Best Books of 2018 According to Me: Young Adult

24 Dec

Here we go…installment number three of the best books of the year…according to me. I read these, I loved these, and I think you should read them too.

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

I read this early in the year because my library was fortunate enough to host Dhonielle Clayton last February (she’s delightful, by the way). OH MY GOODNESS what a story. What a setting. I wanted to be in the palace with Camellia, experiencing all the beauty and opulence. I wanted my mail delivered by tiny dirigible. I wanted a teacup elephant. But then I wanted most definitely NOT to be there because that princess is…creepy and awful. This is the best kind of fantasy – incredible world-building and a story that will keep you glued to the pages. Meanwhile it’s also a commentary on the commerce of beauty. I can’t wait for the sequel!

Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

Darius Kellner struggles with social norms. He doesn’t fit in anywhere. He doesn’t relate to his father, whom he describes as “the ubermensch”, even though they share a diagnosis of depression. He feels he’s not Persian enough to fit in with his mother’s side of the family either. When his parents decide to take a trip to Iran to see his grandparents, Darius feels even more disconnected to his family. Until he meets Sohrab, a neighbor boy, who might just be the first person Darius connects with – and his first real friend.

Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

It’s easy to see why this book was a finalist for the National Book Award – it’s heartbreaking, hopeful, and beautiful. Krosoczka tells the story, through words and pictures, of his own youth. Raised by his grandparents as his mother was in and out of jail dealing with a heroin addiction, he found solace and comfort in art. His tough-but-loving grandparents supported him completely, and this really is a love letter to them – and to his mother, with whom he maintained a written relationship. The story includes artwork and letters from his youth.

Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee

I absolutely adored Lee’s The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue and this, a continuation of Felicity’s story, I think I love even more. Set a year after the first adventure, Felicity has been struggling to make her dream of studying medicine come true. When the opportunity arises to meet her medical idol, she jumps at the chance – albeit under false pretenses. From Zurich to Algiers to a secret island, this story is filled with adventure, drama, badass women, and mythical creatures. Oh – and for those concerned, Percy and Monty make an appearance too.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

This tale told in verse most deservedly won the National Book Award. Xiomara pours her feelings into poetry, which she writes only for herself. But when she struggles with the wishes of her traditional Dominican parents, the Church, and a burgeoning (but secret) love life, she finds an outlet in the school’s poetry club.  If you have the opportunity, listen to Elizabeth Acevedo read her story – it’s infinitely more powerful when read in the slam poetry style Acevedo speaks so well. This book will lodge itself in your heart.

Pride by Ibi Zoboi

This retelling of Pride and Prejudice, set in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, tackles issues of racism, classism and gentrification in one really engaging story. When Darius Darcy and his family move into a renovated brownstone on Zuri Benitez’s block, Zuri is absolutely sure they have nothing in common. Darius is haughty, wealthy, and and doesn’t fit in their close-knit community of families who have lived there for years. When thrown more and more together, however, they just might find some common ground.

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Stevie, a true crime aficionado, gets the chance of a lifetime when she’s accepted into Ellingham Academy, a boarding school where, years ago, one of the greatest unsolved mysteries happened. Stevie is, naturally, determined to solve the crime. And then one of her classmates ends up dead. Told in two time periods, we (and Stevie) must determine – are the two crimes related? This is book one of a trilogy and I absolutely CANNOT WAIT for the next installment.

Well, there you have it. In three posts, my favorite kids’ and YA books of the year. What were your favorites? What are you looking forward to in 2019?

 

Best Books of 2018 According to Me: Middle Grade (Plus One Early Reader)!

21 Dec

It’s part 2 of “books I think are completely awesome that happened to be published in 2018!” Up now: middle grade fiction

For those not as immersed in the book world as I am, “middle grade” means fiction for elementary school-aged kids who are confident readers. So – no controlled vocabulary, just really great stories.

However, I’ve included one early reader because it’s awesome and needs to be recognized. It’s not for brand new readers, but for those gaining confidence who are ready for short chapters and a full story.

Enjoy!

