Favorite Picture Books of 2015

I love reading picture books. I especially love strange, quirky, slightly adult picture books that really make you think. These are my favorite picture books that I read in 2015; most of them were published this year as well. All of them are just strange enough to read out loud to teens during story time, which is one of my favorite things to do at teen programs.

The Whisper 22747854 Jampires 23846164 I Will Fight Monsters for You  This Is Sadie

The Queen's Shadow: A Story about How Animals See Please, Mr. Panda


Advocating for School Libraries and Librarians

Recently I’ve heard a lot from my local school librarians about how under-appreciated they are. As public services employees, particularly as librarians, we all feel a little under-the-radar sometimes, a little overlooked and unaccounted for. However, school librarians seem to be the most unappreciated group of librarians. 

From being made to take on responsibilities and tasks that they aren’t legally qualified for, to being asked to fetch coffee and make copies for the administration, school librarians that I’ve encountered this year have been dealing with a lot of misunderstanding and inappropriate work situations. What can we do to support them?

As public librarians, simply being there for your school librarian is important. I know, I know, sometimes it’s practically impossible for us to get into schools. But you know when a school librarian needs you the most? When he or she is new in their position. Sometimes you have to wait for it, and jump up and down and yell and wave your arms when the opportunity arises. Get in there and talk to and be supportive of your school librarian, and discover ways you can work together. That’s the first step.

The second step is something encouraged to me by YA author Carrie Mesrobian find out about your school library. The one you went to as a kid. The library in your elementary and high schools – do they still have librarians? How much are they supported? Make it clear to your past schools that you care about the situation in the school libraries, and you want to know what’s going on. That’s a great second step. 

The next thing you can do is support your school libraries nationally. Stay up to date on what ALA and YALSA are doing to advocate. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel or the petition – sometimes jumping on the bandwagon makes the difference. Staying informed about what’s going on is also super important.

Also inform others about the bandwagon, particularly your library’s administration or public relations staff. I know my PR staff are part-time employees who do a whole lot of work for my library system, and they can’t possibly stay up to date with everything that’s going on in advocacy-land, so I forward news stories and press releases to them. If you form a good relationship with your PR staff, they won’t be offended by you sharing this information, okay? We’re all fighting for libraries together!

So what do YOU do to support your school libraries and librarians? Please share in the comments! 


Further reading and resources:

ESEA Federal Funding Act


School Library Impact Infographic

School Libraries Impact Studies


School Libraries Infographic

I Love Libraries – School Libraries FAQ, Definitions, & Infographics


Books Displays in Libraries

I have a love-hate relationship with book displays in libraries. 

On the one hand, I want do to everything possible to get my collection to check out as much as possible.

On the other hand, I feel like it’s a waste of time and effort to do too many book displays. 

Above all that is the slight pressure from admin and supervisors to do awesome book displays, to do clever and catchy displays that they can share online and brag about. But if I spend a couple hours on a cool display I can post on Instagram, and then no one checks any books out from it, was it worth it? I don’t think so. Hell, no. 

Here’s what works for me:

  • Displays get books out front and in the faces of patrons. It facilitates browsing of materials.
  • Displays should get the books out of the stacks and up front and center.
  • Patrons respond best to personal recommendations from staff.  Patrons will actually check books out if an actual person recommends it to them.
  • I use displays to facilitate personal recommendations of YA materials when I’m not there to do Reader’s Advisory. I pull a certain genre, or some of my favorites, and put those on a display or two. Then I communicate to the rest of my department that I personally pulled those books and they can recommend them to patrons instead of having to do the Reader’s Advisory themselves.
    • Of course, this requires trust and a good relationship between you and your coworkers. I waited until I heard from my coworkers that they were having trouble finding books to suggest to teens, or that they weren’t getting good responses from the teens they gave books to. Then I suggested this as a solution for them. 

Here’s what doesn’t work:

  • Passive displays featuring write-ups of books, themes, or whatever simply don’t work well in my library.
  • People don’t stop to read text on displays. 
  • Intricate or detailed displays deter patrons from actually touching the books on them.
  • Doing displays in low-traffic areas of the library
  • Putting books on displays that are below waist level

Want to share what works for you and doesn’t work? Comment away! I would love to hear from other people in libraries and bookstores about their experiences!

BFYA 2015 – Books That Should Have Been Nominated

YALSA recently released its nominations for the 2015 Best Books for Young Adults list. I am happy to see lots of awesome books on there, many genres represented, and some of the best debut books as well. However, there are just some books that I really think should be on that list! Why aren’t they?!


