Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake

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This was all kinds of challenging but in an astoundingly beautiful way.  It is full to the brim of triggers so if rape is has a significance for you, it may be taped. I know that statement is true for too many of us.  Which makes this book even more relevant and powerful.

Right before reading it, I happened to see a meme posted on instagram: it showed a girl in the top half of the frame the words read something to the effect of “think of our daughters, sisters, wives…” while the bottom half had a picture of a boy reading “think of our sons, husbands, brothers”.  As if requiring better behavior, sexual responsibility, and respect of men is treating them unfairly or poorly. Yes, it was an infuriating meme and unfortunately reflects a sentiment that is still perversely outweighing victims. This book is that meme in story: it is raw and honest; illuminating all the angles.  It demonstrates the darkside of struggle, blind trust, chosen ignorance, and fear. But it also shares hope, solidarity, and strength. And lots of love both how it can affect justice, but also how it can redeem and save. Summing this book up in one powerful line, “You mean it's not that easy. Because what happened is that simple… It’s a tangled mess of simple facts, a kaleidoscope of right and wrong.  The aftermath --- that's what’s complicated.”

I am so grateful to Ashley Herring Blake for writing such a multiple dimensional novel, it isn’t easy when there’s so much anger and pain but it was necessary.  And we are better people for it.

For Ages: 14 years old and up

For Those That Liked: Picture Us in Light, Speak, The Beauty That Remains

Yoga Pose- Eka Pada Vasisthasana (One-Legged Side Plank Pose):
*Come into Plank Pose, with your shoulders over your wrists. Turn your hands out until your index fingers are parallel to each other.
*Move into Vasisthasana (Side Plank Pose) by pressing your inner right hand down, externally rotating your upper right arm as you spin your outer right heel to the floor. Line up the center of your right foot with the center of your right wrist. Stack your left leg on top of your right.  Stretch your left arm straight up. If you feel stable, look up to your left hand. Hold for 5 to 8 breaths.
Next Level:
*
If you’re stable in and can hold Side Plank Pose for 5 to 8 breaths, externally rotate your left hip, bend your left knee, and rest your big toe above the right knee (Tree Pose).
You May Also:
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Hold your big toe or use a strap, and straighten your left leg up while keeping your right side body in a straight diagonal line. Look down at first to help with balance, and then look forward. If your neck feels strain free, turn your head to look up toward your left foot.



Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson

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Sometimes I need some time to process a book.  I don’t want to sit down and immediately write the review because I end up with a list of adjectives and not a whole lot else.  When I wrote out my adjectives for this I had:

*Hope: this book is the single most hopeful book of 2018. Hope in friendship and community.

*Anger: reading truth can do that.

*Heartbreak: same as above.

*Change: the result of all the previously mentioned emotions.  By the end I felt changed, as if I had just grown through that year in the ARTT room with those six children.  

I usually hate when reviewers refer to books as stunning.  But honestly, it just applies here. Woodson manages to explore the current American political and social landscape while keeping us focused on the six children talking in the ARTT room.  We relate, empathize, and sympathise with their struggle to define their individual identities as well as their place and role in community.

For Ages: 9 years old and up

For Those That Liked: Blended, The Parker Inheritance, Louisiana’s Way Home

Yoga Pose- Ustrasana (Camel Pose):
*Kneel on the floor with your knees hip width and thighs perpendicular to the floor. Rotate your thighs inward slightly as you firm your buttocks. Imagine that you're drawing your sitting bones up, into your torso. Press your shins and the tops of your feet firmly into floor.
*Rest your hands on the back of your pelvis (bases of the palms on the tops of the buttocks, fingers pointing down).  Inhale and lift your heart.
*ENGAGE YOUR CORE and begin to lean back while keeping your head up, chin near the sternum, and your hands on the pelvis.

NEXT LEVEL:
*Kneel on the floor with your knees hip width and thighs perpendicular to the floor. Move one ankle in front of the other knee.  Rotate your thighs inward slightly as you firm your buttocks. Imagine that you're drawing your sitting bones up, into your torso. Press your shins and the tops of your feet firmly into floor.
*Continue to ENGAGE YOUR CORE as you lean further back, while keeping the heart elevated.  Reach the right hand back to touch the right foot and then allow the left hand to follow. (If you're not able to touch your feet without compressing your lower back, turn your toes under and lift your heels.)

TO EXIT POSE:
Stay in this pose anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute. When you are ready to exit, bring your hands onto the front of your pelvis, at the hip points. Inhale and lift the head and torso up by pushing the hip points down, toward the floor. If your head is back, lead with your heart to come up.  Rest in Child's Pose for a few breaths.





