Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2024) Featured Review: Mascot by Charles Waters and Traci Sorell

  • Mascot
  • by Charles Waters and Traci Sorell
  • Publisher: Charlesbridge
  • Release date: Sept 5, 2023
  • ISBN: 9781623543808

As part of their 8th grade Honors English class, students are asked to consider whether their mascot, an “Indian Brave”, is appropriate and whether it should be changed.  Their assignment: write a research paper and be prepared to debate the topic as partners in class.

Told from the perspectives of the students in the class, their teacher, and community stakeholders, this provides a nuanced discussion of a timely and controversial topic written by #ownvoices authors. Engaging writing with ample white space allows the plot to flow well.  Student voices and perspectives are distinct and realistic, but the language used makes it accessible to teens on the younger end of the age range.
Students who are athletes or are passionate fans, as well as those readers who want to better understand diverse perspectives will connect with this books. Hand this title to young social justice advocates who liked Miles Morales: Suspended by Jason Reynolds or those who want to think deeply about identity and liked Rain Rising by Courtne Comrie.

-Melissa Palmer

Other Nominated Titles

Release Date: February 21, 2023
Release Date: May 23, 2023
Release Date: September 12, 2023

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.

The Best Fiction for Young Adults Committee appreciates teen feedback as members evaluate the nominated titles. Teen librarians are encouraged to share the List of Potential Nominees under consideration with their patrons and solicit feedback using the link: https://bit.ly/BFYA24TeenFB

Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2024) Feature Review: Sun Keep Rising by Kristen R. Lee

  • Sun Keep Rising
  • by Kristen R. Lee
  • Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
  • Imprint: Penguin Random House
  • Release date: January 24, 2023
  • ISBN: 9780593309193

Teen mom B’onca has always found a way to survive. Things are harder now with her baby, but she finds a way to stay in school, help pay the rent and raise her daughter. Unfortunately, her Memphis neighborhood is being gentrified and the rent is increasing. Soon B’onca and her mom get an eviction notice. B’onca can’t lose her home or her daughter. The father’s family is threatening to take the baby if she can’t prove she has a stable household. Pushed into a corner, B’onca decides to take a risk to get quick money, putting everything even more in jeopardy. 

The difficult, but real issues in this book are handled with grace and also don’t shy away from the pain and injustices. The realistic way it’s written will appeal to reluctant readers who like true stories with believable characters. In this short book the reader is drawn into B’onca’s life.

Readers who enjoy realistic stories that deal with complex life issues will enjoy this book. This tells a story that isn’t often told and gives a voice to young teen mothers who love their babies and strive to make themselves better for their kids. For more books about young women of color finding their voice while grappling with complicated lives read Vinyl Moon by Mahogany Browne and Me: Moth by Amber McBride.

Other Nominated

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.

Earth Day is Every Day! (pssst: it’s also next week)

Since its origin on April 22, 1970, Earth Day has evolved into a multi-day celebration and call to action. This year, the festivities kick off on April 20 with a global youth climate summit and the Hip Hop Caucus “We Shall Breathe” event. On the 22nd, President Biden will host world leaders at a Global Climate Summit, where we hope they will respond directly to the work and words of the young environmental activists leading the conversation for change. To help bring more teens into that dialogue, we’ve gathered resources from around the web and the world.

No Planet B from Haymarket Books and Teen Vogue is a collection of essays that embraces the intersectionality of the climate movement. Editor Lucy Diavolo recognizes that young people have already demonstrated their capacity and willingness to lead on this issue, and this book gives them the microphone. From essential FAQ-style pieces to journalism on the global plastics crisis or publicly owned utilities, this book covers a lot of ground and would be great for a young activist in the making or as a classroom curriculum support.

Continue reading Earth Day is Every Day! (pssst: it’s also next week)

Using History to Understand Current Social Issues

Many current social issues have long histories, and many teens are expressing interest in understanding the historical context of contemporary politics. To become better informed, teens might want to revisit these issues as they played out in history to gain a deeper understanding of modern day events and attitudes. As teens learn more and judge for themselves how the past compares to attitudes today, it could also inspire a deeper understanding of human rights and our responsibilities as humans in today’s modern society.

