Librarians Read: Victor LaValle’s Destroyer

I really appreciated the narrative choices and gorgeous artwork in this graphic adaptation of the Frankenstein story, though the story itself was occasionally a bit rushed and therefore hard to follow. The central character of the scientist mom was really well developed including solid connections to both #blacklivesmatter and #metoo. Her son was killed by a police officer while coming home from a little league game and though she was able to use her skills in nanotechnology to bring him back him in a form, she had to keep her accomplishments and anger hidden in order to function in society. But when the original monster created by Dr. Frankenstein returns to seek vengeance she also finds an outlet for her rage.

Librarians Read: Short and Skinny

Middle school life is not so easy when you are short and skinny and a default target of the neighborhood bullies and this terrific graphic memoir captures it all. This genre is really booming lately and I appreciate it. I loved reading about young Mark’s adoration of his bicycle, his feeling of belonging upon seeing Star Wars, and watching him make that epic movie! Plus his bully notes and dread of summer swim team were so spot on. Great comics and a wonderful capture of the time.

You can find this book in our Middle Grade graphic novel section.

Librarians Read: Louisiana’ Way Home

This was a sweet and classic Kate DiCamillo work. Of course I loved the plucky main character Louisiana and her backstory had some good shock value. Burke Allen was a precious companion and the array of crazy adult characters were all well-realized and certainly individuals. If you are looking for a well-written middle grade novel then Kate DiCamillo works are always a stellar choice.

This one is in the Middle Grade Realistic section.

What We’re Reading: The Secret History

This is the perfectly mastered story of a California youth who leaves the sunshine behind and lands at a New England college studying classics with a exclusive group of privileged students. The book is full of atmosphere and mystery and the full depths of the secrets alluded to by the title are slowly meted out to the reader. Connections to the Great Gatsby abound as well as to the classic philosophies that the students are reading. A dark and engrossing novel that will really stay with you.

This book can be found in the Literature section along with many other terrific works.

Librarians Read: Rosewater

Rosewater is totally engrossing and stunning sci-fi work from Nigerian writer Tade Thompson. The world has changed significantly following the first successful extraterrestrial landing in England. The ship and the life on it seemed to disappear into the ground at Hyde Park but in other places in the world strange transformations have taken place such as the biodome in Nigeria which provides energy to Rosewood, the circular city that surrounds it. Some people have acquired or been born with transformations too such as Kaaro who can follow people’s thoughts by accessing the psychic energy connecting the new world, the xenosphere. A reformed thief, Kaaro now works for the government as an interrogator and investigator. Both current and past mysteries are revealed as we navigate this new world through Kaaro’s narrative.

Librarians Read: The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl

An absolutely charming middle grade realistic fiction that hopefully gets some Newbery love in January. When Lucy was 8 years-old the metal fence that she was climbing on was struck by lightning and the jolt has left her with some OCD mannerisms but also with a very strongly developed sense of numbers and math. After the accident Lucy’s primary caregiver, her grandmother, home-schooled her for some time but at the beginning of the story she is determined to send her to middle school for some time with her peers. Lucy’s compulsions don’t go over very well with most of the other 7th graders but a couple of people are able to see past them. This is a story with a lot of heart about friendship, trust, family, the beauty of numbers and one very sweet shelter dog whose narrative caused some (slightly) tear-stained pages in this library book.

Librarians Read: Bob

Short and precious and so well-made down to the sepia-toned illustrations inside and the tiny golden stars on the book cover. When ten-year-old Livy returns to Australia to see her grandmother after a gap of five years, everyone is disappointed by how little she remembers from her previous visit. She is frustrated too especially as she has the sense that something very important has been left undone from her past. This all changes when she opens her closet door and is reunited with Bob, a special friend and mysterious creature who has been waiting all of these years for her return. The sense of the beauty, power and mystery of memory makes this tiny fantasy a real treat.

Banned Books Week, Day 5

Welcome to the AAS Celebration of Banned Books Week!
Day Five

Every day this week, we will be bringing news of book banning from across the divisions and around the world.  

Today’s topic: Provoked Thoughts and General Reflections

When Kris and I began planning this week, we asked our fellow educators if they had any books challenged or removed from other schools that they had worked in.  We heard a few stories, but not nearly the volume that we expected. Today, on Friday of a week where we have seen so many people, we have finally heard the stories we expected to hear.

We heard stories of books not being taught because they couldn’t make it through the approval process.  Stories of books removed from curriculum, never to be encountered again. We heard stories of teachers spoken to privately because of the content of the book in their class.

One senior remarked that a book from his class may have given him another perspective, but that it was hard to be certain; if it had been removed, perhaps some other books would have done the same or brought him a new idea.  

We heard stories of books vanished from libraries.  Two middle schoolers said that books had been taken from previous school libraries.  One teacher mentioned that a parent had “lost” several copies of a book because she disagreed with the content in a previous school.  One teacher mentioned how she would get secret books in paper bags from her librarian.

We heard students and teachers express a wide range of emotions at books being taken away from libraries: surprise, disbelief, outrage, confusion, humor and frustration.  We heard concern about books being removed from the AAS Library, both in the greater sense and with a particular pointed question. We heard students encourage the removal of some books from our library, feeling offended that certain body parts and words were available in print.

Most of all, we heard respect for the library, for the curriculum, and for the right to choose.  Students and teachers here have the freedom to read about any sort of topic, to explore books that scare them or make them silly, that explore gender and identity, that tackle human issues of addiction and mental health, of their culture and their ethnicity, with any history that it may include.

As librarians, we see this as both a great honor and a great responsibility.  Our collection must have books for everyone, for patrons of all ages, for patrons from every country we represent, for educators and students working towards higher education.  We appreciate that we are gatekeepers to information, that we have power over what comes into our space and gets removed. We appreciate that we need to be sensitive to different perspectives, both in terms of supporting our young patrons and honoring possibly concerned parents.

In a world where there is ample information available at the tips of your fingers, we appreciate the power of a book, no matter its form.  Each new challenge of a book reminds us that what we choose to focus on is a powerful influence. Each new story we hear lets us into a different perspective, one that is ours to form and express.  And each new perspective reminds us that we can’t necessarily force another person to hold the same views as we do.

Thank you all for your support of the library, of literature, and of our students.

We honor the books mentioned in these stories, all books that exist in our collection and throughout the school.

“The Diary of a Part Time Indian”

“Persepolis”

“The Handmaid’s Tale”

“Walter the Farting Dog”

“The Diary of Anne Frank”

“Captain Underpants”

“Why” (a book in Korean)

“Harry Potter”

“Sex is a Funny Word”