EARLY READER

Meet Yasmin by Saadia Faruqi, illustrated by Hatem Aly

Yasmin is a 2nd grader with spirit! At school or at home with her Pakistani-American family, she finds creative solutions for her challenges. Newly independent readers will find much with which they can relate!

MIDDLE GRADE

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

Amal dreams of being a teacher. But when an accidental run-in with the her small Pakistani village’s corrupt landlord occurs, she must become his servant in order to pay off her family’s debt. Life on the landlord’s estate is difficult, but soon Amal becomes aware of dealings that may enable her and others to bring about the landlord’s demise. At once heartbreaking and hopeful, this is a story that will leave you cheering.

Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi

Fans of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series will love meeting Aru! In fact, this book is one of the new “Rick Riordan Presents” imprint titles! When Aru accidentally frees the Sleeper, whose job it is to awaked the God of Destruction, she must find a way to trap him before the world ends. She is joined in her search by a new friend, and the two discover that they are both destined for the task. Filled with quirky characters and Hindu mythology, this story will keep you turning pages!

Breakout by Kate Messner

Life in Wolf Creek centers somewhat around the prison. Many of the town’s inhabitants work there. So when two prisoners escape into the woods around town, everyone’s on edge. Nora Tucker planned to spend her summer working on her journalism, and now she has something to write about she hadn’t planned on. Through her writing and that of Elidee, a new classmate who’s only recently arrived in Wolf Creek, we learn how their lives are upended by the escape – in completely different ways. Contains themes of friendship and injustice that middle grade readers will understand.

The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty

I received an ARC of this at ALA Annual and I couldn’t wait to start reading it. It hit all the right “quirky girl sets off on unexpected adventure” notes for me! Bronte, upon learning her absent parents have died, must set off to fulfill the terms of their will in order to inherit their fortune. She has been tasked with visiting all of her aunts in far-flung parts of the country and delivering gifts left to them by her parents. She soon finds, however, that these gifts, and her travels, might have more meaning than originally though. Contains dragons, evil kings, water sprites, and more!

Front Desk by Kelly Yang

Based on the author’s personal experience, Front Desk tells the story of Mia Tang, who moves to the United States with her parents from China. When her parents take a job managing a motel, Mia becomes the de-facto front desk attendant as her parents are busy cleaning rooms. Secretly her parents are also hiding other immigrants who have no where else to go – and hoping that the mean motel owner, Mr. Yao, won’t find out. Mia faces additional challenges at school, where she wants to be able to write well, but struggles with English. Mia is a fighter and a creative thinker, though, and through her hard work and determination she finds solutions.

Harbor Me by Jaqueline Woodson

When six children of diverse experience are left alone in a classroom for one hour every Friday afternoon, what might happen? In the case of these six, honesty, growth, understanding, and friendship happen. While it takes them time to trust, eventually, they talk about their fears, hopes, and challenges and discover that each one can be a harbor for the others.

Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina

Merci Suarez is having trouble fitting in at her private school. Edna Santos keeps picking on her and as a reluctant member of the Sunshine Buddies she has to help a new boy settle in to the school. She’s also feeling out of control at home, where her grandfather has started acting strangely. In this engaging and real story of family and friends, Merci navigates change and challenges with determination and heart.

Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani

Caught between two newly-separated countries, India and Pakistan, and two religions, Nisha is forced to leave her home with her father and brother and make the long difficult trek to safety. This is a part of history I know little about, and their harrowing journey, as described in letters Nisha writes to her deceased mother, was heart-wrenching. This book, and Nisha, will stick with you for a long time.

The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson

If you love mysteries mixed with some history, this book is for you! Candice’s grandmother once had a tennis court dug up in search of a treasure – and now her granddaughter is following in her footsteps. Candice, staying in her grandmother’s house for the summer, finds a letter that contains information about a family that was long ago run out of the small town of Lambert, South Carolina. A mysterious person has left clues to help Candice and her friend Brandon unravel the truth about what happened to the family, and if they do, they’ll win a fortune! Meanwhile they learn some dark truths about past injustices while facing their own challenges with bullying and racism.

