ALAN Picks (May 2022)

ALAN Picks: Poetry & Environmentalism

This month’s ALAN Picks features a review of a July 2022 arc (advanced release copy) of the novel in verse Don’t Call Me a Hurricane by Ellen Hagan. A story that features climate activism, romance and the importance of home.

If you are looking for new books for your classroom and engaging ways to use them with students, then check out the new ALAN Picks! 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 with the book title you are interested in reviewing. Next deadline: May 15

A Verse Novel About Environmentalism & Love

Don’t Call Me a Hurricane by Ellen Hagan

Book Details
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing Inc.
Publish Date: July 19, 2022
Page Count: 400
ISBN: 978-1-5476-0916-1
Genre: Realistic Fiction/ Environmental Activism/ Romance/ YA Lit
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Synopsis: This story is set on the New Jersey shore which is recovering after a major hurricane ruined countless houses and lives. Eliza and her family are rebuilding, but still feeling the trauma of the hurricane even five years later. When other families couldn’t rebuild, land developers swooped in and bought up the vacant properties, tore down the hurricane-wrecked homes, and built mansions, reshaping the island from what it once was. Eliza and her friends work together to protect what is left of their home while also trying to enjoy their summer before senior year. Eliza, leading the environmental movement, never expects the flood of emotions that threaten to devour her when she meets Milo, who is new to town and represents so much of what she despises about the world outside her beloved island. 


This novel written in verse is a love song for the peninsula of New Jersey and also an anthem for all young people who have wanted to make a change but have felt stifled in their efforts. It is a celebration of the power of community and activism despite hardship, and it is also a celebration of love, friendship, and forgiveness. Each poem within this novel brings us closer to Eliza and her family and reveals multi-layered characters who are relatable and realistic. All readers may not live on the New Jersey shoreline with Eliza, but they will be rooting for her and her friends throughout the story.   The poems are lyrical and rich with imagery and characterization. 

Young adult readers will enjoy the exploration and complexities of friendship and family that are built within the pages, just as educators will appreciate the opportunity to explore poetry in an approachable way that will open doors to so many research opportunities connected to climate change, environmental activism, and the depletion of natural resources. 

Suggestions for Curriculum & Classroom Use

Thematic Analysis

This novel in verse explores themes that are relatable to both students and educators, making this text not only enjoyable, but decidedly teachable. 

Some thematic topics explored in this novel include:

  • The need for environmental activism
  • The loyalty of family
  • Beauty found in nature 
  • The value of trust
  • Recovery from trauma
  • The power of forgiveness
  • The value found in friendships 
  • The power of community
  • Power and corruption

Essential Questions

  • What are we willing to risk to protect who and what we love most?
  • How does our sense of self develop from where we live and where we grow up?
  • What happens when we feel powerless and incapable of making change? How do/should we respond?

Student Engagement Activities: Favorite Poems

Before reading, give each student 10 post-it notes with the following task: 

“As you read, place a post-it note marking your ten favorite poems. These might shift as you continue reading, but you cannot mark more than 10 favorites. After we finish reading, you will be asked to explain WHY you chose those particular poems as your favorites.”

This activity forces students to stay engaged in the reading of the novel beyond just focusing on characters and plot. It asks students to consider the craft of the writing and to make judgment calls. 

Formative/Summative Assessments

Formative: Once students finish reading the book, they should have determined which of the 10 poems they marked as their favorites. 

Now, ask students to revisit each of those 10 poems and list five reasons they chose it on each post-it note. Ask them to be specific, so rather than writing, “I like this poem because it is pretty,” encourage students to write, “The imagery in this poem allows me to value the setting as much as Eliza does.” 

Then, once students have listed their 5 reasons on each of their post-it notes, have them decide which three poems are their TOP favorites out of the 10. Then ask students, for each of those three poems, to pull out specific lines that they feel capture the essence of that poem. 

Distribute a chart that looks like this and have students fill it in:

Copy the lines and the page number from the book:What is it about these lines that stand out to you the most?How do these lines relate to a character in the story? Be specific.How do these lines relate to the overall meaning of the novel, or a theme, within the story?

Once students complete the chart, they should share out with a partner or even with the class. This chart could then be used as the jumping-off point for an essay.

