Jonah Heller Speaks Out

Jonah Heller recently wrote the following in a FaceBook post. Because he doesn’t have a blog home and because this deserves a wider audience, I’m sharing it here now. Jonah holds an AFA from Young Harris College and a BFA in Dramatic Writing for Film and Television from Savannah College of Art and Design. He currently studies writing for children and young adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Having just written a critical thesis on picture books featuring gender creative boys, and considering the original subject being discussed in the linked article regards said topic… I have something I’d like to say:

Myles E. Johnson and Kendrick Daye’s “Large Fears,” is the picture book being discussed. Huffington Post describes it as a story about “a black boy who loves pink things… and longs to travel to Mars where he thinks he will find people and things that accept him rather than shame… [him] for being different from other young black boys in his life.”

“Large Fears” joins a list of titles featuring gender creative, African American, male protagonists that I can count on one hand.

One. Hand.

The other two I can pull out of my bibliographies from my recent critical research into gender creative picture books for boys, are:

Alexis De Vaux and Cheryl Hanna’s “An Enchanted Hair Tale” (Harper and Row, 1987)
Cheryl Kilodavis and Suzanne DeSimone’s “My Princess Boy: a mom’s story about a young boy who likes to dress up” (1st Aladdin, 2004)

If anyone can think of any other picture book titles which specifically feature a gender creative African American boy, please let me know.

*Note: There’s a 14-year gap in publishing between “Enchanted Hair Tale” and an 11-year gap between “My Princess Boy” and “Large Fears.

That’s an entire decade between each title.

If you were born in 1987 like I was, that means you had limited or zero access to just one picture book featuring a gender creative African American boy. I actually never encountered “Enchanted Hair Tale” in my childhood. I found it twenty-seven years later.
For the generation of kids born 10 years after I was, they had limited or zero access to “Enchanted Hair Tale” and “My Princess Boy.” Not much of an improvement in a decade.
There are not “hundreds” or “thousands” of books, featuring gender creative African American boys, written for children who specifically identify that way.

Now, you can be a moron and you can make a stupid blanket statement by saying that there are “hundreds” and “thousands” of books written for marginalized children as someone in the comments thread did:
“There are not too few books for marginalised young people. There are hundreds of them, thousands of them. You don’t have to read about a queer black boy to read a book about a marginalised child. The children’s book world is getting far too literal about what “needs” to be represented.”

But you’d be lumping an awful lot of countless, diverse individual experiences together. And that’s just stupid, ill-informed, and irresponsible.
You would be minimally correct in that some marginalized children could maybe encounter a selection of books that feature a protagonist that is in some way marginalized.

Then, you can also make another dumb, blanket assumption:
If a gender creative African American boy has a broad imagination they can substitute one marginalized experience for another and apply it to their own lives.

Shouldn’t they be able to picture themselves and their own situation as being similar to that story they read about a little Caucasian girl who wouldn’t quit being a tomboy?
The answer is no. They shouldn’t have to. And you’re an idiot for thinking they should.
Because the experience of a gender creative African American boy is not the same experience of a gender creative Caucasian girl.

Because “Enchanted Hair Tale,” “My Princess Boy,” and “Large Fears” are not the same stories as Andrea Beaty and David Robert’s “Rosie Revere, Engineer,” Leslea Newman and Cyd Moore’s “A Fire Engine for Ruthie,” or Jane Yolen and Heidi E.Y. Temple’s “Not All Princesses Dress in Pink.”

As Laura Atkins put it:
“It means something to read a book that in some way mirrors your experience. It means a lot. All kids deserve to have both mirrors and windows.”

Let me break down that person’s response to Laura:
“Read a newspaper. Read a magazine. Go see a movie. There are zillions of places kids can see mirrors.”
Having come from a screenwriting background before I started pursuing children’s literature, I can soundly say that those mirrors are just as limited and underrepresented in all forms of media entertainment and not just children’s books.
I’ve sat in a comic book illustration classroom where the class was predominantly white and only two of us were exploring diverse characters and shapes in our drawings. Others were fixated on manga-style, over-beautified versions of white people. Perhaps those individuals have grown and explored since then, but perhaps not. Either way, that reluctance to step outside the white norm is part of our next generation of young illustrators!

