50 Middle Grade Titles by January, 2019: Marley Dias Gets it Done and So Can You!

Hi! I’ve just come off a year of being on the Stonewall Book Award Committee, and boy is my brain tired. I spent two years on the Rainbow List (check out their 2018 list, by the way), but this was my first time on a book award committee, and the work load is no joke. I learned, once again, that once I’m “assigned” a book, I can sometimes drag my feet when it comes to reading and completing titles, but also that the imposed structure and pace of an awards committee makes me a more dedicated and efficient reader.

Now that my committee work is over, I’m excited at the prospect of reading whatever the hell I want to, whenever I want to, but I’m also missing the discipline I got from strict parameters and goals. That’s why I’m giving myself a mission:

By the end of the year, I want to read 50 middle grade titles. Before I started working for a school, I interacted with a larger age range of children. I did a lot of Toddler and Infant storytimes, so I was pretty knowledgable when it came to board books and early chapter books. Typically, my afternoons were spent at the Young Adult reference desk, so I became an avid reader of teen titles. This focus on the youngest and oldest kids really left a gap in my reading. I read middle grade titles fairly sometimes, but infrequently, and honestly, I didn’t really suffer for it. Now, however, many of my readers fall into the middle grade category. My students range from Pre-K to 4th grade, so my knowledge of infant and YA titles doesn’t really come into play. I’m aiming for 50 middle grade titles by 2018 in order to better serve my student population. It is my plan to mostly read titles that are #OwnVoices, as well as any titles by WOC and queer authors (though, it’s important to mention that when it comes to LGBTQ lit, middle grade is a near-ghost town). I will also probably break my own rules a lot, because, you know, why not?

Continue reading “50 Middle Grade Titles by January, 2019: Marley Dias Gets it Done and So Can You!”

I am Reading this So Hard Right Now: George by Alex Gino

A little late on posting this, but here’s my review of George by Alex Gino in School Library Journal (scroll down to the first entry in the “Middle Grade” section).

If your library works with a Middle Grade population, I highly recommend you read and purchase this title.

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

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I’m the librarian your teacher warned you about: YA Summer Reading Super-Short Booktalks

Like most of y’all public librarians, I’m doing lots of Summer Reading outreach right now. When it comes to daycares and elementary schools, I could knock out presentations for these kids in my sleep. When I meet with the teens, though, I get a little more than nervous. It’s like every single group of teens is its own separate country, complete with its own culture and laws and I’m just some literacy-crazy over-coffeed tourist. Does this make me sound old? Consider removing yourself from my lawn, OK?

Recently, my coworker and I headed over to a local high school to talk to the teens about summer reading.

In addition to the principal having no idea that we were going to show up (even though it was confirmed in a series of emails) and us having to scramble together some sort of audience for our booktalks, it also seemed like some of the teachers weren’t super-pumped to see us. Case in point, I was booktalking Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake in one of the classrooms. As I’m talking about how Anna rips her victims in half, the teacher starts making THE WORST NOISES:

Me: Are you OK?

Teacher: ::grimace::

Me: Do you…not like the book?

Teacher: I think students should be reading inspirational biographies about successful people, not this… ::grimace::

Me: Sometimes librarians and teachers aren’t on the same page when it comes to recreational reading. Those biographies might be fine for your classroom, but what they read on their own time is their own business.

No joke, the students burst out into applause at this point. I hope I accidentally sparked a crew of rebellious readers. Or maybe they just like to disagree with their teacher for sport. Hard to tell.

In any case, I thought I’d share my super-short booktalks. I’ve tested them out a bunch, and they’ve been tried-and-true crowd-pleasers. Even the surliest groups of jaded Brooklyn teens have liked these talks. I should say that I never memorize my booktalks word-for-word, even though they often come out sounding the same every time. I try to remember key points and then make my talk as conversational as possible. I like to start with questions if I can. I don’t care if the teens interrupt me. If they interrupt, at least I know they’re listening.

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake: Granted, not my favorite title. I’m going to be honest. The super-murderous ghost decides not to kill the dude and then they start making out?!? YOU CAN’T TAKE A MURDEROUS GHOST TO PROM, OK? But, it’s got a solid cover and premise, making it really good for booktalks.

I start by asking: How do you kill something that’s already dead? That’s the job of Cas Lowood, a modern day Ghostbuster (the teens got the Ghostbusters reference, so yay, olds). Cas mostly deals with super-violent ghosts that are out murdering and tormenting the living. Cas thinks he’s pretty good at his job until he faces his toughest ghost yet: Anna Dressed in Blood, who wears a dress that constantly bleeds. It’s known that Anna leaves no survivors. Though Cas thinks his chances of surviving Anna’s wrath are few, he faces her anyway. And while he doesn’t succeed in killing her, Anna spares his life. Why?

(To this, a teen said, “Is Cas ugly? Because if he’s not, maybe that’s why. Anna likes him.” Teens are smart. Don’t forget).

Everyday by David Levithan: Not my favorite by David Levithan, and it’s certainly problematic, but it does REALLY well in booktalks. It’s hard not to give A a gender, but I do my best.

The main character is called A, because A’s never had anyone to give them a name. You see, A wakes up in a different body every morning. A ages with the people they occupy: When A is three, they only wake up in the body of 3 year olds. Same for when A is 15. Other than that, A can wake up in a girl’s body or a boy’s, of any race. Anything is possible. A’s learned to live this way, how to seamlessly fit into the person’s life as to not cause problems. A can barely imagine another way of life, until one day, A falls meets a girl and falls in love. Now, A’s obsessed with getting back to her, not matter what body they’re in. How can A get find their way back to her each day? Could you fall in love with someone who looked different every day?

Sometimes the gender dynamics of this book can get the teens all hyped up (OMG A IS SOMETIMES A GIRL AND IS IN LOVE WITH A GIRL OMGGGG!!). Try and keep the discussion respectful and shut down any hateful speech. This one did really well in a recent visit, with teens snapping pics of the cover so they could remember it for later.

Continue reading “I’m the librarian your teacher warned you about: YA Summer Reading Super-Short Booktalks”

My second year on the Rainbow List is finished and I have some thoughts

Sometimes we fight over what titles will end up on the list, but all-in-all, it's a great team of people.  Not pictured, our chair Naomi Gonzales, one of my very favorite people.
Sometimes we fight over what titles will end up on the list, but all-in-all, it’s a great team.
Not pictured, our chair Naomi Gonzales, one of my very favorite people.

When I first heard about the Rainbow List, I was so excited to see that there was a project that seemed perfectly suited for my particular interests. At the time, there was nothing else in ALA I had any interest of joiningThe whole concept of the committee sounded fun, useful, and an important resource for readers and librarians. Before I even joined the list, I used it as a collection development tool to make sure my library’s selection was well-rounded and inclusive.

My time on the Rainbow List has imparted me with a very solid understanding of LBGTQ kids’ and teen lit, to the point that I have been asked to do paid speaking engagements on the topic. Two years on the Rainbow List forces you to concentrate on a specific segment of youth literature and, by the time your term is over, you’re a bit of an expert. My experience on the list has been rewarding and personally special to me. This year, when we finally decided on our Top Ten titles, I got a little choked up. All I could think of was, “We made this. We did this!”

highly recommend considering a term on the Rainbow List. You need to be a GLBTRT member, which, at fifteen dollars a year, is one of the best deals in ALA. Click here for the volunteer form. Be sure to join the RT before you fill out the form.

ETA: I want to be extra clear: The 2015 Rainbow List committee has already been appointed. So, plan ahead if you want to be a 2016 participant.

Click here for this year’s list. I am particularly excited about our selections this year. Compared to last year’s list, we have a larger selection of picture books and titles that speak to the trans* experience. I expect that next year, the list will see even more. You know what would be cool, too? More middle grade LBGTQ fiction. Tim Federle might want to take a year off. We need more voices!

I thought that, here, I’d take the time to list our Rainbow List selections that include diverse characters. The Rainbow List is diverse in nature, in that all of the titles have LBGTQ characters. However, here are some titles that go even further. I think it’s important to note this, especially for collection development and readers advisory purposes. #weneeddiversebooks! Now! Forever!

I know that some of the ethnicities listed below aren’t considered to be POC, but I felt the need to include them. I hope you find it useful.

  • One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva centers around an Armenian-American family.
  • Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel, one of my personal favorites, has a Persian-American protagonist. Sara Farizan does it again!
  • Screaming Divas by Suzanne Kamata is so much fun. The plot revolves around four girls, including Harumi, who is of Japanese descent. Harumi is not the queer character, it should be noted.
  • Austin’s Polish heritage plays a big part in Andrew Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle. I would also like to note that the Rainbow List receives very few positive portrayals of bisexual characters. It was refreshing to see a protagonist as well thought-out as Austin. #donteatthecorn
  • Sophie, in Tess Sharpe’s Far From You, lives with a disability brought about by chronic pain. In addition, she is a recovering drug addict.
  • One of the books that I simply could not put down was Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld. Darcy Patel, one of the two main characters, is of Indian descent.
  • Though the teen featured on the cover of Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin is white, the teens included in the title are very diverse. Same goes for the teens found in We Are the Youth: Sharing the Stories of LGBT Youth in the United States. I highly recommend purchasing both of these non-fiction titles. They are informative and beautiful to look at.
  • Previously, I have gushed about both Not Every Princess and This Day in June. If your picture book collection does not include these two titles, it is incomplete. If the diverse children and families in these two books don’t melt your cold, cold little heart, I just don’t understand you.

If you are considering being on the Rainbow List and you have some questions that I haven’t answered in this post or here or here, you know where to find me. I am happy to answer any questions you might have. I really believe in the work of the Rainbow List and will continue to follow its lists even though I am no longer on the committee.

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

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I AM READING THIS SO HARD RIGHT NOW: Three Picture Books You Need for Your Collection This Very Second

After my first go-round on the Rainbow List, one of my major complaints was that we weren’t receiving many picture book submissions (I believe we only got two last year, and out of those, only one had LGBTQ content. It was a bummer). I was also dissatisfied with the number of books that featured People of Color. It seemed that way too many titles revolved around white, cisgendered men. I was yearning for more protagonists that were black or Asian or Latino or…anything.

Well, someone heard my prayers, because I have been blessed with three offerings that have restored my faith in picture books (for a while, anyway. I’ll be fussy by as soon as next month). If they’re not on your radar, I insist you order them right now. Your collection desperately needs these titles. If you don’t think you have LGBTQ folks in your neighborhood, you’re wrong. Even if that were the case, we owe it to the children and families that frequent our libraries to have rich, diverse collections. Hey, everyone, #weneeddiversebooks.

I have to be honest, I was wary of another “boy in a dress” book. Our library has a few of them with varying quality and appeal. Sometimes I feel that featuring a boy in a dress is talking around homosexuality/queerness/trans-ness instead of about it. But, with weekly stories about kids being kicked out of school (Or reprimanded. Or shamed) due to their manner of dress, apparently books like this are still very much needed, though possibly more for the world’s adults more than the children.

Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dressby Christine Baldacchino, is indeed a “boy in a dress book”, but its dreamy illustrations help it stand out from the others. It’s super lush and beautiful. By the end of the read, you’ll be wanting to live in Morris’ world of cats and elephants and spaceships. Plus, his dress looks like orange cotton candy.

Morris and his tangerine cloud of a gown.
Morris and his tangerine cloud of a gown.
I want to be part of his world.
I want to be part of his world.

Not Every Princess exists in sort of the same vein as Morris Micklewhite, in that it tackles gender identity and gender presentation. While Morris has a plot and dialogue, Not Every Princess simply introduces us to a number of children who see no limits to how they experience life. Gender stereotypes are not talked about explicitly. Instead, the reader is simply told that girls can be tough and boys can be gentle and vice versa. Some princesses are strong. Some knights are kind. Traditional gender roles don’t prevent us from being our fully realized selves.

Not Every Princess features one of the most diverse casts of characters I’ve seen in a long time. I adore the sweet faces on all these children:

As a children's librarian, I see a lot of cute every day. I'm practically immune to cute. These kids are next level adorable!
As a children’s librarian, I see a lot of cute every day. I’m practically immune to cute. These kids are next level adorable!

