Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean

This beautiful blue cover features the portrait of a young woman, done in paper art She has long dark wavy hair, a tiara and is surrounded by flower. The book has a sticker that says "Reese's YA Book Club" and a mentions "The New York Times Bestseller".

by Piyali C.

High schooler Izumi’s life is relatively uneventful with her single mom, her bad tempered terrier mix Tamagotchi, and her Asian Girl Gang (AGG), comprised of three other girls from diverse ethnicity in their primarily white Mount Shasta High School. Sure, it is not always easy being Japanese American in a mostly white Mount Shasta, California but Izumi has made it work so far. She even changed her to name to Izzy from Izumi for a while to make it easy for others until her friend Noora convinced her otherwise. Izumi’s mother, a Harvard educated botanist, has tried her best to raise Izumi alone with love and support and, for the most part, Izumi is content. She would, however, like to know who her father is. Izumi’s mom refuses to divulge any information about her father. All Izumi knows is that her parents met at Harvard when both were students there, and Izumi is the product of their brief liaison. Izumi’s father does not even know she exists.

One day, while snooping around in her mom’s room ransacking her expensive make-up stash, Izumi’s friend Noora comes across a book Rare Orchids of North America. Noora flips open the book to find a poem in ‘slanted handwriting’ dedicated to Izumi’s mom, Hanako, by someone named Mak. A little research by Noora reveals that the aforesaid Mak is none other than Makotonomiya Toshihito, the Crown Prince of Japan and also Izumi’s father. In other words, Izumi is a princess.

Within days, Izumi’s life is turned upside down when a simple email sent by her to her parents’ common friend inquiring about the Crown Prince results in her father finding out that she exists. She travels to Japan at her father’s invitation, a country she always dreamed of visiting, as a princess, complete with Royal Imperial Guard and cavalcade. But being a princess comes at a cost. Izumi has to navigate palace protocols, conniving cousins, royal etiquette, learning a new language, paparazzi, and her own romantic feelings for the head of her Royal Imperial Guard. On top of all this, she has to build a relationship with her father, the Crown Prince. Both the father and daughter grow and evolve in their relationship as they learn to be a parent and child. But life is not a fairy tale even in this modern day fairy tale. A betrayal of trust almost destroys Izumi’s budding relationship with her extended imperial family, her love as well as her newly found father.

While writing a heart warming, happy story of love and discovery, Emiko Jean very effectively interweaves the universal dilemma of Asian Americans (or any minority for that matter) about whether they belong or where they belong. Izumi is never ‘fully’ American in Mount Shasta, California and she is never ‘fully’ Japanese when she travels to Japan. That uncertainty is true in the lives of most immigrants and the author makes a very convincing case in her delightful novel Tokyo Ever After.

Pick up this book when your brain craves some respite from all that it is dealing with. Let this book take you to a world where you know the end will be happy even if the means to the end is full of twists and turns, ups and downs. Let the story convince you of ‘happily ever afters.’

David Yoon, author of Frankly in Love, sums the book up perfectly – “Emiko’s flair for sumptuous detail —- Food! Castles! Swoony confessions! Court Drama! Cherry blossoms by the million! —locked me up helplessly into a world of splendor I never wanted to leave.” This young adult story elicited a satisfied yet wistful sigh from me as I turned the last page and it also ignited a burning desire to visit the city of Kyoto. One day…..

Tokyo Ever After is available in print and eBook format through Overdrive/Libby.

Piyali is an instructor and research specialist at the Miller Branch of HCLS, where she co-facilitates both Global Reads and Strictly Historical Fiction.

The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore

A woman with long dark hair embraces a man who is looking away amid leafy plants. The colors are all night-time blues and purples. Her face is pensive.

by Ash B.

[Content warning: sexual assault, PTSD, bullying, homophobia, and racism] 

“If I don’t pull apart things I actually did wrong from things that weren’t my fault, I’ll never really be able to really apologize for anything. Deciding everything is your fault is, in the end, as meaningless as deciding nothing is[…] I need to apologize for what is my fault, for what I did wrong, but not for the wrong that was done to me. 

Ciela Cristales just might be my favorite protagonist of 2021. 

The story begins with her dropping off an unconscious boy at the hospital on the night that changed her life – the night that she and this boy, whom she does not know, were both assaulted at the same summer party. She drops the boy off and intends to seal off the memories of the event as if they never happened.  

However, this proves difficult when the trauma she experienced results in the loss of the magical gift she inherited from her grandmother: the ability to sense exactly what type of pastry someone wants before they even know it themselves. If this doesn’t sound like a big deal, then consider how this ability, “the most precious thing my bisabuela could ever have left me,” has passed down for generations and is part of the success of her family’s pastelería business. For Ciela, losing this magic is losing a part of herself – but it wasn’t just lost, it was taken through the cruelty of her peers. 

I’ll be honest, I was a bit hesitant to read this one because of the intensity of the storyline’s subject matter. I personally tend not to read heavy books, as they can leave a significantly negative impact on my mental health. However, I knew from reading their social media that McLemore put a lot of care into this story, purposefully including hope and healing along with an emotionally accurate representation of trauma. (McLemore themself is a survivor.) 

This information from the author, combined with my pre-existing love of their writing style, was enough to motivate me to give The Mirror Season a try… so I threw myself into reading it, and wow, did it devastate me in the best type of way. Honestly, few books have ever made me cry as much as this one did, and it provided me with some much-needed catharsis. 

Ciela is gradually forced to confront the extent of her trauma – including specific details of the event that she represses through most of the book – due to the development of her relationship with Lock, the boy who was assaulted at the same time she was. They are able to form a unique friendship due to their shared experiences of sexual violence, connecting to each other in ways that other folks might not understand; for example, making jokes out of their trauma as a coping mechanism. McLemore crafts these characters, and their world, so well and with so much care. They truly felt like living, breathing people with real, raw, messy lives that are worth learning about and empathizing with. 