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While this author is not an expert on these topics, she hopes it will encourage teens and teen advocates to understand the past and how this could foster discussion on our current societal issues. Continue reading Using History to Understand Current Social Issues

Resources for Social Justice and Disability

Previously I posted on Social Justice and Disability – Evaluating Materials and Media with Characters with Disabilities. I am back to share some other essential resources and sites to follow. After a divisive presidential campaign, where the elected official hasn’t been forthcoming on stances in regards to disability issues this has raised concerns in the disabled community. Ambiguity has led to a sense of uncertainty. When it comes to social justice we need to be as informed as possible and empathetic as possible.

social-justice-and-disability-resources

In the last post I posted a video from Annie Elainey. Again, because she discusses so many great things. Here she discusses Disability Identity and Language:

As she discusses, individuals have their own preferences on how they want to be identified whether it is person-first (person with a disability) versus identity-first (disabled). She links to this article on the Autistic Self Advocacy Network that at the bottom has articles on both sides and some in between.

There are some other great Youtubers out there discussing their disabilities and issues around disability. That in itself requires its own post for The Hub. For now, check out these posts from Disability Now and Disability Thinking on Youtubers to follow. Continue reading Resources for Social Justice and Disability

Social Justice and Disability – Evaluating Materials and Media with Characters with Disabilities

When we talk about social justice, one of the most often overlooked populations are people with disabilities. The 2014 Disability Status Report for the United States from Cornell University reported that, “In 2014, the overall percentage (prevalence rate) of people with a disability of all ages in the US was 12.6 percent.” The National Health Institute of Mental Health reported in 2015, “Fully 20 percent—1 in 5—of children ages 13-18 currently have and/or previously had a seriously debilitating mental disorder.” These percentages are not reflected in publishing trends.

Social Justice and Disability - Evaluating Materials and Media with Characters with Disabilities

Representation of any marginalized groups accurately and sympathetically can remove some of the prejudice surrounding them, so including books and media with these characters in our collections is essential. Everyone deserves to see their experiences reflected, as well as studies have shown that reading literary fiction improves empathy. People with disabilities experience some of the highest rates of discrimination and microaggressions. Intersect being disabled with also being a person of color, First/Native Nations, LGBTQ, and/or female and the transgressions can increase. Activist and Vlogger Annie Elainey discusses here in a video Why is Disability Representation So White? #DisabilityTooWhite the many issues that people are experiencing because of lack of representation. (Also, be sure to check out her sources.)

Accurate representation can be a tricky thing, especially if it is not a story or experience that is being written by a person with a similar disability. In January, Lee & Low Books reported results of a 2015 Diversity Baseline Survey about the social makeup of the publishing and book reviewing in North America. In the industry overall, 92% identified as nondisabled, so we can assess that a good portion of the writing, editing, and reviewing books with disabled characters are being done by nondisabled folks. Alaina Leary wrote a great piece for The Establishment titled Why The Publishing Industry Can’t Get Disability Right that is also a must read.

Readers, writers, and advocates of young adult literature should be paying attention to the site Disability in Kidlit. Continue reading Social Justice and Disability – Evaluating Materials and Media with Characters with Disabilities

Equal Rights Through Fantasy and Science Fiction

Current events sparked a conversation about the disenfranchised in America.  Racism and sexism can be tough subjects to start with teens and a great way to begin is with fantasy and science fiction.  These genres often approach these topics using witches or another class of people as metaphors for real life disenfranchised groups.  If you are thinking about discussing our current political and social climate with your book club or classroom, consider the titles below.

equal-rights

Disenfranchised-Androids

Zen likes trains especially the rails in his alternate universe in space.  When a mysterious man named The Raven pays Zen to steal a box from the train of the emperorer, Zen isn’t sure if The Raven is evil or if it’s the government that’s evil.

Disenfranchised-Non Magical

Elli is the Saadelah, next in line to be queen, and has accepted her duty to serve and protect the Kupari people with ice and fire magic.  When her time to reign has suddenly begun, something goes tragically wrong and Elli is forced to hide in the Outlands with the thieves and murderers.  Her time in the Outlands is full of family, love, and a new purpose.

  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find ThemJK Rowling

Disenfranchised-Witches and Wizards

On a brief stop in New York City, Newt Scamander accidentally releases some of his magical beasts onto the city.  While trying to recapture his beasts, Newt; a nomaj; and two American witches find themselves on the hunt for an Obscurus who’s destroying the New York. Continue reading Equal Rights Through Fantasy and Science Fiction

Self-Care Resources for Teens

As part of our month of posts around the topic of social justice, today we’re rounding up some tips and resources to help teens practice good self-care. I am using the term “self-care” to mean general actions that an individual can take to maintain or improve their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being. Engaging with issues of social justice can bring up many difficult emotions, trigger or exacerbate mental health concerns, and otherwise prompt symptoms of distress. Stories and coverage of injustice, violence, and violations of civil and human rights are inherently troubling to encounter. Learning to acknowledge and manage this distress can help teens – and adults! – to not feel entirely overwhelmed when confronting issues of social justice. Learning to recognize our individual limits and needs, and developing ways to meet them, are critical tools against feeling overwhelmed, burnt out, or consumed by anger, despair, or helplessness. I am not a health care professional, and self-care strategies and choices are highly personal; your ideas and feedback are encouraged and appreciated in the comments!

One critical level of self-care is taking care of our immediate physical needs: eating nutritious foods, staying hydrated, and, in an era of constant access to the media and the ability to binge on screen-time, taking time away from devices to shower, get dressed, and make sure we’re spending time off the internet.

Taking a few deep breaths, perhaps in sync with this viral and effective GIF, is also a first-line self-care action. These could all be considered self-care strategies to implement right-this-minute in the face of feeling overwhelmed. It’s just a little easier to face the enormity of social justice issues when you’re freshly shampooed and you’ve got going-out-in-public clothes on. Some resources to encourage good habits for these immediate needs: basic health guides (especially those directly addressing the teen years), cookbooks, etc.

The next level of self-care involves building in or learning activities and practices to help us feel centered, calm, and positive. These could include: Continue reading Self-Care Resources for Teens

Narrative Nonfiction with Social Justice Themes

Just like the term literacy, social justice has many arms. And just like literacy, we can focus on pieces or the whole of the concept. In this post, we’re focused on narrative nonfiction and how people individually or collectively have pushed for equal rights. The books can be seen as a call to action or providing context for fights still happening abroad and at home.

narrativesocialjustice

People Who Said No: Courage Against Oppression by Laura Scandiffio (2012)

peoplewhosaidnoA collection of stories about revolutionaries from across the globe, Scandiffio explains why and how individuals or groups stood up for the oppressed and made changes. For The White Rose is was against Hitler, for Helen Suzman is was against apartheid, but there are more highlighted in these chapters. Their courage shows teens that revolutions have happened and continue to happen with the inclusion of the contemporary uprising in Egypt as its last entry.

I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World by Malala Yousafzai and Patricia McCormick (2014)

Read in conjunction with the adult biography Yousafzai wrote in 2013 and the picture book For the Right To Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s Story by Rebecca Langston-George and Janna Bock (2015) these three texts at varying degrees of interest and reading level, do not focus on the shooting that maimed her but on her family’s encouragement to be educated and to speak out against the Taliban and its oppression of women. Continue reading Narrative Nonfiction with Social Justice Themes

Libraries and Social Justice

2016 has been a year that has brought many important conversations about social justice to the forefront: Black Lives Matter, immigration, gender equality, the rights of indigenous people, poverty and economic inequality, LGBTQ rights.

Libraries across the United States have responded to these conversations in various ways, and within our profession, valid questions have been raised about the role of libraries in social discourse. How do we as library professionals preserves the objectivity of libraries as public institutions and ourselves as information professionals when the idea that free access of information to all is still a radical ideal? Continue reading Libraries and Social Justice