Sanity and Tallulah by Molly Brooks

A graphic novel about best friends, living on a space station, with a pet three-headed kitty named Princess, Sparkle, Destroyer of Worlds. When kitty escapes, can the friends find him again before he destroys there home? WHAT MORE DO YOU NEED IN A STORY? NOTHING.

The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon

Our story begins when Caleb and his brother, Bobby Gene, swap their baby sister for a bag of fireworks. This sets in motion their extraordinary summer spent with Styx Malone, a boy in the foster system whom they happen to meet in the forest behind their house. Styx introduces them to the “elevator trade”, in which the boys make increasingly larger trades. Their ultimate goal? A grasshopper green moped. Styx is older and wiser, and the boys can’t believe their good fortune in finding a friend like him. But what if Styx needs the boys as much as they need him?

Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani DasGupta

A girl growing up in New Jersey has been told by her parents her whole lift that she’s a princess, and she never believes it – until, on her 12th birthday, her parents disappear and two princes come to take her to the Kingdom Beyond Seven Oceans and Thirteen Rivers to fulfill her destiny and rescue them. On their adventure they’ll meet the demon queen, a snarky talking bird, the Serpent King (who has a giant python from whom they must steal a gem), and cross a river made of rubies. Oh, and there are flying horses and baby stars, too. If you’re a fan of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson or Magnus Chase series, you’ll love meeting Kiranmala!

Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier

Nan Sparrow has always been a climber – a child who climbs into and cleans chimneys. It’s a difficult life, especially after her guardian leaves mysteriously when she is very young. When a suspicious accident happens, she’s almost killed but survives thanks to a golem – a “monster” and protector who becomes her friend. Set in Victorian England and filled with historical references, this tale of survival and true friendship will warm your heart like a freshly-stoked fire.

Best Books of 2018 According to Me: Board and Picture Books

18 Dec

One of the things I’ve done for the past few years is offer, on facebook, to make suggestions of books for friends and family to purchase for the younger ones in their lives.* I’ve made suggestions for babies as young as 2 months up through YA, and I absolutely LOVE it. Seriously, sharing and recommending books is one of the absolute perks of being a children’s librarian. Not only do I get to READ these great books but then I get to TELL PEOPLE ABOUT THEM SO THEY CAN READ THEM TOO? Dreamy.

I’ve already made suggestions for those that asked for them, but I thought it might be helpful to make a post listing ALL of my faves for the year. You know, in case anyone still needs ideas. I’m totally not doing this for myself.**

So…drum roll….here are MY favorite board and picture books. Middle grade, graphic novels, and YA coming in separate posts!:

BOARD BOOKS 

(Babies – Toddlers. Not all board books are created equal; ask me if you  need specific age recommendations!)

Here, George by Sandra Boynton, illus. by George Booth (yes, of New Yorker Cartoon fame)

This book is so sweet and simple. George moves hardly at all, but his sentiment comes through. And the ending? Perfection.

Huggy the Python Hugs Too Hard (Wee Beasties) Cover Huggy the Python Hugs Too Hard/Roary the Lion Roars Too Loud (Wee Beasties Series) by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Alex G. Griffiths

A little social/emotional learning for the youngest set, with delightful line drawings. Can you show Huggy how to be gentle?

PICTURE BOOKS

Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse by Marcy Campbell, illustrated by Corinna Luykin

Adrian Simcox is telling everyone he has a horse – but Chloe knows that’s just not possible. She gets angrier and angrier at him for lying, until something changes her mind. The illustrations are the star of this story – filling each page with color and texture.

 

Baby Goes to Market by Atinuke, illustrated by Angela Brooksbank

Early math! As baby rides on mama’s back all around the market, he is given treats by various vendors. He eats one, but puts the rest in the basket on mama’s head. How many are left? The brightly colored illustrations effectively portray the energy and happiness of the market.

 

Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin

Little Star loves baking mooncakes with mama. But she musn’t eat them yet! What happens when Little Star just can’t resist a nibble? This original tale reads like a folktale and explains the phases of the moon.

 

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López

Beautifully illustrated story about how we all begin feeling alone and different, but sharing our stories may bring us together. A perfect book to share with someone starting a new school.

 

Drawn Together by Minh Le, illustrated by Dan Santat

A boy and his grandfather, who speak different languages, find a common language: drawing. The illustrations start in two distinct styles that eventually merge!

 

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

Morales tells the story of her own arrival in the United States with her young son. They faced much uncertainty but brought their dreams and strength with them. Soon, the library and the many wonderful stories it contained helped them feel at home. Gorgeously illustrated with found objects which tell as much of a story as the words, this book will find a place in your heart.

 

Giraffe Problems by Jory John, illustrated by Lane Smith

Beginning with the sentence “I feel bad about my neck” (a nod to Nora Ephron?) giraffe laments the many challenges he faces. A turtle tries to convince him of the benefits of having a giraffe neck. This companion to Penguin Problems is laugh-out-loud funny and must be read aloud.

 

Fox and Chick: The party and other stories by Sergio Ruzzier

Fox and chick are different, but they are friends. New readers will enjoy their (well, mostly chick’s) silly antics, told in a series of short vignettes. Sure to make you smile!

 

How to Be a Lion by Ed Vere

This British import features the ‘King of the Jungle’ musing on what it means to be a lion. MUST he be fierce? MUST he roar? His friend Marianne, a duck, helps him figure it all out. Vere’s thick-lined illustrations and limited palette set the right tone.

 

I’m Sad by Michael Ian Black, illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

What if, sometimes, we’re sad for no reason? In this story, a girl and her friend potato (yes, I said potato) try to cheer up their friend flamingo (yes, I said flamingo). While flamingo is grateful for his friends’ efforts, he still feels sad. And that’s okay. This silly yet sweet story validates a child’s feelings.

 

Mad, Mad Bear by Kimberly Gee

Perfectly representing and acknowledging a toddler’s anger at having to leave the park when he’s not ready. Bear is SO mad, but after a bit of time being mad, he feels better. As Mr. Roger’s said, it’s good for kids to learn that feelings don’t last forever. You won’t ALWAYS be mad.

 

Niblet and Ralph by Zachariah O’Hora

Niblet and Ralph are two cats who look very much alike and are friends, but also are, in fact, quite different. When, on an attempt to visit each other, they get mixed up, their people know right away that something isn’t right. Will this mix-up get fixed? O’Hora’s retro art style fills me with happiness. Also, the next cat I get will be named Niblet BECAUSE.

 

Penguin and Tiny Shrimp Don’t Do Bedtime by Cate Berry illustrated by Charles Santoso

I’ve already shared this in storytime a couple of times and it’s a winner. Penguin and Tiny Shrimp (see? It’s already funny) try a number of stall tactics to convince the reader it’s not time for bed. The illustrations are filled with silly details that will demand multiple readings.

 

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld

When Taylor’s blocks are knocked over, they are sad and mad. Lots of animals suggest ways to feel better, but none of them suit. The rabbit? The rabbit just…listens. And this turns out to be just what Taylor needs. A beautiful sweet validation of feelings.

 

Thank You, Omu by Oge Mora

The scent of Omu’s stew draws everyone in the neighborhood to her home, and she gives them all a taste. But soon there’s nothing left! The cut-paper illustrations add to the story’s warmth. This tale of generosity and friendship will make your heart smile. And want to eat stew.

 

We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins

Starting school is HARD – especially if you are a little dinosaur in a class full of humans! This little dino is learning how to make friends, and that includes NOT snacking on her classmates. How would she feel if someone wanted to eat her? This is easily one of the funniest, and best, early-elementary-appropriate first-day-of-school picture books out there.

Stay tuned for my middle grade, graphic novel, and YA faves!

*I absolutely can’t take credit for this idea; I stole it from one of my many genius children’s librarian friends.

**I am 1000% doing this for myself. I. LOVE. BOOKS!

I’m SO OCD.

17 Nov

I’ve always been a worrier. But not like this.

When I was a kid, I worried a lot. Especially about what other people thought of me – and I tried hard to be what they thought I should be (and generally failed, leading to some pretty sucky self-esteem issues). But it never affected my daily life. Too much, I guess, other than my parents becoming concerned enough to have me start seeing a therapist when I was in 8th grade as well as letting me choose my high school – public or private.