Stylistically, McLemore combines elements of YA contemporary fiction with what they do best: magical realism written in lush, atmospheric prose. It’s the type of writing where the reader is left with some uncertainty regarding “is this all literally happening, or is this metaphorical?” during certain passages. For much of the book I questioned whether Ciela was perceiving some of these things as an expression of her trauma, or if real objects were legitimately turning to mirrored glass – and I believe that this uncertainty is well-suited for the representation of Ciela’s experience of reality after such a traumatic event. McLemore does not shy away from portraying the difficulties of PTSD, including nightmares and flashbacks, which can cause challenges in discerning between one’s past and present realities. 

I haven’t been through anything anywhere near what these characters have been through, but reading this book honestly helped me process my own feelings of the sexual harassment I have experienced as a queer trans person: the shame, the anger, the visceral disgust when remembering the event, the internalized victim blaming, and the sense that other people are entitled to disrespect the bodies and the personhoods of Othered individuals. In the case of Ciela, her Latina and pansexual identities create intersections in the ways she is objectified and harassed by her white, straight, cisgender peers. 

One aspect of this representation that I appreciate so much is that while this is a story about a queer person experiencing trauma, this is not a Queer Struggle story. Her struggle is not about being queer specifically. The classmates that assaulted her throw the word “lesbian” at her in a derogatory manner, but Ciela is not struggling with coming out or coming to terms with her sexuality. She is open about being pansexual (i.e., attracted to people regardless of gender) and her prior same-gender relationships, and she is accepted for it by herself, by her loved ones, and by Lock. Personally, I felt like the vibrant queer world around Ciela far outweighed the homophobia, so the overall tone of the book is queer pride, resistance, and joy. This, combined with the arc of Ciela of coming to terms with how to cope with her trauma in a healthy way, makes for an ultimately empowering story of growth and courage. I honestly could see this taking the place of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson in future high school classrooms. 

So yes, this is a very emotionally challenging book, and no doubt will be highly triggering for some readers, but it is very healing. I really encourage anyone interested in this book – teens and adults alike – to give it a try, while being mindful of what you need to care for yourself. Check in with your current mental health and support system as you find the space and time to process this story in whatever way you need. I truly hope this book reaches as many readers who will benefit from it as possible. Copies of The Mirror Season can be requested through HCLS here.

For resources regarding sexual violence, visit www.rainn.org. For local support, community engagement, and more, check out HopeWorks of Howard County (formerly the Domestic Violence Center of Howard County) by visiting hopeworksofhc.org. 

Ash is an Instructor & Research Specialist at Central Branch and is a co-facilitator for Reads of Acceptance, HCLS’ first LGBTQ-focused book club. Ash is an eternal lover of coming-of-age stories, especially those that center queer and trans joy.

JOUST!

This photograph shows the cover of Cosmoknights and has the 3 main characters, Cass, Pan, and Bee in the foreground. Cass and Bee are wearing their jousting armors and carrying their weapons. In the background is presumably the hand of a princess grasping their favor which is an electronic pendant carried by the princesses of each planet and is given to the winner of each joust.

For this ragtag band of space gays, liberation means beating the patriarchy at its own game.

By Peter N.

Did you know that jousting is the state sport of Maryland? Chalk this up as a fact I was surprised to learn as an adult. The sport that involves horses, lances, and two knights? What you see at the Renaissance Festival? Cool! But I digress. Jousting usually is a competition between the aforementioned two knights for the hand of a fair princess or maiden – but this book, this clever and action-packed book, takes it one step further. 

This photograph shows an intergalactic joust in progress with a jouster in the foreground wearing predominantly white armor and sporting several jet boosters and a large lance surrounded by other jousters. The king is shown on screen in the background shouting "JOUST" to begin the games.

 

Cosmoknights was a sleeper hit for me. I’m always beefing up my reader’s advisory arsenal; in the course of my usual day of helping customers find new reads and old favorites, I decided to dive into an article recommending 20 MUST-READ LGBTQ COMICS FOR TEENS AND YOUNG ADULTS, where I ran into a recommendation for this.

GAYS IN SPACE

That made me laugh. But it also got me. Hook, line, and sinker. Without giving away too much, we meet Pan, who seems to be your ordinary teenage girl helping her cooped-up friend sneak out for a night of fun. We soon find out that her friend is their planet’s princess, who is to be offered up as a prize to the knight that wins the planet’s joust competition and wants out. She needs to get away but needs help. Pan helps her escape, but at the cost of becoming the planet’s pariah. Flash forward to five years later, when she’s living a mundane life working in her father’s mechanic shop. One night, two tough types show up at their door, and one is in need of medical attention. For what exactly? And why do they seem so familiar to Pan? Pan finds her way off-planet with these two strangers and is sucked into a battle to take down the archaic competition of jousting for the “prize” of the princess. There’s more to these warriors that showed up on her doorstep than she thought!

This photograph shows the characters Bee and Cass on Pan's front porch. Cass is injured and supported heavily by Bee and they are asking for help from Pan.

I positively loved this book. There’s action, drama, mystery, and a slight Star Trek-y/steampunk-y/sci-fi vibe to it. It’s set in the future with space travel and such, but with none of the future utopia. The characters are likable, witty, and unbelievably brave with a little bit of selflessness thrown in. The art flows well and is seamless, easy to follow, and easy on the eyes. As with so many others I’ve read lately, it’s a series that IS STILL GOING – so here comes the waiting game until there are updates or another volume is published. If you’re like me and can’t wait, then the author, Hannah Templer, makes updates Tuesdays and Fridays on their website. But I’d highly recommend checking out Cosmoknights from your local Howard County Library branch and you won’t be disappointed.

Cosmoknights is also available from HCLS as an ebook via Libby/OverDrive.

Peter (he/him/his) is an Instructor and Research Specialist at the Miller Branch and needs to read the books he has checked out before grabbing new ones. 