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

ALAN Picks (April 2022)

ALAN Picks: Some Science and Some Fiction

Get ready for some science and some fiction, but not necessarily together… This month we have a young adult book review of Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer that includes an author Q&A that can be used with the student engagement activity. We also have something special for the younger end of middle grades, a review of Little Killers: The Ferocious Lives of Puny Predators by Sneed B. Collard III.

If you are looking for new books for your classroom and engaging ways to use them with students, then check out the new ALAN Picks! Book reviews by educators for educators!
–  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 with the book title you are interested in reviewing. Next deadline: April 15

A Fantasy that Addresses Class and Survival

Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer

Book Details
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing Inc.
Publish Date: September 21, 2021 
Page Count: 443 
ISBN: 9781547604661
Genre: Fantasy/ Suspense/ Romance/ YA Lit

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Synopsis: Kandala is a kingdom separated by class and status that is under siege by deadly fevers, and too often it is only the elite who are getting the medicines they need in order to survive.  Tessa and her best friend Wes work to steal the Moonflower petals that cure the fever and distribute them to those who cannot afford the life-saving medicine. But when an act of betrayal turns Tessa’s world upside down, she has to learn who she can trust and at what cost.


This fast-paced, suspenseful ride through Kandala is led by the narrative voices of Tessa, an apprentice apothecary, and Corrick, The King’s Justice and Prince of Kandala. These two perspectives interchange, allowing readers access to life both within the castle walls and outside them. Tessa and Corrick are authentically written as distinct and immensely likable characters that readers cannot help but fall in love with. Each chapter creates richer characterization than the last and allows the reader to truly experience the story. With a tightly-woven narrative that makes use of every scene, there isn’t a single character who is placed in this book without a purpose. This book is equal parts romance, fantasy, and thriller with sentences that are so beautiful they deserve a re-read. 

High school students will enjoy the action and suspense in this book as well as the deep family bonds that drive so much of the narrative, just as teachers will appreciate the opportunity to do sentence-level close-reads that emphasize various literary devices such as simile, metaphor, and zeugma. Readers will find themselves lured into Kandala time and time again, and as a book that is the start of a trilogy, it is a good thing for fans that there will be more books in the future. Readers will not want to leave Kandala, Tessa, or Corrick at the end of this novel.  

Suggestions for Curriculum & Classroom Use

Thematic Analysis

This story touches on themes that are universal and deeply rooted in the human psyche in a way that is approachable and relatable for both teenagers and adults alike. 

Some thematic topics explored in this novel include:

  • The loyalty of family
  • The importance of trust
  • The power of forgiveness
  • Distinguishing right vs wrong 
  • The influential nature of class and social status
  • Courage in times of distress
  • Salvation in companionship 
  • The line between heroism and rebellion
  • Power and corruption

Essential Questions

  • What are we willing to do to protect those we love most?
  • How can power and status influence our decisions?
  • What role does the power of community play during times of distress?

Student Engagement Activities: Favorite Sentences

One way to keep students engaged while they are reading is to have them create a slideshow of  their favorite lines in each chapter while they are reading. Students may choose a line because it is particularly well written, contains an example of figurative language, demonstrates rich characterization, or is just funny or appealing to the student in some way. Students should keep each sentence on a separate slide so they have a running record of sentences they love. 

Then, after reading the whole book, students should:

  • share their sentences with a partner in class and discuss why they chose each one.
  • choose three sentences that are their top-favorites from the slide decks, write an explanation as to why they chose those particular sentences as their favorites, and then present those to the class. 

Once students finish reading and analyzing their own favorite sentences, share with them this short interview with Brigid Kemmerer to see which sentence is HER favorite and to see what she hopes students learn about themselves and the world once they read her book.

An Interview with Brigid Kemmerer 

1. What is your favorite line in the book and why? 

“I think that very few people deserve what they get, Tessa. For good or for bad.” 

I had to think about this question for a while, because I often have favorite moments in a book, but not necessarily favorite lines. This one jumped out at me, however, because it’s the root of why I wrote the book.

I love existential questions about humanity, because once you start to pick things apart, more questions develop! It’s one of my favorite parts of writing: examining what makes us human. Look at this line in particular. What do we deserve? Are we owed an outcome in life? Do our actions matter? If not, why not? If they do, why? Most people love to see an underdog rise to the top–but once they’re there, do they become a target? Does our station in life predispose us to certain outcomes? Where does privilege fit in? The questions just keep coming!