I do know I have always been pretty nervous around fire. But it wasn’t that irrational – most of my anxiety, that I can remember, stemmed from a specific event: My family has a tradition where, once a year, we light candles on our Christmas tree. It ties both to our German heritage as well as living in Germany for a few years when I was very young. We clip little silver candleholders on to tree limbs, insert slim white candles, and light them. We have always been careful to only place the holders where there are no limbs above them (or close enough that they might catch fire) and my parents always have a bucket of water nearby, just in case. The candles only stay lit for about 20 minutes, and are always attended. We turn out the other lights, sing a few carols (Silent Night is a must) and enjoy the stillness and beauty.

As a child, though, for a while, I would have to hide in my room during this event. It was too much for me – the anxiety about the slim possibility the tree would alight.

I can make connections now, between this early anxiety and what would later become full-blown OCD.

About 15 years ago, I started to worry. A LOT. Like, more than was “normal.”

I don’t know if there was a specific thing that triggered it, but I remember that around that time I was sending documents back and forth with a mortgage lender and started to become terrified that someone would intercept them and steal my identity. I was sending them with as much security as possible – but the fear would not go away, and it started to ruin my life.

Then, other worries became bigger. My brain started imagining “what ifs.” Terrible things that might (read: probably would never) happen due to my negligence.

What if I somehow make my friends sick because I serve them tainted food? Even though I’ve taken precautions to ensure food safety?

What if I burn the house down because I leave a candle lit? Even if I can’t remember lighting any candles?

What if I burn the house down because I forget to turn off the stove? Even though I think I turned it off?

What if I burn the house down because I leave the iron plugged in? Even though I don’t remember using the iron today?

What if I offend someone and they hate me because I inadvertently say something terrible?

What if, while driving, I hit that person walking down the sidewalk and don’t even realize it? Even though they were on the sidewalk and there’s no evidence I hit anyone?

What if I have some (unknown to me) blood-borne disease and, without my knowledge, accidentally transmit it to someone else? Even though I have no injuries and am perfectly healthy?

These are not “normal” things to worry about.  These are things that are unlikely to happen. My brain should know this. Right?

The worries took over my life. Once one appeared in my head, it took hours to get rid of it and it took over my thoughts. I had a constant stomach ache. I ate less and less, because my appetite was completely gone due to the stomach ache. I was already thin, and I lost 10 more pounds (and people who used to remark on how great I looked because I’d lost weight told me that I was too thin, but that’s another blog post).

This, from the International OCD Foundation, does a good job of describing what these “obsessive” worries feel like. We KNOW these worries are irrational, but can’t stop them.:

Obsessions are thoughts, images or impulses that occur over and over again and feel outside of the person’s control. Individuals with OCD do not want to have these thoughts and find them disturbing. In most cases, people with OCD realize that these thoughts don’t make any sense.  Obsessions are typically accompanied by intense and uncomfortable feelings such as fear, disgust, doubt, or a feeling that things have to be done in a way that is “just right.” In the context of OCD, obsessions are time consuming and get in the way of important activities the person values. This last part is extremely important to keep in mind as it, in part, determines whether someone has OCD — a psychological disorder — rather than an obsessive personality trait.

In order to combat the worry, I developed what doctors call “compulsions.” That’s the second part of obsessive-compulsive disorder: The strategies we use to counter the obsessions.

I remember specifically one night, lying in bed crying, because it was after midnight and I needed to go to sleep but I couldn’t because I had to keep getting up to make sure the stove was turned off. My brain would NOT let me believe that the stove was actually off.

That’s the thing about compulsions. They SEEM like a good idea – checking that the stove is off is a good idea – but they only counteract the anxiety for a short period of time. The intrusive thoughts and anxiety just come back. And we are compelled to check again.

I threw away perfectly good food if my brain told me there was any chance I had contaminated it.

I washed my hands until they were red and raw, making sure I wouldn’t accidentally contaminate anything/one.

I called my parents regularly for reassurance. Over and over. About the same thing. They were so kind, so caring, letting me ask again and again (until we learned from the doctor it wasn’t helping).