Continue reading “I AM READING THIS SO HARD RIGHT NOW: Three Picture Books You Need for Your Collection This Very Second”


Welcome to I AM READING THIS SO HARD RIGHT NOW, where I refuse to recap books for you because I’m pretending I’m busy doing other really important things (I’m probz just playing QuizUp on my phone, though). Recently, I’ve been catching up on books that I didn’t get to read during my last go-round on the Rainbow List. This means a mess of picture books, middle grade fiction, and non-LGBTQ YA fiction. I know I am very late to the game on this one, but I wanted to talk briefly about why I love Dead City by James Ponti:

  • Three, count ’em, three kinds of zombies! I like a little variety when it comes to reanimated corpses. Some of Ponti’s zombies are brain-dead and kinda rotty-like while others are kinda like us. If you find yourself a bit bored with the slow, lolling brain-eaters, you’re in luck as far as Dead City is concerned. Some of these zombies are fast movers and super strong to boot.
  • Strong, smart female character alert! Molly, our heroine, and Natalie, her fellow zombie-expert, are tough and brilliant, like a little bit of Buffy and a little bit of Willow thrown into each character (if I make a BtVS reference, you know I’m pleased). They kick zombie ass, but are just as skilled in cracking codes and finding clues. At the same time, they’re not overly perfect, which is the kind of female protagonist that really grates on my nerves. Molly is brave, sure, but she has some real fears and weaknesses, and sometimes she screws up big time. Oh, and there’s one more female zombie hunter in the mix, but I don’t want to spoil who she is. But trust me, she’s amazing. If you insist on some male characters, have no fear. Ponti’s got your back with Grayson and Alex.
  • Molly, Natalie, Grayson, and Alex are total nerds, but they’re not nerds played for laughs, which is trend that’s really bothered me lately (Ahem, Big Bang Theory). I’m so tired of every smart kid/nerd being intensely unpopular, lonely, clutzy, or socially awkward. Nerds can have friends! Nerds can be comfortable in public settings! Nerds can rip the arms right off a zombie! It’s OK to be a smart kid!
  • It takes place in NYC, which I like, because I haven’t been to many other places. Dead City-verse zombies can’t really travel to the outer-boroughs because of their dependence on Manhattan schist. I really know nothing about Manhattan in general (I’ve always lived in Queens and Brooklyn), but apparently the island is built upon Manhattan Schist, Inwood Marble, and Fordham Gneiss. Holy crap, I accidentally learned something! 

This book has been out since 2012, so, look, I know I’m way behind here. But if you skipped this title for whatever reason, give it a look-see. It’s fast-moving and fun without being vapid or insubstantial. The second book in the series, Blue Moon, is already out.

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

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Your Library Needs These Books: 2014 Rainbow List Nominees Announced

In case you’ve been wondering why my blog posts have become fewer and fewer, it’s because I’ve been Rainbow List-ing like a boss. Now, you can see what our committee has been up to here, as we’ve announced our 2014 nominees.

I did a meme thing.
I did a meme thing.

A librarian in ALATT mentioned that these titles are very difficult to locate in public libraries, and she’s right. If you’re a librarian with any buying power or control over collection development, please consider adding these titles. Even if you think your community doesn’t have LGBTQ* citizens (which, you know, isn’t even possible), you need these titles. Don’t let your collection be the one that totally lacks in diversity! It’s embarrassing. Don’t be that library. The members of the Rainbow List have made it easy for you by selecting some of the best LGBTQ* titles of the year.

I’ve talked about some of the titles I’ve read thus far, if you’re looking for some more information about some of the nominees:

♥ If You Could be Mine, by Sarah Farizan

♥ The Culling  by Steven Dos Santos

♥ Better Nate than Ever by Tim Federle

♥ Pantomime by Laura Lam

♥ Branded by the Pink Triangle by Ken Setterington

Malinda Lo talks quite a bit about diversity in Young Adult literature, so I thought I’d point out the diversity in our Rainbow List nominees. While all of these titles promote diversity simply by having a significant amount of LGBTQ* content, I thought I’d single out some of the works that feature prominent characters who are People of Color (POC) (Be aware, I have not read all the nominated books yet):

♥ Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark ♥  If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan ♥ The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson ♥ Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan ♥ Archenemy by Paul Hobin ♥ Proxy by Alex London ♥ The Elephant of Surprise by Brent Hartinger ♥

Again, this is not a complete list. I’m reading as fast as I can! That said, I’d love to see less titles about middle-class, white, gay boys and more nominees that include lesbian, bisexual, trans*, genderqueer, and intersex characters, as well as more protagonists who are people of color.

I hope our list of nominees is helpful to you, and I can’t wait to see who makes the final cut. Get reading, librarians!

Any questions? Fire away.

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid