Strong is Beautiful

Strong Is the New Pretty: A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves by Kate T. Parker. Workman, 2017. 9780761189138. 256pp.

strong-is-the-new-prettyGene: It’s the ultimate coffee table book. Photos of girls, a lot of them doing sports – it’s a celebration of how strong and tough girls are. It’s not quite against the idea of dolling yourself up, but it makes it clear you don’t have to to be strong and pretty.
Sarah: So a wider variety of pretty than you’d see in a lot of books.
G: Right. The photographer, Kate Parker, said she was shooting pictures of her daughters and their friends and the ones that resonated were the photos where they are 100% themselves. They’re celebrations of who the girls are. (Reading) “I wanted my girls to know that being themselves is beautiful, and that being beautiful is about being strong.” There’s a quote from each girl next to her picture, with her age and her first name. Continue reading “Strong is Beautiful”

Turn On Your Witchlight

Witchlight by Jessi Zabarsky. Czap, 2016.

witchlightContains material originally published in Witchlight #1 – #4 plus new material.

Sanja is visiting the market with her father and brothers when she accidentally confronts a witch, Lelek, who is dealing with an unhappy customer. Sanja awakens to find herself tied up in Lelek’s camp, though she doesn’t seem too concerned. Lelek wants Sanja to teach her to fight with a sword. Sanja agrees provided Lelek stops cheating people in different towns. They’re soon on the road together with Lelek challenging other witches to fights wherever they go for a share of the spectator’s fees.

The beginning of the story (the kidnapping) is a bit odd and abrupt, but the budding friendship (and perhaps more) between the two young women makes it very enjoyable, as does Zabarsky’s cheerful black and white (and somewhere in between) art.

I’ve picked up a few Czap books at small comics shows over the last few years (Seattle’s Short Run, and maybe SPX), and I was happy to be able to pledge to their Kickstarter.

Our First Guest Review

Gene: Our first guest review is from Murphy’sMom, who used to review with Sarah and I for the Unshelved Book Club. (Let us know if you’re feeling the itch to review a book or two, too.)

Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart. Delacorte Books for Young Readers , 2016. 9780553536744.

lily-and-dunkinTimothy McGrother knows she is really a girl named Lily. She has long, blonde hair and looks great when she dresses up in her mother’s sundresses, high heels, and makeup. In fact, she wishes Tim didn’t exist. Lily does not understand why her dad and other kids in her class see only a little, freaky weirdo named Timothy. That is so not her! Lily is starting eighth grade and puberty so she really, really needs her dad to give her permission for the hormone blockers.

Norbert and his mom just moved from New Jersey to Florida. He is pissed at his mom because she left his dad and wants a fresh start. Norbert wants to reinvent himself because in Jersey he was a big, clumsy oaf. (It’s a good thing the jocks don’t see that when the basketball coach adds him to the team as a walk-on.)

Neither Norbert nor Tim are comfortable with their true identities. Tim wants so badly to be Lily, and Norbert hates his name and lumbering physique. When the two become friends before school starts, they are able to confide in one another and recreate themselves as Lily and Dunkin.

This is a great YA novel that has a tremendous amount of compassion and sympathy for the underdogs.

What do you think about the birds in the sky?

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders. TOR Books, 2016. 9780765379948.

allthebirdsGene: I think my pitch for this book to you was, “This book is breaking my heart.” I couldn’t read very much of it at a time. I think I started it in July or August, but I didn’t finish it until December after we decided to do it as a book club. I think I was just so upset by the early chapters… but they were also so beautiful, so beautifully done.
Sarah: I remember you telling me that it was great and that it kept changing genres, it kept breaking your expectations. And I thought, “I would read it for that.”
G: Breaking expectations and also my heart. In a way that kind of put it in that Neil Gaiman area.
Continue reading “What do you think about the birds in the sky?”

Teen Cupid

Jonesy Volume 1, by Sam Humphries and Caitlin Rose Boyle. Boom! Box, 2016. 9781608868834.

jonesyHigh school student Jonesy has recently discovered her superpower: she can make people fall in love with anyone or anything she wants, a power she first discovered when the anime characters she shipped started a romance. The only catch? She can’t make anyone fall in love with her. This amazing power complicates her life a little as she has various adventures: clashing with a popular girl, writing a zine about her favorite band, helping out at her dad’s doughnut shop, and hating on the prom.

The colors in this graphic novel are hard-candy bright, the panels are crammed with motion, the faces are simple and expressive, and everyone feels things intensely — Jonesy especially, who is introduced giving her lists of things that RULE and things that SUCK.

I could booktalk this to teen readers by telling them how very old it makes me feel (in a good way). Back in my day, this kind of intense, girl focused, pop culture literate, queer- and minority-inclusive comic would never have been published. That SUCKED. Jonesy RULES. I’m going to be keeping my eye on Boom! Box, who also published Teen Dog, a similarly candy-colored but slightly more mellow high school story featuring (have you guessed?) a super cool teen dog and his friends.

Gross vs Reader, Everyone Wins

Dan Versus Nature by Don Calame. Candlewick Press, 2016. 9780763670719.

danvsnatureGene: Dan vs. Nature: the ultimate teen boy book!
Sarah: (laughs)
G: I would give this book to almost any normal, hormonal, insane teen boy that I know.
S: Yes. I gave it to an ELL student who said he liked Calame’s Swim the Fly. His tutor was there with him and didn’t know what the book was about. I said “it’s a nature book. It’s about nature.”
G: It’s like Hatchet, but everybody has a raging boner the entire time.
S: OK, the very first sentence of the book: “Charlie and I are getting our asses punched.” This is why I decided I had to read the entire book. There’s a lot of books where if it grabs me on line one, I’m in. “You had me at hello.”
G: So Dan and his friend Charlie are geeks.
S: Yes, and his mom, uh… hasn’t had the best luck with boyfriends. Continue reading “Gross vs Reader, Everyone Wins”

The Adventure of the Clashing Running Shoes

Running Girl by Simon Mason. Scholastic, 2016. 9781338036428.


What if a mixed-race, 15-year-old suburban British slacker had a mind like Sherlock Holmes’, with his photographic memory, knowledge, and analytical skills? Garvie Smith is bored out of his skull in school, gets terrible grades, refuses to apply himself, and hangs out with friends at the park smoking weed. The only thing he puts any effort into is avoiding another lecture from his mom. Then one of his classmates, Chloe Dow, goes missing. Garvie takes it upon himself to find out what happened to her even as the young and serious Detective Inspector Singh tells him to leave the investigation to the police.

The two brilliant investigators piece together conflicting stories and physical evidence on their own, only occasionally sharing their insights with one another. I rooted for each of them through heaps of twists and turns. This books is 432 pages long and never lags. I am someone who tunes out during chase scenes in pretty much any media, but the one in Running Girl had me gasping on the edge of my seat. I really hope this is the start of a series, or maybe even two: one for Garvie and one for DI Singh.