top of that, she is also trying to figure out her many complicated relationships – romantic, friendship-based, and with her family, especially with her opinionated grandmother. 

Birthday by Meredith Russo spans six years in the lives of two best friends, Eric and Morgan, as they each grow up in different ways while facing various challenges that involve family, school, identity, and each other.  Morgan has a huge secret that he fears will destroy their friendship, but it becomes harder and harder to keep it from Eric. This story is one of destiny as well as heartbreak, so be prepared!

Mariam Sharma Hits the Road by Sheba Karim gives you an epic road trip adventure story when three close friends head to New Orleans and have new experiences along the way. They have some hilarious and adorable moments like finding your inner drag queen and celebrating your true self, and some more serious ones like dealing with Islamophobia and deadbeat dads, and, of course, lots and lots of delicious food.

Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells presents an engaging rescue quest tale with all the traditional fantasy elements, especially DRAGONS! Marin journeys to the palace to save her kidnapped love, Kaia, only to find herself mixed up with an ancient prophesy, a lost prince, and a dangerous rebellion. She also might have some hidden powers of her own. Read it now, so you’ll be ready when the sequel is published in October.

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi takes place in a not so distant future where evil has been totally eradicated and everyone lives safely in their utopian society…or maybe not. One day a deadly magical creature made all of teeth and claws and feathers emerges from Jam’s mother’s painting. Only it’s not the monster, it has been sent to hunt a real monster, one that is lurking nearby and hurting one of Jam’s friends. 

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore is a gorgeously written and haunting fairy tale that features a memorable, lovable cast of characters. Miel has roses growing out of her wrists and Sam hangs his painted moons all over town at night, and together they must ward off the wicked Bonner sisters who seek to steal their magic.

Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee stars Jess, a Chinese-Vietnamese bisexual daughter of two famous superheroes with no powers of her own, who inadvertently interns for the local villain and her parents’ arch-nemesis. In her new job, she gets to work with her crush and maybe finally find her own powers, all while uncovering a secret plot. This is the first book in a series with three books in print and a fourth one in the works, all full of diverse queer characters.

Wilder Girls by Rory Power hits a bit too close to home, with an isolated boarding school under quarantine from a dangerous illness and no vaccine. Unlike current events, the so-called “Tox” causes all sorts of horrifying mutations and mostly affects the students and the island wildlife. Will anyone escape alive?

Proxy by Alex London is an action-packed sci-fi adventure that modernizes the fable of the Whipping Boy with added Hunger Games elements. When Syd is sentenced to death as punishment for Knox’s actions, the boys escape together but they are up against the world.

Happy Pride and happy reading! 

P.s. There are a ton of great LGBTQ+ graphic novels as well.

Sarah C. is the teen instructor at HCLS Savage Branch and she always has time to talk, about books, comics, school, or whatever you need to talk about.