Jenny's Library

Archive for the ‘Reading Round-up’ Category

Books 2014: Statistics

The numbers themselves are pretty self-explanatory for 2014, owing to the fact that I read just about 100 books. So the percentages are pretty much exactly what the totals are.

However, since I am years late posting this, I thought that I’d include a reminder/explanation as to why I even keep track in the first place.
The main reason is because my brain is weird and I find it interesting to compare all these numbers.

I also do it because, as a youth services librarian, I feel that it’s important that I read a certain amount of books, and certain amount of different types of books, in order to do my job properly. My main concern is making sure that my reader’s advisory suggestions are varied and current. I currently only order teen ebooks, so it’s not like I need to keep up on new picture books in order for my library’s collection to stay current. However, reading widely and often also helps with storytimes, displays, and all kinds of other responsibilities.

The reason why I keep track of different types of age/format categories should be pretty obvious, given the reasons I’ve stated above. But I suspect many people may be confused as to why I care about keeping track of how many authors of color that I read, or how many books by men that I read.

It still comes down to my wanting to be able to provide quality reader’s advisory.

Back around 2012 or so, I began to notice that whenever I’d go to pull books for kids to look over – middle graders in particular – most of the time, the protagonists were all white. The kids I was helping however, were not. Not that this would still be acceptable if the patrons had been all white, but there’s a particular sort of erasure and “not really actually being helpful” and “likely not inspiring kids to read more” to a white, middle class librarian constantly suggesting that kids of color read books that feature only white, middle class kids.

There are a huge number of useful lists I can go to to find suggestions for books that feature protagonists of color, but the way reader’s advisory works, it’s not always very effective or efficient to rely on those lists in the moment. I’ve found these lists incredibly valuable in terms of both collection development and choosing my own reading material, but lists usually don’t capture things like: tone, sense of humor, relationship dynamics, pacing, and the like. I’m also just more likely to remember and therefore suggest a book that I’ve actually read, even if I didn’t personally like it.

So if what I’m concerned about is the identity of the protagonist, why am I instead keeping track of authors? After all, there isn’t a one to one correlation. People write about people that are different from them all the time; this is as true of authors of color as it is of white authors. That’s kinda how it needs to be.

About the same time that I was deciding that I needed to improve my reader’s advisory, I was also reading a lot of articles by Rudine Sims Bishop, and one of the things that she talked a lot about in the articles I read (in addition to coining the concept of “mirrors and windows”) was authenticity, and how important it is that the children being written about are neither stereotypes nor disconnected from their communities and history. While reading books by authors of color isn’t a guarantee that this won’t happen, it does dramatically decrease the chances that it will.
It also has the bonus of supporting authors of color, which is important in and of itself.

So, now that the explanation is out of the way, how did I do?

Books Read by Type

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Books Read by Gender of Author

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Books Read by Race/Ethnicity of Author

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First, I think it’s clear that I did a lousy job of reading from all the different age/format categories. Which is part of why I set specific goals for myself in that regard for 2015 and 2016.

Secondly, I was a little surprised by the breakdown by gender. I read significantly fewer books by men in 2014 than I did in 2013. As I said in 2013, I’m not as concerned about that, as books by men don’t suffer overall from less promotion and my overall reading history is likely skewed more in favor of men because of the way that required reading is more likely to have been written by men. However, I might revise that assessment if this percentage persists, because that might mean that I’m not reading enough books by men of color or enough of the new, popular books.

Last but far from least, from 2013 to 2014 I increased the percentage of authors of color I read. I also read fewer books in 2014 than I did in 2013, so the number of books by authors of color that I read didn’t really increase. Which is why my goal for 2015 wasn’t to read a greater percentage of books by authors of color, but to maintain the 1:2 or better ratio of “books by authors of color : books by white authors” while also reading more books overall. We’ll see how well that worked out in a few days.

More importantly though, I now no longer find myself realizing after the fact that all the books I’m suggesting to kids have white protagonists. I don’t even always have to consciously think about it, either, when suggesting books, in order to make sure this doesn’t happen. My reading suggestions are now more “naturally” balanced and diverse. Which was the end goal.

This doesn’t mean that I’ll stop keeping track of this data anytime soon. And at some point I’ll likely try to increase the percentage of books I read by authors of color. Or, take a year or two to keep track of how many books by LGTBQIA authors I read, etc. But it does mean that all this number crunching did what it was supposed to. Which makes me very happy, and hopefully means I’m doing a better job as a librarian.

