ALAN Picks (January 2023)

ALAN Picks: Feminism, Friendship & Beauty

This month’s ALAN Picks features reviews of three books that encounter the themes of feminism, friendship and conflict with society’s standards and rules for girls and women. These books include a contemporary coming of age story Does My Body Offend You? by Mayra Cuevas and Marie Marquard, a magical fantasy How to Succeed in Witchcraft by Aislinn Brophy, and a memoir A Face for Picasso by Ariel Henley. The books explore ideas of how girls and young women are affected by societal standards, how they stand up to those standards and how they support each other in the process. Check out these reviews for ideas on how to use these books with students in the classroom. 

ALAN Picks Update: ALAN Picks is now accepting reviews of books published as far back as spring 2020. This gives ALAN members who are interested in reviewing books more great titles to choose from, as well as accommodate some great books released during the beginning of the pandemic that deserve highlighting. If you have some books in mind that you would like to review, please reach out to me!

If you read an ALAN Picks review and end up using the book with your students, let us know! We want to hear all of your great stories and engaging ways you are using young adult and middle grades literature in your classrooms. Remember, ALAN Picks are book reviews by educators for educators! Click on the archives to see previous editions. 

–  Richetta Tooley, ALAN Picks Editor

Submit a Review: Would you like to submit a review? Check out ALAN Picks for submission guidelines and email ALAN Picks Editor, Richetta Tooley at richetta.tooley@gmail.com with the book title you are interested in reviewing. Rolling deadline.


Friendship, Feminism, and Fighting the Power

Does My Body Offend You? by Mayra Cuevas and Marie Marquardt

Book Details
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: April 5th, 2022
Page Count: 432 pages
ISBN: 9780593425855
Genre:  YA fiction, Coming of Age
Find on Bookshop

Synopsis: After hurricane María destroys her home in Puerto Rico, Malena Rosaurio must start a new life at a new school in Florida. When she starts off on the wrong foot with administration for coming to school without a bra, they refuse to understand she has a bad sunburn and shame her for her body. As she fumbles with the panty liners that the Assistant Principal and Nurse insist she use to cover her nipples, Ruby McCallister, the school’s biggest feminist, swoops in to make her aware of her rights. Ruby and Malena learn more about themselves and each other as they work together to fight the dress code and navigate their complicated relationship with the world around them as young women.

Review:

Told in chapters by alternating by character perspective, readers can easily relate to and internalize the tensions between Malena and Ruby throughout the intensity and authenticity of the friendship. The way each character perceives the novel’s interactions and situations offers an important insight on the value of perspective and how aspects of identity contribute to the way one experiences the world. The story reexamines common young adult experiences of relationships (platonic and romantic), parties, and activism through the lenses of gender, race, and class. By giving equal time and space for each character’s thoughts and feelings, the novel beautifully demonstrates to readers the value of knowing when to speak out and when to step back.

Suggestions for Curriculum & Classroom Use

Thematic Connections:

  • Feminism
  • Gender and sexuality
  • Race and racism
  • Family structures

Essential Questions

  • How can one make others feel heard?
  • What components make up one’s identity?
  • What does it mean to recognize your own privilege?
Teaching Strategies and Activities to Use:
  • Research into the histories of liberation and empowerment through fashion/clothing
  • Examination of different school’s dress codes, using a critical lens to analyze what kinds of power dynamics they enforce
  • Close listening, reading, and comparison of the text to poems about intersectionality like “Suggestions from a White Feminist Poets” by Tova Charles and “Dress Code” by Liza Banzaca
  • Discussion about author’s intention and how reading is a gendered act based on insights from Chapter 5, The Social Construction of Gender: A Lens of One’s Own, of Deborah Appleman’s Critical Encounters in Secondary English: Teaching Literary Theory to Adolescents.
Formative/Summative Assessments:
  • Choose a section of dress code from a school of your choice and revise it the way Malena and Ruby would. Use textual evidence to justify your modifications.
  • Complete short or extended research into other aspects of fashion as a component of identity/experience (topics of exploration may include but are not limited to school dress codes, religious dress, defying gender/beauty standards in the fashion industry, victim blaming, etc.).
  • Create a protest poster with a slogan and an image that one might see at the protests depicted in the novel. Students can hang the posters up around the room and do a gallery walk where they provide feedback with sticky notes of compliments and/or constructive criticisms.
  • Keep chapter journal responses with personal reactions to Malena and Ruby’s respective interpretations of their experiences. Use journals to later create a chart/graphic organizer that shows how different elements of their identities contribute to their experiences of the plot.
  • Open class discussion about what kinds of gender stereotypes the novel enforces and/or challenges.