2. When kids finish reading your book, what message do you hope they gained, either about the world or themselves?

I hope students realize that we’re all fighting secret battles that we never allow others to see. We all wear metaphorical masks – masks that hide our identity, not medical masks – when we need to. People often ask me about the “villains” in my books, and I never feel like there are villains. Everyone is the hero of their own story. Even villains feel like what they’re doing is right. As Tessa and Corrick discuss, the problem is that we all have different ideas of what’s right.

Formative/Summative Assessments

Formative: Students might want to choose Defy the Night as a choice novel for independent reading or read it in a group for literature circles. With either route, tracking character development through both direct and indirect characterization would be a great way to ensure that students are understanding the complexities of the book as they read. This book has MANY examples of characters acting in ways that are counter to what they believe, which makes reading this book an excellent opportunity to practice analyzing characterization. 

Students can set up a journal with the PAIRS acronym going down the left-hand side of each page, and for pivotal scenes, they can explore the elements of the acronym in a journal entry. For this activity, students will write their thoughts explaining why the elements are significant on the right-hand side of the page. A sample template is included below:

PPhysical Description of the character at this moment in the story and what that tells us about that characterJournal narrative explaining why the character’s physical description in this scene reveals more about the character’s inner essence.
AActions that the character is taking and how those influence who that character is at the coreJournal narrative explaining how this character’s actions reflect what they believe (or not) and what those actions reveal about the character and how he or she is perceived by the world around them. 
IInner thoughts can be explored and are particularly rich when they are in contrast with the actions a character is takingJournal narrative explaining how this character’s thoughts reflect what they believe and do (or how they don’t), and why that is important.
RReactions can reveal a lot about a character and are worthy of being notedJournal narrative explaining how this character’s reactions to others in the novel reveal (or perhaps conceal) their nature.
SSpeech is important to note, especially if it is in contrast to what is being said or what is being doneJournal narrative explaining what this character says, especially in times of high tension, and what that reveals about him or her as a character.

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

A Nonfiction Book About Maintaining Balance in Nature

Little Killers: The Ferocious Lives of Puny Predators by Sneed B. Collard III

Book Details
Publisher: Millbrook Press, An imprint of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc
Publication Date: March 1, 2022
Page Count: 56 
ISBN: 97817284115697 (library binding), ISBN 9781728445397 (ebook)
Genre: Nonfiction/Predatory animals/Parasitology
Audience: Grades 4-6

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Sneed B. Collard III explores the lives of predators, both microscopic and insect-sized, in his latest book, Little Killers: The Ferocious Lives of Puny Predators. In nine chapters, the author introduces the subject and offers a glimpse of eight families of these creatures. Each chapter has a ‘catchy’ title, most of which are alliterative, e.g. “Swarming Spiders” and “Carnivorous Combs;” each chapter is contained within four to six pages. Finally, each page offers a layout which is not text dominant; rather, attractive photos, sidebars, and font/color variety are presented.


Collard infuses Little Killers with a finely tuned sense of balance despite the title, subtitle, and cover photography. Collard believes that the balance of nature is threatened if any of these species are hindered or unnaturally abetted in their usual course by society’s use (or abuse) of the resources of Nature. Moreover, a return of that balance depends partly on young readers’ awareness because they are life-long adventurers, life-long travelers of planet Earth, future voters, current junior scientists, and future adult scientists. Collard displays respect for his audience. He is objective in his argument and appeal, rather than alarmist or sentimental.

Suggestions for Curriculum & Classroom Use

Thematic Connections

  • Science and Nature
  • earth’s planetary changes
  • the study of parasites
  • the necessity of parasites
  • our collective and personal effect on our planet 
  • microscopic life

Essential Questions:

1. What is in the ground, right below our feet, as we walk outside?
2. What parasites or “puny predators” might be on the bottoms of your shoes right now?
3. Why are parasites important to the stability of the earth?
4. What is parasitology?
5. What is your favorite/least favorite creepy, crawling critter?