So whether it’s a magazine, a movie, or a video game: kids from diverse backgrounds are still encountering negative stereotypes that belittle and make fun of their own experiences. Or, they don’t see themselves at all.

While some of these mirrors may have been produced, created, and put out into the world, they are not always available to every child. Access is the key word here. Physical access can be limited or restricted due a number of reasons: parental, school, community or library censorship; lack of interest from publishers and marketers; or outrageously skewed prices.

While researching gender creative picture books, I also took on the role of the consumer when I purchased some books online. What I found was that a child, parent, or librarian’s access to these books can be incredibly limited due to pricing. Not to mention the actual quality of writing and illustration these books is on a… wide spectrum.

Some gender creative titles are self-published or crowd-funded because that was the only way those authors could put their work into the world. That being said, you find some books which could have definitely used the helping hand of an editor and an art director.

The price of these books can vary – significantly. If it’s self-published or crowd funded, you might have to really hunt the book down on the internet to purchase it on an alternative site to Amazon, such as Etsy.

You might find a book for as low as .01 cent plus shipping and handling; the book store may just be looking to get that book off its hands because it may not be a title with a wide audience appeal. That’s pretty good for the reader who’s purchasing that book. It’s also pretty bad for the author in that they’re not making any money on that title – which may discourage them from producing more work in the future. While the one book is cheap, the potential for more books like that being produced is lowered.

On the flip side, you might find a book for as high as $45-$50. Here, the author is selling it themselves or the store is hiking up the price so that the author and they can make a profit. Good for the author and the bookstore. Bad for the customer in that very few people are going to want to pay $45 for one picture book. While it may have been a quality book, access to that title is limited based on price.

Also, purchasing the book may have been the customer’s only option if their local public library is run by a conservative director and conservative board.
Then, we have some titles that are great books but are simply out-of-print and are no longer being published. Would anybody like to purchase Bruce Mack’s “Jesse’s Dream Skirt” for $165.00+? I had to special request that book on an inter-library loan. But how many parents or librarians will be dedicated enough to pursue that option?

So, I laugh at this idea that there are “zillions” of places kids can see mirrors. No, there are not. Access plays a big role.

On to the next bit:
“Books do not have a ‘job.’”
Actually, books do have a job. The more artsy and literary of writers may cringe at this statement, and those of you may feel free to disagree with me… but realistically, the first job of any book is to entertain.
If it’s not entertaining, no one’s going to enjoy reading it to themselves or sitting down and reading it to their children.

“Books are to teach kids about the world, about being different or being brave. I really hate this idea that we need agendas in books.”
Teaching kids about the world and being brave can be considered an agenda in a book!!!!!!!!! This person says that books are to teach kids about the world, but then immediately detests the idea of teaching an agenda? Perhaps they meant some books can be overbearingly didactic, in which case I do agree.

“A great book has a philosophical, spiritual, intellectual agenda that speaks to many many people — not just gay black boys. I’m sorry, but write a pamphlet about it.”
I agree, partially, that a great book can speak to many people. But that doesn’t always mean that every great book which speaks to many people features a diverse protagonist.
Regarding agendas: Yes. You will find some gender creative picture books for boys that are loaded with didacticism and lessons about being better human beings. In some cases, the writers of these books have chosen to focus on delivering a message rather than telling a story. That’s an unfortunate truth.

Yes, some of them do read like poorly illustrated pamphlets you’d find inside of a therapist’s office, instead of reading like a quality children’s book. In these cases, the writer has ignored their craft completely and chosen not to do their job.
Yes, it does lower their audience appeal. Not everyone likes to be preached at.
Yes, that does affect their sales and their potential to produce more. Not everyone can make a profit on a sermon. And not every child should have to be force-fed a lesson.
Yes, this is all an ongoing issue within this window of picture books that needs to be addressed by those writers.

But, no. Those writers do not need to write a pamphlet about it.
Those writers need only to pull up their britches and remember that the first agenda and job of any book is to entertain because these kids deserve representation in quality-written books with quality illustrations. And, not all of these kids want to read the same story of oppression and marginalization over and over again that beats them over the head with a message at the end of it. That gets boring.

So, I say: produce good, quality work with diverse characters. Tell a well-written and craft-focused story – don’t just deliver a lesson. And if you can’t speak to a certain experience, then step aside and let someone else who has lived that life have a chance to say something about how it really feels.