Make Something Great with August #ELKReads

By HCLS Elkridge Branch staff

Have you ever visited the Howard County Library System Elkridge Branch? If you haven’t been in a while – or at all – you might not realize that it’s now the Elkridge Branch + DIY Education Center! DIY, which stands for Do It Yourself, is an area that we know a little something about at Elkridge. You can check out tools for building, gardening, crafting, baking, and exploring from our DIY collection. We have everything from cake pans to knitting needles to reciprocating saws. Visit HCLS Elkridge Branch and get ready to tackle your next home or garden project! In the meantime, take a look at the selected titles below for inspiration and ideas about crafting and creating of all kinds. Keep an eye on our social media to see even more related books to explore. 

Grace and Box by Kim Howard, illustrated by Megan Lötter, shows a little girl and a dog in front of a cardboard box with a rainbow coming out of the top and a smiley face on the side, against a blue background with stars. Play with Paint! by Jenny Pinkerton shows a colorful painted flower dripping with paint, and the lettering of the title in the same set of colors (blue, green, purple, pink, red, orange, yellow). The Fun Fort by Kirsten MacDonald, illustrated by Fátima Anaya, depicts a boy popping out of the top of a cardboard fort, underneath a tree. Crafty Chloe by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Heather Ross, shows the title character with her hands triumphantly in the air, next to a ladder and underneath a banner with her name on it. She is surrounded by paper and crafting supplies on the floor, with her dog wearing a paper star-shaped hat and looking comically disgruntled. Crafty Llama by Mike Kerr, illustrated by Renata Liwska, shows a llama, a beaver, and birds, working with thread and yarn and knitting, with the title in knitted multicolored letters. What Will These Hands Make? by Nikki McClure shows a woman holding up a tattered red sweater, looking as if she is pondering how to repair it.

For Little Kids: 

Crafty Llama by Mike Kerr, illustrated by Renata Liwska, also available as an ebook on OverDrive/Libby

Llama loves to knit, and she decides to create something special and lovely but isn’t quite sure what it will be. As different animal friends join her, they are each inspired to make their own special projects. When Beaver declares that he likes to make things that are useful, Llama and her friends get creative deciding how their projects will be used.

Grace and Box by Kim Howard, illustrated by Megan Lötter

Grace loves playing with her pretend buddy Box, and she’s not about to let some wear and tear change that. This fun rhyming books makes a great read-aloud about imagination, crafty repairs, and all the joys of creative open-ended play time. 

What Will These Hands Make? by Nikki McClure, also available as an ebook on OverDrive/Libby 

Hands can do so many things! In this charming picture book, author and cut-paper artist Nikki McClure follows a family as they notice a wide variety of activities that a pair of hands might do. From a play to a house to a safer neighborhood, readers are reminded of the many important parts of a community that hands can make. 

Wood Shop: Handy Skills and Creative Building Projects for Kids by Margaret Larson shows a variety of kids doing woodworking projects, including stilts, a birdhouse, and a clock. Create a Costume! by Sarah Myer depicts a cartoon of two kids and a flying hamster in superhero costumes.  Make It! by Jane Bull depicts a picture frame, a puppet, beadwork, a paper mache frog, and other crafts along with two young people. The Stick Book: Loads of Things You Can Make or Do with a Stick by Jo Schofield and Fiona Danks depicts a reindeer, a tree trunk, a slingshot, and a tepee.  The House That Lou Built by Mae Respicio shows the title character, Lou, with two friends, building a tiny house with a ladder, lumber, and tools. Roll with It by Jamie Sumner shows a girl wearing a yellow coat and jeans in a wheelchair, popping a wheelie with one hand and spinning a top with the other.

For Big Kids: 

The House That Lou Built by Mae Respicio 

Lou is a resourceful tween who dreams of creating a space of her own, away from the hubbub of her loving, extended family home. A talented woodworker, she sets out to build a tiny house, but finds it’s more difficult than expected. In this heartwarming story of community, Filipino culture, and perseverance, Lou learns about how to make a house a home. 

Make It! by Jane Bull 

In this complete guide to making crafts from materials already found around the house, kids can find inspiration to give new life to old objects and entertain themselves (without a screen). Projects are divided up by materials used, including paper, plastic, metal, and fabric, with clear instructions and illustrations as well as suggestions for alternative materials if the primary one isn’t available. Find fun ways to clear up clutter with the ideas in Make It!.

Maker Comics: Create a Costume! by Sarah Myer 

Bea and Parker are just a few short weeks away from the comic convention and without costumes! Learn along with Bea and Parker how to make a budget friendly cosplay with an easy-to-find mix of materials, tools, and a lot of imagination. Then, check out other titles in the Maker Comics series.

Boys Don't Knit: (in public) by Tom Easton shows the title and three balls of yarn with knitting needles against a dark blue background; the word "knit" appears to have been knitted from the tan ball of yarn. The Maker's Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse: Defend Your Base with Simple Circuits, Arduino, and Raspberry Pi by Simon Monk shows two buildings against a yellow background underneath the title, which is in teal and brown. Marvelous Makeable Monsters: 21 STEAM Projects That Light Up, Buzz, Launch, and Occasionally Chomp by Sam Haynor shows several adorable monsters on sticks with a rocket ship dangling from above; the rocks and ground surrounding them suggest a moonscape. Drawing Is Magic: Discovering Yourself in a Sketchbook by John Hendrix shows many little creative sketches in black and red, including but not limited to books, pens and an ink bottle, a dragon, playground equipment, a jack-in-the-box, a person reclined and reading, and a bomb with a lit fuse. The Baking Cookbook for Teens: 75 Delicious Recipes for Sweet & Savory Treats by Robin Donovan shows a slice of chocolate cake with a white cream filling, chocolate icing, and rainbow sprinkles; the sprinkles are also scattered across the cover's blue background, with the title in hot pink. Primer: A Superhero Graphic Novel by Jennifer Muro shows a girl with long red hair and glasses on her forehead, in a white tank top and gray-green shorts with a black belt and gold buckle, and black combat boots.  She holds a spray paint can and there are five more cans on the floor surrounding her. The walls behind her are sprayed in overlapping patches of green, blue, purple, yellow, and pink, and some of the patches are dripping down the white walls.  The title sits boldly in white against the colorful spray paint background.