Assessment Possibilities:

Collard’s words, in text, sidebars, and captions, continuously invite the readers to explore in backyard, in schoolyard, or in neighborhood. Thus, formative assessment begins in each young reader’s mind in imagining the subjects of the book ‘underfoot’ everywhere. Summative assessment is evident in Collard’s additions of pronunciation hints, brief definitions, statistical data, and parenthetical information.

Reviewed by: Rick (Richard A) Williams, Youngstown State University, Youngstown, OH

Vote for the 2022 Book Madness Tournament Top 32!

Vote for the 2022 Book Madness Tournament Top 32!

It’s time again for Book Madness! Help us determine the top 32 picks! Complete this Google Form to cast your votes!

For each category, select your favorite book. The top four (4) in each category will move into our Book Madness Bracket. The voting window closes on Monday, 3/21 at 6 PM EST!

Keep a lookout on Twitter (@ALANorg), Facebook (@alanorganization), and Instagram (@TheALANorg) for more info about our Book Madness Tournament.

~The ALAN Social Media Team

Walden Committee Application Now Open!

Walden Committee Application Now Open!

Interested in applying for the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award (AEWA) Committee? ALAN members interested in being considered for the 2022-2023 AEWA Award committee should click here to submit a self-nomination form.

More information about the award can be found here. Deadline for applications is May 15th, 2022.

ALAN Picks (March 2022)

ALAN Picks: A Rescue Adventure for Middle Grades

Have you had a chance to check out the new review style of ALAN Picks! We kicked off in February with two amazing book reviews on the young adult novels, The Last Telegraph by Malinda Lo and I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys. This month we have a book review on the historical middle grades novel, Pony by R.J. Palacio. 

If you are looking for new books for your classroom and engaging ways to use them with students, then check out the new ALAN Picks! Book reviews by educators for educators!
–  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 with the book title you are interested in reviewing. Next deadline: March 15

A Rescue Adventure That Involves the Supernatural in pre-Civil War America
Pony by R.J. Palacio

Book Details
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC 
Publish Date: September 28, 2022
Page Count: 289 
ISBN: 9780553508116
Genre: Historical Fiction/ Middle Grades/ Mystery/ Ghost Story

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Synopsis: Silas Bird is a 12-year-old boy living in the mid-1850s with his father, a bootmaker and photography enthusiast. When three men arrive on horseback in the middle of the night demanding to take Pa and Silas away to an unknown location, Pa insists Silas be left behind. When the pony the men had brought with them to carry Silas broke away and ran back to Silas, Silas took this as a sign that he needed to go help his father. He and his best friend Mittenwool, his ghostly companion since birth, set out on a dangerous and terrifying adventure together to rescue Pa from what Silas knows deep in his soul is imminent danger. 


Told with a voice that is both sobering and empowering, this multi-layer narrative is equal parts mystery and adventure. It will engage readers from upper-elementary school to middle school. Silas’s adventure to rescue the only person in his life who he loves is a quest of desperation that pushes Silas beyond his own comfort zone, ultimately allowing him to learn about the world around him and grow up in a way that readers both understand and empathize with. With twists and revelations occurring frequently, young readers will remain engaged and curious throughout the entire book. This book, while it is heart-wrenching and told with incredible detail, also enables readers to immerse themselves into a world that seems too rich to be believable, and yet, is absolutely convincing in its execution.  

Suggestions for Curriculum & Classroom Use

Thematic Analysis

This story is rife with thematic explorations and, despite being for younger readers, addresses weighty themes with gentleness and compassion. Some thematic topics explored in this novel include:

  • A mother’s love
  • Companionship/the value of friendship
  • What it means to trust (both ourselves and others)
  • How fate and destiny shape us
  • The noble gift of sacrifice 
  • The consequences of greed
  • Coming of age 
  • Revenge and forgiveness 

Essential Questions

  • How far would someone go for love?
  • How do our decisions affect our futures?
  • How do people react when facing loss? 

