Friday, June 19, 2020

Cindy Copeland's Graphic-Novel Memoir 'Cub' Celebrates Journalism

I grew up reading newspapers at the breakfast table each morning, starting on the funny pages and gradually working my way into the news sections. When I reached high school, I knew that my natural nosiness about other people, knack for eavesdropping, and love of language and wordplay were a good combination for working on the school newspaper. On to college to study journalism formally, and then work at national newspapers. I absolutely loved walking into the newsroom every day, and I can't read enough about Nellie Bly, Martha Gellhorn, Lee Miller, Margaret Bourke-White, and other female journalists.

When I stumbled onto Cub (Algonquin, 2020) by Cynthia L. Copeland, I fell hard! Race to the bookstore and pick this book up for the budding journalist in your life! Both funny and smart, Cub is Cindy's memoir in which she recalls being a 12-year-old reporter shadowing a local news reporter. Set in 1972-73, there’s so much here: Watergate, Vietnam, ERA, groovy fashions like bell bottoms. John Denver. How girls and women were treated at the dinner table and in the newsroom. As well as the shifting sands of friendships and the agony of first crushes.

A complete joy and a good prompt for discussing how far we've come and how far we still need to go.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Heartbreak, Hope of a Better Life in Graphic-Novel Memoir 'Stars'

World Refugee Day is coming up this Saturday, June 20, and for parents and teachers who want to better understand the refugee experience as they talk with their kids, there are plenty of books to turn to. Among the best I've seen is the new nonfiction graphic novel When Stars Are Scattered (Dial, 2020), written by Somali refugee Omar Mohamed in collaboration with Victoria Jamieson, the Newbery-Honor winning author-illustrator of the beloved Roller Girl (Dial, 2015).

The story is told from the perspective of Omar, who was forced to flee his home at age four with his baby brother, Hassan, after their father was killed and they became separated from their mother. Their childhood was spent in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, and young readers might find it shocking to see how different life is for refugee kids compared to their own day-to-day concerns. The boys go to bed hungry, spend hours in line for basic necessities like water and food rations. School is something Omar can only dream about, and once he's able to attend classes, he feels conflicted that he has to leave his little brother behind. Especially powerful is what happens to Omar's female classmates.

The back matter makes Omar's experience even more real, as he talks about where he's living now and the life he leads today. And how he's working to help other refugees who also dream of a better future. I found myself close to tears throughout. This is an important book for all readers, no matter the age, and for every day—not just World Refugee Day. As we work with children to understand the covid pandemic and how it impacts populations in our cities and around the world, as well as the anti-racism protests and calls for social justice, this is another part of that conversation about building a more just and inclusive world.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

'Go With the Flow' the Graphic-Novel Period Book We All Need

Lily Williams and Karen Schneemann are the brilliant team behind Go With the Flow (First Second, 2020), the informative graphic novel that examines periods in all their embarrassing, confounding glory. While the four friends featured in the story are sophomores in high school, this book is the perfect thing to hand to middle-schoolers who want to learn more about the mysteries of menstruation, cramps, tampons, and fighting the system. While I know it's a fictional tale of friendship, I read it as a nonfiction primer on periods.

Abby, Brit, Christine, and Sasha challenge their school to put feminine hygiene front and center, and keep the tampon and pad machines stocked as a basic service (basic human right) for their students' well-being. Thought-provoking, humorous, spot on (okay, my puns are terrible), you can see how these talented author-illustrators did it via First Second's Comics Relief discussion. Well-written and beautifully illustrated in a palette of reds, Go With the Flow is the book I wish I'd had back in the day—and wish I could have shared with my daughter in her preteen years. A great pairing with American Girl's The Care and Keeping of You.