I drove around the block to make sure I hadn’t, without my knowledge, hit that person walking on the sidewalk. There was nobody lying in the street and that person was still walking, further down the sidewalk, but I’d have to circle the block again, just to make sure. And again. Until my brain would finally let go.

I managed to hide my issues at work, although I’m sure some suspected there was something happening. I became quieter, stuck in my head. I worked alone a lot, so I guess that was good in the sense that it allowed me to hide my anxieties and compulsions. I sat in my car and called my parents when I needed help. I slept at their house a lot, just to have easy access to their reassurances.

My kind and caring (see above) parents convinced me that I needed to talk to someone. Through my employer’s EAP program I was able to connect with a therapist. My first therapist, while a very nice person, who listened to me blubber away in her office and offered thoughtful advice, suggested that I needed to see a medical doctor – she thought I might need medication and she was not able to prescribe anything.

I saw my regular doctor, who listened to me and prescribed Prozac and Xanax (so I could get some sleep until the Prozac started working) for a Generalized Anxiety Disorder.  I was also told to make an appointment with a psychiatrist to talk more about my diagnosis and prescription.

I remember sitting in my car after that visit, crying. I never though I would be a person who needed medication just to live my life. I called my mother and cried on the phone. But we agreed I needed help.

My first visit with the psychiatrist was – and it’s very strange to say this – life changing. She was the first to identify what I was going through as obsessive-compulsive disorder. She made me feel like I was “normal.” Or, at least, my mental illness was.

She handed me this book and it explained everything I was feeling. All the ways my OCD manifested were included – the fear of contaminating myself or others through blood or other bodily fluids. The fear of catastrophic things happening due to negligence. The fear of hitting others with my car (it’s called “Hit-and-Run OCD”. Isn’t that fun?). I felt SUCH RELIEF at both having a diagnosis and knowing that my disease was (as my Star Trek-loving dad would say) “within normal parameters.”

Armed with a diagnosis I was able to start therapy and medication in earnest. Through my psychiatrist I learned strategies to lessen the anxiety and, more importantly, how to ride it out without allowing myself all the compulsions. I learned to gradually wean myself away from the constant checking. Between medication and the strategies she taught me, I returned to more-or less my old self.

Doctors don’t really know how OCD happens. It is a chemical disorder of the brain, yes, but they also think it might be somewhat genetic. It is related to other disorders, including body dysmorphia, which makes sense, because in both cases, the brain is lying to us.

Now, 15 years later, I still live with OCD. I am still on medication, and don’t know if I ever will not have to take a pill every day to feel okay. I suffer from more depression, and anxiety, but they are manageable. I live with a mental illness just like millions of others.

I don’t ever want to feel like I did 15 years ago. Ever. I think a lot about those who don’t have access to health care and wonder where I might be if I wasn’t able to get treatment. I might have gone bankrupt trying to pay for help. At minimum I would have surely driven my family away by now with my constant need for reassurance. I may not have been able to keep a job. At worst I might be dead.

If you follow me on twitter, you know I occasionally go on rants about memes or people who talk about how they are “so OCD.” In this context it usually means that they like things organized, neat, or “just so.” As you can see, the reality of having OCD is quite different. Yes, one way OCD can manifest (although it doesn’t for me) is needing things to be in a certain order. But it’s more than just liking things a certain way – it means that the person’s brain is telling them that something terrible may happen if those things aren’t in the right order. The brain is literally lying.  And it takes over one’s life.

Tell me again how you’re “so OCD” because you like your cds in alphabetical order? Can you sleep at night when they’re not? Yes? Then NO, you’re not “so OCD.”

And stop treating my mental illness like it’s a joke. A joke doesn’t try to kill you.

And can we talk about that show “Hoarders?” Because getting pleasure out of watching someone suffer is sadistic at best. And believe, me, those people are suffering. Their brains are literally telling them that something bad will happen if they get rid of that newspaper or plastic bag. They physically CAN’T get rid of it without suffering massive anxiety.

