Sunday, March 11, 2018


This weekend I read The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater.

From the book jacket:

One teenager in a skirt. 
One teenager with a lighter.
One moment that changes both of their lives forever.

In November of 2013 in Oakland, California, an agender teenager, Sasha, was riding the 57 bus and was set on fire. In an instant – with the flame from a lighter and a reckless lapse in judgement – the lives of two teenagers were changed forever. 

Richard is a black teen who attends public school and lives with his mother, Jasmine, in a crime-riddled neighborhood. In one tragic, reckless, thoughtless moment Richard holds a lighter to Sasha's skirt. The skirt erupts in flames and Sasha is severely burned. Richard is charged with two hate crimes and at 16 faces being tried as an adult.

The 57 Bus is the true story of two teenagers and the crime that changed their lives. The book explores the ideas of gender identity, class, race, and the juvenile justice system.

The story is empathetic and takes a compassionate look at both teens and their families. The 57 Bus is an amazing work of contemporary non-fiction that belongs in the hands of all teens. Read this book with the young people you know. 

Check out the discussion questions for the book from Macmillan Publishing. Readers are guaranteed to learn more about themselves and the society we live in. 

Friday, March 9, 2018

the poetry of women

"Pero, tú no eres fácil."
You sure ain't an easy one.

There's something amazing about a story told in verse. This week I read The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. This is the perfect YA book to read for Women's History Month. The Poet X tells the story of Xiomara Batista, an Afro-Latina teen living in Harlem. Her mother is devoutly religious and prefers Xiomara to remain silent, pious, contained. But Xiomara's thoughts and emotions can not be contained; she pours them into her poetry... into her leather bound notebook.

Elizabeth Acevedo is a celebrated slam poet. The Poet X is her debut novel.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Hello, Universe

I just read Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly. On February 12 of this year Hello, Universe won the Newbery Medal for outstanding contribution to children's literature. 

The book takes place over the course of one day. The characters all come together in what seems like a string of crazy coincidences, but...

"There are no coincidences."

This book is a suspenseful adventure that builds empathy for all its characters. While following signs from the Universe, the characters embody creative agency and authentic emotion.

The chain of events that link these middle school characters together is pure magic. The story is told from varied perspectives and makes for a wonderful read. Virgil is shy and quiet. He is on his way to an appointment with Kaori, who is blessed with psychic powers. On his way to meet with Kaori, Virgil runs into Chet Bullens in the woods. Chet is cruel, throwing Virgil's backpack down a well. He does not know that Gulliver, Virgil's pet guinea pig, is inside the backpack. Virgil is not about to let anything dire happen to his beloved pet, and ends up stuck at the bottom of the abandoned well. Little does Virgil know, as he faces the darkness and his many fears, how much he matters to his friends and family. The chapters are short, the suspense palpable, and the characters worthy of knowing.

Get this book for all the middle grade readers you know.

“Sometimes life calls on you 
even when you don't raise your hand.” 

Sunday, February 18, 2018


"You can't expect to make a difference unless you speak up for yourself."

This weekend I read Speak, the graphic novel adaptation of the award winning novel by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Speak was originally published in 1999, and yet the story remains as poignant today as when it was first released.

From GoodReads:
"Speak up for yourself-we want to know what you have to say."  
From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless--an outcast--because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. Through her work on an art project, she is finally able to face what really happened that night: She was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her. 

The graphic novel is able to tell the story in a new way. 
The art is perfect and creative. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Mary's Monster

Be sure to read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein this year ... 2018 is the 200th anniversary of the book's publication!

To inspire you to read the 200-year-old classic, check out the young adult novel, Mary's Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created FRANKENSTEIN

Mary's Monster is told in free-verse paired with over three hundred pages of back-and-white water color illustrations. 

Mary's Monster is an absolutely stunning book. It is something every teenager should read.

From the Introduction:
The novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, written by Mary Shelley and published in 1818, is one of the most famous and enduring works of the Romantic era. Nearly everyone has some knowledge of this book, but few know that its author was a pregnant teenage runaway rejected by her family and spurned by society.

Two new annotated editions of Frankenstein are out and listed in this NPR Books article:
Man As God: Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein' Turns 200

Also, if you are a fan of Science Friday on NPR, Frankenstein was their book club choice. Check out the discussion and resources ...
Science Friday Book Club

And finally, be sure to watch this TEDed video...

Saturday, January 6, 2018

mental health matters

This week I read Madness by Zac Brewer.

It's a brutal look at depression, mental health, recovery, and hope.

The Author's Note comes at the front of the book. It advises:
If, as you are reading this book, you find yourself experiencing symptoms of depression or suicidal thoughts, please seek help. You are not alone. And you can recover.

This book starts dark but explores depression, self harm, and suicide in a way that is important for young adults.

Brooke Danvers is 17 and recovering from a suicide attempt. She has just spent six weeks as a patient in Kingsdale Hospital, being watched, getting therapy, and having people constantly make sure she is doing better so that she can go home. Brooke has been suffering from depression for a very long time. She thinks that the one way she can escape her suffering is to end her own life.

Brooke's best friend is Duckie. He is hands down one of the best BFFs I've read. When RIP is written on Brooke's locker in black Sharpie, Duckie had the graffiti removed.
"It doesn't matter, Duckie. They'll just do it again anyway."Duckie leaned against the lockers and brushed a pink strand from my eyes. "It does matter. Because you're a person, not a headline ... or a punch line."

The information listed in the front of the book is an important resource for teens:

For more information on depression and how to get help, visit the Youth Resources page of the American Academy of Childhood and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP). There you'll find information on finding the right care for yourself, how to recognize depression in others, and what you can do to help someone in crisis. 

For further educational resources - as well as inspirational stories of recovery - visit To Write Love on Her Arms. TWLOHA is a nonprofit movement dedicated to finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide. 

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline exists to provide immediate assistance to individuals in suicidal crisis by connecting them to the nearest available suicide prevention and mental health service provider through a toll free number. 1-800-273-TALK (8255)  

If you are in immediate crisis, dial 911The world is a better place with you in it.

Also check out Crisis Text Line.
Get free help by texting CONNECT to 741741 in the United States. You can text anytime from anywhere in the USA about any type of crisis. A live, trained Crisis Counselor receives the text and lets you know that they are here to listen.