The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

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This novel took my breath away; a magnificent piece.  The story layers, much like the colors and shades of a painting.  Emily X.R. Pan is truly a gifted artist, the composition itself is lyrical.  And then there's the story which reads equal parts hauntingly realistic with a unexpected supernatural component that reminded me quite a bit of The Emperor of Any Place.  Personally, I struggle in the early chapters with this style of writing because my mind wants to keep the realistic pieces together, “this is realistic fiction.” I find myself wondering, Is the character dreaming?  Is this fantasy? When I first read a similar style I would almost say I hated the story until my mind wrapped around that it is a realistic paranormal fiction (if such a genre could exist). After the acceptance, comes awe.  Especially in the case of this novel. It is nothing short of a masterpiece; blending culture, hormones, guilt, familial obligation, curiosity, fear, and forgiveness. If you don’t read any other 2018 YA fiction, please let this be the novel you read!!

For Ages: 14 years old and up

For Those That Liked: The Emperor of Any Place, The Beauty That Remains, The Chaos of Standing Still

Yoga Pose- Svarga Dvijasana (Bird of Paradise Pose):
*Begin in Warrior II Pose with left knee bent in front. Inhale and take your arms to shoulder height. Exhale and bring your left arm under the left thigh, and your right arm to the sky, then behind your back. Clasp the left wrist with the right hand. Keep the left leg bent, twist the torso to the sky as you gently press the hips forward into Bound Extended Side Angle Pose.
*Exhale and turn both your feet parallel, carefully start to move them toward one another. Once the legs are close to hip distance, straighten them both while maintaining the bind.  
*Pour all of your weight into your right foot and start to lift your torso, at the same time lifting the left leg off the floor (as you straighten to standing balance on your right foot). Keep the lifted leg bent in this Svarga Dvijasana variation—Bird of Paradise with a bent leg variation.
Next Level:
Straighten and extend the lifted leg to the side, being careful not to swing the supporting hip out to the side. Fix the drishti straight ahead or over the right shoulder and stay for 5–10 deep breaths. Repeat on Opposite side.

Where the Watermelons Grow by Cindy Baldwin

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At first I didn’t want to read this book.  I didn’t really liked the cover, I’m not a fan of the watermelon pattern because it feels a little childish to me (like patches on a pair of Osh Kosh overalls) and I didn’t really like the title because it reminded me of the song.  I’m still a little perplexed by the title…. But some of the other children’s librarian nominated it for our Mock Awards. Normally I’m in agreement with what we nominate so I was prepared to kick myself in the butt for judging this particular book by its cover.

I didn’t love it.  

I guess the main character was pretty decently developed.  And all the plot points were hit on nicely. It should have been the kind of book that makes me cry: the mother has Schizophrenia, has stopped taking her medication, and the family farm is failing, instead it felt like it lacked emotional charge.  It read a bit predictable and I couldn’t help but feel like Della underwent an unrealistic personality change in too short a time period; a forced resolution in a story without a resolution.
But here’s where I want to try and reframe my perspective: I thought authentic emotion was missing BUT maybe it's perfect for the age group.  Maybe it felt predictable because pride is so familiar to us. Exhausting and boring as it is, most of us let pride interfere. Maybe as adults we want children to be children so badly we forget that most of the time they feel the weight of the world, they feel responsible, they feel adult.  Maybe the emotional charge I felt was lacking, was written in a different form (shoving the emotion down and ignoring it).  Final decision: although it wasn’t my favorite juvenile book of 2018, I see its merits and I can see how it can be relatable to children who react like Della to fear.

For Ages: 8-12 years old

For Those That Liked: The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl, The Science of Breakable Things, See You in The Cosmos  


Damsel by Elana K. Arnold

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Have you ever heard of the frog in the boiling pot of water: drop a frog in a pot of boiling water and he’ll immediately hop out.  But drop a frog in cool water and gradually warm it to boil and the unsuspecting frog will cook because it acclimates to each slowly rising degree….until its death.  

I’ve experienced this a few times in my life: in work, with life situations, in relationships.  We as humans can adapt to our deaths. We as women, socially and historically, have been frogs… slowly boiling to death.  

“Holy crap!” - my hand to heart, first thought (and subsequently spoken out loud sentence)  at the end of Damsel. Exquisite. Magnificent. Raw. Our collective fury and sorrow. It’s most breathtaking element is the early stages of the summer; so common it was innocuous.  I didn’t notice the heat turning up… and that was so achingly familiar, it got under my skin. It snaps and crackles as a new folklore for women. Maybe not new, maybe a better word is remembered- lore.  A fairytale that will burn the memory of Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and every other “Damsel in distress” we were taught to be, to emulate, to adore...

Damsel is the boiling pot.  However, by the end we are no longer cooked by the fire and heat but warmed through, fired up, and ready to slay this storyline once and for all!!