I am extremely fortunate to have had a support system (primarily my mother, father and sister) that helped me get treatment and find a solution so I could live a relatively healthy life. I am fortunate to have a good job, and (relatively) affordable health care. I am one of the lucky ones, and I so I speak publicly about my experience with OCD so that others may recognize themselves in my struggle and so that we start eliminating the stigma of mental illness. Many, many of us suffer in silence. But these are illnesses, diseases, and, like any other illness, can be treated. But we have to talk about them. And we have to make health care affordable and accessible. People are dying without it.

I spoke about my experience at Ignite Denver once. Here’s the video. Ignore the costume; it was a Halloween themed event. Also please enjoy the comment someone added a year ago: “no tom cruise is right it is not normal. so shut up crazy lady working with people like you is a f n nightmare..you people belong in the nut house.” Thanks, dude.

 

Does any of this sound like you? Here are some resources that might be useful. But please, PLEASE, if you are able, talk to a doctor. They are your absolute best source of help and healing.

International OCD Foundation

National Institute of Mental Health

National Alliance on Mental Illness

 

I <3 Picture Books

12 Aug

Oh, how I love them!

This morning I had the pleasure of helping my sister pick out books for a coworker who was about to become a new father. I was delighted that my sister wanted my help (I mean, I know a bit about picture books) and soon piled her up with a bunch of titles to look through. She ended up choosing two board books: Rod Campbell’s Dear Zoo (a classic favorite) and Susie Gharemani’s Stack the Cats (a new favorite now in board book format), as well as a book for the baby to grow into: Jeremy Tankard’s Grumpy Bird (close to my heart as I have a Grumpy Bird tattoo that Jeremy drew).

Woman in a chair reading a book. Next to her are piles of picture books and a child's puzzle.

When your sister is a children’s librarian you end up with piles of books to look through. 

Sitting here in one of my favorite book stores, The Tattered Cover, surrounded by books, I’m inspired to share with you some of my newest picture book favorites:

Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Lovejulian

Oh, this book is beautiful. Spare text and absolutely gorgeous illustrations tell the story of Julián, a boy who, upon seeing three women dressed as mermaids on the subway, decides he wants to be one too. He uses things he finds around his Abuela’s house to create his own tail and headdress, but when she sees what he’s done, will she approve? Without saying a word, Abuela helps Julián make his dream come true.

sadI’m Sad by Michael Ian Black and Debbie Ridpath Ohi

I adored I’m Bored by the same team and this one is equally silly, sweet and charming. A girl and her potato friend (yes, I said POTATO) try and help their buddy flamingo cheer up. But what if, sometimes, we’re just sad? For no reason at all? Normalizing feelings is important, and this story does it with wit and kindness.

The Rabbit Listened by Cory Doerrfeldrabbit listened

This is another story that respects the child and their feelings. What do you do when your block tower is knocked over and you feel sad and mad? Lots of animals have suggestions, but the rabbit – the rabbit just listens.

babyBaby Goes to Market by Atinuke and Angela Brooksbank

Early math! In colorful, vibrant illustrations and repeated text, Atinuke tells the story of baby and momma visiting an outdoor market and getting more than they planned.

Niblet and Ralph by Zacharia O’Horaniblet

It’s a case of mistaken identity! With cats. And new friends. And super-cool illustrations. What else do you need? Also, I want to name a future cat Niblet.

penguinPenguin and Tiny Shrimp Don’t Do Bedtime by Cate Berry and Charles Santoso

Bedtime is one of my fave storytime themes and so I tried this out on a group of kids the other day. BIG HIT. What kid doesn’t want to put off bedtime as long as possible? Right? That’s good, because this is DEFINITELY not a bedtime book. It’s got lions, adventuring, and NO, I REPEAT, ABSOLUTELY NO yawning.

The picture book world is filled with absolutely wonderful stories and if you haven’t spent some time with them recently, you absolutely should. What are your favorites?

 

What’s Going On? I WROTE A PICTURE BOOK.

3 Jun

Hopefully I’ve set you up with a nice Marvin Gaye earworm.

What’s going on with me? It’s been a while since I’ve posted much other than a ukulele update. Which is useful to a small few, I’m sure, but there’s a lot more going on in the Miss Mary Liberry world than ukulele storytime concerts.