For Teens: 

Boys Don’t Knit by T.S. Easton 

Ben Fletcher has gotten himself into a bit of trouble, and he ends up deciding on a knitting class as the best option to perform the required community service. Even though it turns out not to be taught by the expected (good-looking) instructor, Ben discovers that he’s actually good at knitting, and it helps his anxiety. Will his family and friends – not to mention his enemies – judge Ben harshly for his new pursuit?

The Maker’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse by Simon Monk 

Even if you’re not too worried about zombies threatening anytime soon, this book will give you some great ideas and step-by-step instructions for projects to communicate, defend, and generate power. Use circuits, Arduino, and Raspberry Pi systems to prepare for a time when you might not have access to all your usual electronics. Maybe until the zombies come, you can hone your skills as you practice defending your room against pestering pets or bothersome siblings.

Primer: A Superhero Graphic Novel by Jennifer Muro 

Thirteen-year-old Ashley Rayburn has bounced from one foster home to another, always finding herself in trouble along the way. When she stumbles upon a set of body paints that grant the wearer a multitude of superpowers, the government agency that created them comes after her to get them back. To protect her new family, Ashley has to make some hard choices while facing the shadows of the past.  

Green from the Ground Up: Sustainable, Healthy, and Energy-Efficient Home Construction by David Johnston shows a partial silhouette of a home building in progress, with the title in white against a green background. Gardenista: The Definitive Guide to Stylish Outdoor Spaces by Michelle Slatalla shows an English-style garden with trees, manicured shrubs, flowers, and greenery. Chesapeake Gardening & Landscaping: The Essential Green Guide by Barbara W. Ellis shows several photographs depicting a river garden scene with a fence gate, a bush, and a flowering shrub; hydrangea; cattails and greenery in a marshy area; a monarch butterfly; and purple bee balm. Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey shows a couple kissing at the top of a yellow ladder; the woman is in a pink dress with white shoes, and the man is wearing grey shoes, blue pants, a grey shirt, and a grey backwards baseball cap. A Patchwork of Clues by Sally Goldenbaum shows a colorful patchwork quilt in the foreground, and then a view through two window panels of shops along a street, with a green plant in a white pot on the windowsill. Down to Earth: Laid-Back Interiors for Modern Living by Lauren Liess shows a cozy living room in shades of brown, grey, and white, with an elegant yellow-flowering plant on a low table, a fire in the fireplace in the background. exposed wooden ceiling beams, and a brown sofa and settee with a window in the back.

For Adults: 

Chesapeake Gardening and Landscaping: The Essential Green Guide by Barbara W. Ellis 

This volume provides the reader with instructions to develop a natural landscape in the Chesapeake watershed region. A few of the principles the authors enumerate are to “reduce lawn, grow native plants, and welcome wildlife,” all laudable goals. This book may have more prose than some of our other gardening selections, but it still contains beautiful photos. 

Down to Earth: Laid-back Interiors for Modern Living by Lauren Liess 

If you enjoy what could be described as “modernish eclectic,” a style that is very “in” now, then you will like this book. Think lots of wood, and lots of black and white, or a monochromatic color scheme. And of course, gorgeous photos! 

A Patchwork of Clues by Sally Goldenbaum 

This first in a series of mysteries introduces the Queen Bee Quilt Shop in Crestwood, Kansas, where a group of women have been gathering to make a quilt in honor of the shop owner’s anniversary. While out on her morning run, Po, the unofficial leader of the group, discovers a dead body right on the quilt shop’s doorstep. She and her friends are great at working together to make beautiful quilts, but can they combine their unique strengths and knowledge to find a killer? With a charming small-town setting, cast of quirky characters, and compelling who-done-it, A Patchwork of Clues not only has everything you could ask for in a cozy mystery, it also celebrates crafting, particularly the art of quilting, as a way of connecting with friends and building community. 

Tails and Tales: Summer Reading at HCLS

A green and blue chameleon rests on a red book. The yellow banner reads: Tailes and Tales.

Howard County Library System invites you to participate in Summer Reading 2021: Tails & Tales! It keeps your family motivated to read all summer as you accomplish Missions each week. Summer Reading began June 1, and it runs through August 23.

Track your reading and play fun educational mini-games as you complete missions full of activities. Discover HCLS eResources along the way. Earn ten points to receive a free book! Earn points by either logging your books online or in a paper reading log, and then visit any HCLS branch between August 2 – 31 to pick up your book. Limit one book per reader, while supplies last. 

Choose between two versions: one for birth to age 10 and the other for ages 11-17. More information and book lists available at hclibrary.org/summer.

You can set up accounts at hcls.readsquared.com to track your progress, or you can download and print the paper version (in multiple languages this year). Each Monday, a new Mission is available online. You can enjoy the tasks listed or you can Imagine Your Own 20-minute Reading Activity by reading any way you like: Read or listen to an eBook;  a book you can hold in your hand; a chapter; a comic or graphic novel; or read a poem.

When you reach a total of 10 points, you have officially completed Summer Reading and may visit any HCLS Branch to pick up your book prize. (While supplies last; limit 1 book per reader).  What happens after you earn 10 points? Keep on reading! Continue reading, logging books, and completing mission activities.  

HCLS ADULT SUMMER READING CHALLENGE 2021 

A book lies open in grass with a pair of reading glasses resting on top. The frames are blue and the arms are multi

Give yourself some time to read, relax and learn this summer with our Adult Summer Reading Challenge. We encourage you to read in whatever format you like best: audiobooks, eBooks, graphic novels, and hold-in-your-hands books! As above, you can either track your progress online, or you can download and print a paper version.