NIL by Lynne Matson – Seriously, this was an incredible debut. If you want a contemporary romance with sci-fi thrills and island-adventure then you need to read this book!

LOVE IS THE DRUG by Alaya Dawn Johnson – Alaya’s 2nd book is an incredibly written, lyrical and poignant take on race and cultural tensions in the very near future in which the country is threatened by biological warfare.

100 SIDEWAYS MILES by Andrew Smith – Hey, BFYA committee, have you even read this? Any of you? Oh, yeah? THEN WHY THE HELL ISN”T IT ON THE LIST?! Oh, because Grasshopper Jungle is? NO EXCUSE, PEOPLE. NONE.

FAKING NORMAL by Courtney C. Stevens – You cannot tell me that this book doesn’t deserve all the awards. ALL OF THEM. Channel your brave, people, and stick up for this amazing story of hope, strength, bravery, and truth.

IGNITE ME by Tahereh Mafi – Both Shatter Me and Unravel Me were on the list. Obviously someone missed something here.

CRESS by Marissa Meyer – Same thing. Scarlet and Cinder are on the list. What happened to Cress? Come on, people.


Anyone else have any books they should should have been on the list? Comment, please!

The Year in Review

In which I list all the books I reviewed in 2014. With links to the reviews. For most of them, anyway. Let’s hope the links work. Here we go.

There are 85 books total. (I’m sure I missed a couple, but I’ll just let them go). Most are YA Fiction, and most of those were published this year or have yet to be published this year.

Several of the books I reviewed for School Library Journal, and so the reviews are not available online yet.

I also reviewed some picture books and juvenile non-fiction! Picture books are challenging but fun to read for reviewing – there is so much less to talk about, but you really have to focus on different things in order to assess the book.

Could I pick favorites from this list? No way. Wait until next week, and I’ll roll out a Top Ten Reviewed Books of 2014. That is, if I can keep the list down to just 10!

Wither (The Chemical Garden, #1)  Loud Awake and Lost  The Silver Dream (Interworld, #2)  Are You Alice?, Vol. 2  Crimson Empire Vol 1: Circumstances to Serve a Noble  Skin and Bones  This Song Will Save Your Life  Enders (Starters, #2)   Her Dark Curiosity (The Madman's Daughter, #2)  Stormbringer (Weather Witch, #2)  Mr. Tiger Goes Wild Cress (The Lunar Chronicles, #3)  Ignite Me (Shatter Me, #3) Jane, the Fox and Me  Grasshopper Jungle  Lost Covenant (Widdershins Adventures, #3)  Bi-Normal  Dead City  Entangled (Entangled, #1)  Some Quiet Place (Some Quiet Place, #1)  The Sowing (The Torch Keeper, #2)  Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out  Venus Versus Virus Omnibus Vol 1  Where Silence Gathers (Some Quiet Place, #2)  Deep Betrayal (Lies Beneath, #2)  Indigo  ACID  Invisibility   Lost Cat  Promise Bound (Lies Beneath, #3)  Salvage   Windblown  Sparky!  The Demon's Surrender (The ...  A Radiant Sky (A Beautiful ...  Avalon (Avalon, #1)  Fugitive X (Revolution 19, #2)  The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender  The Itty Bitty Kitty Committee: The Ultimate Guide to All Things Kitten  Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #3)  Mindwar (Mindwar, #1)  The Sowing (The Torch Keepe...  Alliance (The Paladin Proph...  Evertrue (Everneath, #3)  100 Sideways Miles  Sketchy (Bea Catcher Chronicles, #1)  Nearly Gone  Faking Normal  Aviary Wonders Inc. Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual  Crash into You (Pushing the Limits, #3)  Dare You To (Pushing the Limits, #2)  The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy  Unremembered (Unremembered, #1)  Infinite Sky (Infinite Sky, #1)  Trial by Fire (The Worldwalker Trilogy, #1)  The Door  Dream Dog  Information Graphics: Anima...  Unforgotten (Unremembered, #2)  Vampire Academy (Vampire Academy, #1)  Living with Anxiety Disorders  The Undertaking of Lily Chen  The Crossover  ニセコイ 1 (Nisekoi #1)    Take Me On (Pushing the Limits, #4)  I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban  The Summer I Wasn't Me  The Rule of Thirds  Depth of Field   Mister Bud Wears the Cone  The Islands of Chaldea  Meeting Cezanne  Whispered Words, Volume 1  Artemis Dreamt  War in Ernest Hemingway's a Farewell to Arms  Violence in the Media  Medical Marijuana   The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co., #1)  Tandem (Many-Worlds, #1)  Neptune's Tears Cold Spell (Fairytale Retellings, #4)  Afterglow (Wildefire, #3)  One Crow Alone (After the Snow, #0)  The Paradox of Vertical Flight  The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant (V, #1)



A few years ago I was visiting my parents in New Jersey.