More on this topic to be delivered during a lecture coming this summer (hopefully).

(The bold and italicized font was added to Jonah’s writing.)

#LargeFears Recapped

I’ve always believed that people read to find their place in the world. Some do this by using books to explore possibilities and others to find themselves. Rudine Sims Bishop expands this concept much better in her article Windows, Mirrors and Sliding Glass Doors.

But, why do people write? Some may take pen to paper to break the world down for the reader, to tell them how it is and how is should be and those usually aren’t very good fiction books. Others just tell a story, and while many authors write about characters who visit them or situations that inspire them, all write from a world they’ve come to know. I think this is the authenticity we find in literature.

To be clear, I do not know Meg Rosoff. It was one of those days a year or so ago when I was feeling something or other and that had me sending FaceBook friend requests to most of the names I recognized that they were being recommended to me through FB. Meg’s was one of those names and she accepted my request. We’d never chatted on FB (or in real life!) never commented on each other’s post, so I was pleasantly surprised to see her commenting on my post to promote a rarely seen book about a queer black boy written by a queer black author. Well, pleasant until I read her response. I initially thought the response from a well-known author for this neophyte was a sign of support, but upon reading the dismissive and disjointed comment I thought perhaps it was done in haste and would soon disappear but, it never has. Instead, it’s become the Post Seen Around The World.

Many have questioned why the post appeared on my FB page. Many, including myself see it as an egregious act by someone in privilege (because of her socioeconomic class, her whiteness and her professional accomplishments) stomping on a marginalized person. I don’t know why it was written.

The original FB post has been shared publicly so that people could see the words in their original context. Unfortunately, conversation on Twitter has no hashtag and is all over the place. It’s difficult there, where most of the conversation has happened, to see all the directions in which it has spun. I do believe that the majority of opinions expressed there are in opposition to what Meg stated on FB.

I’ve not seen much support for Meg, but she does state on someone else’s FB page that she’s received private emails of support because people are afraid to speak up, fearing verbal attacks from those who passionately work for diversity in kidlit. This blog post turned into a FB post and most reactions to the post are on the non-public FB post. I link to the post in hesitation because it’s so problematic (from my perspective) that it will lead to another week of debate, but it does provide some clarification for Meg. I have no doubt there are others who agree with and support Meg, whether in all or in part.

In a second post to me on FB, Meg wrote “It’s a shame this has all blown up in this way. My subject tends to be gender (among other things) about which I’ve written extensively. I can’t write about young gay black kids, but I hope people who care deeply about the subject will do so. “ Of course, this doesn’t sit well with her original post on my FB post. I’ve seen evidence of her commitment to social justice, so I am truly confused. I don’t understand how someone who is truly a wordsmith would misspeak in such a manner. Blinded by success? I do believe that regardless of how convoluted that first post may have been, of how poorly the efforts to walk it back may have worked, that there remains an overwhelming presence of empowerment and privilege. And, I’ve had to edit this to add in the article that appeared in The Guardian the took diversity in kidlit to a much broader audience.

My reflection is looking at how this spiraled; at seeing the brief moment on Meg’s second post when there was dialog, when there was conversation and when that moment was lost. Meg seems to continue to hold the view that I am trying to dictate to writers what they should write. In several places on this blog, I state quite clearly that I believe writers should write what they know. The Whiteness of literature will continue because there are readers who find themselves in that agenda. The Whiteness of literature will continue until the economics of a brown marketplace demand otherwise.

I am asking for opportunities for writers of color and this is something publishers control.

I hope you can tell that I hold no ill will again Meg Rosoff. I don’t know the woman!!! She’s stated a perspective with which I do not agree, she’s written a book with which I cannot relate, but I cannot ask anyone to deny a writer of merit the opportunity to publish, whether they be White, queer, Latino or autistic. And I will not propose what any of those writers write.

How do we marginalized people get a piece of the pie? How do we get anyone to understand the need for more books for Native American and children of color when we keep getting caught up is this sort of fray? We should have come out of this with more allies, with people who are willing to admit the lack of books written by authors of color and who can cite ways for entitled authors to reach back and pull others up. But I feel us losing these possibilities. For the diversity movement to move forward, we have to be able to preach beyond the choir and we’re killing those opportunities.