Earn two points for each book you log. Earn a total of ten points to be automatically entered into the end of summer prize drawing! Create your own summer reading challenges or use our list of suggestions. Details at hclibrary.org/summer

Celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride Month with #ELKReads

By Elkridge Branch Staff

For the past 50 years, June has been celebrated as LGBTQ+ Pride Month. The celebrations began with the first Pride march in New York City, on June 28, 1970. That date celebrated the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, a six-day period of unrest, sparked by a police raid of a gay bar. Though not an uncommon occurrence, this particular raid did not go as planned and led the queer community to fight back against the targeting and tactics being used against them. As queer communities around the world continue to seek recognition, respect, and equal rights, we invite you to explore the books suggested below – and on our social media – for all ages. You can also learn more about the history of Pride Month on the Library of Congress website.

For Little Kids:

The image says "Pride! Picks for Little Kids" and has a collage of six book covers. The cover of And Tango Makes Three shows two penguin parents huddling with their chick. The cover of Pride Colors shows a toddler in striped shirt, jeans, and fisherman's sandals, standing next to a table with rainbow-colored legs. The cover of Love Makes a Family shows a variety of families of different genders, races, and ages, with rainbows, hearts, doves, and arrows among the symbols in the turquoise background. The cover of They, She, He, Me: Free to Be! has the title lettered in stylized fonts with geometric patterns in shades of turquoise, green, and yellow. The cover or Prince & Knight shows the prince surrounded by young maidens all giving him attention, while he gazes with head turned toward the knight, who leans against his horse and waves at the prince. The cover of My Rainbow shows a transgender girl wearing a rainbow-colored wig of leaves and flowers against a yellow background.

Love Makes a Family by Sophie Beer

This book celebrates the thing that all families have in common, which is love. All types of families are represented in this book. Families are shown engaging in happy activities together.

Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack

In this beautifully illustrated modern LGBTQ+ fairy tale, a Prince Charming and a Knight in Shining Armor find true love in each other. The young men are celebrated as heroes for saving the kingdom from a dragon together, and their love is affirmed and embraced with a royal wedding in a delightful happily-ever-after. Be sure to also check out Daniel Haack’s Maiden & Princess

Pride Colors by Robin Stevenson

Celebrate Pride Month with your little one by enjoying this photographic concept book filled with the colors of the Pride flag. Artist & activist Gilbert Baker created the original Pride flag and each color in the flag has a special meaning, so be sure to turn to the end of the book to find out what each one represents!

For Big Kids:

The image says "Pride! Picks for Big Kids" and has a collage of six book covers. Better Nate than Ever shows the title character leaping into the air in front of a stylized New York City skyline which includes the Statue of Liberty, with the name "Nate" lit up with light bulbs resembling a theatre marquee. Be Amazing shows a character in drag, posing with hand on hip and one arm in the air as if on a catwalk, wearing a dress and hat in gold, orange, and black, with a blurry rainbow-colored background resembling butterfly wings. The cover of Witch Boy shows the purple silhouette of a dragon looking over the title character, who is reading by candlelight against a pink background. The cover of Queer Heroes depicts famous queer celebrities and artists, including Freddie Mercury, Frida Kahlo, Josephine Baker, and Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi. The cover of Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World shows the backs of two girls as they face a whirlwind rising up to the sky with words in cursive, presumably the contents of Ivy's letter, swirling within. The cover of Rick shows the title character with his back to the reader, wearing a grey shirt and a lavender backpack covered in stickers, including an alien, a spaceship, a smiley face, and a rainbow. The title is in rainbow letters against a white background.

Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle (also available as an audiobook on CD,  an ebook and eaudiobook on Libby/OverDrive, and an eaudiobook on CloudLibrary)

Nate Foster has always dreamed of starring in a Broadway show, but he worries about how he’ll ever reach his dream while living in a small town in Pennsylvania. With the help of his best friend, Libby, Nate plans a daring escape to New York City when he hears of an open casting call for E.T.: The Musical. Nate knows this could be his big break, and he won’t let this chance at stardom slip away.

The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag

Aster’s family is magic: boys grow up to be shapeshifters, and girls grow up to be witches. But at age 13, Aster still hasn’t shifted, and he is captivated by the witchery that his family members who are girls get to learn. This beautiful graphic novel follows Aster as he makes a new friend, works to protect his family from a mysterious threat, and finds the courage to be true to himself.

Queer Heroes: Meet 52 LGBTQ+ Heroes from Past & Present! by Arabelle Sicardi 

From the heartfelt introduction by the author to the inclusive glossary at the end, this diverse collection of biographical snapshots is a great starting place to learn about real-life LGBTQ+ heroes from around the world. Vibrantly colorful portraits illustrate the incredible life stories and contributions of LGBTQ+ artists, athletes, inventors, activists, and more.

For Teens:

The image says "Pride! Picks for Teens" and has a collage of six book covers. The cover of When the Moon Was Ours shows the two main characters, Sam and Miel, silhouetted against the dark backdrop of a starlit water tower, with arms outstretched towards one another, and one climbing a ladder as if on a stage. The cover of The Best at It shows the main character in glasses and sports gear, with arm outstretched, against a teal background with scattered books, calculator, camera, football, pencil, triangle, photographs, and other school-related items scattered about. The cover of Cemetery Boys shows two boys back-to-back, one wearing a collared shirt and one wearing a hoodie, in front of a ghostly skeleton figure in red robes and a flowered crown silhouetted by the full moon. The cover of Queer: The Ultimate LGBT Guide for Teens shows the title extending from the top to the bottom of the book, in rainbow letters, with the subtitle in smaller white letters across the middle from left to right, all against a black background. The cover of The Great American Whatever has the title and author's name in black and red letters against a white theatre marquee background, The last "a" in "American" is missing and the first "E" in "Whatever" is crooked, as is the "D" in the author's last name (Federle). The final "E" in his name is substituted with the mathematical epsilon symbol. The cover of I'll Give You the Sun has the title in dark teal lettering with dashes radiating out from the center in rainbow colors.