“Caela,” my dad said across the dinner table, “my friend wrote a book you might be interested in.”

“Oh yeah?” I said.

“It’s a memoir about raising his son who is gay.”

I snorted at this. I made a disgusted face.

“What?” my dad said.

“I mean,” I said, “It was that hard for him? He had to write a memoir to deal with it?”

My dad was nodding seriously, but I was enraged. I kept right on talking.

“It’s the same thing as raising any kid, Dad. You support; you love; you hope your kid finds love. You hope he’s happy.”

“Caela,” my dad stopped me. “His son attempted suicide. When he was in middle school.”

“Oh.” My rage at this dad-friend-of-my-dad’s died immediately. It turned out this was not a memoir about learning to accept and love your son “even though” he is gay. This memoir was written by a father who was nothing but supportive. It was about a family that was nothing but supportive. This was a memoir about advocating for your son’s normalcy, about targeted bullying, about how far we still have to go to be able to support our LGBT youth, even the ones from the most supportive of families.

So I read John Schwartz’s ODDLY NORMAL. I devoured it actually. I passed it off to my husband and my friend and my sister-in-law. I read it again. I discussed it and discussed it and discussed it.

What rang like an alarm through my brain was that Mr. Schwart’s son was not the damaged one. He was a talented, smart, funny middle-schooler from a good home with supportive parents. The damage was all coming from the outside. The damage was in his schools, his friends, his enemies, his teachers. It was these people who needed to learn to be their best selves. It was these people who were mean or, more often, utterly clueless. And of course all of that negativity managed to burrow it’s way into Joe Schwartz.

I poured all of this into Sadie, the maybe-best-friend of the protagonist, Colette, in MY BEST FRIEND, MAYBE. Sadie is not perfect. She’s been infected by the negativity bug. All of her decisions and manipulation are sure to be met with frustration and anger. But the truth is, it’s impossible to hide parts of who you are and still be your best self. Sadie has been forced to slice her personality into different little pieces. And she probably won’t be “likeable” until she stitches them together.

But MY BEST FRIEND, MAYBE is not Sadie’s story. It’s Colette’s. And I think Colette’s journey is as important to our society, to our ability to accept and praise differences, to the eventual end of harming people like the fictional Sadie and the very real Joe Schwartz.

MY BEST FRIEND, MAYBE is not a “coming out” story. It’s not a story about a girl coming out of the closet and admitting she is gay.

It’s about coming out of the other closet.

It’s about admitting you are an ally.


Thank you, Caela Carter, for sharing this story with us! If you want more of the inside scoop on MBFM check out Caela’s website

MY BEST FRIEND, MAYBE by Caela Carter is now available, so head out to your local bookstore or public library and get a copy today!

WorldCat  ~  Amazon  ~  Indiebound




Did you love MY BEST FRIEND, MAYBE? Try these books next!

Everything Leads to You The Summer I Wasn't Me One Man Guy Breakfast Served Anytime Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out Freakboy

Reviewer Blues

I am overwhelmed. That is the theme for this summer, everyone. Summer Reading Theme: Overwhelmed! Summer is underway and I. Am. Simply. Overwhelmed.

Let’s talk about books. Let’s talk about how I never have enough time to read books. I make time to read, people, and I still don’t have enough time for books. I love books. I love reading. It is my favorite way to spend my free time. I simply do not have enough free time to read all of these books!

What do I do? How do book bloggers handle this load of monstrous TBR piles looming over us like Mount Doom? I do not have a Ring of Power, and I am becoming delirious because of this lack! 

Please, please share with me in the comments:

  • Your tips for managing your to-be-read list/pile/mountain/bed.
  • Tricks for writing fast, interesting, helpful reviews.
  • Ways to prioritize your reading.
  • Anything else that may help a gal out.

I’ll just be over here, reading. And reading. And waiting. And checking Twitter. And reading. . .