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Library Books: A Year in Review

2017 has been a year to celebrate books. Here is a quick rundown of books that have been popularized, made into movies, celebrated, or banned. Come to the ISD Library and check them out!

JANUARY: Roxane Gay has published several works, one of which came out in January of 2017 - Difficult Women. I’ve been quite lucky in that when I promote this work to my students, they gobble it up. Roxane Gay writes non-fiction and essay format. Her writing is personal, intense, and not for the faint of heart. Come to the library and check this one out. You won’t regret this read, and if you’re staying in town for the winter vacation, this work is one to enjoy. You can read more about Roxane Gay’s writing, news, and appearances at

FEBRUARY: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas came out in February of 2017, and before it was even published, it was already optioned - which I guess is Hollywood speak for this-book-will-be-made-into-a-movie. If you want to hear feedback from teachers and students, chat up Mr. Rodine, Ms. Lancaster, and Carlma for reviews. This work is about a wholesome all American family - one that is loyal, loving, socially conscious, invested in Black Lives Matter, and restorative justice. Starr is at a crossroad between her white private school community and her black neighborhood after she witnesses the murder of Khalil. Her path to overcome social conflict will make you cheer for her. Come to the library and check this one out. Everyone who reads it has loved it. Ok, not everyone who reads it loves it. It’s already been banned in a Texas school. But, I can’t speak highly enough about this work.

MARCH: Girl Code: Gaming, Going Viral, and Getting It Done By Andrea Gonzales and Sophie Houser came out in March of this year. I have to say this work has been harder to promote to the ISD community. The challenge to spark an interest in coding and STEM fields amongst young girls at ISD remains beyond me. As a librarian, I seek to offer the opportunity to read materials, put the work on the shelf so it’s highly visible, chat the works up, and to offer Girl Code to teachers so they in turn can promote this book to the students. It’s rather crushing to see Girl Code sit on the shelf. If you are interested in promoting STEM fields to your daughters, come check this work out of the ISD Library. There is a wonderful coding appendix on pages 225-265. And these young writers are just fun college students who love expressing their creativity through code.

APRIL: Colson Whitehead’s work, The Underground Railroad won the Pulitzer this past April. I wish I could say this work was already in our library, but it is on order and will be available to the ISD community soon. If friends in the community have this book to loan, find it, borrow it, and give it a read. You won’t regret it! And then, let’s sit down and talk about it. This work is rich! We can sit down at Shady Shack with books and smoothies for a lunchtime book talk.

MAY: During the month of May, Minecraft Combat Handbook by Stephanie Milton was the ISD Library’s most popular book and most frequently checked out. I would not be surprised if this statistic holds for all the remaining months of the 2017 year as well. A routine question from the second grade students is, “Do you have any more minecraft books yet?” They frantically dash around the library seeing who can find the one copy that is left on the shelf. When the student finds it, the book is held up in triumph, and lording the prize over their peers follows. Jumping up and down usually accompanies getting their hot little hands on the minecraft books. A few frustrated tears have been shed over this book. No joke. Followed by, “That’s not fair”, a pouty bottom lip, and then some vicious side-eye. The second graders have quickly learned the ISD Hold system, and this book is currently on hold. This is a STEM oriented work.

JUNE: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood saw tremendous success as a Netflix series during the month of June. The book and television series have inspired creative forms of protest as well. Throughout 2017, it was common to see women show up in Handmaid attire to protest legislation aimed against our bodies. I recall reading Handmaid’s Tale when I was still in high school. I was a young woman and found the prospects of female slavery to be terrifying. Flash forward to 2017, and American legislators have openly referred to women as “hosts” - a dangerous dehumanizing form of language. This work has become all the more terrifying juxtaposed against America’s current culture. Atwood’s work is cautionary and timely. Again, not for the faint of heart. Come check out this work. Atwood’s complex narrative will be a welcome challenge.

JULY: My first month as a librarian included familiarizing myself with children’s reads. I’m quite thankful to the elementary teachers and library aids who have guided my knowledge of reading material with patience and specificity. That being said, Splat The Cat has become one of my favorites. Alliteration, rhyme, and a generous dose of repetition are enough to hook early readers. There are plenty of readings on youtube. Some are more sophisticated than others, but you’ll have the chance to familiarize yourself with the works before you buy them for your children’s personal library. Here is a Christmas story (on Youtube) that includes my favorite mischievous cat - Splat the Cat!

AUGUST: I have to say I’ve become a very big fan of art and illustration in children’s books. One of the new purchases, Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie and illustrated by Yuyi Morales is a telling and claiming of identity. Every single page has masterful illustrations with bold lines, vivid primary colors juxtaposed against earth colored patterns. Thunder Boy wants his own name, not his father’s name. The picture book allowed ISD students to discuss their own identities and the meanings of their own names. Divna told me her name means beautiful. Layla told me her name means Queen of the Night. Zara told me her name means princess. Ian told me that his brother, father, grandfather and great-grandfather are all named Earl. Clearly tradition runs deep with his family. If you want to see gorgeous illustrations or simply have fun conversation with your children about identity, pick up Thunder Boy Jr. and read it together.

SEPTEMBER: Duncan Tonatiuh has a collection of picture books that for some reason are quite popular with our elementary students. There is something enchanting about his illustrations and artistry. Children gravitate to his picture books, so I would very much encourage you to add these works to your children’s personal libraries. Tonatiuh’s webpage provides samples of his rich artistry. His subject matter tackles human rights, indigenous mythology, biography of famous Mexican muralist, Diego Rivera, and immigration. To name a few.

OCTOBER: There are many reasons to love Superhero by M. Tauss. Tauss tackles environmentalism, positive representation of people of color, and a child’s desire to be heroic and “do the right thing”. This picture book is a win on all counts. Superhero goes back in time to get plants and bring them to a metropolitan environment where plants don’t thrive. He brings green back to his city. The illustrations are in black and white, but the modern setting is given green life by the end of the picture book. The ISD library has two copies of this picture book. Come and check one out!

NOVEMBER: Wonder by RJ Palacios was made into a movie this year and released for general audiences in November. Wonder stars Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson and Jacob Tremblay. One ISD parent commented that she cried a little while reading this book. Wonder routinely produces tears, so if you feel like having your heart wrenched, this young adult book is in the library for you. But come quickly. This book does not stay on the shelf very long. We have three copies and a bunch of impatient elementary school kids who feel that they should have first privilege.

DECEMBER: The number one book most circulated in the ISD library during the month of December is March Book 2 by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin. This graphic novel accounts the autobiographical story of US Congressman John Lewis. The illustrations bring the civil rights movement to life, and this particular trilogy is hard to keep on the shelf. When you come into the library, be prepared to put your name on a hold list. This book is routinely checked out by students. This NPR article addresses Lewis’ work on behalf of civil rights progress: “Every superhero has an origin story — and so does the graphic novel of John Lewis' life.”

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