Board Books

Hide and Seek by Taro Gomi

Wiggle! by Taro Gomi

Mommy, Mama, and Me by Lesle’a Newman

My Lucky Little Dragon by Joyce Wan

Look and Learn: Opposites! by National Geographic Kids

Snow by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace

Curious Baby My First Words at the Farm by H. A. Rey

Baby Colors by Rachael Hale

The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister

Hippopposites by Janik Coat

Let’s Play House by Emma Quay

Easy Readers

The Day I Had to Play With My Sister by Crosby Bonsall

Picture Books

The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve

Hot Hot Roti for Dada-ji by F. Zia

The End (Almost) by Jim Benton

Thunder Rose by Jerdine Nolan

Found by Salina Yoon

The Pigeon Needs a Bath! by Mo Willems

Ellington Was Not a Street by Ntozake Shange

Penguin on Vacation by Salina Yoon

He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands by Kadir Nelson

I, Too, Am America by Langston Hughes

The Neighborhood Mother Goose by Nina Crews

Middle Grade Novels

Cold Fire by Tamora Pierce

Zora and Me by Victoria Bond and T. R. Simon

Close to Famous by Joan Bauer

Life With Lily by Mary Ann Kinsinger and Suzanne Woods Fisher

Nikki and Deja by Karen English

Our Only May Amelia by Jennifer L. Holm

Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadahota

Birthday Blues by Karen English

Boston Jane by Jennifer L. Holm

Shatterglass by Tamora Pierce

Prairie Evers by Ellen Airgood

Sometimes Never, Sometimes Always by Elissa Janine Hoole

Rain is Not My Indian Name by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Young Adult Novels

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Pinned by Sharon G. Flake

How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbelestier

Between Mom and Jo by Julie Anne Peters

Does My Head Look Big in This by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Lucy the Giant by Sherri L. Smith

Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough

The Juvie Three by Gordan Korman

The Fox Inheritance by Mary E. Pearson

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

Fly On the Wall by E. Lockhart

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson

When We Wake by Karen Healey

Fallen by Lauren Kate

Fox Forever by Mary E. Pearson

Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan

Moonglass by Jessi Kirby

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour

A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper

Starters by Lissa Price

Bruised by Sarah Skilton

Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson

Adult Novels

The Steerswoman by Rosemary Kirstein

The Outskirter’s Secret by Rosemary Kirstein

Ghost Ship by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

The Lost Steersman by Rosemary Kirstein

The Language of Power by Rosemary Kirstein

Up Against It by M. J. Locke

The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

Midnight Never Come by Marie Brennan\

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

Warrior by Marie Brennan

Daughter of Mystery by Heather Rose Jones

Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie

The Duchess War by Courtney Milan

Graphic Novels

I Am Pusheen the Cat by Claire Belton

Rapunzel’s Revenge by Dean and Shannon Hale

The Eternal Smile by Gene Luen Yang

Boxers by Gene Luen Yang

Saints by Gene Luen Yang

Who is AC? by Hope Larson

Level Up by Gene Luen Yang

A Game for Swallows by Zeina Abirached

Short Stories, Novellas, Novelettes

How Beautiful the Ordinary edited by Michael Cart

Nonfiction

Slimed!: An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age by Mathew Klickstein

Diego Rivera: His World and Ours by Duncan Tonatiuh

Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson

Coretta Scott by Ntozake Shange

We Are the Ship: The Story of the Negro Baseball League by Kadir Nelson

Heart and Soul; The Story of America and African Dreams by Kadir Nelson

Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford

Martin de Porres: The Rose in the Desert by Gary D. Schmidt

cover image for Karen MemoryKaren Memory by Elizabeth Bear

Karen Memery, like most citizens in Rapid City, is just trying to do what she can to get by, and maybe even save a little something for a better future.  But Fate has other plans for her.  Like falling in love, helping a US Marshal catch his man, and preventing a villain’s treasonous plot.

There ever so are many things to love about Karen Memory.  Its steampunk Wild West setting, Karen’s  practical and distinctive personality, and of course the developing relationship between Karen and Priya.  Most especially the way Karen falls so quickly and so hard, yet doesn’t let herself push Priya (who is suffering from trauma and worry for her sister) for more than she might want or be capable of.