I’ve noticed the silence from those directly involved in publishing and wondered why that is when this conversation is so much about them. Perhaps the void can be explained by an author who contacted me privately. The author wanted to contact Meg but was fearful to do so because these major authors control book award committees and other opportunities for authors. If an author does anything to rile them, they jeopardize their own career. Professional privilege. “To whom much is given, much is expected.” Note I stated “an author” and called out no individual.

Many lessons have been learned from this. We’ve been made aware of the attitudes that are often shared in private by those in kidlit. We’ve had to realize the limited reach of the 100 year old movement for diversity in children’s literature by seeing how few are aware of seminal works, both articles and children’s books themselves. I’ve seen how close we can come to saying the same thing and still miss each other’s point. How do we move on from this?

I’m asking people how we can move forward to attain greater diversity in children’s literature, or what they themselves plan to do from this point out, What’s yours? Email me FB me or respond in the comment section below. I hope to pull the responses into an upcoming post.

And Large Fears? The book is currently sold out.

Roll Call

I’m working on my reflection piece for the #LargeHands debacle. I would have put these links at the bottom to share other’s reflections, but the post is really long. I believe these are all the reflections I’ve seen. Feel free to add others in the comments.

Marlon Jame’s Win is a Win For Liturature; Ogilvydo

My Weigh-In on the ‘Diversity Debate’; The Bookie Monster

The Book MonsterStop Calling Diversity An Agenda: Meg Rosoff and Large Fears; The Mary Sue

Guest Blogger: Ibi Zoboi; Reading While White

An Open Letter to People Who Are Not Fans of Call Out Culture on Social Media; American Indians in Children’s Literature

The Privilege of Colour, the Prejudice of White; Shelly Souza

That Thing That Happened with Meg Rosoff Today; Stuff & Things. Keepin’ It Real

In Defense of Diversity aka What the heck, Meg Rosoff? | The Book Wars

Let’s Talk: The Importance of Diversity in Children’s Literature | Reader Rayna

Disrupting Publishing Linkspam: 10/13/2015 | Clatter & Clank

this is how the industry lives now: five signs that you might be suffering from white privilege; For All the Girls Who Are Half Monster

This is How I Live: An Open Letter to Meg Rosoff; Kaye

The Unbearable Whiteness of Meg Rosoff: A Dissecion; Bibliodaze

Spouting Off While White; Reading While White Blogspot

About Meg Ryan’s Next Book; American Indians In Children’s LiteratureDear Meg; LSpark

Reasons I Checked Out of Diversity Discussion du Jour; Awintin Mo

Male Monday

Yesterday. National Coming Out Day. And yesterday, I wrote that “Queer black boys need books”. As do all queer Native American boys and boys of color. Who are the Native American and authors of color that write for teens? I have to admit I couldn’t find a single gay Native American author to add the the list, but all around it’s slim pickings. Thank goodness the limited quantity is made up for by high quality books.

Listed below are gay authors of color and the MG or YA books they’ve written.

Well, you know I have to mention Myles Johnson author of Large Fears (Aug 2014)!

Please mention any I’ve mention in the comment section and i’ll add them to the post.

Craig Laurance Gidney

            Bereft, Tiny Satchell Press 2013

Rigoberto Gonález

            Antonio’s Card, Children’s Book Press 2005

            The Mariposa Club, Alyson Books 2009

            Mariposa Gown, Lethe Press 2012

            Mariposa U, Tincture 2015

Randall Kenan

            A Visitation of Spirits: a novel, Grove Press 1989

Charles Rice Gonzalez

            Chulito, Magnus Books 2011

Shawn Steward Ruff

            Findlander, Quote Editions 2008

Alex Sanchez

            Rainbow Boys, Simon and Schuster 2001

            Rainbow High, Simon and Schuster 2003

            So Hard to Say, Simon and Schuster 2004

            Rainbow Road, Simon and Schuster 2005

            Getting It, Simon and Schuster 2006

            Bait, Simon and Schuster 2009

            Boyfriends with Girlfriends, Simon and Schuster 2011

Benjamin Alire Saenz

            Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood, Cinco Puntos Press 2004

            A Perfect Season for Dreaming/Un Tiempo Perfecto Para Soñar, Cinco Puntos 2008

            He Forgot to Say Goodbye, Simon and Schuster 2008

            Last Night I Sang to the Monster, Cinco Puntos Press 2009

            Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Simon and Schuster 2012

Steven Dos Santos

            The Culling, Flux 2013

            The Sowing, Flux 2014

Rakesh Satyal

             Blue Boy, Kensington 2009

Shyam Selvadurai

             Funny Boy, W. Morrow and Co. 1996

Swimming in the Monsoon Sea, Tundra Press 2005

Vivek Shraya

            God Loves Hair, 2010, Arsenal Pulp

Adam Silvera

              More Happy Than Not, SohoTeen 2015

Bil Wright

            Sunday You Learn to Box, Scribner 1998

            When the Black Girl Sings, Simon Pulse 2007

            Putting Makeup On the Fat Boy, Simon and Schuster 2011

Paul Yee

            Tales from Gold Mountain: Stories of the Chinese in the New World,


            Ghost Train, Douglas & McIntyre 1996

            The Bone Collector’s Son, Michael Cavendish 2004

            A Song for Ba, Groundwood Books 2004

            Learning to Fly, Orca Book Publishing 2011

            What Happened This Summer, Tradewind Books, 2006

            Shu-Li and Tamara, Tradewind Books, 2007

            Shu-Li and Diego, Tradewind Books, 2009

            Blood and Iron: Building the Railway, Scholastic Canada 2010

            Money Boy, Groundwood Books, 2011

            Chinese Fairytale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook, Crocodile Books 2014




Queer black boys need books.

Queer black boys matter.

They exist at the intersections of hope, uncertainty, potential and intolerance with a pin of hatred marking the meeting point.

I was so excited yesterday when my daughter informed me about Large Fears, a new inde book by Myles E. Johnson. Large Fears is the Story of Jeremiah Nebula, a boy whose favorite color is pink. Boys aren’t supposed to like pink, so Jeremiah is not treated well by his classmates. Daydream believer that he is, Jeremiah believes that if he could go to Mars he would be accepted there.

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This unique story is filled with attractive graphics and vivid colors. When the Huffington Post asked him about his overarching vision for the project, author Myles E. Johnson stated

The overarching concept and vision for the project is a philosophical one, I suppose. I played with the idea of what is fear. Where does fear come from? What makes fear intensify and what makes fear alleviate? With those questions in my mind, I began to study how the body reacts to fear. Physically, we feel less pain, our eyesight gets sharper, our hearing gets better, and in some cases we can even display almost superhuman strength. The concept of Large Fears is to introduce what I discovered about fear and how the body reacts to it for children, and adults that need the reminder, on a more emotional level. I wanted to suggest that when life gets scary, that is when you get stronger, and more times than not, that’s when you know that what is around the corner is something worthwhile.

full interview

I immediately began sharing this book on social media and was pleased with the reception this new author was receiving.

Until Meg Rosoff chimed in.

As stated on her website, “Meg Rosoff is the multi-award winning author of How I Live Now, Just In Case, What I Was, The Bride’s Farewell, There Is No Dog, Moose Baby and Picture Me Gone.” Let me add that she’s White.

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“That’s not what books are for.” Queer black boys are not what books are for, says she.

I do need to read about a queer black boy to read about marginalized people. I do need the children’s book world to be much more literal about what, about who needs to be represented and I need that more than I need to read about self absorbed middle class white kids in apocalyptic England.

I need mirrors like Jeremiah Nebula to remind me that I can face my fears. I need him to remind me how fearfully white the world is and if I need this book as my mirror, then my queer little black boys need books to prop themselves on it like a crutch.

As Debbie Reese responded to Rosoff, “all books have agendas.”

The only agenda queer black boys have is to breathe.

Meg Rosoff’s agenda? To be white. White is a social construct defined “as

a dominant cultural space with enormous political significance, with the purpose to keep others on the margin….white people are not required to explain to others how ‘white’ culture works, because ‘white’ culture is the dominant culture that sets the norms. Everybody else is then compared to that norm….In times of perceived threat, the normative group may well attempt to reassert its normativity by asserting elements of its cultural practice more explicitly and exclusively.”

Whiteness is the intersection of oblivion, power, oppression and advantage with a pin of privilege marking the meeting point. It’s denying queer black boys a space, a breath.

In the same interview, HuffPo asked Johnson

“Why is it important for children to have access to stories like these? What do you want children to take away from Large Fears?”

I think stories of bravery and exploration, especially ones that center on someone we’re not constantly seeing saving the day, is extremely important for children to consume. For children that are less socially privileged and visible, they are given new possibilities for their future. They aren’t just handed a story, but a certain soulfulness is given to disenfranchised people when we are represented.

Unfortunately, none of this is new. Ta-Nehisi Coates speaks of it in Between the World and Me

There is nothing uniquely evil in these destroyers or even in this moment. The destroyers are merely men enforcing the whims of our country, correctly interpreting its heritage and legacy. This legacy aspires to the shackling of black bodies. It is hard to face this. But all our phrasing—race relations,racial chasmracial justiceracial profiling,white privilege, even white supremacy—serves to obscure that racism is a visceral experience, that it dislodges brains, blocks airways, rips muscle, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth. You must never look away from this. You must always remember that the sociology, the history, the economics, the graphs, the charts, the regressions all land, with great violence, upon the body. And should one live in such a body? What should be our aim beyond meager survival of constant, generational, ongoing battery and assault? I have asked this question all my life. I have sought the answer through my reading and writings, through the music of my youth, through arguments with your grandfather, with your mother. I have searched for answers in nationalist myth, in classrooms, out on the streets, and on other continents. The question is unanswerable, which is not to say futile. The greatest reward of this constant interrogation, of confrontation with the brutality of my country, is that it has freed me from ghosts and myths. And yet I am still afraid.

Young people lack the tools to sustain themselves through this brutality. Jeremiah’s fears and longings made him want to live on Mars. The same fears and longings took my daughter to Atlanta, a larger city with more safe havens. These children, these young people struggle for human dignity, respect and security and she says they don’t need to be in a damn book. Hell yeah, I just bought two more copies.

October’s Releases

The Iron Warrior (Iron Fey series) by Julie Kagawa; Harlequin Teen
Waking after a month on the brink of death, Ethan Chase is stunned to learn that the Veil that conceals the fey from human sight was temporarily torn away. Although humankind’s glimpse of the world of Faery lasted just a brief moment, the human world was cast into chaos, and the emotion and glamour produced by fear and wonder has renewed the tremendous power of the Forgotten Queen. Now she is at the forefront of an uprising against the courts of Faery—a reckoning that will have cataclysmic effects on the Nevernever.

Leading the Lady’s Forgotten Army is Keirran himself: Ethan’s nephew, and the traitor son of the Iron Queen, Meghan Chase.To stop Keirran, Ethan must disobey his sister once again as he and his girlfriend, Kenzie, search for answers long forgotten. In the face of unprecedented evil and unfathomable power, Ethan’s enemies must become his allies, and the fey and human worlds will be changed forevermore.

The Rose Society (A Young Elites novel) by Marie Lu; G.P.Putnam’s Sons
Adelina Amouteru’s heart has suffered at the hands of both family and friends, turning her down the bitter path of revenge. Now known and feared as the White Wolf, she and her sister flee Kenettra to find other Young Elites in the hopes of building her own army of allies. Her goal: to strike down the Inquisition Axis, the white-cloaked soldiers who nearly killed her.

But Adelina is no heroine. Her powers, fed only by fear and hate, have started to grow beyond her control. She does not trust her newfound Elite friends. Teren Santoro, leader of the Inquisition, wants her dead. And her former friends, Raffaele and the Dagger Society, want to stop her thirst for vengeance. Adelina struggles to cling to the good within her. But how can someone be good, when her very existence depends on darkness?

Juba!: A Novel by Walter Dean Meyers; Amistad
This engaging historical novel is based on the true story of the meteoric rise of an immensely talented young black dancer, William Henry Lane, who influenced today’s tap, jazz, and step dancing. With meticulous and intensive research, Walter Dean Myers has brought to life Juba’s story. The novel includes photographs, maps, and other images from Juba’s time and an afterword from Walter Dean Myers’s wife about the writing process of Juba! (ages 12 and up)

Monster: A Graphic Novel by Walter Dean Myers, Guy A. Sims, Dawud Anyabwile; Amistad
A stunning black-and-white graphic novel adaptation of Walter Dean Myers’s Michael L. Printz Award winner and New York Times bestseller Monster, adapted by Guy Sims and illustrated by Dawud Anyabwile

Monster is a multi-award-winning, provocative coming-of-age story about Steve Harmon, a teenager awaiting trial for a murder and robbery. As Steve acclimates to juvenile detention and goes to trial, he envisions the ordeal as a movie. Monster was the first-ever Michael L. Printz Award recipient, an ALA Best Book, a Coretta Scott King Honor selection, and a National Book Award finalist. (ages 12 and up)

President of the Whole Sixth Grade by Sherri Winston; Little, Brown
Brianna Justice is determined to raise enough money for the big class trip to Washington, D.C., but she’s up against a lot: classmates who all pretend to be something they’re not, a new nemesis determined to run her out of office, and the sinking feeling she’s about to lose her two best friends. But just when she begins to lose hope, she comes to realize that sometimes surprises can turn out even better than the best-laid plans.

Trail of the Dead by Joseph Bruchac; Tu Books
In the sequel to the award-winning Killer of Enemies, Apache teen Lozen and her family are looking for a place of refuge from the despotic Ones who once held them captive and forced Lozen to hunt genetically engineered monsters. Lozen and her allies travel in search of a valley where she and her family once found refuge. But life is never easy in this post-apocalyptic world. When they finally reach the valley, they discover an unpleasant surprise awaiting them―and a merciless hunter following close behind. Hally, their enigmatic Bigfoot friend, points them to another destination―a possible refuge. But can Lozen trust Hally? Relying on her wits and the growing powers that warn her when enemies are near, Lozen fights internal sickness to lead her band of refugees to freedom and safety. Alongside family, new friends, and Hussein, the handsome young man whose life she saved, Lozen forges a path through a barren land where new recombinant monsters lurk and the secrets of this new world will reveal themselves to her . . . whether she wants them to or not. (ages 12-18)

The Toymaker’s Apprentice by Sherri L. Smith; G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Children.
Stefan Drosselmeyer is a reluctant apprentice to his toymaker father until the day his world is turned upside down. His father is kidnapped and Stefan is enlisted by his mysterious cousin, Christian Drosselmeyer, to find a mythical nut to save a princess who has been turned into a wooden doll. Embarking on a wild adventure through Germany, Stefan must save Boldavia’s princess and his own father from the fanatical Mouse Queen and her seven-headed Mouse Prince, both of whom have sworn to destroy the Drosselmeyer family. (ages 10 and up)

When the Slave Esperança Garcia Wrote a Letter by Sonia Rosa, trans. by Jane Springer, illus. by Luciana Justiniana Hees. Groundwood.
In 1770, the slave Esperança Garcia bravely penned a letter to the governor of Piauí state, in Brazil, describing how she and her children were being mistreated and requesting permission to return to the farm where the rest of her family was living. Before she wrote her letter, Esperança Garcia lived on a cotton farm run by Jesuit priests, where she learned to read and write — a rare opportunity for a woman, especially a slave. But one day she was separated from her husband and older children and taken with her two little ones to be a cook in the home of Captain Antonio Vieira de Couto, where she and the other slaves were beaten. In despair, she wrote to the governor about her terrible situation. She waited each day for a reply, never giving up hope, and although she never received an answer, she is remembered today for being the courageous slave who wrote the first letter of appeal in Afro-Brazilian Brazil. Commemorating the date of the letter’s discovery, September 6th has become Black Consciousness Day in Piauí state. This moving picture book provides a personal look at the tragic history of slavery. (ages 8-12)

The Donkey Lady Fights La Llorona and Other Stories / La Señora Asno Se Enfrenta a La Llorona Y Otros Cuentos by Xavier Garza; Arte Publico/Piñata Books
A collection of eerie tales about creatures from Mexican American traditions. (ages 8-12)

A Fighting Chance by Claudia Melendez Salinas ; Arte Publico/Piñata Press
A Latino boy facing challenges in the barrio struggles to make the right choices.

September Releases

updated 10 Oct 2015

Inker’s Shadow by Allen Say; Scholastic Press
As the school’s first and only Japanese student, he experienced immediate racism among his fellow cadets and his teachers. The other kids’ parents complained about Allen’s presence at the all-white school. As a result, he was relegated to a tool shed behind the mess hall. Determined to free himself from this oppression, Allen saved enough money to buy a 1946 Ford for $50 – then escaped to find the America of his dreams! In this follow-up to Drawing from Memory, Allen continues to reinvent himself as an author and illustrator. Melding his paintings with cartoon images and archival photos, Allen Say delivers an accessible book that will appeal to any reader in search of himself.