For Ages: 14 years old and up

For Those That Liked: The Lunar Chronicles, Grim Lovelies, Children of Blood and Bone

Yoga Pose- Komodo Dragon Pose:
*Come into Lizard Pose on the right side (right foot forward, back knee on the mat).
*Lower down to forearms, pressing the right knee into the right arm.
*Begin to work your right shoulder underneath the right thigh; moving the right hand to the outside of the right foot.
*Bend the left knee, lifting the left foot towards the base of the spine.
*Reach the right hand back to grasp the left foot.
*After balancing in this hold; begin to lift the right foot off of the ground while straightening the right leg.
*Remain for several breaths before attempting this pose on the opposite side.

TO EXIT POSE:
Bring the right foot back to the ground, release the left foot from the hold, move the right hand back to inside the right foot.






Pride by Ibi Zoboi

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My family loves to watch the A&E Pride and Prejudice.  The one with Colin Firth and multiple discs, we’ve watched it marathon style several times.  I didn’t read the book for the first time until a few years ago and it didn’t disappoint. Darcy was a snarky conceited jerk and Elizabeth was my first feminist heroine.  All this to say that I was pretty excited for this novel. ZZ is tough, opinionated, and spunky. Almost too much. There were moments when I was annoyed by her views, that she wore so well…. Proudly…. As I typed that final word, I think I just fully realized the brilliance of this novel.   Ibi Zoboi really gets into who these characters would be if they were dropped into modern Bushwick. The novel says a lot about the judgements we make consistently and unconsciously today, which is pretty much the exact same thinking that Jane Austen wrote about years before. The story could have gone off onto a social trajectory (the questions and nudges are there) but Ibi keeps it on track as a romance story.  I sorta loved that. Afterall the original Pride and Prejudice is the same way: you can’t have the story without the money BUT fundamentally Pride and Prejudice is about seeing people for who they are: sometimes straight up scummy liars and sometimes wonderfully beautiful individuals.  

Anyway the story was fun and easy to read, with a whole lot to talk about.  As I said the social questions are still very much present. Pride has done Jane Austen proud; it is masterfully written to bring one of the greatest tales of dating up to date.  Plus I loved Ibi’s perspective, which brought to life a world that I don’t know and for that glimpse I am eternally grateful.

For Ages: 13 years old and up

For Those That Liked: The Poet X, Dread Nation, The Hate U Give

Yoga Pose- Ustrasana  (Camel Pose):
*Kneel on the floor with your knees hip width and thighs perpendicular to the floor. Rotate your thighs inward slightly as you firm your buttocks. Imagine that you're drawing your sitting bones up, into your torso. Press your shins and the tops of your feet firmly into floor.
*Rest your hands on the back of your pelvis (bases of the palms on the tops of the buttocks, fingers pointing down).  Inhale and lift your heart.
*ENGAGE YOUR CORE and begin to lean back while keeping your head up, chin near the sternum, and your hands on the pelvis.

NEXT LEVEL:
*Continue to ENGAGE YOUR CORE as you lean further back, while keeping the heart elevated.  Reach the right hand back to touch the right foot and then allow the left hand to follow. (If you're not able to touch your feet without compressing your lower back, turn your toes under and lift your heels.)

TO EXIT POSE:
Stay in this pose anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute. When you are ready to exit, bring your hands onto the front of your pelvis, at the hip points. Inhale and lift the head and torso up by pushing the hip points down, toward the floor. If your head is back, lead with your heart to come up.  Rest in Child's Pose for a few breaths.






Blended by Susan Draper

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I was wiping away some fresh tears when my friend walked into the room.  I put the book down and said, “This one has me tearing up at the end of every other chapter.”

“Why are you reading it then?”

“Because they’re good tears; its beautiful….that’s why I’m crying.”

Okay so tears as I read through this young girl’s experience of family whiplash- being passed off between parents every week (remembering how much children feel, experience, and understand- a chronic problem of adult’s underestimating this).  Tears as the middle school is rocked and then attempts to heal. Tears as Izzy/Isabella bravely steps into her identity. And then a gasp as the plot twists in a way I never saw coming, do we ever see tragedy hit us?? But it was remarkable and insightful.  I thank Susan Draper deeply for this novel, for this character, for telling this story.   

For Ages: 8-14 years old

For Those That Liked: Ghost Boys, Front Desk, Love Like Sky

Yoga Pose- Salamba Sirsasana (Supported Headstand):
*Kneel on the floor. Bring your right fingers to hug your left arm, just above the bent elbow as you bring your left fingers to hug your right arm, just above the right bent elbow. (this will give you the proper distance to keep your elbows as you set your forearms on the floor).
*Lace your fingers together, set the forearms on the floor, and roll the upper arms slightly outward, while pressing the inner wrists firmly into the floor.
*Set the crown of your head on the floor. For added support: press the bases of your palms together and snuggle the back of your head against the clasped hands. You also have the option to open your hands and place the back of the head into the open palms.
*Inhale and lift your knees off the floor (downdog legs). Walk your feet as close to your elbows as possible while keeping the heels elevated. Actively lift the shoulder blades together and towards the tailbone so the front torso stays as long as possible. (This should help prevent the weight of the shoulders collapsing onto your neck and head.)
*Exhale and lift one leg straight towards the ceiling- further enabling your shoulders to be stacked in line with your hips.  Lift the opposite leg toward the ceiling then slowly begin to bend both knees, lowering them to hug close to the chest.
*Remember  to press the shoulder blades against the back, widen them, and draw them toward the tailbone. Keep the weight evenly balanced on the two forearms. It's also essential that your tailbone continues to lift upward toward the heels.
*Practice holding this position for a set number of breaths before releasing the feet back down to the floor.  





The Book of Boy by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

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The end makes this totally worth it.  So in the Children’s Librarian world we have what we call award bait.  These are incredibly well written novels with beautiful language, an articulate story, and deeply developed characters.  The type of book that adults love and praise. The type of book that finds its way into school curriculum. The type of book parents shove at their children.  The type of book that children don’t finish. I believe this novel checks off all those boxes. It is beautiful and exquisite. It had a wonderful end that made the entire plot leading up to it, really and truly mean something (extra points because the reader ahem, me didn’t even know it was supposed to mean something).  To be totally clear: the story as a whole was brilliant, but you don’t fully appreciate that until the end.  Getting to the end, well ….honestly.. it was boooorrrriiinnggg. It was sort of drawn out in a Canterbury Tales way (I am not a fan of Canterbury Tales); a pilgrim and a boy head out in Medieval France to gather the Relics of Saint Peter, in order to receive their desired miracles.  I followed through mainly because if the book is even moderately interesting, I’ll commit to finishing it. This is a remnant of some sort of weird competition I began with myself back when I was forcing reading my list of “classics”. I generally tell the children that if their reading for pleasure and not enjoying the book to immediately stop reading it, there are just too many fantastic books that will be right up their alley to waste their time hating a book…. No one should hate a book.   BUT I should also point out that there have been many books that I ended up loving ONLY because of the end. This is one of them. Had I stopped when I first felt mildly bored, I would not have finished. I would not have appreciated the plot progression. Because I’m a 30 year old Librarian, I appreciate plot progression. I live for plot progression and deeply developed characters. I bow to the Literary Gods when a book has a capital E, ENDING!! I am shot with Cupid’s arrow when I drag myself through a book only to be convinced of the author’s genius right in the last three chapters.  I eat up Award bait. Hook, line, and sinker. So to end this review that was more about my tendency to swoon over exquisite endings, I suggest it to any and all adults. I will shove it into your hands, check it out onto your library card, and shout its praises on our Mock Awards spreadsheet. But I probably won’t add it to my collection. I probably won’t suggest it to any of my young patrons. And I don’t really see myself using it in any programs. Because it’s Mock Award Bait: deliciously irresistible to us Librarians, but really just a handful of earthworms dug up from the backyard (brown and bland) to all the children.    

For Ages: 8-12 yrs. old

For Those That Liked: The Unfinished Angel, Bob, Crenshaw

Yoga Pose- Fallen Angel:

*Begin standing with the big toes and inner heels touching. Bend the knees drawing the weight into the heels keeping toe toes light and fluffy.
*Begin by lowering the hips down into Utkatasana (Chair Pose).  Keep the big toes light, while majority of weight is held in the heels.
*With hands at your heart in Anjali Mudra, revolve from your upper chest and twist to land the left elbow onto or to the outside of the right thigh.
If this is plenty, breathe here pushing the palms together to point the right elbow up toward the ceiling. If there is wiggle space, keep working the armpit towards the thigh to deepen the twist.
*Gently place both hands onto the ground shoulder width apart, fingertips pointing away from the right thigh. Bend the elbows toward a 90 degree angle as the feet sweep back (into a variation of supported side crow).
*Bring your elbows directly over the wrists as you lift the shin bones up parallel to the ground.
Keep the inner thighs squeezing and the inner elbows hugging in.
*Lower the head to the ground so that the right side of the face rests lightly on the floor.
*While reaching the left leg straight up towards the sky as the bottom foot (right foot) rotates up toward the sky as well.
Continue to keep the right knee bent.

TO COME OUT: Re-stack the knees into Side Crow before lowering the feet back onto the ground.




You don’t know everything, Jilly P! By Alex Gino

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Truth time: I’m revising my original review.  I read this a few weeks ago and when I first finished I was disappointed.  My opening line was, “I really wanted to like this…” Because I felt like it had been unfocused and a little unfinished.  Originally I wrote, “To be fair there are a lot of merits to this story but it felt like two different stories merged into one.”  Then it hit me out of nowhere and unavoidable: DUH that was its point!! Different stories, different voices; messing up and learning.  Alex Gino writes a brilliant novel shining a light on racism while also creating a voice and for another juvenile fiction minority: the deaf community. The multiple story lines reflect our ability (and often inability) to emphasize, learn, and better understand one another.  There’s a lot more in this novel and it isn’t a completed story; but maybe that’s also the whole point- that there’s SO much in these stories and it’s only the beginning of listening to them, telling them, and learning from them.  