I think what I like best about it though is the way that its fictionalized historical setting, rather than being used once again as an excuse to focus on the usual suspects or to write characters and situations that reinforce modern bigotry, becomes instead a way to highlight the truth that we – that all of us – have always been here all along.  Karen’s occupation as “seamstress” (and the tongue in cheek way that she talks about providing sexual services) works in tandem with this argument by demonstrating that respectable society’s views of those so often only written into the margins of history books has little to do with their lives, capabilities, and impact.

Karen Memory was originally conceived as a young adult novel (Karen herself is in her late teens), and it makes me incredibly sad and frustrated that the market is such that it instead was published under an adult imprint.  I believe it still works as a young adult novel – especially for older teens – and so I strongly encourage my fellow YA librarians to make sure your adult section has it handy for recommendations.  Need a book that has adventure, romance, mystery, friendship, lgbtqia content, characters from several different racial and ethnic backgrounds, steampunk contraptions, shootouts, and deals spectacularly well with sexual assault and consent?  Here is your book.

I just want to add two more content notes about Karen Memory, for my fellow librarians in particular:

First, that there were a few bits about Tomoatooah, the US Marshal’s posseman, that made me wish I could find a review of the book from someone more familiar with Comanche culture and Native American stereotypes in American literature.  He is very much a fully realized character, and is not portrayed in an intentionally negative light.  But some aspects of how he was written had me wishing I had a more knowledgable opinion to consult.

Secondly, I want to clarify that while much of the story takes place in a brothel, there is no actual depiction of sexual acts. Sex, sexual services, and sexual assault are all discussed – when it affects the characters and plot.  All of which I consider appropriate for teens.  But despite the setting, Karen Memory has no soft-core, male-gaze, porn-like descriptions of female characters or sexual acts, unlike a great many other adult SSF novels that are themselves recommended to teens all the time.

cover image for Court of FivesCourt of Fives by Kate Elliot

Jes and her three sisters couldn’t be more different, and they fight and squabble as siblings do. Yet when it comes down to it, they’ve got each others backs.  Which is fortunate, as she needs their help to do what she loves best: training for the Fives, a sport that requires quick thinking, agility, stamina, and strength.  But when Jes’ father returns from war, her plans to finally compete – something he would never approve of – are thrown in disarray.  Soon the rest of her life is as well, and Jes will need to use all of the skills that make her a great athlete to keep her family safe.

full disclosure, before I get into WHY THIS BOOK IS SO AWESOME AND YOU SHOULD READ IT:acknowledgements page from Court of Fives

(yeah, I really just put that there bc: OMG)

I adore Kate Elliot’s books, and Court of Fives is no exception.  I’ve been eager to see how/what she does with YA, and now that I have I’m so very glad she did.  I love the way that Elliot handles Jes as an athlete, and her relationships with her sisters.  And I especially love that she made Jes’ social standing so complex, that it’s not as simple as her family being rich and her father having status, nor simply that Jes and her sisters are biracial in an extremely racist society.

And I really, really, really, would love to go into more detail about WHY this book is so awesome, but it’s not coming out for another half a year, and I may want to pitch a longer/actual review.  SO YOU WILL ALL JUST HAVE TO WAIT.

Sorry! I know you all hate me now. I promise I will rave about this book in much more detail this summer, closer to when it comes out.

cover image for The Agency: A Spy in the HouseThe Agency: A Spy in the House by Y. S. Lee

Twelve year old Mary Quinn was supposed to hang for her crime.  Instead she was given a chance to start a new life as a pupil at Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls.   Now, five years later, seventeen year old Mary Quinn knows that she should be grateful for everything she has been given – and she is – yet the idea of spending her life as a tutor at the school or as a maid in someone else’s house fills Mary with dread rather than hope.  She’s not afraid of work, but she can’t help wishing that there were other options out there for an young lady with education but no family or fortune.  Then, for the second time in her life, she’s given a once in a lifetime opportunity – this time, to be trained as a spy.  But can Mary keep not only the Agency’s secrets safe, but also the Agency from learning the truth about her own heritage?

This book has so many awesome moments. It also, unfortunately, has a bit too much boyfriend and not enough roller derby for my tastes.*  Still, it’s a lovely book that manages to be delightfully surprising in many ways.  It also does a wonderful job of handling Mary’s secret, which happens to be that [she’s biracial, passing for white. Also, that her mother sometimes earned her way as a sex worker.]   Mary’s status, situation, and relationships make this book a refreshing contrast to the more typical young adult novels set in Victorian London, which tend to be about young ladies of a certain social class, and treat the few non-white characters in them as oddities and visitors rather than Londoners.