Reviewed by: Arden Woodall, Undergraduate English Education student studying at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.


A Magical World With Contemporary Issues for BIPOC & Queer Young Women

How to Succeed in Witchcraft by Aislinn Brophy

Book Details
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: September 27, 2022
Page Count: 416 pages
ISBN: 978-0593354520
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Find on Bookshop

Synopsis: Shay Johnson is a junior at T.K. Anderson Magical Magnet School who has been fighting for the scholarship given to one senior that would secure her a spot in her dream university. When she and her greatest rival, Ana Alvarez, both get star leads in the school theater production, led by the head of the scholarship committee, Mr. B, Shay has to balance a hectic junior year: dedicating herself to her academics and the intensely-inclusive play. But as she finds herself trapped between a rivalry romance with Ana through the play, she discovers a much deeper, darker secret—Mr. B isn’t what he seems, and Shay must uncover the truth of how previous scholarship recipients were selected, putting her own dream in jeopardy.

Review

How to Succeed in Witchcraft is a witchy contemporary fantasy based on the concept of if our modern-day society was established through magic. For a story with a light-hearted voice, deeper themes underlie the text’s story revolving around racism, microaggressions, grooming, and homophobia. With an all-BIPOC cast, Brophy addresses racial issues for young women, especially young queer women, through a beautifully-crafted magical history. This book features girls standing up for other girls to protect future women, and tackles real-world issues that young BIPOC and queer women face in an American public high school setting.

Suggestions for Curriculum & Classroom Use

Thematic Analysis:

  • This story features numerous themes revolving around the concepts of social justice and female empowerment. Some of the themes explored include:
  • Microaggressions
  • Grooming and predatory behavior in male figures with power
  • Racism
  • White performatism “inclusivity”
  • #MeToo movement
  • Girls standing up for girls
  • Female empowerment
  • Homophobia, specifically lesbophobia

Essential Questions

  • How does white performatism affect young women of color?
  • How can women work together to take the power away from white men?
  • How does identity affect academic opportunity?

Teaching Strategies and Activities to Use:

  • Discussion and research of the #MeToo movement, especially how the movement affected women of color
  • Discussion on microaggressions  and microaggressions observed in the novel
  • Examination of intersectionality between a queer identity and being a woman of color
  • A close reading with themes from The Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley to develop a greater understanding of the problems women of color face in their adolescence

Formative/Summative Assessments

Formative: Students are each assigned to a single character, and are to keep a journal throughout each chapter of how that character’s identity affects the character, within the greater themes of racism, homophobia, and power. Journal entries begin with a quote featuring the character’s identity, and analysis contains the student’s perspective of how the identity may relate to the student’s own social setting. By quoting and analyzing identity, the teacher can examine the student’s reading comprehension and understanding of the novel.

Summative: Students each individually research an article surrounding a microaggression they observed within the novel, write a summary on how it influenced the plot, then meet in groups to discuss. The goal is for the students to understand both how a microaggression affects plot and theme, and how it relates to the world around them. Examples of reliable sources for research include the University of Minnesota’s table on microaggressions, BMC Psychology’s study on microaggressions, or Columbia University’s study on microaggressions.

Reviewed by: Sarah Prather, sophomore at Colorado State University majoring in restoration ecology and minoring in creative writing, Fort Collins, Colorado


A Memoir About Beauty, Bullying & Crouzon Syndrome

A Face for Picasso by Ariel Henley

Book Details
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publish Date: November 2, 2021
Page Count: 400
ISBN: 0374314071
Genre: Memoir
Find on Bookshop

Synopsis: A Face for Picasso is a memoir by Ariel Henley that tells her personal stories of growing up with Crouzon Syndrome, a deformity of the skull in which the bones prematurely fuse together leaving no room for the brain to grow within. Because of this syndrome, Ariel’s face is left looking not quite like the people around her. Ariel recounts the different traumatic surgeries and school experiences she went through with her identical twin sister, Zan, who also suffers the bullying of Crouzon Syndrome. The book begins with some of her earliest memories and comes to a conclusion about where she is now in her adult life. Ariel also does a beautiful job of tying in a narrative about Pablo Picasso and how people she and her sister feel as if they were just cubist paintings by the problematic artist. 

