Raffle Tickets & Flower Baskets

Faded image of Glenwodd Branch's teen area with text overlayed, "2022 Spring Fundraiser! Glorious flower baskets, branch raffles featuring amazing local prizes, chances to win tickets to Evening in the Stacks or a Microsoft tablet, a wine pull - all to benefit Teen Spaces at every HCLS branch!"

by Mickey Gomez, President, Friends & Foundation of HCLS

Spring is here, and that means it’s time for Friends & Foundation of Howard County Library System’s Second Annual Spring Fundraiser!

This year, with HCLS’s much anticipated gala event Evening in the Stacks moving to May, we’ve bundled our fundraising efforts together in a single online location.

Our gorgeous flower baskets are back, and already in high demand! Last year they sold out, so if you’d enjoy welcoming May with a 12” hanging basket of cheerful sun-loving flowers while supporting your favorite library system, you’ll want to act fast! Baskets will be available for pickup May 4th, 5th, and 7th at the Miller Branch.

This year’s raffle includes six unique gift baskets individually curated by each HCLS branch, featuring a remarkable array of local gift cards to restaurants, stores, shops, and markets, tickets to local events, tours, and museums, unique collectables, and more! The baskets range in value from $500 to $1,000, and you’ll definitely want to check them all out before deciding which to try for – or you can try for them all!

We’ll also have drawings for two tickets to Evening in the Stacks: Across Africa along with our Grand Prize: a Microsoft Surface Go 3 tablet.

And for our wine connoisseurs, we’re once again offering a Wine Pull available exclusively at Evening in the Stacks. Your ticket will get you a randomly selected bottle of fabulous wine, each valued at an estimated $20+.

All proceeds this year go to support teen spaces, safe and welcoming locations in each HCLS branch that allow teens to gather without paying for a membership or having to buy something. They’ll have access to interest-driven learning along with resources promoting empowerment, mental wellness, digital and tech fluency, and more!

You can also donate directly to support STEM tools for teens who have expressed an interest in engaging with coding or digital media creation such as 3D modeling, music-making, graphic design, video production, and social and educational gaming – all in a fun, inclusive, and positive environment.

I could not be any more excited about any of this, which is saying a lot considering how much I love our local library system. On behalf of Friends & Foundation of HCLS, we hope you’ll join in the fun while supporting Teen Spaces and HCLS. Thank you!

#FriendsMakeItHappen

Weaving Our Way to the Moon 

An older woman works with computer guidance parts for the Apollo space program.
image courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution

Register for class: https://howardcounty.librarycalendar.com/events/weaving-our-way-moon 
Saturday, March 19; 3 – 4 pm
HCLS Glenwood Branch
Ages 11 and up. Allow 20 minutes. 

by Lori C.

Learn the fascinating forgotten history of the LOLs – the Little Old Ladies of NASA’s Apollo Missions – with a hands-on STEM activity that celebrates the women who “wove our way to the moon.” Discover how core rope memory powered spaceflight, then create a simple beaded message using binary code. 

When you hear the word, “weaving” and the phrase, “little old ladies,” what image comes to mind? Most likely the mental picture is not one of making a sophisticated computer program designed to send the Apollo spacecraft to the moon! For Women’s History Month, we are going to celebrate the women who, using ferrite core beads and copper wire, literally wove the components that made up software programs for the Apollo Guidance Computer.  

The “little old ladies” or LOLs moniker certainly was not the most progressive way of referring to these highly skilled factory workers who crafted the core rope memory for NASA. Their precise weaving and manufacturing skills were crucial to the success of the Apollo program and to the astronauts arriving safely on the Moon.  

The NASA Apollo Guidance Computer used read-only, core rope memory to store its programs. The weaving was complicated: “The cores are arranged in ropes of 1024 cores each. 10 inhibit pairs (20 wires) provide the address-decoder weave as 2^10=1024. Although the memory words are 16 bits wide, each core has up to 64 sense wires woven through it.”* Remarkably, this guidance system used only 72k of memory, which is equivalent to the memory of a simple calculator. 

Want to try your hand at making a simple version of core rope memory in the tradition of the LOLs? Join us at the Glenwood Branch for a brief history overview of the contributions of these amazing women who “wove our way to the moon” and then craft a single word-weaving project using binary code, thread, and beads.   

Lori, the Teens’ Instructor & Research Specialist at the Glenwood Branch, idolizes Sally Ride and in an alternate life would have trained to be an astronaut. She also loves baseball, knitting, and reading dystopian novels. 

*Core Rope & Woven-Wire Memory Systems by B. Hilpert, April 2015
https://web.archive.org/web/20160822041959/http://www.cs.ubc.ca/~hilpert/e/corerope/index.html 

Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe

The image shows two characters as mirror images of one another , one in yellow shorts with no shirt and arms outstretched, the other in a blue shirt and blue rolled-up pants, clutching the gem of the pants. Both are up to mid-calf in blue-green water; the "reflected" person has a green-gold forest in the background.

By Ash B. 

When I started working here at the library, my favorite section to get acquainted with was the graphic novel section. One reason for this was the rate at which I could find LGBTQ representation; I’ve joked with friends and colleagues that sometimes I feel I have a ‘sixth sense’ for intuitively knowing whether an artist is queer based on their art style or the design of the book’s cover.  

Sometimes there are subtle clues about the book’s content, and sometimes there is something overtly LGBTQ-related about the cover, title, or summary. Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe (pronouns: e/em/eir) falls into the latter category on all counts. As soon as I heard the title alone, I knew I needed to read it. 

Gender Queer is a memoir, formatted as a graphic novel, that recounts Kobabe’s experiences regarding gender and sexuality throughout eir childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. At its core, it is a book that addresses what it means, in Kobabe’s personal experience, to be nonbinary, queer, and asexual. As e explains in a Washington Post op-ed, Kobabe primarily wrote this as a way of explaining eir nonbinary identity to eir parents and extended family. However, Kobabe’s story has reached much farther than that, garnering praise from readers, reviewers, and the American Library Association (ALA). 

In my opinion, as a nonbinary reader, Gender Queer is so remarkable because there is nothing else quite like it. Through a talented combination of text and illustration, Kobabe addresses complex intersections of gender and sexuality with such specificity that I was honestly blown away. Never before I had felt so seen and understood by a piece of media. One of my favorite passages addresses the struggle to achieve a balance of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ gender expression when society is set on placing you on one side of the gender binary. I truly don’t have the words to fully express how meaningful this is to me… so let me share a brief anecdote instead: 

Around the time I was re-reading the book to prepare for this review, one of my (fellow nonbinary) friends texted me regarding a conflict they felt over an article of clothing they wanted to buy because they were concerned it would be read as ‘too feminine.’ Within our text conversation, I sent my friend two panels from the book.  

My friend’s response? They related so much that they started crying in the bathroom on their lunch break at work.

Representation matters. 

Even for those of us within the LGBTQ community who have come to terms with our identities, have community support, and hold privilege (whether it be whiteness, financial stability, ability, etc.) that improves our overall life outcomes – it is still hard to exist in a heteronormative society structured around the gender binary. At best, it is exhausting and invalidating, which still takes a hit to one’s mental health.  

Now imagine being a young person who lacks community support, lacks independence, and is questioning or struggling with accepting their identity. 

Books such as Gender Queer not only educate – they provide invaluable support to queer, trans, and questioning readers who need to see affirming, accurate, and nuanced representation. When we say these books can be a lifeline for readers, that’s not an empty statement; suicidality is significantly higher amongst LGBTQ youth, especially those who are trans, in comparison to their non-LGBTQ counterparts. 

Unfortunately, in the past year there has been a national surge – including in Howard County – in attempted censorship of LGBTQ books in school classrooms and media centers. Gender Queer has been one of the most controversial titles due to its frank discussion of (queer) sexuality and, to a lesser extent, gender dysphoria.  

This trend – the challenging and banning of books that contain content regarding sex, LGBTQ identity, or both – is not new. What is new is the influential role of social media and the internet, which allows far-reaching communication between book challengers and can create even more oppositional fervor towards the books that they have deemed “obscene,” “pornographic,” and so on. 

One of the problems with this overall pattern, however, is it increases divisiveness in public discourse. Parents, students, educators, librarians, and policymakers need to discuss these topics with the nuance, open-mindedness, and compassion necessary to truly educate and uplift youth. Instead, we are faced with a proliferation of outrage that doesn’t “protect” anyone – least of all LGBTQ youth. 

Some opponents are unapologetic in their homophobic and transphobic motivations, quite literally demonizing anything they hear is LGBTQ-related. (Do I need to explain further why these messages are extremely harmful to LGBTQ folks?) Other opponents claim they have no problem with queer-affirming books, but take issue with the books that contain passages regarding sex. I can understand where these folks are coming from – however, I would push back against the idea that teens need to be shielded from the type of “sexual content” that is in Gender Queer. This book isn’t meant to titillate – it is meant to inform, based on Kobabe’s own experiences of adolescence and young adulthood. 

So, before jumping to the conclusion that this book is inappropriate for high schoolers, consider Kobabe’s perspective: 

“It’s very hard to hear people say ‘This book is not appropriate to young people’ when it’s like, I was a young person for whom this book would have been not only appropriate, but so, so necessary. There are a lot of people who are questioning their gender, questioning their sexuality and having a real hard time finding honest accounts of somebody else on the same journey. There are people for whom this is vital and for whom this could maybe even be lifesaving.” 

Kobabe’s work gives language to some of the complexities that lie at the intersections of gender and sexuality. And with representation of asexuality and nonbinary genders still in short supply, Gender Queer is a much-needed addition. Mainstream narratives about LGBT people in the past few decades have often represented people who have “always known” they were transgender or “knew since they were three years old” that they were gay. But many of us do not have that experience. Many of us are in the dark about our true selves, until someone shines a light on all the possibilities of what queer existence can look like. Gender Queer has and will continue to have that positive impact on teens and adults alike.  

I hope this review will encourage you to see the value in this book for a variety of readers, LGBTQ or not. I urge you to read the book for yourself – and truly reflect on it. Print copies of Gender Queer: A Memoir can be requested to borrow here.  

Want to skip the waitlist? Your HCLS account also grants you access to the eBook version of Gender Queer on hoopla, a platform that allows titles to be streamed immediately or downloaded to devices for offline enjoyment later. For assistance with hoopla, view the tutorial on our website, visit your local branch, or reach out to us with your questions. 

Ash is an Instructor & Research Specialist at Central Branch and is a co-facilitator for Reads of Acceptance, HCLS’ first LGBTQ-focused book club. This time of year, they are especially fond of reading while cuddling with their golden retriever and sipping hot cocoa or tea.

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

The cover depicts a figure in profile against a red and white background, wearing a windswept red hooded robe and carrying a black scythe.

By Gabriela P.

Scythe is the first installment in Neal Shusterman’s YA trilogy. The novel is set in a fictional near-future dystopian society where immortality is the default. An all-seeing and almost all-powerful AI system has everything figured out; there is no starvation, poverty, pain, or sickness. Of course, along with age-resetting tech, this means no death. However, in order to control the risk of overpopulation, the position of “Scythe” was created. With no AI interference permitted, “Scythes” are chosen individuals responsible for death-dealing, or “gleaning”. But is it truly in the interest of the greater good? After all, we’re all only human. 

The novel follows Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch, two teenage apprentices who find themselves grappling with being in the Scythedom, their position being one with the highest honor, and the highest burden. Within the system, politics, morality, and reasoning stand at odds. It’s not so simple as right or wrong, good or evil. Citra and Rowan may be protagonists, but are they heroes?

Admittedly, the novel’s macabre plot may be off-putting at first, but Shusterman boldly handles its darker themes with delicacy, and fills the story with endearing moments of humor and vulnerability. Readers are given the opportunity to bond with characters as they learn their strengths and faults, all while following the novel’s underlying question; what life is without death, and what gives us meaning.