For Ages: 8-12 yrs. old

For Those That Liked: The Parker Inheritance, Ghost Boys, The Miscalculations of Lightening Girl


Saving Winslow by Sharon Creech

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Winslow is a sick, newborn donkey.  Nobody expects him to live through a few days.  Nobody, except Louie. Louie takes responsibility for his care. Constantly repeating “Don’t say that.” when Winslow’s chances are questioned.  As Louie become more attached to Winslow, he becomes more aware of the people around him. Creech shares this story in her uniquely wonderful, understated prose that are reminiscent of storing and sharing memories.  The story runs circles around itself in short and seemingly even a bit unrelated snippets; exactly how we store and share our own memories and experiences. In the end, each stories purpose becomes as clear as Winslow’s. (Great pick for animal lovers)!!  

For Ages: 8-12 yrs. old

For Those That Liked: The One and Only Ivan, The Tale of Despereaux, Because of Winn-Dixie

Yoga Pose- Sirsasana II  (Tripod Headstand Pose):
*Start in tabletop: placing the hands flat on the ground, shoulder distance apart.
Bend the elbows back towards the ribs (similar to chaturanga arms)
*Place the crown of the head onto the ground.
Make sure that your hands are far enough away from your face that you can create a 90
degree angle in the elbows and be able to see your fingers.  
*Curl the toes under, lift the hips, and straighten the legs into dolphin pose.  Begin to walk the toes towards the head. Press down into your hands, using the strength to keep your shoulders lifted, and any added pressure off your head and/ or neck.
*If you feel stable, draw your belly button to your spine and use your core strength to lift your right leg, bend the knee and place it lightly on your right tricep.  Bend the left knee and place on the left tricep.

Next Level:
*Lift the hips up (until they are stacked over the shoulders) as the thighs draw into the chest.
Remember to lift the shoulders and keep the triceps engaged in chaturanga.  
*Engage the core by drawing the belly button to the spine. Cross legs at the ankle! Hold for desired length of time.


High Performance Habits by Brendon Burchard

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I am a sucker for a good self-help! They appeal to the type A achiever in me that likes to feel like if I work on something, I can make it better; with effort comes success.  But as much as I love Brene Brown, Jen Sincero, and Robert Holden, I was looking for something less feeling oriented and more directive oriented. Enter this incredible book!! Brendon Burchard wastes no time getting to the point.  It’s like having a private coach with only a set number of sessions to turn you into a powerhouse. Honestly, there is not a single wasted word in this book, which I find refreshingly jarring. It’s a smack in the face, if you’re interested in getting your shit together,  But also wonderfully inspiring and intuitively guided.

In the past I would work through a self help book and have a few “oh that makes sense” moments.  But I always felt like “ok so now I know this about myself, so what?” Acknowledging is better than being in the dark, sure.  Some books seemed to suggest that just knowing was the whole point. That didn’t seem to work for me anymore. Brendon opens the book with an antidote of a client who pretty much said exactly what I was feeling.  He listed his results on all of the personality tests and then said that the results of the test did not reflect his performance, did not explain for his failing, and if Brendon could not coach him to better performance (without the use of personality tests) then he would have to find someone who could.  The birth of High Performance Habits came from hours and hours of studying high performers, establishing habits that were directly linked to their success.

They are daily habits… simple (if not easy) and clear directions for reaching peak performance and staying there.  Brendon knows his stuff and what’s more he’s deliberate and generous in teaching it. I am deeply grateful for reading this novel.  It was exhausting, exhilarating, and stimulating. I finished it feeling a little bit scared but a lot of excitement!

The Darkdeep by Ally Condie and Brendan Reichs

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The first time I watched “Are You Afraid of the Dark,” it was the episode with the little girl stuck in the mirror who kept knocking down the house’s “For Sale” sign so her aging mother couldn’t sell the house and move away.  I was scared out of my mind. Couldn’t sleep for weeks and didn’t watch another “Are You Afraid of the Dark” episode until the following year.
My friends and I watched “It” one night during a sleepover back in 7th grade.  It was on two VHS’s; the three of us sat there with my friend’s mom, holding our breath as the suspense grew.  When the first tape was done we were all temporarily baffled, coming out of our horror stupor to question with a little frustration, “Is that it?” We realized we had another tape to go and popped it in with renewed expectations. At the end I remember feeling colossal disappointment, all that for a spider? Was I missing something?
That marked the beginning of my frustration with horror movies.  The plots never seemed quite right, I mean how is Jason an adult if he drowned as a child?  Too much suspension of disbelief, too much focus on gore and zero focus on plot development.  However, I still love a good ghost story, maybe it reminds me of that first “Are You Afraid of the Dark” episode and all the ones I watched after I waited a year to build up some courage.  (My sister can say, “I’m Cold” and to this day I get goosebumps.)  Which leads me to why I liked The Darkdeep.  It is entertaining AF.
There’s a typical friendship arch with bullies and unexpected alliances; predictable (of course!), but absolutely necessary for the genre!!  A crisis in the community creates an unseen element of simmering turmoil. While fog and chill roll through the story building unease and leading the reader expectantly into all the unleashed creepy.  It’s weird and mysterious and my suspense and curiosity were sparked the entire time. Not too scary but the perfect ghost story and miraculously well developed. Although there is still a heavy need for suspension of disbelief, it's satisfyingly unexplained with a delightful ending….  

