Sunday, March 25, 2018

Inspiring youth activism: Marley Dias Gets It Done--And So Can You! (ages 10-14)

I have been so inspired by the groundswell of youth activism--the March for Our Lives this past weekend was incredible. I participated in San Francisco, and my eldest was in DC for the march. I especially found this speech by 11 year old Naomi Wadler brave and inspiring.

Are you and your kids inspired by this call to action? As adults, we need to support our kids to help create the changes they want to see. I highly recommend Marley Dias Gets It Done--and So Can You! Marley Dias shares her experience as a young activist advocating for diversity in the books in her school.

Marley Dias Gets It Done--And So Can You!
by Marley Dias
Scholastic, 2018
Amazon / Your local library / Google Books preview
ages 10-14
*best new book*
At the age of ten, Marley Dias launched the #1000blackgirlbooks book drive campaign. She was frustrated by the lack of diversity in books her teachers were asking her to read, and she decided to collect a thousand books featuring black girls as the protagonist. Marley's positive attitude and youthful energy radiates in this guide to becoming an activist.
"During my travels I have met thousands of kids like me who are passionate about their own causes, who have dreams they want to make come true, and who are ready to do something. I'm eager to share my story with them and you."
Marley makes her story personal, showing how she developed her passion for her cause and then turned that commitment into action. I love her conversational tone: "But hold up. Wait a minute, Marley, slow down. I'm getting ahead of myself, as usual." How's this for telling it straight:
"Plus, to get basic about it: How can educators expect kids to love, instead of dread, reading when they never see themselves in the stories they're forced to read?"
Marley encourages readers to find their passion and make it personal. She shows how she used social media to get the word out and convince others to join her. She covers topics ranging from how to stay strong to the importance of keeping your phone charge to her mantra: "Be the change you want to see in the world."

I especially appreciate how Marley talks about her love of fashion and hairstyles. One librarian friend talked about how her kids love paging through this, debating which outfit they like best. Marley would totally love that. "Yes, you can like school and style simultaneously." She writes directly about her hair, her love of different hairstyles, and the importance of being a role model for other black girls.
"Black girl hair has so many different meanings. So much history...The way I style it expresses my creativity. The way it can transform into different beautiful shapes from one day to the next symbolizes my grace. All girls deserve to know how empowering that feels, to embrace their natural state and love it for everything it is."
The audiobook, narrated by Damaras Obi, brings her sparkling personality and upbeat writing directly to the reader. I recommend reading and listening to this, because the layout and design of the print book is so engaging. The photographs of Marley pop and highlight her magnetic spirit. Quotes are called out in catchy boxes, and sidebars give extra information.

Marley's call to action is contagious. She believes in young readers, and she shows how we can work together to create real change. As a friend at yesterday's march told me, the children of today are going to create real changes in our world.

The review copy came from my local library; I listened to the audiobook on Tales2Go. I have already purchased several copies for our school libraries. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, March 18, 2018

March: Inspiring student activism and #goodtrouble (ages 11 and up)

Although the past several months have left me feeling disillusioned with Washington politics, I have been moved and inspired by the response of young people across the US to the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Tens of thousands of students across the United States walked out of school on Wednesday, March 14, demanding action on gun violence in a National School Walkout.
Berkeley High School students
protesting gun violence, March 14, 2018
via Berkeleyside
Nonviolent civil disobedience is a powerful tool to protest unjust laws or policies. Inspired by the teachings of Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., our students are continuing this tradition. Across the country, students formed peace signs, held rallies, and led marches in their communities.
"We're sick of it," said Maxwell Nardi, a senior at Douglas S. Freeman High School in Henrico, Virginia, just outside Richmond. "We're going to keep fighting, and we're not going to stop until Congress finally makes resolute changes." (Newsela)
If your teens are interested in political protests, share Congressman John Lewis's graphic novel memoir series March. The combination of stark illustrations, quick-moving panels and personal voice creates an intense and accessible memoir. The account starts with a conversation with two young visitors in Lewis' congressional office just prior to Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration, and then uses flashbacks to Lewis's childhood and formative years with Dr. King.

Creating political change requires more than marching. We need to encourage our students to write to political leaders and express their views. These don't need to be long letters, but they need to express their personal views. As John Lewis's coauthor Andrew Aydin writes in an essay introducing March: 30 Postcards to Make Change and Good Trouble,
"Human beings are social animals. We need human interaction... If you're trying to change someone's mind, you need to be personal; you need to establish a connection to share your ideas. You need to make sure a very real part of you shows up to make sure your voice and your ideas are heard."
Aydin's essay is powerful, personal and will reach young people. I'm excited to share these postcards with students at our library. We'll mail any postcard they write to their legislators.
Check out these quick tips on writing to your elected officials. Harness the momentum your teens feel and encourage them to continue to be involved.

The review copy of the March postcards was kindly sent by the publisher, Chronicle Books; the copy of March came from my local library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Amina's Voice & read-alikes: connecting readers with more books (ages 9-12)

Many of our students really enjoyed reading Amina's Voice, by Hena Khan, as part of our Mock Newbery Book Clubs. They connected with the way Amina learns to cope with her nerves, finds the courage to perform, and deals with the pressures of sixth grade.
Amina's Voice
by Hena Khan
Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster, 2017
Amazon / your local library / Google Books preview
ages 9-12
As Amina starts sixth grade, she struggles with friendship and family issues. At school, her best friend Soojin is befriending another girl, Emily. Soojin is also talking about becoming an American citizen and taking a second, more American name. Amina just wants things to stay the same with Soojin.

At home, Amina loves to sing; true to her parents' nickname (geeta, 'song' in Urdu), she has a beautiful voice. Amina avoids the spotlight, and prefers to sing by herself. When her uncle Thaya Jaan, who is visiting from Pakistan, tells her parents that her singing and piano playing are un-Islamic, she feels undermined and unsure of herself just as she's trying to get up the courage to perform at a school concert.

Students of many backgrounds really responded to this story. Here are some of their comments:
  • "It totally hooked me and stayed with me."
  • "I liked the beginning how she felt nervous and scared, and then she overcame this."
  • "It was intense when their mosque burnt down."
  • "I could relate to having arguments with a friend."
Berkeley librarians worked together to recommend "read-alikes" for students who enjoyed Amina's Voice.
If you liked Amina's Voice for the way Amina found her own voice, you might try:
If you liked Amina's Voice for the way it portrayed a Pakistani family in America, you might try:
In looking for read-alikes, we tried to think of a "hook" to give a student a connection to another book. We also looked for books that would appeal to students at a similar emotional level and reading level. This is not an exact match, but rather a general guide to help us. We also looked for books that many of our libraries have and books that are still in print.

Many thanks to all of the librarians in Berkeley (both at BUSD school libraries and Berkeley Public Library) who are helping us create these read alike lists. Please let us know if you have any other books to add to these suggestions!

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Wrinkle in Time: the movie, the novel & the graphic novel (ages 9-14)

In her Newbery medal-winning classic, A Wrinkle in Time, Madeline L'Engle created Meg Murray, an angsty, angry, passionate, heroic young girl on a quest to save her father and vanquish evil from the universe.

Does Ava DuVernay's film adaptation capture the story and L'Engle's characters? Most certainly yes. I can also certainly say that the movie is best seen alongside reading both the original novel and the recent graphic novel adaptation. Yes, see this movie AND read the book.

A Wrinkle in Time is a visual splendor. DuVernay catapults us into the fantastical otherworlds of Uriel, Ixchel and Camazotz. Even more than that, she gives us a Meg we can easily identify with, a young teen struggling with bullying at school, a missing father and a world that doesn't seem to recognize her gifts. As A.O. Scott wrote in The New York Times,
"It is the first $100 million movie directed by an African-American woman, and the diversity of its cast is both a welcome innovation and the declaration of a new norm."
I especially appreciate the way Meg is an introverted, brainy heroine who struggles to control her emotions. I am grateful for the additional layers that DuVernay added with Meg's biracial identity. She is a young teen many girls today can relate to.
Storm Reid as Meg Murray, in A Wrinkle in Time
Meg is called on a classic hero's quest, and through her journey she battles her insecurities, claims her purpose and discovers hope for the world. Storm Reid plays her with a perfect balance of straightforward every-girl and brainy teenage heroine. She is rightfully frustrated at the injustices around her, and she discovers that the answers lay in both her heart and her critical problem-solving.

The Mrs. W's were imaginatively realized in the movie. Although they were not what I had imagined when I first read this story, they came alive on the screen as fully realized characters. I must say that Oprah's Mrs. What captured the inner voice of wisdom and guidance much more than the original text or even the audiobook, in which her language came across as hissing or stuttering.

While the movie captures the emotional development and visual tone of the story, its rushed ending left me thinking back to the book. I missed Aunt Beast's careful tending to Meg, helping her discover the light and hope in the world. I wondered how Calvin reunited with Meg.

I hope those questions will lead children back to reading or rereading the books, both Madeline L'Engle's original A Wrinkle in Time and Hope Larson's graphic novel adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time.
In the end, I so appreciate the way Ava DuVernay embraced and captured this imaginative, passionate heroine. Meg wrestles with the existence of good and evil, she embraces love and hope, she claims her identity as a geeky girl who can figure out how to solve problems much bigger than herself. As Madeline L'Engle said in her Newbery Medal acceptance speech in 1963,
"We have the vocation of keeping alive Mr. Melcher's (the founder of the Newbery award) excitement in leading young people into an expanding imagination. Because of the very nature of the world as it is today our children receive in school a heavy load of scientific and analytic subjects, so it is in their reading for fun, for pleasure, that they must be guided into creativity."
Yes, that is just it. Books help young readers discover expanding worlds. Stories lead to stories, ideas create more ideas. I can't wait to hear what others think of this movie and whether it will bring them back to reading the stories.

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books