Bookish Brew: In Honor of Author Elizabeth Ross, a Pot of Tea and French Pastry

Belle EpoqueI loved 2014 William C. Morris YA Debut Award Finalist Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross so much that I thought it should be highlighted with both drink instructions AND a pastry recipe.  The drink this time is simply black tea – but made properly, soothingly, with a kettle, teapot, loose leaf tea and all the rest.  While protagonist Maude Pichon does mention drinking and fantasizing about a “bowl” of hot chocolate more than once, and two of the wealthier characters drink coffee a couple times, tea is by far the most commonly enjoyed hot drink in this novel, mentioned more than twenty times.  The eats?  A recipe for the beloved pastry of Maude’s close friend Marie-Josée: pain au chocolat, of course!

As Hub bloggers Alegria Barclay and Anna Tschetter have respectfully already thoughtfully reviewed Belle Epoque and interviewed author Elizabeth Ross, I will only provide a brief outline of the novel here.  Set in 1888, it is narrated by protagonist Maude Pichon, a sixteen-year-old who has run away from her home in Brittany to start a new, self-determined life in Paris.  Desperate to make ends meet, she takes a position as a repoussoir at an agency, serving as a hired “beauty foil” for the wealthy.  Supposedly plain-looking women such as Maude are paid by this agency to accompany wealthy women on social outings, with the idea that the women’s plainness will make the wealthy clients appear attractive in contrast.  Maude often finds her work degrading, and yet, eventually becomes a bit enchanted by the world of her main client.  In doing so she risks ruining meaningful new friendships and a possible love relationship.  In our appearance-obsessed 21st century culture, it is impossible not to identity with Maude’s experiemce on some level.

photo by flickr user Helen Chang

A bit of casual research on my part appears to indicate that black tea is the most popular variety in France, with Breakfast, Earl Grey and fruity black tea blends often being found on salon de thé menus.  This coincides with Marie-Josée’s humorous dismissal of herbal tea when she describes a client outing which she did not particularly enjoy: “ ‘But no, this client had me stuck in the back corner drinking a tisane… not a foot set on the dance floor, herbal tea, and my talents wasted.’ ”


Making a Pot of Black Loose Leaf Tea

  1. Pour the number of cups of water that you desire into the tea kettle (one cup of water makes one cup of tea).
  2. Put the kettle on a stovetop burner.  Turn the burner up to its highest setting.
  3. Meanwhile, warm your teapot by filling it with hot tap water and letting it sit covered for a while.
  4. Once the tea kettle is boiling, empty the teapot of warm water.  Measure into the teapot one teaspoon of loose leaf tea for each cup of water that you have boiled.
  5. Turn off the kettle and pour the boiling water into the teapot and place the lid on it.
  6. For black tea, let the teapot sit (let the tea “steep”) three to five minutes.  Longer steeping time leads to stronger tea.
  7. After this time is up, for each cup of tea, place a strainer on top of the tea cup and pour your tea through this so that you catch the leaves.
  8.  Remove the strainer from the tea cup, add anything to your tea that you like (honey, sugar, milk, etc.) and enjoy!

Continue reading Bookish Brew: In Honor of Author Elizabeth Ross, a Pot of Tea and French Pastry

Schneider Family Book Award: Rose Under Fire

Schneider Family Book Award SealLast week at ALA Midwinter, the 2014 ALA Youth Media Awards were announced (if you missed the ceremony, you can still watch it online). The Youth Media Awards encompass many different prizes recognizing media created for children and young adults, including the Schneider Family Book Award, which was established by Dr. Katherine Schneider and “honors an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.” This year, in addition to being named one of YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults top ten titles, Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein is the the Schneider Family Book Award’s teen award winner.

Though it is a companion to 2013 Michael L. Printz Honor book Code Name Verity and references characters and events from that title, Rose Under Fire focuses on the story of a new character named Rose Justice. Continue reading Schneider Family Book Award: Rose Under Fire

Black History Month: Interracial Teens in Historical Fiction

Black White girl-001What’s in a color?

For many Americans, it’s an identity.  It speaks of ancestors from nations unknown, of a history both terrible and proud. The irony is that skin color can hide a past as easily as reveal. Over the long course of American history, countless children have been born to parents of different races, sometimes different skin colors. What race, then, are those children? The deciding factor is often the color of their skin.

To think that Black History is pertinent only to the present generation of African Americans is to miss this long intermingling of black and white Americans. These mixed race children have had to work out their place in society for hundreds of years. The books listed below focus on the choices available to teens of mixed white and black heritage.


Jefferson's Sons by Kimberly Brubaker BradleyJefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

It was known, even in 1790, that Thomas Jefferson had fathered children with his mixed race slave, Sally Hemings. But this truth was disputed  for over two hundred years, until DNA testing provided a credible link in the Jefferson-Hemings lineage. In this novel, Bradley explores the feelings of Jefferson’s fair-skinned slave children who were denied a relationship with their father. How did it feel, to be the son of one of the greatest men of the time, and yet have no one to call, “Papa?”


Hazel by Julie HearnHazel: a novel by Julie Hearn

In 1913, Hazel gets herself involved in the women’s suffrage movement and it leads her to big trouble. As a consequences, she is sent to her grandfather’s sugar plantation in the Caribbean. Hazel is surprised at the different attitudes she discovers in plantation life, where the rise of “darkies” threaten the established order. But she is truly horrified when she discovers the secrets kept by her own family members, secrets that have ruined the lives of their closest relations.
Continue reading Black History Month: Interracial Teens in Historical Fiction

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Auschwitz in 1945. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany.
Auschwitz in 1945. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany.

Since 2005, January 27th has been designated International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this day, the world takes time to acknowledge the millions of victims of genocide at the hands of the Nazis during World War II. Below are some books that address this difficult and important period in history.

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein – This companion to 2013 Printz Honor book Code Name Verity offers a horrific and visceral story of the Ravensbrück concentration camp. The book follows Rose, a young American pilot, who finds herself in Ravensbrück after her plane is captured by the Germans. There she meets others women who have been captured and subjected to medical experimentation. With vivid descriptions and a clear attention to historical detail, this book is a powerful read for those who want to more fully understand the Holocaust. [Edit: Earlier today, this book was awarded the 2014 Schneider Family Book Award in the teen division.] Continue reading International Holocaust Remembrance Day

An Interview with Morris Finalist Elizabeth Ross, author of Belle Epoque

I am happy to continue our series of 2013 Morris Award finalist interviews with a chat with Elizabeth Ross, author Belle Epoque. Check out Alegria’s review of Belle Epoque, the story of a plain girl hired to become a beauty “foil” for an attractive society girl in 1880s Paris. Elizabeth was kind enough to answer some questions about her novel and even provided us with some pictures used in her research!

In Belle Epoque’s afterword, you mention that Emile Zola’s story ‘Les Repoussoirs’ in part inspired the story, but what made you want to set the book in this time? What do you think is so fascinating to many people of this time in history, and especially in Paris? I’m thinking the enduring love for the paintings of Toulouse Lautrec and other Post-Impressionists, and the continuing romance of the bohemian lifestyle. What is it about that time?

Salon at the Rue des Moulins, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec
Salon at the Rue des Moulins, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec

Paris at the end of the 19th century was a pivotal time in history. Technology, architecture, art and culture were exploding. It was the dawn of the modern age, where the ‘new’ was at odds with old ways of thinking in so many fields.

I’m glad you mentioned Toulouse Lautrec because his art was a huge inspiration for my repoussoirs. The world he painted and the Paris Zola wrote about show the ugly underbelly of a city that we usually associate with romance and luxury. These unbeautiful elements, such as extremes of class and gender inequality, helped augment the stakes and drama for my characters.

Lastly, setting my story in belle époque Paris meant I could examine lots of ideas about today’s society but disguise them in another place and time.

Continue reading An Interview with Morris Finalist Elizabeth Ross, author of Belle Epoque

Teens Behaving Historically: The Civil Rights Movement in YA Literature

Martin Luther King Jr. March on Washington
image from U.S. Embassy The Hague’s flickr

Today, we celebrate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a leader and legend in the Civil Rights Movement of 1950s and 1960s.   And what better way to celebrate here at the Hub than to round up some of the incredible young adult fiction and nonfiction exploring this pivotal time in history?

While the major events and people of the Civil Rights Movement might be familiar, one aspect in particular is frequently under-appreciated: the incredibly significant role of children and teens.  From elementary school kids to high school & college students, young people contributed their time, energy, and passion while risking their futures, bodies, and even sometimes their lives for the fight for justice.  Nowhere does the strength of their commitment come through more clearly than in these young adult novels and nonfiction narratives.

Many of the significant civil rights events in the 1950s occurred at places central to the lives of children and teens: schools.  In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its monumental decision in the case of Brown v. Board of Education, unanimously declaring that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional.  The ruling set into motion a renewed push for school integration across the country.

warriors don't cryWarriors Don’t Cry: A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock’s Central High – Melba Pattillo Beals (1995 ALA Notable Book)  Drawing on memories, historical documentation, and her own teenage diaries, Melba Pattillo Beals shares her harrowing and life-altering experience as one of the Little Rock Nine–the nine black teenagers who integrated Central High in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957 amid violent protests and an eventual federal military intervention.  Her straightforward and honest prose and the inclusion of her diary entries make this monumental historical event personal and alive in a whole new way.  For another view on Central High’s integration, check out her fellow Little Rock Nine member Carlotta Walls LaNier’s memoir, A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School. 

lions of little rockThe Lions of Little Rock – Kristin Levine (2013 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults)

A year after the contentious integration of Central High, tensions in Little Rock remain high. However, shy Marlee Nisbitt is mostly worried about starting middle school.  But when her new outspoken friend Liz suddenly leaves school after rumors spread that she’s a black girl passing as white, Marlee must put her newfound voice to the test to stand up for her friend–and a larger cause.

Continue reading Teens Behaving Historically: The Civil Rights Movement in YA Literature

Librarians Love: 80s-Inspired Books

YALSA-bk is a listserv with lively discussions among librarians, educators, and beyond about all things YA lit. Sometimes one listserv member will ask for help finding books around a certain theme or readalikes for a particular title. This post is a compilation of responses for one such request.

my little 80s pony by merwing

The original request
I am putting together a 1980s party for winter break and I want to have a book list or display to go along with it. Can you help me think of any books that really have to do with the 1980s? So far I have Eleanor and Park and Ready Player One. Thanks everyone!

Continue reading Librarians Love: 80s-Inspired Books