For Ages: 8-12 yrs. old

For Those That Liked: The Nightbooks, Goosebumps, Small Spaces

Yoga Pose- Sirsasana II  (Tripod Headstand Pose):
*Start in tabletop: placing the hands flat on the ground, shoulder distance apart.
Bend the elbows back towards the ribs (similar to chaturanga arms)
*Place the crown of the head onto the ground.
Make sure that your hands are far enough away from your face that you can create a 90
degree angle in the elbows and be able to see your fingers.  
*Curl the toes under, lift the hips, and straighten the legs into dolphin pose.  Begin to walk the toes towards the head. Press down into your hands, using the strength to keep your shoulders lifted, and any added pressure off your head and/ or neck.
*If you feel stable, draw your belly button to your spine and use your core strength to lift your right leg, bend the knee and place it lightly on your right tricep.  Bend the left knee and place on the left tricep.

Next Level:
*Lift the hips up (until they are stacked over the shoulders) as the thighs draw into the chest.
Remember to lift the shoulders and keep the triceps engaged in chaturanga.  
*You can choose to raise one leg at a time or send both feet towards the ceiling.  Hug the inner thighs, continue to draw the navel to the spine, and spread the toes.


What Does a Princess Really Look Like? By Mark Loewen

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When Mark Loewen (Founder of Brave Like A Girl, an organization that helps girls find their courage and strength) sent me a copy of this picture book, the title piqued my curiosity and made me a little nervous.  Hopefully it was going to empower but what if it didn’t…. Okay, I guess I knew it was going to be “empowering” but I wasn’t sure what form it would take.
What Does a Princess Look Like? Is a clever re-interpretation of the way in which women perceive their external appearance.  Chloe takes outward physical features (that historically women have been judged for) and ascribes personal, internal meaning to each.  I.e. the Princess’s mouth is beautiful because she speaks, her eyes are bright because she is observant. Etc…
Chloe changes how we feel about our bodies and in doing so creates a new dialogue for young girls.  It’s bright and colorful illustrations pair wonderfully with Chloe’s spirit, which is the focus of the story that our external features simply reflect our internal greatness!!
It ends with mistake (an imperfection) that actually is the most meaningful to the completed picture.  Since Chloe is drawing her Princess the external features are impossible to ignore. And I think that’s the most important part of this story: not ignoring our physical bodies but rewriting what we feel about them.  It’s the beginning of a new Manifesto of Beauty for young girls.

For Ages: 5-8 yrs. old

For Those That Liked: Be Who You Are, Pink is for Boys, Princesses Save the World

Yoga Pose- Natarajasana (Lord of the Dance Pose):
*Begin by standing in Tadasana (Mountain Pose), shift your weight onto your right foot, and lift your left heel toward your left buttock as you bend the knee.
*
Keeping your torso upright, reach back with your left hand and grasp the outside of the left foot or ankle.
*Lift your left foot, up away from the floor, and back, away from your torso. Extend the left thigh behind you and parallel to the floor.

Option to sweep your right hand around behind your back and catch hold of the inner left foot. Sweep the left hand back and grab the outside of the left foot.

*Stay in the pose until ready to come out, then release the grasp on the foot and place the left foot back on the floor. Repeat for the same length of time on the opposite side


24 Hours in Nowhere by Dusti Bowling

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I’m going to keep this one short: It reminded me a little of Tom and Huck (for all of you still half in love with the 90’s, I’m referring to the one with JTT <swoon>). I think I loved this novel so much because it felt like all of the best friendship movies (The Goonies, The Sandlot, Stand by Me, etc.).  It’s a classic adventure novel: a group of tweens head into a cursed cave in search of legendary buried treasure. They don’t start out as friends but after a night spent lost in the dark tunnels, stalked by a mountain lion, and having a vicious bat poop fight a bonded friendship is inevitable.  Great for conversations about growing pains (bullying, crappy home life, etc.) but honestly, even better for just being a fantastic old school friendship novel, with a hint of adventure and mystery!!