Student Engagement Activities: Author’s Craft and Historical Exploration

This book is written so incredibly well that it lends itself to sentence-level study. As a teacher reads this book with students, he or she should stop periodically to point out sentences that are:

  • particularly poignant
  • lend themselves to thematic analysis
  • Or employ figurative language

Once the teacher points out the sentence, students can work together to decide WHY the teacher chose this sentence to isolate and study. If they are given the three choices above, this will have them talking about sentences in ways they may not be accustomed to as they deeply analyze author’s craft. Once students decide why their teacher may have chosen this particular sentence, the teacher can then explain his or her rationale for choosing it and explain what they found as they analyzed the sentence. As an extension of this, in the last chapter, students might choose their own sentences for analysis, present them to the class, have the class decide why the student chose it, and then the student can present his or her own analysis. 

This book would also be a great text to launch a historical exploration of the time period in American history before the Civil War. It touches briefly on the topics such as Native American relocation, scientific discoveries during this time period, and the effects of The Civil War on our nation’s landscape, and all of these would create interesting background research for students. Students could choose a detail from the text to further explore, and then create a slideshow for their peers explaining:

  • what they learned about that topic in the time period
  • how that topic connects to the book
  • how that topic might still be affecting us today. 

Formative/Summative Assessments

Formative: Students should choose three themes to track throughout the entire novel. They could highlight evidence of the themes in three different colors as they read through the text. Then, when they reach the end of the novel, they can choose which theme was the most important of the three when looking at the outcome of the book.  

Summative: Students could choose one of the Essential Questions from the book and one of the themes explored in the book. Then, they could write an essay, or create a presentation, where they explain how the theme helps to answer the essential question and how that question extends beyond the book and into the real world. 

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

February Opportunities: Censorship Resources

February Opportunities: Censorship Resources

ALAN members! Please consider these upcoming opportunities to gather resources and support for censorship issues:

February 24th at 5:00 pm ET: Freedom to Read Roundtable, sponsored by the Texas Library Association, Booklist, and Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group: Click here to register!

February 28th at 8:00 pm ET: How to Fight Book Bans (Student Strategies), sponsored by the National Coalition Against Censorship: Click here to register!

New ALAN Picks Launches

New ALAN Picks Launches

This month marks the launch of the new review style of ALAN Picks! We’re kicking off with two amazing books –  one that is about to hit the shelves and one that recently won the National Book award – by three amazing educators. Both books are also historical fiction this month. If you are looking for Young Adult/Middle Grade book suggestions and engaging ways to use those books with students, then check out these book reviews by educators for educators! – Richetta Tooley

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 with the book title you are interested in reviewing. Next deadline: Feb. 15

A Teen Seeks Truth, Trust and Freedom in 1989 Romania

I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys

Book Details
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Publish Date: Feb. 1, 2022
Page Count: 336 pages
ISBN: 97819848363038
Genre: Historical Fiction/ Young Adult/ Thriller/ Coming of Age

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Set in communist Romania in 1989, 17-year-old Christian just wants friends, a girlfriend, and to be a free thinker like his grandfather. But informants lurk in the streets, in his school, and everywhere else, threatening not just his freedom, but potentially his life. When he can no longer trust his best friend Luca and begins informing on an American ambassador’s family, the lines of friendship and duty get blurred leaving Christian with few places to turn and few people to trust.  


Told in compact, gripping chapters with stunning syntax and relatable characters, this historical young adult novel is one that will keep readers, both young and old, on the edge of their seats. With endless twists and mounting distrust in both the communist system and the characters in the story, readers engage in a journey with Christian as he learns the truth about his country, his community, and ultimately, himself. Thematic topics such as rebellion, friendship, loyalty, and hope interweave throughout the narrative, making it both compulsively readable and relatable for both high school and upper middle grade students. Readers will find themselves immersed within the pages of this story and consider how they might have responded in similar scenarios. 

Suggestions for Curriculum & Classroom Use

Thematic Analysis
Educators will want to consider using this text not only as a pathway into thematic analysis but also as a way to help students understand complex figurative language and rich characterization. Some thematic topics portrayed in this novel include:

  • Abuse of Power
  • Rebellion
  • Friendship
  • Coming of Age
  • Loyalty
  • Sacrifice
  • Individuality
  • Oppression
  • Empowerment
  • The Power of Words/Thought
  • Hope

Student Engagement Strategy: Sentence Stunners
This book is rife with rhetorical and literary devices that will captivate students with their beauty and richness. Teachers could challenge students to find one example of a stunning sentence in each chapter (there are plenty to choose from). They could write the sentences on index cards and display them on a wall inside or outside the classroom as they read. This will both serve as a reminder of craft and keep students engaged during the reading process. They will also enjoy seeing which sentences their peers chose compared to their own. The teacher could pull random sentences from the wall as bell ringers and spend a few minutes analyzing the craft as a model for students, or have students volunteer to explain why the sentence “works”.