Untwine by Edwidge Danticat; Scholastic
Giselle Boyer and her identical twin, Isabelle, are as close as sisters can be, even as their family seems to be unraveling. Then the Boyers have a tragic encounter that will shatter everyone’s world forever. Giselle wakes up in the hospital, injured and unable to speak or move. Trapped in the prison of her own body, Giselle must revisit her past in order to understand how the people closest to her — her friends, her parents, and above all, Isabelle, her twin — have shaped and defined her. Will she allow her love for her family and friends to lead her to recovery? Or will she remain lost in a spiral of longing and regret?

Untwine is a spellbinding tale, lyrical and filled with love, mystery, humor, and heartbreak. Award-winning author Edwidge Danticat brings her extraordinary talent to this graceful and unflinching examination of the bonds of friendship, romance, family, the horrors of loss, and the strength we must discover in ourselves when all seems hopeless.

Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon. Delacorte.
My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly. Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster. (ages 12 and up)

The Suffering by Rin Chupeco. SourceBooks Fire.  When an old friend disappears in Aokigahara, Japan’s infamous ‘suicide forest,’ Tark and the ghostly Okiku must resolve their differences and return to find her. In a strange village inside Aokigahara, old ghosts and an ancient evil lie waiting. (ages 12 and up)

Hoodoo by Ronald L. Smith. Clarion Books.
Magic: hoodoo, as most people call it. But even though his name is Hoodoo, he can’t seem to cast a simple spell. When a mysterious man called the Stranger comes to town, Hoodoo starts dreaming of the dead rising from their graves. Even worse, he soon learns the Stranger is looking for a boy. Not just any boy. A boy named Hoodoo. The entire town is at risk from the Stranger’s black magic, and only Hoodoo can defeat him. He’ll just need to learn how to conjure first. Set amid the swamps, red soil, and sweltering heat of small town Alabama in the 1930s,Hoodoo is infused with a big dose of creepiness leavened with gentle humor. (ages 10-12)

Connect the Stars by Marisa de lost Sontos and David Teague; HarperCollins
From Saving Lucas Biggs authors Marisa de los Santos and David Teague comes a heartwarming middle grade adventure about two misfits discovering the importance of just being themselves.

When thirteen-year-olds Aaron and Audrey meet at a wilderness camp in the desert, they think their quirks are enough to prevent them from ever having friends. But as they trek through the challenging and unforgiving landscape, they learn that they each have what it takes to make the other whole.

Luminous and clever, Connect the Stars takes on some hefty topics of the day—bullying, understanding where you fit in, and learning to live with physical and mental challenges—all in a joyous adventure kids will love! (ages 8-12)

Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through the Motown Sound by Andrea Davis Pinkney; Roaring Brook Press
Berry Gordy began Motown in 1959 with an $800 loan from his family. He converted the garage of a residential house into a studio and recruited teenagers from the neighborhood-like Smokey Robinson, Mary Wells, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and Diana Ross-to sing for his new label. Meanwhile, the country was on the brink of a cultural revolution, and one of the most powerful agents of change in the following decade would be this group of young black performers from urban Detroit. From Berry Gordy and his remarkable vision to the Civil Rights movement, from the behind-the-scenes musicians, choreographers, and song writers to the most famous recording artists of the century, Andrea Davis Pinkney takes readers on a Rhythm Ride through the story of Motown.

The Green Bicycle by Haifaa Al Monsour; Dial
Spunky eleven-year-old Wadjda lives in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia with her parents. She desperately wants a bicycle so that she can race her friend Abdullah, even though it is considered improper for girls to ride bikes. Wadjda earns money for her dream bike by selling homemade bracelets and mixtapes of banned music to her classmates. But after she’s caught, she’s forced to turn over a new leaf (sort of), or risk expulsion from school. Still, Wadjda keeps scheming, and with the bicycle so closely in her sights, she will stop at nothing to get what she wants.

Set against the shifting social attitudes of the Middle East, The Green Bicycle explores gender roles, conformity, and the importance of family, all with wit and irresistible heart.