Judging a Book By Its Cover: New Bloomsbury Harry Potter

Harry Potter and the Philospher's Stone 2014 Let’s be honest: I could write a million posts about Harry Potter covers. Perhaps someday I will; I have a collection of them from all over the world at home.

Right now, I’m too excited for words about this Bloomsbury rerelease. I’m really loving the anime vibe from this version and the Kazu Kibuishi editions in the States.

Way back in the early(ish) days of the internet and Harry Potter fandom, I could spend hours (and this was before Google) searching for low quality scans of foreign editions of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I just had to know how other illustrators imagined my favorite characters and settings.

The Mary GrandPré illustrations will always have a special place in my heart as an American reader who had to have her hardcovers at midnight, but I’m excited about these new editions to bring my favorite stories to a new generation of readers – not that Harry Potter really needs repackaging: it’s enough of a phenomenon that my students are asking me for it even if we only have a couple beat up copies of the original Bloomsbury “children’s cover,” and one donated Sorcerer’s Stone.

Whatever my students think, I’m preordering this cute new cover as soon as I can remember my Amazon.co.jp password.

“What Are You Reading?” Wednesday (May 28, 2014)

Checking in with my weekly “What Are You Reading?” Wednesday post.

What Are You Reading?
I’m still on Akata Witch. I’ve slowed down this week because it’s a busy time at work. I’m trying to cram in the last half of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird before all of our books are due back.

The Three PigsWhat did you recently finish?
Honestly? Nothing. Like I said: slow week.
However, I’ve read David Weisner’s The Three Pigs to all of my classes and it’s more fun every time. What an absolute charmer of a book, I can’t get over how much I love it. My favorite thing to do is get the kids reciting the parts of the story they know (“Little pig, little pig, let me come in!”) because they’re even more amazed when we get to the weird stuff. Everything about this book is great. I think my favorite part might be when the pig looks out at the reader; I like to get my students to wave and say, “hi, pig!”

What do you think you’ll read next?
I’m going to do The Artist’s Way with an online community this summer, starting this week, and I’ll be reading that a chapter at a time as we work through the program. I’m not sure what fiction I’ll pick up next; I have a TBR list about as long as my arm, but the vacation light at the end of the school year tunnel seems so far away that sometimes I despair of ever having enough time to read them all…

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (May 26, 2014)

I know It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a book thing, but I’ve already got What Are You Reading? Wednesdays going, so I’m going to do this in the theme of Things I Read That I Love.

Cinderella

Sunday Fun: Cinderella and the Glass Stripper Slipper @ Sociological Images

#WeNeedDiverseBooks: Hashtags, Frustrations, Explanations by Jennifer for Women of Color in Solidarity

When I was 9, I cried because Emma Watson was Hermione. My world was shattered because I thought that Hermione, brave, smart, cunning, geeky, outspoken, loyal Hermione with her big bushy hair, was Puerto Rican, just like me. And I was 9, and I realized that even though I loved Harry Potter, it didn’t love me back. Because even though Jo Rowling could create this magical world full of mystery and wonder and the impossible I didn’t belong. And I cried because white girls had Martha from Half Magic and Lucy from The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz and Eilonwy from The Black Cauldron and Ella from Ella Enchanted and Odge from The Secret of Platform 13 and of course Alanna from Alanna: The First Adventure and I had no one and I had nothing in the fantasy genre.

Your Childhood Pal, Anne of Green Gables, was Probably Queer by Kat Callahan for ROYGBIV
Really, I think Kat’s headline says it all. I always knew I loved those books for a reason. This summer might be a good time to revisit Anne. It’s been a long time.

Anne of Green Gables may not be the the first work on your list of “classic queer literature,” but maybe it should be. There’s something about Anne Shirley which seems, at least to me, undeniably queer. Anne of Green Gables may not be the the first work on your list of “classic queer literature,” but maybe it should be. There’s something about Anne Shirley which seems, at least to me, undeniably queer.

Speaking “Mexican” and the Use of “Mock Spanish” in Children’s Books by D. Ines Casillas for Sounding Out!

However, perhaps worse than the actual lack is the rise of stereotypic in-your-face representations of race within children’s books – award-winning ones, actually – and their role in teaching children troubling ideas about race, language, and “difference.”

Expanded Gender Options Won’t Fix OkCupid’s Binary Problem by Samantha Allen for xoJane

What Foucault teaches us is that the proliferation of new categories is not an inherently liberatory gesture.

Happy reading! I’ve had a slow week…

Queer Kidlit, Part 1/?

Once upon a time, Kat Callahan asked for book recs for YA lit with gay and trans characters. I got name-dropped straightaway by someone else, which was deeply flattering. So here I am, color-coded list and all.

Titles with a pink star () feature lesbian characters. Titles with a blue star () feature gay male characters. Titles with a purple star () feature bisexual characters. Titles with a green star () feature trans characters. I’ve tried to include only titles with prominent queer characters, but not necessarily protagonists.

Summaries probably include spoilers. I’ve sourced them from Amazon.com unless otherwise noted.

Love in the Time of Global Warming Love in the Time of Global Warming, Francesca Lia Block
Seventeen-year-old Penelope (Pen) has lost everything—her home, her parents, and her ten-year-old brother. Like a female Odysseus in search of home, she navigates a dark world full of strange creatures, gathers companions and loses them, finds love and loses it, and faces her mortal enemy.
Note: I was blown away by the incredibly tender love scene between bisexual Pen and transgender Hex. It wasn’t any more or less explicit than you’d find in your standard cis|hetero YA make-out scene, but it’s one-of-a-kind in YA as far as I know.

Silhouette of a Sparrow Silhouette of a Sparrow, Molly Beth Griffin
In the summer of 1926, sixteen-year-old Garnet Richardson is sent to a lake resort to escape the polio epidemic in the city. She dreams of indulging her passion for ornithology and visiting the famous new amusement park–a summer of fun before she returns for her final year of high school, after which she’s expected to marry a nice boy and settle into middle-class homemaking. But in the country, Garnet finds herself under the supervision of equally oppressive guardians–her father’s wealthy cousin and the matron’s stuck-up daughter. Only a liberating job in a hat shop, an intense, secret relationship with a daring and beautiful flapper, and a deep faith in her own fierce heart can save her from the suffocating boredom of traditional femininity.

Dangerous Angels Dangerous Angels, especially Baby Bebop, by Francesca Lia Block
In five luminous novels, acclaimed writer Francesca Lia Block spins a saga of interwoven lives and beating hearts. These postmodern fairy tales take us to a magical Los Angeles, a place where life is a mystery, pain can lead to poetry, strangers become intertwined souls, and everyone is searching for the most beautiful and dangerous angel of all: love.

Dirk MacDonald, a sixteen-year-old boy living in Los Angeles, comes to terms with being gay after he receives surreal storytelling visitations from his dead father and great-grandmother.
Note: Dirk and his boyfriend, Duck, are in a committed relationship throughout the series. This is the first book I read that addressed HIV/AIDS in the queer community, which is why it’s on this list, but there is some appropriation of Native American cultures by the characters that is never addressed.

I have a longish list of titles, but I’m going to take the time to (re/)read each one so I can decide whether or not I’m comfortable recommending it. Check back for more!

In the meantime, YALSA has a booklist from last year, Trans* Titles for Young Adults, and Celine Kiernan directed me to this Buy a Big Gay Novel for Orson Scott Card Day booklist (from 2011).

Judging a Book by its Cover: Castle of Shadows

Castle of Shadows I read Castle of Shadows by Ellen Renner this week. When I went looking for a cover image for What Are You Reading? Wednesday (which I didn’t even use…) I found that there was more than one cover. I guess this shouldn’t have surprised me so much, but I loved the hardback cover (pictured, left) so much that it didn’t even occur to me that it would get a major redesign.

This is the cover I saw when I was browsing for something new to read, and it pulled me right in. It promised some good, clean middle grade fun. There was some intrigue in there and I liked scruffy looking Princess Charlie right away. In fact, her frizzy hair and the look on her face sold the book to me. I thought, “this is a girl I would love to read about,” and I was right. I just adore Princess Charlie, but more on that another time.

Castle of Shadows The first cover image I found was this one. I still liked the first cover better, because of Charlie and the more imaginative use of type, but this one still told me what I was getting into. The story was actually a little darker than I expected, so I liked that about this cover; the silhouetted castle is imposing and the lights burning inside make it kinda creepy. The kind of castle, which I can’t name but have seen before in movies, helps set a time for this story. Because it’s set in a world similar to but not exactly the same as ours, I had a hard time figuring out when this book took place.

So I asked Ellen Renner about it on Twitter, of course.

… but let’s be honest, how many readers are going to do that?
(I love talking to authors on Twitter. Let me save that for another post, too.)

What I didn’t like so much about this cover is that it obscured Charlie (and Tobias) from view.  Their silhouettes could be running from (or to!) anything, and maybe they’re skipping? It’s hard to tell. I just loved Charlie in the first cover so much that I read a whole book about her; I’m not sure I would have picked up this edition because you can’t see her, not really.

Castle of ShadowsWhich brings me to the paperback.

What is with this cover? I mean, really. This isn’t the Charlie that I read about at all. This is not a book I would have picked up to read for myself and it’s not a book that I would be just dying to get into my library to share with my students.

This looks like a paranormal romance YA novel. I don’t want to knock paranormal, romance, YA or paranormal romance YA, but that’s not what this book is about. It looks like this teenaged princess just escaped another boring soiree and she’s just about to find out about her vampire hunter bloodline or something – not an eleven-year-old girl getting in over her head in political scheming trying to find her missing mother.

Despite my background in graphic design (true story), I never really noticed book covers before I became a librarian. I picked up on some stuff, sure: I bought The Divide because of the cool way the cover opened and I collect different editions of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone from around the world.

… but that was all just personal interest. I never thought (consciously, anyway) about what covers mean. I could “sell” the first two covers of Castle of Shadows to my students, but the last one would be a tough “sell” to the boys and even to a lot of the girls who I think would really love this story because it doesn’t feel like the book inside.

Sure, that last cover is trying to sell the book, but not to the audience that I serve in my job as a librarian.

“What Are You Reading?” Wednesday (May 21, 2014)

Akata WitchWhat are you reading?
I started Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Witch just yesterday, and I’m already ⅓ of the way through it. (I’m a slow reader and it’s 300+ pages, so this is a lot for me.) I can’t put it down. I suggested it for the secondary school and I think it was put in our order last minute because it is unlike any fantasy I have ever read, and I have read a lot of fantasy.

What did you recently finish?
I picked up Akata Witch when I finished Ellen Renner’s Castle of Shadows, which I just adored. I loved Princess Charlie, for all she’s a little brat; she reminded me of a less vicious Lyra Belacqua. I couldn’t put this book down because I had to know what happened, and even though I guessed at a few of the surprises before they were revealed, it didn’t dampen my enjoyment of it at all. What particularly impressed me was the turn of phrase; the language itself was beautiful. Like I said on Twitter:

What do you think you’ll read next?
Castle of Shadows wrapped up nicely, but it ended on a cliffhanger, so I think next on my list is City of Thieves.