Formative/Summative Assessment Suggestions 
Formative: Teachers can check for student understanding by having students keep a dialectical journal as they read. In a dialectical journal, students find powerful/significant sentences in the text and copy them onto the left-hand side of a page. On the right-hand side, they explain why that sentence is particularly powerful or significant. By reading through these journal entries, the teacher will be able to determine if the student is fully grasping the most important components of the novel. 
Summative: Once students finish the novel, they can participate in a class discussion. It works best to have students begin by discussing the themes in the novel and how the themes progressed, but from that discussion, students will naturally blend into discussing other components of the text such as setting, characterization, plot structure, etc. 

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

Love, Identity and Self-Discovery in the McCarthy Era

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

Book Details
Publisher: Dutton Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House
Publish Date: Jan. 19, 2021
ISBN: 9780525555254
Page Count: 408 pages 
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance, Coming of Age

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What began as a burning curiosity within Lily Hu after she found an advertisement for the Telegraph Club featuring a male impersonator gradually becomes a closely guarded secret as she discovers more about her own sexuality and the world outside of San Francisco’s Chinatown. The joy her identities bring are under constant fire because of the deeply ingrained paranoia and fear of McCarthy-Era America. So, Lily is forced to reconcile her responsibilities to her parents and community with her newfound love for Kathleen Miller and her friends at the Telegraph Club, or risk losing both. 


Last Night at the Telegraph Club is a story bursting with love. Malinda Lo’s writing blends realistic conflict with moments of pure joy in an honest and hopeful way that depicts all the fear and bliss of self-discovery. Lily and Kath’s journeys feel like they could take place in any time period, but the historical setting adds further depth by illustrating the intersections of Lily’s queer identity with her Chinese American identity. The effects of marginalization and oppression are compounded with each intersecting identity. It was true for Lily during the Red Scare and Lavender Scare, and it’s true now. As a queer Asian American whose extended family experienced the same grating comments about “speaking such good English” or being asked “Where are you from?”, it was both comforting and depressing to feel represented so accurately. Ultimately though, I still felt safe knowing that the story was written by an author who clearly understood and researched those experiences and the time period. Readers will see Lily go through all the awkwardness and doubt inherent to growing up and learning who she is, and feel seen themselves. Her experiences may be her own, but readers who have felt alone, unsure, or loved will be able to see parts of their lives in Last Night at the Telegraph Club. Lily, Kath, and the reader understand life isn’t without its hardships and injustices, but learning who you are brings its own satisfaction and community.

Suggestions for Curriculum & Classroom Use

Thematic Connections

  • McCarthyism and the Red Scare/Lavender Scare
  • Gender and sexuality
  • Race and racism
  • Family and relationships

Essential Questions:

  • What does it mean to be proud of your identity?
  • What can be done in the face of loneliness? 
  • How do our identities form?

Teaching Strategies and Activities to Use:

  • Historical context introductions with pre-reading or anticipation guide
  • Discussion and research into LGBTQ+ history, club history, and drag history—field trip to a local one or guest speaker
  • Close reading of excerpts from Rise of the Rocket Girls (2016), Wide Open Town: A History of Queer San Francisco to 1965 (2005), All Out: The No-Longer Secret Stories of Queer Teens Through the Ages (2018), and other books referenced by Malinda Lo
  • Discussion about author’s intent and context behind racial themes based on practices and insights from Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop’s “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors” and Matthew Kay’s Not Light, but Fire

Formative and Summative Assessments:

  • Create an advertisement similar to what Lily would have found for a club or performer
  • Personal response journals relating to the conflicts Lily faces
  • Short or extended research into the historical context of the story, including McCarthyism, the Lavender Scare, and the LGBTQ+ community
  • Epilogue expansion writing: Where do Lily and other characters end up after the end? 
  • Alternate Universe/History writing: What would this story look like in a different time period/place?

Reviewed by: Daniel (Danny) Samelson, Student Teacher studying at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois.