Apr 14, 2021

Book Spotlight: Sheets

Marjorie Glatt feels like a ghost. She has lost interest in a lot of things that she used to love, like swimming and playing the piano. She is running her family's laundromat and taking care of her little brother since her mom passed away and her dad subsequently fell into a deep depression. The laundromat... well, it's going horribly. Business is slow and the yoga-loving Mr. Saubertuck is pushing the Glatts to sell the place so he can transform it into a spa. Enter Wendell. Wendell is a ghost, but he's really sick of wearing a sheet, attending his group therapy sessions, and following all the rules of the Land of Ghosts. When Wendell decides to leave the Land of Ghosts, he discovers the Glatts' laundromat and makes it his own midnight playground. Pick up Sheets by Brenna Thummler to find out what happens when these two worlds collide. 

I will say that the pacing of this graphic novel feels a little off. It starts very slow, there's several wordless pages in the beginning, and then the last quarter of the book is just crammed with information and a quick resolution. It's worth sticking with the book though. There are connections between Marjorie and Wendell that you just don't want to miss. The honesty and tenderness that Thummler uses when discussing grief, depression, and financial insecurity are refreshing to see in a graphic novel format. The true highlight of the book though is not the plot, but the illustrations. Marjorie is drenched in pastels and the expressions on her face convey just how lonely and lost she feels. You get a sense of Wendell's sweet and mischievous personality just by the sheet he wears. If you check out this graphic novel and enjoy it, there's good news! The sequel, called Delicates, was released last month. It's on the top of my TBR pile. 

Mar 31, 2021

Body Positive Books

Body Positivity (noun):
          The fact of feeling good about your body and the way it looks.

Since the beginning of time, women have been told that their bodies have to look a certain way. I am not minimizing that men have had to endure society’s expectations and standards but for women, it has been emphasized more through media, advertisements, the beauty and skincare industry, and more. But here’s the thing - that ideal is always changing.
During the 90s, the “ideal beauty standard” was being tall, fair-skinned, and thin - to the point of bones protruding from your skin. Today, the ideal is for women to be “healthy” skinny which means being curvy and well-endowed but also maintaining a flat stomach. Am I the only one who thinks either of these are impossible to achieve and maintain ?
Whether you are short or tall, plus size or midsize, blonde or brunette, you are the best and most beautiful version of yourself! 

To celebrate the body positivity movement, I have compiled a list of titles with characters who struggle with but inevitably radiate with body positivity!

Pudge and Prejudice
A.K. Pittman

It’s 1984 and after moving to Northenfield, Texas, with her family, Elyse Nebbit faces the challenge of finding her place in a new school, one dominated by social status and Friday night football. When Elyse’s effortlessly beautiful older sister Jayne starts dating golden boy Charlie Bingley, Elyse finds herself curious about Charlie’s popular and brooding best friend, Billy Fitz. Elyse’s body insecurities eventually complicate her relationship with Billy, leaving Jayne and Elyse’s exceedingly blunt friend, Lottie, to step in and help Elyse accept herself for who she is, pant size and all.

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega
Crystal Maldonado

Charlie Vega is a lot of things. Smart. Funny. Artistic. Ambitious. Fat.
People sometimes have a problem with that last one. Especially her mom. Charlie wants a good relationship with her body, but it's hard, and her mom leaving a billion weight loss shakes on her dresser doesn't help. The world and everyone in it have ideas about what she should look like: thinner, lighter, slimmer-faced, straighter-haired. Be smaller. Be whiter. Be quieter.
But there's one person who's always in Charlie's corner: her best friend Amelia. Slim. Popular. Athletic. Totally dope. So when Charlie starts a tentative relationship with cute classmate Brian, the first worthwhile guy to notice her, everything is perfect until she learns one thing--he asked Amelia out first. So is she his second choice or what? Does he even really see her?Because it's time people did.
A sensitive, funny, and painful coming-of-age story with a wry voice and tons of chisme, Fat Chance, Charlie Vega tackles our relationships to our parents, our bodies, our cultures, and ourselves.

Leah on the Offbeat
Becky Albertalli

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat - but real life isn’t always so rhythmic.

She’s an anomaly in her friend group: the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends - not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high.
It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting - especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.

The Upside of Unrequited 
Becky Albertalli

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly's totally not dying of loneliness - except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie's new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she'll get her first kiss and she'll get her twin back.

There's only one problem: Molly's coworker, Reid. He's a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there's absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?

Julie Murphy

Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’" by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body.

With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked . . . until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant - along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any girl does.
Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City - and maybe herself most of all.

Julie Murphy

Millie Michalchuk has gone to fat camp every year since she was a little girl. Not this year. This year she has new plans to chase her secret dream of being a newscaster - and to kiss the boy she’s crushing on.

Callie Reyes is the pretty girl who is next in line for dance team captain and has the popular boyfriend. But when it comes to other girls, she’s more frenemy than friend.
When circumstances bring the girls together over the course of a semester, they surprise everyone (especially themselves) by realizing that they might have more in common than they ever imagined.