I still work in a public library. I still plan and present the Stories and More program. I still love it: kids, books, caregivers, fun and learning.

I still read and love and share picture books, early readers, middle grade fiction, and young adult fiction. I do a lot of sharing on my twitter feed – I should share more here.

But my biggest news relating to children’s books, I suppose, is that about a year ago I finished the first draft of my first-ever picture book manuscript. Idea by me. Written by me. Wait, what? How did that happen?

The truth is, I’d had ideas in the past. But this one, strangely, emerged from my sleep-addled brain one morning almost fully formed. Premise, dialogue, everything except the resolution and conclusion. I had the presence of mind to actually open my computer and write it down and for that I am extremely grateful to past me. Go, past me!

It took me probably a couple of years to figure out how to end the story. I talked to lots of people, and they gave me lots of good ideas. Finally, after a month or so of work, I figured it out. The ending. Whoo hoo!

I sent the thing off to some friends for their opinions – my boyfriend, my family, but also a group of children’s librarians I respect and love, my fellow Storytime Underground joint-chiefs. Each provided great feedback and ideas, and from there the revising began.

Last August I decided I was ready to start the submission process. I’ve been a member of SCBWI for a couple years but this was when I really took advantage of the resources they offer (that membership money is well-spent, y’all): their “Essential Guide to Publishing for Children” offered me a crash-course in how to get my book published that I needed to get started. I read up on next steps: would I submit my manuscript directly to a publisher? Or did I need an agent?

I decided I needed an agent. After more research into the agent querying process, and many query letter drafts, I submitted my first queries on August 5, 2017.

Now, almost a year later, I’m up to 20 queries. I’ve had 4 outright rejections, and many more “no responses.”

In the grand scheme of things, this is just a drop in the bucket. I know writers who’ve sent hundreds of queries before they got signed by an agent. So I keep researching agents, and trying again.

I’ve also written a second manuscript and just today sent it out for the first time.

[ETA: And now I’m learning that I really should have at least THREE manuscripts polished and ready to go. The books don’t tell you that; and this is why personal connections are valuable. I have so much to learn. And, fortunately, a couple more ideas in the works that I will kickstart so that I have at least three viable options to share with agents.]

It’s a hard process, and I get frustrated and depressed. I read picture books at work all the time, and while many are excellent, occasionally I think “THIS got published and nobody likes mine?” I know that’s an extreme take, and I’ve only been working at this for a short time, but it’s easy to let the irrational thoughts in some time.

We just have to keep plugging along. If I believe it will happen, and I keep working to make it happen, it will happen, right? RIGHT?

At times I feel unworthy because, as I said, I’ve not been writing actively for more than a few years. But then I think it might mean something that I’ve devoted most of my professional life to sharing picture books with young children and their caregivers? So, like, I’ve been researching the hell out of picture books for almost 20 years? That counts, right?

I don’t know.

I’m grateful for many twitter friends and (unbeknownst to them) mentors like Julie Falatko, Tara Lazar and other writers who have unwittingly provided me with guidance and motivation. I have read about others’ processes and learned, in the end, there is no one way to be a writer. There is no one “path” to publishing. All are valid. Mine is valid.

So I suppose I will “keep on keepin’ on,” as they (whoever they are) say. The process will continue it’s ups and downs and I can only hope that one day in the not-to-distant future I will open my email inbox to a message from an agent saying they’re interested in my work. And on that day I will text my family, treat myself to a donut, smile internally and externally, and go to work at the library with an extra bit of oomph.

Whew. Thanks for reading my stream-of-consciousness update.

TL;DR: I’m still a librarian. I wrote a couple of picture book manuscripts. They’re not published – YET.

 

 

 

Ukulele in Storytime: “You’ll Sing a Song”

27 Jan

It’s time for another edition of Ukulele in Storytime! This Ella Jenkins’ classic has become my new closing song and I’m loving it. It contains the G, Am, F and G7 chords. It’s pretty simple, though – you can learn it! I think it’s a nice quiet song to share with families and you can do any kind of action you want. In Ella’s version she has the kids pick the actions, which would be a nice option!

Shoutout to Storytime Ukulele for including the chords (two options!) so I could learn to play this!

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