Recommended Reading: Diversity in YA

by Rebecca Valley

You may or may not know by now that I work during the day as a middle school librarian. Back in September, I challenged myself to read 20 young adult books before the end of 2016, and as of this morning, I completed my goal — with a comfortable two week cushion, I might add.

I work at a Title I school, and my students were one of the primary inspirations for our Droplet series on young adult and children’s literature. In my school district, about 30% of the students speak Spanish as their first language, and a huge percentage are first generation immigrants from Guatemala and Mexico. Continue reading

Review: Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett

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Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett (Riverhead Books, 2016)
Reviewed by Rebecca Valley

A few weeks ago, while in the middle of Claire-Louise Bennett’s debut novel Pond, I discovered an interesting quote on the paper tag attached to my bag of chamomile tea — a great venue if you’re looking for cheery aphorisms, but rarely a space for particularly thought-provoking material. This particular tag featured a quote from Lord Byron, which read, simply: “There is pleasure in the pathless woods.”
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Review: Light by Rob Cham

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Light by Rob Cham (Anino Comics, 2016)

Reviewed by Rebecca Valley

How to review a book without words? I was confronted with this dilemma when reading Rob Cham’s graphic novel Light, a comic in which two characters – both, of course, nameless – journey through the dark underworld in search of crystals capable of returning color to earth’s surface. The challenge when reviewing a work without words, or even character names, is the instability of the critique – how can you document the emotional arc of a narrative experienced through visual images alone? Continue reading

Editor’s Note: We Are “Threading, Unbroken, Begetting”

This morning, I sent my best friend Annie Finch’s poem Moon for Our Daughters. The middle stanza of the poem reads: “These are our bodies’ own voices, / Powers of each of our bodies, / Threading, unbroken, begetting.” She sent back, “Overnight all my plants wilted at my desk, and I walked to my office in the pouring rain.” Outside my window, the rain came down too.

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Review: Mãn by Kim Thuy

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Mãn by Kim Thúy, trans. by Sheila Fischman (Vintage Canada, 2015)

Reviewed by Rebecca Valley

Usually, the books I pluck from bookstore shelves are familiar – familiar authors, familiar titles from endless lists of books I have to read before I die lest I pass on without have experienced the one literary treasure I’d been holding out for. This book was different.

I found Kim Thuy’s novel Mãn in the clearance section of Elliot Bay Books in Seattle, a little gem among a hodgepodge of forgotten coffee table history tomes and books of smoothie recipes. Continue reading

Droplet: The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place

 

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The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #1: The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood (Balzer and Bray, 2010)

Reviewed by Rebecca Valley

For more on our Droplet series on young adult and children’s literature, click here.

When I am lonely or sad, I often find solace in a strange little book called Horseradish, a collection of quotes gathered from Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events. The quotes are parsed out by category – for example, “Family,” “Travel,” and “An Overall Feeling of Doom that One Cannot Ever Escape No Matter What One Does” – and because Daniel Handler authored them they each contain just the right balance of absurdity and poignancy, so that after skimming the book you don’t feel better about your circumstances, but you do feel like you aren’t the only sad and lonely person in the world. Continue reading