For Ages: 8-12 yrs. old

For Those That Liked: Holes, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Lions and Liars

Yoga Pose- Utthita Hasta Padangustasana (Extended Hand-to- Big-Toe Pose):
*From Tadasana (standing Mountain Pose) lift your left knee toward your belly; hugging it in.
*Reach your left arm inside the thigh, cross it over the front ankle, and hold the outside of your left foot. Or take Peace Fingers to grab hold of the left big toe.
If your hamstrings are tight, hold a strap looped around the left sole.
*Inhale and extend the left leg forward. Straighten the knee as much as possible. If you're steady, swing the leg out to the left side. Breathe steadily and hold your drishti (focused gaze) to help you balance.
*Hold until you are ready to come out.  Return to center with an inhale, and lower the foot to the floor with an exhale. Repeat on the other side for the same length of time.


You are a Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero

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I love love love this book.  It will definitely become one I read and reread over and over!  By far the most accessible book about money and creating a love relationship with it.  Before heading into this novel, I knew that individual beliefs and energy around money had an impact on the individual’s experience.  But I had never really sat with and considered what that meant for me. Jen Sincero writes with entertaining enthusiasm; a practical guide to really figuring out the truth about your personal relationship with money and provides the tools to take action and morph that relationship into something beautiful and exciting.  It is impossible to read this book and not get stoked!


Nightbooks by J.A. White

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My sister and I shared a room as children, so obviously many nights were spent scaring ourselves silly reading from the Scary Stories To Tell in The Dark series.  The stories were short and even more terrifying because so much was left to the imagination. Nightbooks is the best scary story for juvenile fiction I have ever read! A re-imagined Hansel and Gretel, J.A. White sprinkles in Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark type tales inside a larger story.  I can’t praise this one enough! Fully developed and creepily executed, this novel will give you goosebumps but still shares a message of friendship and being authentically unapologetically yourself.
P.S. normally I’m bored with hokey or unexplained scary story endings that feel like cheap attempts to end the story, J.A. White delivers a great ending making this a terror to read cover to cover!
Recently I revised my Tween yoga program and decided to use this book for my first new class format.  (It ended up being around Halloween which is sort of irrelevant except that I was able to use a spooky theme.)  They loved it so much three of the children participating ended up requesting the book so they could read how it ended… Apart from my recommendation, I feel pretty confident in saying that my 4th- 8th graders would recommend it as well!

For Ages: 9-12 yrs. old

For Those That Liked: “Goosebumps” series, “The Darkdeep” and “The Graveyard Book”

Yoga Pose- Step One of Tittibhasana (Firefly Pose):
*Squat with your feet a little less than shoulder distance apart.  Tilt your pelvis forward and lower down between your legs until your pelvis is about knee height.
*
Bring your left upper arm and shoulder as far as possible underneath the back of your left thigh and place your left hand on the floor at the outside edge of your foot.  Repeat these actions on the other side.
Next Level (Full Tittibhasana):
*
Lift your feet off the floor by carefully shifting your center of gravity. Press your hands into the floor as you slowly begin to rock your weight back (shifting the weight off your feet and on to your hands).
*Keep your inner thighs as high on your arms as possible as you stretch your legs out to the sides as straight as you can.  Straighten your arms as much as possible. Widening your shoulder blades will round your upper back in order to lift your torso higher.
Without tensing your neck, lift your head and gaze forward. Breathe slowly and hold the pose then release your feet to the floor with an exhale.


Why I’m obsessed with Juvenile Fiction and You Should Be Too!

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Before I became a Children’s Librarian I was an English Major that hadn’t read many “classics”.  If I was going to graduate with an English Lit. degree, I believed I needed to read a few. So I compiled a list and started checking them off.  When I started my M.L.I.S. I hadn’t read many YA books. If I was going to be a YA Librarian, I needed to read much more of that collection. So I read YA.

Then I got hired….as a Children’s Librarian.

My previous years of dedicated reading meant nothing: no one was asking me if I preferred Dostoevsky to Gogol or if John Green’s “Turtles All The Way Down” read like “The Fault in Our Stars”. So I did what every librarian/avid reader does when faced with a dilemma, a question, or a Friday night with no plans: I read. And read and read.

Returning to Juvenile Fiction (and the reason I truly believe ALL adults should go back to reading middle grade novels as well) changed who I was, as a person.

They taught me empathy.  Recently published juvenile fiction shares more perspectives, situations, and lifestyles than ever before.  It is impossible to read a book without a plethora of characters from all different backgrounds and experiences. When reading so many different voices, it is impossible not to become more sympathetic and empathetic.  These books teach us to look at each other with more honesty and love; to rethink our experiences and reimagine others’. In a world increasingly aggressive, these books above all else, will be our saving grace to evoke internal change and intellectual shift as they expose us to ideas outside of our personal “norms”.  