*the phrase is from lj user buymeaclue.  I’d link, but the journal is now friendslocked. :p

cover image for Dragonbreath: No Such Thing As GhostsDragonbreath: No Such Thing as Ghosts by Ursula Vernon

It’s Halloween night and Danny and Wendell – and the skeptical, scientific minded Christiana Vanderpool – have just encountered something far more dangerous than any monster: Big Eddy the bully. When Big Eddy dares Danny to go inside a house that everyone says is haunted, Danny isn’t worried about being seen as a coward, but he figures the house can’t possibly be any worse than having to deal with Big Eddy, no matter how scary it looks.  But is Christiana right? Are there really no such things as ghosts? Or is there really something not quite living lurking inside?

The comfort of series is that we know what we are getting. Which can sound boring and immature, but often that depends on the reader and author.  When you are 8 and still learning to read, familiarity is actually a useful trait to find in a book.  And there’s nothing boring about knowing that what you are going to get is an excellent story.  For even five books in, Vernon’s Dragonbreath series is still brilliant and funny and clever and fresh.

There’s lots to adore about this series, as I’ve talked about before, but what struck me most while reading this installment is how well-rounded the female characters are.  Quite often books that feature boys and/or are meant “for boys” (by people who divide books up in that sort of way) have female characters that are caricatures, but not so here. Dragonbreath may focus on boy characters, but the girls and women (or, rather, female lizards and such) all have personality and opinions.  And even when their opinions are incorrect (according to the boys, or the narrative) they are never framed as unreasonable or silly or lesser.  They remind me a bit of Sayer’s books in that sense, despite the obvious other differences.

cover image for Lulu and the Dog From the SeaLulu and the Dog From the Sea by Hilary McKay, illustrated by Priscilla Lamont

When Lulu, her parents, and her cousin, Mellie, spend a week in a cottage by the sea they discover an unexpected guest – the kind that walks on four legs.

A cute story that is designed to appeal to the large number of newer readers that love animals.  Each of the characters has personality, and while the plot may be unlikely, the day to day discoveries and frustrations and interactions ring true.

It’s not the most spectacular writing, but it’s far from stilted, which is all too common in when books for this age group.

cover image for When I Grow Up: Sally RideWhen I Grow Up: Sally Ride by AnnMarie Anderson, illustrated by Gerald Kelley

A biography of Sally Ride, written at about third grade level.

Unfortunately, this particular easy reader does all kinds of things that are common to easy readers that I hate, especially nonfiction easy readers.

The first is that it’s just not very well done. The sentences make sense, but they aren’t memorable either.  The illustrations lack elegance and just don’t flow. Worse, the practice of using photographs, and then drawing images of Sally Ride into them rather undermines the idea that this is a real person.  It’s also written in the first person, as if Ride herself was talking to us, despite the fact that Sally Ride was a real person who died recently and wrote words of her own that could be quoted.

It’s not so awful that I wouldn’t buy it for the library, especially considering the topic, but it’s the kind of book that makes me wish we had higher standards for beginning readers.

cover image for Shin-chi's CanoeShin-chi’s Canoe by Nicola I. Campbell, illustrated by Kim LaFave

When Shi-shi-etko and her younger brother, Shin-chi, are sent to a residential school, they have to leave not only their parents behind, but also the names their parents gave them as well.  The siblings are sent to separate dormitories and not allowed to speak to each other, or in their native language.  But before they are forced to part, Shi-Shi-etko gives Shin-chi a small toy canoe, to remind him of the family who loves him, and that one day will all be together again.

This is not a happy book, but it is a beautiful book. A lovely, sad story about colonialization and destruction, and strength and importance of family.  All told with gorgeous text and illustrations.

cover image for Stanley the FarmerStanley the Farmer by William Bee

Stanley the Hamster spends a busy day on his farm.  With help from friends, he manages to get everything done.

(ok, for the record, unbound galleys of picture books are weird. now, moving on…)

A simple, cute story, that condenses the time needed to grow and harvest, but has bright pictures and the right amount of detail for small children.

cover image for Blue on BlueBlue on Blue by Dianne White, illustrated by Beth Krommes

Cotton clouds.
Morning light.
Blue on blue.
White on white.

A peaceful, sunny day is interrupted by rain and thunder and lightning, but before the day is done, the sun comes back to say goodbye and goodnight.

It’s a very nice book, and decent enough poem, and I love Krommes’ style (with the exception of some of the peoples’ facial expressions).