Scythe is a fantastic novel with plenty to discuss. Never a dull moment, its real world parallels make it a great read for older YA readers and adults alike.

Scythe is available as a print book. an audiobook on CD, and an eBook on Libby/OverDrive. 

Gabriela is a customer service specialist at the Miller Branch. She loves long walks, reading with her dog, and a good cup of coffee.

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.

Witch Hat Atelier

Cat lies next to a copy of Witch Hat Atelier and other manga books. Cover shoes a young girl with blonde hair with blue witch robes flying around her, wearing a large conical hat with a tassel.

by Eliana, a teen volunteer at Savage Branch

Witch Hat Atelier by Kamome Shirahama boasts magnificent artwork, a lively world, and a complex cast of characters. It is classified as shounen (for teen boys) but is friendly for all demographics. The adult cast also actively works to protect and care for the child cast, something seldom seen in shounen and young adult media due to the limitations adults can sometimes pose in a story. Shirahama typically frames her arcs across two volumes, so I suggest reading two at a time.

In Volume 1, our main character, Coco, is the daughter of a seamstress out in the countryside. The people of this world use inventions made by witches – such as a spring of water that cleans itself after every use or cobblestone pathways that glow when you step on them – in their day to day lives. Having seen all of these inventions, Coco wishes dearly for magic.

After a series of unfortunate events, Coco is orphaned and initiated as a student of Qifrey’s atelier. Volume 1 follows Coco’s initiation and journey into the magical world.

A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO THE GIRLS
Coco is the main character. She is also unfamiliar with much of the magical community, its history, and its customs. From a technical standpoint, Coco is a vehicle what allows the mangaka to explain her world. We learn about the setting as Coco does. From a narrative standpoint, Coco’s newness to the world around her means that she brings fresh ideas and solutions to the table. Since she knows only a handful of basic spells, she must use them creatively. One early example is her solution to the first test, retrieving a rare herb from the top of a series of floating mountains.

Aggot is a ambitious student. She practices day in and day out. Aggot shares a workspace with Coco and feels that Coco has not earned her place at the atelier. As a matter of fact, it is Aggot who hurries an unprepared Coco into the first test. Aggot often overexerts herself due to pride. However, Aggot’s technical expertise tempers Coco’s more experimental ideas. Since Aggot has the most understanding of magic she is able to assist Coco in implementing a solution without collateral damage.

Richeh is a taciturn and sleepy young girl. She is aloof and only draws spells she enjoys. Richeh has a favorite hiding place filled with glowing ribbons. I personally relate to Richeh the most, but since she does not take much of an active role in volume one, I will refrain from discussing her in depth.

Tetia is a cheerful young lady with curly twintails. She is the most welcoming to Coco when she first arrives. Tetia believes happiness comes in twos. When she grows up, Tetia hopes to be someone who can bring happiness to many people. This does not mean that Tetia is one-note either. Tetia does get angry, but she is also a genuinely kind and empathetic person. It is Tetia’s wish to provide happiness and comfort that leads to the solution to the conflict in the second arc of volume one.

ON THE SETTING
The story largely takes place in a rural/pastoral community. It is earlier than the typical fantasy story, so it is a refreshing change of scenery. Additionally, the casting method of magic is unique. Spells are not cast by way of incantation or ritual but with drawing sigils in a very specific ink.

Two main factions operate within the setting. The Knights Moralis are the enforcers of the magical community. In the past, when magic was common knowledge, people used it to their own ends and caused grevious harm. Nowadays, magic is kept secret from the public. Any and all magic that changes the human body or the natural world is forbidden. Any member of the community suspected of casting forbidden spells will have their memory erased. It is illegal for witches to cover their faces. The Brimmed Caps are opposed to the Knights Moralis. They believe that the Knights have gone too far in restricting knowledge. Healing spells, after all, are among the forbidden spells.

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.