They remind me what it is like to be a kid.  It is our nature as humans to relate from where we are now.  And now I’m a 30 year old, not an 11 year old. I often see my young patrons as who I want them to be: having fun without adult stress, being kind to each other, loving themselves, etc.  In essence, I see them as how I wish I could have been if I could do it over. I forget that as an 11 year old I still felt worry and stress. I forget that I wanted to be treated as an adult.  I wanted to be respected and included. Reading juvenile fiction is indispensable guidance for any adult who interacts with adolescents. If you want to be able to reach an age group, relate to that age group.  Juvenile fiction will bring up all the feels; reminding us what it was like to be in middle school.

They speak to simplicity.  Now don’t get me wrong; these books have brain tumors, murder, and homeless children.  They have racism. They have bad people who do good things and good people who make colossal and awful mistakes. They have “adult” topics because there really are no adult topics vs. children topics.  There is just life and life is scary, dark, and brutal sometimes.  But juvenile fiction doesn’t muss around with our adult baggage. It gets to the point: this situation sucks but these are people surviving.  Juvenile fiction is filled with reality: the good stuff and the bad stuff. What I love most of all is that there’s always a sense of accomplishment within each book. You end it feeling like you’ve grown.  You’ve changed. How many adult books offer that (outside of self help)??

Juvenile Fiction (also known as middle grade novels) make better people and that is why I have chosen to review them more than any other collection.  Adults MUST go back to reading them: We will raise better children and become a better society.



Breakout by Kate Messner

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Pizza Book club starts today!! Last spring I tried out a lunchtime book club.  A group of 8th graders walked across the street to the library to eat pizza and talk about a book.  This year we decided to start the lunchtime book club earlier in the school year, so they'd be able to read more than one book and today is our first meeting!! I’m starting us off with Breakout by Kate Messner… it's a bit longer than I would usually pick but the entire story is told in a series of documents (letters, poems, text messages, news stories, and comics) collected by Nora Tucker for the Wolf Creek Community Time Capsule Project.  So although its got a high page count, it's a fairly quick read.
The plot: Nora Tucker is in the last two weeks of school before summer vacation in Upstate New York when two inmates break out of the town's maximum security prison.  Suddenly this small “safe and friendly” town is in constant fear and lock-down.
Here’s where the story kicks ass: She introduces a new classmate for Nora who’s brother is serving time in the prison.  As Nora becomes friends with Edilee she begins to see that Wolf Creek might be safe and welcoming for her and her white friends but it does not treat her new black friend the same.

The novel is fast-paced and entertaining while poking at some pretty intense contemporary issues within criminal justice, racial bias, and community goodwill. I’ll let you all know the Lunchtime Book Club opinion when we’ve finished it!!

Recommended Age: 9- 14 years old

For Those That Liked: “ The Science of Breakable Things”, “Front Desk” “The Parker Inheritance”

Yoga Pose: Utkatasana (Chair Pose):
*Stand in Tadasana. Inhale and raise your arms perpendicular to the floor (shoulders distance apart, palms facing each other).  If you feel tightness in the shoulders (a rising of the shoulders towards the ears) move your arms out wider than shoulders distance apart.
*Exhale and bend the knees, lower down so that the thighs are parallel to the floor. Reach the hips down and back, bringing your weight to the heels of the feet. Do not bring the hips lower than the level of the knees. Remain for 3-5 breathes.

Next Level (Awkward Chair Pose):
*
Draw your tailbone down to the floor, keeping your lower back long and bring your hips down lower (shift your weight into your heels, about 80% of weight, so that you could lift your toes off the mat if you wanted to).
*Consciously place all weight anchored in the right foot.  Lift the left foot with control. Bend at the knee and rest the left ankle on top of the right knee.  Remain here for 3-5 breaths before lowering the left foot back to the floor and rising to Tadasana. Repeat on the opposite side, beginning in Utkatasana before moving into awkward chair.


Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman

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My immediate thought at the last sentence: “I wish that went darker.” Honestly. it seemed a bit half- baked; a happy ending crime story.  Psychological thriller? Eh, it could have been… if Erin didn’t turn out to be the most accidental criminal EVER.  Entertaining? Yes. It kept my attention and I can’t take that away from the novel… But I kept waiting for it to get creepier (i.e. Gone Girl). I kept wanting the moment where you go “Holy Shit!! I can’t believe that just happened!!” The moment never came. And that was disappointing. But maybe more disappointing is having to buy into this idea that she just suddenly likes crime, feels comfortable and excited in the criminal world when there’s been no hint of this character trait ever cropping up in her back story. It felt a little fake and much too neat (unless it all unravels in a follow-up). The only thing truly worth merit was a gaslighting element I hadn’t seen coming- that was pretty cool but even that was too little, too late. A solid pick for those readers who like a bit of drama and mystery without getting too under your skin or into your head.  But not at all worthy of the psychological thriller hype.