A story about unexpected friendship, romance, and Texas-size girl power, this is another winner from Julie Murphy.

Kody Keplinger

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper may not be the prettiest girl in her high school, but she has a loyal group of friends, a biting wit, and a spot-on BS detector. She's also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush, who calls Bianca the Duff--the Designated Ugly Fat Friend--of her crew.
But things aren't so great at home and Bianca, desperate for a distraction, ends up kissing Wesley. Worse, she likes it. Eager for escape, Bianca throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with him.
Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out Wesley isn't such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she's falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things
Carolyn Mackler

Fifteen-year-old Virginia feels like a plus-sized black sheep in her family, especially next to her perfect big brother Byron. Not to mention her best friend has moved, leaving Virginia to navigate an awkward relationship with a boy alone. He might like her now but she has her doubts about how he'll react if he ever looks under all her layers of clothes.

In order to survive, Virginia decides to follow a “Fat Girl Code of Conduct,” which works, until the unthinkable causes her family's fa├žade to crumble. As her world spins out of orbit, she realizes that being true to herself might be the only way back.

Told in a perfect blend of humor and heart, this acclaimed Printz Honor winner resonates as much today as it did when it first published, and now features a new author foreword, text updates, and other bonus content.

I’ll be the One
Lyla Lee

Skye Shin has heard it all. Fat girls shouldn’t dance. Wear bright colors. Shouldn’t call attention to themselves. But Skye dreams of joining the glittering world of K-Pop, and to do that, she’s about to break all the rules that society, the media, and even her own mother, have set for girls like her.

She’ll challenge thousands of other performers in an internationally televised competition looking for the next K-pop star, and she’ll do it better than anyone else.
When Skye nails her audition, she’s immediately swept into a whirlwind of countless practices, shocking performances, and the drama that comes with reality TV. What she doesn’t count on are the highly fat-phobic beauty standards of the Korean pop entertainment industry, her sudden media fame and scrutiny, or the sparks that soon fly with her fellow competitor, Henry Cho.

But Skye has her sights on becoming the world’s first plus-sized K-pop star, and that means winning the competition - without losing herself.

Lisa Fipps

Ellie is tired of being fat-shamed and does something about it in this poignant debut novel-in-verse.
Ever since Ellie wore a whale swimsuit and made a big splash at her fifth birthday party, she's been bullied about her weight. To cope, she tries to live by the Fat Girl Rules--like "no making waves," "avoid eating in public," and "don't move so fast that your body jiggles." And she's found her safe space--her swimming pool - where she feels weightless in a fat-obsessed world. In the water, she can stretch herself out like a starfish and take up all the room she wants. It's also where she can get away from her pushy mom, who thinks criticizing Ellie's weight will motivate her to diet. Fortunately, Ellie has allies in her dad, her therapist, and her new neighbor, Catalina, who loves Ellie for who she is. With this support buoying her, Ellie might finally be able to cast aside the Fat Girl Rules and starfish in real life - by unapologetically being her own fabulous self.

Faith Taking Flight
Julie Murphy

Faith Herbert is a pretty regular teen. When she’s not hanging out with her two best friends, Matt and Ches, she’s volunteering at the local animal shelter or obsessing over the long-running teen drama The Grove.

So far, her senior year has been spent trying to sort out her feelings for her maybe-crush Johnny and making plans to stay close to Grandma Lou after graduation. Of course, there’s also that small matter of recently discovering she can fly….

When the fictional world of The Grove crashes into Faith’s reality as the show relocates to her town, she can’t believe it when TV heroine Dakota Ash takes a romantic interest in her.
But her fandom-fueled daydreams aren’t enough to distract Faith from the fact that first animals, then people, have begun to vanish from the town. Only Faith seems able to connect the dots to a new designer drug infiltrating her high school.

But when her investigation puts the people she loves in danger, she will have to confront her hidden past and use her newfound gift - risking everything to save her friends and beloved town.

There’s something about Sweetie
Sandhya Menon

Ashish Patel didn’t know love could be so… sucky. After being dumped by his ex-girlfriend, his mojo goes AWOL. Even worse, his parents are annoyingly, smugly confident they could find him a better match. So, in a moment of weakness, Ash challenges them to set him up.
The Patels insist that Ashish date an Indian-American girl - under contract. Per sub clause 1(a), he’ll be taking his date on “fun” excursions like visiting the Hindu temple and his eccentric Gita Auntie. Kill him now. How is this ever going to work?
Sweetie Nair is many things: a formidable track athlete who can outrun most people in California, a loyal friend, a shower-singing champion. Oh, and she’s also fat. To Sweetie’s traditional parents, this last detail is the kiss of death.
Sweetie loves her parents, but she’s so tired of being told she’s lacking because she’s fat. She decides it’s time to kick off the Sassy Sweetie Project, where she’ll show the world (and herself) what she’s really made of.
Ashish and Sweetie both have something to prove. But with each date they realize there’s an unexpected magic growing between them. Can they find their true selves without losing each other?