Review

A Face for Picasso is an astounding look into the experience of growing up with Crouzon Syndrome in a world where traditional beauty – what mainstream media tells us is correct – is highly valued. Ariel’s story is compelling and necessary to read, giving the reader a way to consider how it feels to be an outcast in society. This topic is necessary for young adults to read because of the constant stigma around beauty standards, especially at a young adult age. The language of the book was easy to follow but did not feel too immature for an adult to read as well. This book most definitely promotes empathy. Ariel gives many instances where the reader would be able to walk in her shoes. Empathy is something young students need to be aware of and this novel could definitely help students to become more empathetic individuals. When I was between 12 and 18 I definitely would have benefited from reading a book of this nature.

Suggestions for Curriculum & Classroom Use

Essential Questions

An essential question for this memoir could be: “Does society ‘other’ people who do not fit within prescribed beauty standards?” Throughout the work, Ariel goes through and inserts situations where she was judged for her looks. She talks about a situation on the cheerleading team that specifically outlines how she was deprived of opportunities simply because her face does not look like others.

Teaching Strategies and Activities to Use

For a whole class study of this book, I would facilitate a discussion about the book regarding beauty standards. I would start by just asking the students about what kind of beauty standards they feel pressured to live up to. Some specific questions could be: “What beauty standards do you see in society?” and “Do you feel the need to live up to these standards?”. I would then have the students connect it back to the book and the different struggles Ariel’s experiences. Another way these questions could be posed would be in an online discussion board post. This way students could cite specific points in the book and show how the book deals with beauty standards and emotions because of them as they read. 

Summative Assessment

Students can write their own shortened memoirs and use Ariel’s memoir as a mentor text. In the book, Ariel talks about how she was inspired to write this memoir based on a memoir assignment that she did in one of her college classes. Another idea for younger grades would be to take the idea of a memoir and make a storyboard. The students would pick one memory they would like to write about and create a visual poster or project whether it be a comic strip, a PowerPoint, or pictures from their real life. This book is great to use when teaching memoirs to students. Memoirs can be so powerful for students to understand other’s stories, and this book is an example of that.

Reviewed by: Claire Shenker, Student, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN

Sign-up for Macmillan Publishing Happy Hour Virtual Meetups!

Sign-up for Macmillan Publishing Happy Hour Virtual Meetups!

Attention ALAN Members!

We are lucky enough to partner with Macmillan Publishing to offer up unique Happy Hour Virtual Meetups with authors!  These meetups will allow you to meet with the best YA authors from the comfort of your living room and get a sneak peek of what is coming this year.

Macmillan is giving ALAN members the opportunity to participate in these amazing meetups, which they want to keep personable, so you can really interact with the authors.  

Thank you for filling out the Macmillan Meetup survey ASAP-ideally before midnight on January 9th, 2023, or we might not be able to include you, at least for the first meetup this upcoming Wednesday, January 11, 2023.  

ALAN’s 2022 Bill Konigsberg Award Recipient

ALAN’s 2022 Bill Konigsberg Award Recipient

ALAN’s 2022 recipient of the Bill Konigsberg Award for Acts and Activism for Equity and Inclusion through Young Adult Literature is shea wesley martin!

The Konigsberg Award, established in 2018, is presented annually to an individual who has acted in selfless advocacy of marginalized youth through the creation, teaching, funding or other form of promotion of young adult literature. This award was initiated to recognize individuals standing up for groups of young people who are victimized by hate speech or actions. For wielding the power of young adult literature with thought and intention to make the world a better place, the winner will receive $300 and be recognized at the ALAN Breakfast.

https://www.sheawesleymartin.com/work

ALAN Picks (October 2022)

ALAN Picks: A Verse Novel About Survival & Loneliness

This month’s ALAN Picks features a review of a January 2021 verse novel, Alone by Megan E. Freeman. A story that features a young girl trying to survive on her own in a dystopian world. 

ALAN Picks Update: ALAN Picks is now accepting reviews of books published as far back as spring 2020. This gives ALAN members who are interested in reviewing books more great titles to choose from, as well as accommodate some great books released during the beginning of the pandemic that deserve highlighting. If you have some books in mind that you would like to review, please reach out to me!

If you read an ALAN Picks review and end up using the book with your students, let us know! We want to hear all of your great stories and engaging ways you are using young adult and middle grades literature in your classrooms. Remember, ALAN Picks are book reviews by educators for educators! Click on the archives to see previous editions. 

–  Richetta Tooley, ALAN Picks Editor

Submit a Review: Would you like to submit a review? Check out ALAN Picks for submission guidelines and email ALAN Picks Editor, Richetta Tooley at richetta.tooley@gmail.com with the book title you are interested in reviewing. Rolling deadline.


A Verse Novel About Survival

Alone by Megan E. Freeman

Book Details
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publish Date: Jan. 12, 2021
Page Count: 401
ISBN: 978-1-5344-6756-9
Genre: Survival/ Dystopia/ Novel in Verse/ YA Lit 
Find on Bookshop

Synopsis: 12-year-old Maddie is the only person left in her town…or any neighboring towns. She wakes up one morning after a failed attempt at a secret sleepover, and her entire town has been evacuated. Her mom thinks she is with her dad. Her dad thinks she is with her mom, and their cell phones have been discarded by the same government that forced them to leave their homes. Maddie is left to forage to survive as weeks turn to months and then months turn to years. Her biggest battle isn’t the looters or the wild animals who threaten her existence, it is the loneliness that she battles after so much time spent in isolation.

Review

Reading a novel written in verse is an enjoyable experience for young readers due to the quick pace and limited narration, but when that novel is a survival story, those elements are heightened. The pacing of this book is quick due to the sparse text, which heightens the emotions of the main character and also allows the reader to immerse themselves in the world that is being crafted. It also eliminates the large blocks of text that would not be broken up by dialogue…since there is nobody for Maddie to talk to. 

Beyond this being an engaging read, this book helps to highlight mental health and how important it is to have not just physical safety but a safe mental space as well. When loneliness becomes almost as big a burden as a snow storm or a group of looters, it places the highlight on self-awareness and survival in every sense of the word.

Many of the poems that make up this novel could stand on their own, delving deep into what it means to be human. But some poems lighten the mood with the exploits of Maddie and her adopted/rescued dog as they traverse the town and celebrate triumphs. Maddie’s relationship with her family, despite their absence for a majority of the novel, is a special focus in this novel that will be relatable to student readers. 

Young readers will enjoy this book and the harrowing feats Maddie endures, but they will also enjoy the beautiful language on its own, as this book melds lyrical text with fast-paced action. 

Suggestions for Curriculum & Classroom Use

The themes in this novel are relatable for both young readers and adult readers, making this text not only enjoyable, but teachable. Some thematic topics explored in this novel include:

  • Survival in the face of natural disaster
  • Corruption of government
  • The loyalty of family
  • Beauty found in nature
  • Surviving loneliness
  • Recovery from trauma
  • The power of community
  • Power and corruption

Essential Questions

  • Is survival enough, or do we need more than mere survival as humans?
  • How do our families and communities help shape us as people?
  • What should we do when loneliness threatens to overwhelm us?

Student Engagement Activities: Favorite Poems

Before reading, give each student five post-it notes of one color and five post-it notes of another color with the following task: 

“As you read, place a post-it note (choose one color specifically) marking the five poems where Maddie seems to be at her emotional lowest. With the other color of post-it notes, mark the poems where Maddie is at an emotional high point. You may need to move your post-it notes as you read and make some decisions about which are the highest highs and the lowest lows.”

This activity encourages students to focus their energy on exploring Maddie’s emotional journey as she survives this familiar territory in an unfamiliar way.

Formative/Summative Assessments

Formative: Once students finish reading the book, they should have marked their 10 poems as having the highest highs and the lowest lows for Maddie’s emotional state. 

Now, ask students to revisit each of those 10 poems, on a post-it note, and write a sentence defending this particular poem as their choice. They should include textual evidence for why this poem demonstrates the lowest lows or the highest highs. 

Summative Activity: Once students have explained on their post-it notes why they chose each poem, have them work with a partner to compare poem selections. Have them work together to determine which single poem demonstrates Maddie’s lowest emotional point in the novel and which demonstrates her highest emotional point in the book. 

The partners can now analyze the language in the poems to determine what writing decisions the author made in each of these poems to demonstrate to readers Maddie’s emotional state. Perhaps the author used powerful diction or vivid imagery or particularly powerful metaphors. Whatever the students find, they should capture on two posters similar to the format below. 