Queer: The Ultimate LGBTQ Guide for Teens by Kathy Belge and Marke Bieschke

This comprehensive guide supports teens who are – or think they might be – queer, as they navigate everything from coming out to standing up for their rights. Background about queer figures throughout history and personal stories from the authors’ lives are interspersed with guidance throughout. While the information included is general enough to cover a broad range of topics within the single volume, a list of resources can direct readers to more details about specific areas of interest.

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

Miel and Sam live in a small town where magic isn’t so out of the ordinary. But when the Bonner Girls decide they want the roses that grow from Miel’s wrist, and they threaten to tell the secret they know about Sam to get her to cooperate, Miel has to face her past and try to find the path forward. The lush, evocative language in this novel brings a lyrical beauty to this story of friendship, family, love, magic, and finding your true self.

The Best at It by Maulik Pancholy (also available in ebook and eaudiobook format on Libby/OverDrive)

Rahul Kapoor is an Indian American boy just entering seventh grade in a small town in Indiana. To help soothe his worries, his grandfather gives Rahul the advice to find one thing he does well and become the BEST at it! As Rahul searches for the special thing he can be the best at, he also confronts his anxieties and finds that he can count on his friends and family for the support he needs.

For Adults:

The image says "Pride! Picks for Adults" and has a collage of six book covers. The cover for Lot: Stories shows a silver fire hydrant emitting a rainbow of colored water against a white background, with the title in stark black lettering. The cover of Cantoras shows a setting on the shore, with a blue sky and ocean, and white waves crashing against a rocky beach. The cover for Untamed has the title in white lettering against a background of swirly colors: pink, red, turquoise, blue, and glittery silver and gold. The cover for Written in the Stars shows two women, one blonde and one with long red hair, embracing in front of a silhouetted cityscape and sky in shades of blue, lit up by white stars and constellations. The cover of Good Boy shows a brown retriever with a pink collar, seated against a white background, with the title in rainbow colors beneath his feet. The cover of Fun Home shows a pen and ink drawing of one adult and three children, framed as if in a traditional portrait, with a teal background.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

“Sometimes, when things were going well, I think my father actually enjoyed having a family.” As you might guess, Alison Bechdel had a fraught relationship with her father, a high school English teacher who ran their small town’s funeral home out of their Victorian-era home that he restored himself. During college, when Alison came out as a lesbian, she learned that her own father was a closeted gay man, but his death soon after left her searching for answers that he could not provide. Check out this critically-acclaimed graphic memoir that has also been adapted into a Tony-award-winning musical!

Good Boy: My Life in Seven Dogs by Jennifer Finney Boylan (also available in large print format and as an ebook and eaudiobook from Libby/OverDrive)

In a 2017 New York Times opinion column on rescue animals, Jennifer Finney Boylan wrote: “When you lose a dog, you not only lose the animal that has been your friend, you also lose a connection to the person you have been.” Here Boylan uses the memories of her beloved dogs to reconnect with, or at least fondly remember the many people she has been- a son, a father, a mother, a wife. Good Boy is at once a deeply personal reflection on Boylan’s unique journey as a trans woman and a celebration of the changes in identity we all experience as we grow up and grow older and the animals who we love along the way.

Lot: Stories by Bryan Washington (also available as an ebook from Libby/OverDrive)

Lot: Stories by Bryan Washington affords readers a front row seat to several aspects of life in a Houston, Texas neighborhood. The burdens and exhilarations of family dynamics, race, sexuality, economics, friendships, and societal influence all feature prominently in short stories connected through common characters.

The Elkridge Branch + DIY Education Center opened the doors of its new building in March 2018. Our staff are always happy to help you with your questions about books, tools, technology, and more!

Celebrate Black History Month with #ELKReads

by HCLS Elkridge staff

Black History Month has been observed during February in the United States since 1976, when it was first officially recognized by President Gerald Ford. Ford invited Americans to, “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” We invite you to join us in celebrating the talent of Black authors and honoring the history of Black Americans by taking a look at some of the titles selected below. You can find more on our website.

A collage of five titles. My Hair is a Garden features a young Black with hair flowing up from the top of her heard. I Am Perfectly Design has an illustration of a man and young boy seated on a park bench with people walking behind them. Child of the Civil Rights Movement shows a young girl in a blue dress holding a rainbow flag. Dream Big, Little One show rounded illustration of three Black women dressed for different professions. The King of Kindergarten has a pale green background and an oval shaped medallion with the portrait of a small child wearing a crown.

My Hair Is a Garden written and illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera

When young MacKenzie is teased about her hair, she turns to her neighbor. Miss Tillie lavishes her with an abundance of wisdom, encouragement, and practical care that empowers the girl to take care of herself with love and skill. Like the beautiful garden Miss Tillie cultivates in her yard, MacKenzie’s beautiful Black hair is tended with love. The appreciation of self-care grows to an inspiring and powerful message of self-love. An afterword provides many specific techniques and recipes for caring for Black hair. 

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall. Also available as a Voxbook.

Jabari is definitely ready to jump off the diving board: he’s finished his swimming lessons, passed his swim test, and is a great jumper, so he’s not scared at all. But when his dad squeezes his hand, Jabari squeezes back. In a sweetly appealing tale of overcoming your fears, newcomer Gaia Cornwall captures a moment between a patient and encouraging father and a determined little boy you can’t help but root for. 

Child of the Civil Rights Movement by Paula Young Shelton, illustrated by Raul Colón 

Author Paula Young Shelton, daughter of civil rights leader Andrew Young, brings you along to her childhood experiences in Georgia during Jim Crow, in the heart of the civil rights movement. Shelton shares vivid memories of swimming with Martin Luther King Jr. and marching from Selma to Montgomery. Connect with your little one as you read this moving and poignant picture book. 

Collage of five titles. Young, Gift, and Black has a bright yellow background with green, red, and white decorations and two busts of Black men. Some Places More than Others shows a woman with a ponytail and a scarf walking trough a city. The Fierce 44 has a blue background and a handwritten list of the 44 people featured in the book. The Harlen Charade has the title on a sheet on a laundry line outside of fire escape. Ghost has a bright yellow cover, almost empty except for the the fi

Young, Gifted and Black: Meet 52 Black Heroes from Past and Present by Jamia Wilson

With a title that references the late Lorraine Hansberry’s phrase “young, gifted and black,” this exuberant collected biography is one readers won’t want to miss. Children are invited to explore one- and two-page vignettes of compelling figures in Black culture worldwide. Discover how their childhood dreams and experiences influenced their adult achievements. This book inspires the next generation to chase their dreams! 

The Fierce 44: Black Americans Who Shook Up the World by the staff of The Undefeated

Get to know 44 of America’s most impressive heroes with this engrossing and beautifully illustrated collection of mini-biographies. With notable figures such as musician Jimi Hendrix and gymnast Simone Biles, and somewhat lesser-known figures like newspaper publisher Robert Abbott and dancer Alvin Ailey, this book exposes you to the brief histories of both household names and little-known heroes who influenced the world. 

Some Places More Than Others by Renée Watson. Also available as an eBook.

For her twelfth birthday, small-town girl Amara gets her wish to visit her father’s side of the family for the first time in Harlem, New York City. Looking for roots to her personal heritage as well as Black culture, Amara is surprised by how overwhelming it all is at first. Through earnest and heartfelt exploration, the help of her loving family, and a school assignment to gather family history, she comes to understand more about herself than she had imagined. Love, forgiveness, and connection shine through in this tender and moving coming-of-age story. 

Collage of five titles. The Black Kids features a Black face wearing sunglasses reflecting a tropical scene. A Phoenix First Must Burn shows the title overlaid a girl with a swirling pink dress. Black Enough features a Black woman and White Man in dialogue. Crossing Ebenezer Creek lays the title in the green and white water of a creek under a full moon, with two figures standing on the far shore holding hands. The Forgotten Girl shows a Black girl with her hair down and curly wearing a white shift dress.

Crossing Ebenezer Creek by Tanya Bolden. Also available as an eBook.

An astounding work of historical fiction, this book is heartbreaking and graphically authentic in its depiction of violence. Following the burning of Atlanta in 1864, teenage Caleb, a pontooner in Sherman’s army, finds Mariah, an enslaved young woman, searching for rations in an abandoned slave labor camp. She and others join Sherman’s march. As Caleb and Mariah begin to dream of a better future, the horrific true events of the Massacre at Ebenezer Creek unfold. For ages 12+. 

Black Enough: Stories of Being Young and Black in America edited by Ibi Zoboi. Also available as an eAudiobook.

This contemporary fiction anthology examines the different experiences of Black youth in America. Some of the best Black young adult authors explore a spectrum of the intersectionality of wealth, status, LGBT+, class, rural/urban/suburban, and immigration that impact and represent Black youth today.

The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed

A coming-of-age story, this book filters issues of systemic racism, class, generational mental health, privilege, and racial justice through the perspective of Ashley Bennett, a wealthy, Black teenager attending a predominantly white school. When graphic video evidence of Rodney King’s horrific beating by the LAPD goes viral and the riots following the officers’ lack of accountability, Ashley goes on a personal journey of growth and identity and awareness.

A collage of five books. Another Country emphasizes the author's name against a black background. How Long "Til Black Future Month features a Black woman in profile with her hair up and adorned with roses. The Home Place provides the perspective of looking up at a blue sky and bare branches. Homegoing has a an orange background with illustrations of waves and two overlapping profiles of Black women. Glory Over Everything shows a painting of a wman and a shcild standing in a field, with the illustration of robin in the foreground.

How Long ’til Black Future Month? by N. K. Jemisin. Also available as an eBook and an eAudiobook.

This collection of short stories is a wonderful introduction to one of the most innovative and celebrated authors of science fiction and fantasy writing today. Jemisin is unafraid to use her work to explore themes of trauma, prejudice, and oppression, while also creating richly-imagined worlds and unforgettable characters, whose voices have been missing from speculative fiction for far too long. 

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Also available as an eBook on OverDrive and on CloudLibrary, plus as an audiobook on CD and an eAudiobook on OverDrive.

Reading historical fiction is a great way to immerse yourself in a life different from yours. Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing offers a deep look into the effects of imperialism and enslavement, and considers how the long shadows of their repercussions affect individuals and their families. Generation after generation of two half-sisters’ descendants guide us through the long-lasting consequences of systemic and systematic racism on separate continents an ocean apart.

Another Country by James Baldwin

I’d implore everyone to read anything – and everything – by James Baldwin, whom some have called America’s George Orwell. Perhaps it’s because of his contemplative and introspective essay style, but I think it refers to him as a political and social artist. My understanding is that the title refers to Baldwin’s wish for another country where one’s race or sexual preference aren’t defining characteristics, but sadly, this book is very much about this country. Another Country presents an engaging, well-crafted story about the intersection of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation in the 1950s, well before most authors thought so broadly. Art, such as excellent fiction with characters everyone can relate to in some way, is a great way to explore these concepts.

The Elkridge Branch + DIY Education Center opened the doors of its new building in March 2018. All our staff wish that we could see you in person, but we are happy to help you discover new reads while we are apart.

Staying Cozy with Elkridge – for teens and adults

The photograph depicts two hands holding an open book against a colorful woolen blanket, with sunlight streaming in to illuminate the book.

By Elkridge Branch staff

Winter is a great time to curl up with a cozy read. Cold and sometimes dreary weather begs for a blanket, a hot drink, and a fire. This month, the Elkridge branch staff members have collected a list of titles to encourage you to Stay Cozy! Keep an eye on the HCLS Facebook page to see titles for all ages highlighted throughout January, and make sure to track titles for the Winter Reading Challenge. Here are just a few of those titles. 

FOR TEENS: 

The book cover depicts a blue-eyed husky above the title, with a panoramic scene under the title of a driver, dog sled, and dogs against a winter forest backdrop in muted blue and gray tones.

The History of the World in Fifty Dogs by Mackenzi Lee, illustrated by Petra Eriksson

Cozy up with canines and a large bowl of snark in The History of the World in Fifty Dogs by Mackenzi Lee, a compilation of Milkbone-sized, illustrated essays about interesting bits of human history accompanied by dogs. Dogs have won Pets in World Mythology Best in Show for millennia. While Cerberus, Anubis, and Fenrir take first place in name recognition, you can find other good dog deity stories such as Gourd Tray, a bug-turned-dog-turned-prince. I especially liked the guide dog to the underworld, Wepwawet, whose name I now consider the greatest dog name aside from Entropy. Sit, stay, and play an around-the-world game of Fetch the Friendship of doggo and hooman. 

Blazewrath Games by Amparo Ortiz

Now imagine a different sort of mutt–a sport with lineage derived from rugby, capture the flag, and Krav Maga. With magic. On dragons. Lana Torres eats, sleeps, and breathes Blazewrath. It connects her to her Papi and the golden age prior to her parents’ divorce when they lived together amid Puerto Rico’s Cayey mountains. Now, for the first time, her beloved homeland has the requisite number of dragons to play the game. Amid internal and external debates about identity and merit, pro-dragon terrorists attack. When the Dragon Knights threaten the World Cup, Lana fears it to be a Hydra. Runners do not run from the fight; they run toward it. With worldbuilding adventure at its finest, with a diverse cast of authentic LGBTQ+, POC, and disabled characters, this book enthralls.

Elatsoe by Darcy Little Badger 

One of the most engaging books I have read all year involves a ghost Springer Spaniel named Kirby and an unnamed ghost trilobite, because our Lipan Apache heroine enjoys paleontology. Elatsoe, Ellie for short, has the enviable ability to resurrect spirits. Magic, in all its multicultural glory, gore, and grace, exists, and Ellie can summon the spirits of dead animals, just like her Six-Great-Grandmother. 

The story opens with the death of her older cousin, with whom she had been close. On the way to his afterlife, his spirit pops in to see Ellie. He tells her he was murdered, who murdered him, and tasks her with seeking justice for him while protecting his widow and newborn baby. Elatsoe gets help from her parents, friends, and the stories of her ancestors, which are an ever-present, essential aspect of her life. There’s a cyclical feel to the storytelling, as if the past, present, and future are one. 

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Barnes – also available as an audiobook on CD and an ebook on OverDrive 

Dear Santa, aside from a ghost wooly mammoth, can I please have a billionaire bequeath me his entire fortune? No? Then I will follow Avery Grambs’s quest to understand why billionaire Tobias Hawthorne, a complete stranger, cut every blood relative out of his will to name Avery his heir. Sure, she’s appreciative, but also confused and curious. Raised by a single mother who treated every action and event as a game, be it chores, poverty, or cancer, Avery’s affinity for puzzles and games sends her down dangerous rabbit holes. With the help of three vastly different, handsome brothers, she unlocks truths about each member of the family. Everyone has a story, often entertaining, always suspect.

Ice Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson – also available as an ebook on cloudLibrary

Dogs + snow = instant cozy. Fourteen-year-old Victoria Secord is angry. A local musher offered her dibs on his high-quality sled dogs. As an aspiring racer, Vicky recognizes the chance of a lifetime, but her mom has to work and apparently does not trust her daughter to drive her dog team across town alone. Vicky sneaks away with her team. Vicky is snow savvy with survival skills to rival Bear Grylls, thanks to her dad. Of course, Chris has none of these skills. Who is Chris? He’s the guy Vicky finds sprawled in the snow bleeding beside a smashed snowmobile. Actually, most household appliances possess more non-urban survival skills than Chris. Go ahead, start your worry. After Vicky administers first aid, she offers him a ride. They get lost. More fun, there’s a rising snowstorm, and by morning everything is hidden under an endless expanse of white, camouflaging all landmark vegetation. Have you started worrying yet? 

FOR ADULTS: 

The book cover photograph depicts a dark grey terrier wearing a knitted pink sweater.

The Little Book of Hygge : Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking

Hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) is the Danish word for the contentment that comes from embracing life’s simplest pleasures. Warm, inviting homes, quality time with family and close friends, and an appreciation for all things natural and handmade are just some of its components. Meik Wiking, author and CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, recommends recipes, tips for interior design, and activities to enjoy from the comfort and safety of home, and describes how an approach of feeling gratitude for the everyday has helped make the Danes some of the happiest people in the world. 

Nothing Much Happens: Cozy and Calming Stories to Soothe Your Mind and Help You Sleep by Kathryn Nicolai

Based on the beloved podcast, Nothing Much Happens proves that we never outgrow the calming magic of a cozy bedtime story. This collection of short, sensory-delighting stories will lull even the busiest mind into a restful state. In describing everyday moments of joy and beauty, these stories conjure a deep and soothing sense that all is well. The included meditation practices, recipes, and relaxation techniques nurture the body and train the mind in the habit of wellbeing that begins with a good night’s sleep. 

Sweaters for Dogs: 15 Knitting Projects to Keep Your Dog Cozy and Comfortable by Debbie Humphreys

Knitting is a trendy hobby, and what’s cuter than a dog in a sweater? Cable-knit, ribbed, chunky, turtleneck – you name it. You’ll love the fifteen knitting projects, ranked from “one paw” for a straightforward pattern to “three paws” for more complicated projects, as well as stunning photographs of adorable canine models. Whether or not you have a furry companion to keep warm this winter, you’ll enjoy looking through these fun designs.

The Elkridge Branch + DIY Education Center opened the doors of its new building in March 2018. All our staff wish that we could see you in person, but we are happy to help you discover new reads while we are apart.

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.