Love is a Revolution
Renee Watson

When Nala Robertson reluctantly agrees to attend an open mic night for her cousin-sister-friend Imani's birthday, she finds herself falling in instant love with Tye Brown, the MC. He's perfect, except... Tye is an activist and is spending the summer putting on events for the community when Nala would rather watch movies and try out the new seasonal flavors at the local creamery. In order to impress Tye, Nala tells a few tiny lies to have enough in common with him. As they spend more time together, sharing more of themselves, some of those lies get harder to keep up. As Nala falls deeper into keeping up her lies and into love, she'll learn all the ways love is hard, and how self-love is revolutionary.
In Love Is a Revolution, plus size girls are beautiful and get the attention of the hot guys, the popular girl clique is not shallow but has strong convictions and substance, and the ultimate love story is not only about romance but about how to show radical love to the people in your life, including to yourself.

Mar 16, 2021

Book Spotlight: See You in the Cosmos

Let's say you have the chance to communicate with aliens. Maybe this interaction will be the first time aliens will ever hear a song from planet Earth. What song would you want them to hear? Something by Taylor Swift? The Jonas Brothers? What about Elvis? Eleven-year-old Alex Petroski is going to show aliens what life on Earth is like. He's got a plan: He's going to launch his iPod into space at the Southwest High Altitude Rocket Festival, just like how Carl Sagan launched the Golden Record on the Voyager spacecraft in 1977. But like most things in Alex's life, the iPod launch doesn't go exactly according to plan. Instead, Alex finds himself on a road trip to uncover the secrets of his family with Carl Sagan, his dog - not the scientist, a motivational speaker who has taken a vow of silence, and a few other rocket enthusiasts. I have found this book to be one that engages reluctant readers and young boys. Alex is such a relatable character, and it's pretty hard not to root for him and fall in love with all his quirks. While Alex deals with a lot of big stuff, like mental illness and estranged family members, he does so in a way that is thoughtful and sweet, and full of astronomy jokes. Another appeal for young readers is the format of the book. The book is told entirely through the recordings that Alex makes on his iPod to share with aliens. It's quirky, it's fun, and it's a great book club title or one for the whole family to explore together. Check out See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng at your Library.

Mar 1, 2021

Book Spotlight: Home in the Woods

It's 1932 in Wisconsin, the height of the Great Depression. Six-year-old Marvel has lost her father, he has gone to live with the angels according to her mother, and she's lost her house as well. With her mother and seven siblings, Marvel discovers a tar paper shack in the woods. It's shabby and worn, but it has a root cellar, a pump that offers fresh water, a cook stove, and a large berry patch. Marvel and her siblings invent new games to play in the woods. They take turns doing chores like laundry and splitting wood and pulling weeds. Their mother bakes all sorts of treats to sell in town and cans vegetables from the harvest. Soon enough the shack start to feel like a home full of hope and togetherness. Home in the Woods by Eliza Wheeler is a gorgeous picture book. I can't get enough of the ink and watercolor illustrations. Everything feels kind of hazy or misty, just like what you might encounter when actually walking through the woods, and there several delicate details Wheeler captures, such as the sparkle of raindrops and snow, and the way the moonlight shines through the shack's window. Wheeler wrote this book based on the life of her grandmother, making it an excellent choice to introduce children to the Great Depression and to encourage young readers to discover more about their families. There is an awesome video you can watch here showing a behind-the-scenes look at how Wheeler created the book. You can also watch First Lady Michelle Obama reading Wheeler's first picture book, Miss Maple's Seeds, here.


Feb 17, 2021

Book Spotlight: In a Jar

There's a quote from one of my favorite grown-up books, Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, that I immediately thought of when I picked up this picture book several months ago. It's along the lines of wishing that we could bottle up memories just like perfume. The memories would never become stale or faded, and any time we wanted to live them again all we would have to do is simply open the bottle and voila! The magic of memory is at the heart of In a Jar by Deborah Marcero. Llewellyn, a little white rabbit with wonderfully big ears, is a collector. He collects pretty ordinary things in jars like buttercups, feathers, and stones. One day Llewellyn meets Evelyn and together they begin to collect extraordinary things like the sound of the ocean, rainbows, freshly fallen snow, and all of the things they do together (See where I'm going with this memory connection?). Sadly, Evelyn moves away and Llewellyn is left wondering if they can continue their magical collection and their friendship from afar.  If I could wallpaper my apartment with Marcero's illustrations I would. Everything is bright, vibrant, and textured from the fields of flowers to the forests to the shooting stars that Llewellyn watches at night. This book will make you think about the best moments of friendship, and sharing experiences and memories with those you love. It's sweet, magical, and worthy of a place on your TBR list. Look for my Staff Pick sticker on the cover the next time you're visiting the Library!