Poem Title for Highest Point

Label the writing decision the author made
“Textual example”

Label the writing decision the author made
“Textual example”

Label the writing decision the author made
“Textual example”
Poem Title for Lowest Point

Label the writing decision the author made
“Textual example”

Label the writing decision the author made
“Textual example”

Label the writing decision the author made
“Textual example”

Once students complete the posters, they should hang them up around the room (or in a hallway) and students should do a gallery walk. This works nicely if you give every student in the class four small stickers and they can put their stickers on the posters they agree with most strongly. 

Reviewed by: Heather Garcia, Curriculum and Instruction Specialist for Secondary ELA and Media, Charlotte County, Florida.

2022 ALAN Breakfast Speaker Announced

2022 ALAN Breakfast Speaker Announced

The 2022 ALAN Breakfast speaker will be Angeline Boulley!

Angeline Boulley, an enrolled member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, is a storyteller who writes about her Ojibwe community in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. She is a former Director of the Office of Indian Education at the U.S. Department of Education. Her debut YA novel Firekeeper’s Daughter is the winner of the 2022 Printz Award, Morris Award, Walter Award, Edgar Award, and a American Indian Youth Literature Award Young Adult Honor Book. It was an instant #1 New York Times bestseller, a TIME Magazine Best YA Book of All Time selection, and a Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club YA pick. Firekeeper’s Daughter is being adapted for Netflix by the Obamas’ production company, Higher Ground. Angeline’s second novel Warrior Girl Unearthed will be available on May 2, 2023.

Press Release: ALAN Award 2022

Press Release: ALAN Award 2022

The Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE (ALAN) is pleased to announce Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop as the recipient of the 2022 ALAN Award. The award is given to honor those who have made outstanding contributions to the field of adolescent literature. Join us at the ALAN Breakfast to celebrate Dr. Bishop’s achievements. 

Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop is Professor Emerita of Education at The Ohio State University, where she has taught courses on children’s literature.  Dr. Bishop is often referred to as the mother of multicultural literature and is the author of several books including Shadow and Substance: Afro-American Experience in Contemporary Children’s Fiction (1982), Presenting Walter Dean Myers (1990), Kaleidoscope: A Multicultural Booklist for Grades K-8 (1994),  Wonders: The Best Children’s Poems of Effie Lee Newsome (1999), and Free within Ourselves: The Development of African American Children’s Literature (2007). Shadow and Substance provided a framework for analyzing cultural authenticity in children’s books, which remains today a standard in the field.  Dr. Bishop’s essay, “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors (1990)” focused on the need for black children to see themselves in the books that they read. The metaphor continues to be widely referenced by educators, librarians, academics, textbooks, conference presentations and academic journals; it’s also the subject of TEDx talks, podcasts, and blogs.  Dr. Bishop’s work was used to inspire the We Need Diverse Books movement, an organization devoted to promoting, celebrating and supporting diverse representations in publishing and youth literature.    

Dr. Bishop received the distinguished 2017 Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement from the American Library Association (ALA), the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Outstanding Educator in English Language Arts Award, and the International Literacy Association’s (ILA) Arbuthnot Award. She was the chair of the Coretta Scott King Award Jury and has been on the selection committee for both the Newbery and Caldecott Awards. Also, the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) , a division of ALA, selected Dr. Bishop to give the 2021 Lecture. Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop’s work has been pivotal in the change in publishing trends, public and school library collections, teaching practices at all levels, and the lives of children and adolescents who have had access to books with increased diversity. 

Dr. Christina Dorr will provide remarks on behalf of Dr. Bishop at the upcoming ALAN breakfast to be held on November 19 during The 2022 NCTE Conference in Anaheim, CA.  ALAN Award Committee members are Chair Lisa Morris-Wilkey, Dr. Rob Bittner, Jewel Davis, Shalonda Foster, and Morgan Jackson.

Nominate for the 2022 Bill Konigsberg Award

Nominate for the 2022 Bill Konigsberg Award

ALAN is now accepting nominations for the 2022 Bill Konigsberg Award for Acts and Activism for Equity and Inclusion through Young Adult Literature. This award is presented annually to someone who advocates for marginalized youth through the creation, teaching, funding or other form of promotion of young adult literature. Nominations are open through September 15th, 2022.

Click here to submit a nomination.