*SPOILERS* Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

At times, it felt like a highlight reel, sort of a “Harry Potter, this is…your life!” with lots of nods to fandom, especially alternate relationships & their inevitable trajectories (cough, cough, Ron and Hermione).

Other times it was surprising to the point of disbelief, & not the “inevitable surprises” more typical of Rowling (cough, cough, Delphi’s parents).

And it lacked the strength of its own convictions about the Scorpious /Albus relationship.

…but I loved it anyhow. Still. I loved it for:

  • Seeing Snape soften over time and become the best version of himself.
  • Hearing Dumbledore name himself “tricky and dangerous” (something I’d never even considered until I read Rowell’s CARRY ON).
  • Witnessing Hermione as Minister of Magic, as a warrior (a la Princess Leia), and as a mean professor.
  • Remembering just how important Neville Longbottom really is.
  • Reading really great lines again, like “She’s weaponized her library!” and “those Dumbledore terrorists” and “Thank Dumbledore.”

And I loved it as an adult. As a mom. Watching Harry (at exactly my own age) feeling as lost in parenting as I do sometimes–somehow that made me feel less alone than all the zillions of parenting books in the world could have done.

Most of all, I loved it because I was reading a new HP story when I never thought I would again.

(Yes, yes, it was a play. Yes, yes, it would be better performed. Yes, yes, it would be even better as a novel. But none of that *mattered* to me very much.)

Vacation YA

An old friend messaged me and asked for some great YA to read over vacation. She mentioned that she’d really enjoyed Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun, Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park, and John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars.

She wanted to know: what’s next?

I was happy to answer–and then someone else wanted the list and someone else and pretty soon I thought I might as well make a list.

So first off, everything else by Jandy Nelson, Rainbow Rowell, and John Green is good. My top Green pic is Looking for Alaska and my top Rowell pick is Fangirl (though I loved Landline and Attachments and Carry On and her short story In My True Love Gave To Me and…you get the picture).

But what about after that? Here’s some of what I’ve read in the last two years that might make a great ‘next read.’

If you loved the swoon:

  • Simon vs. The Homo Sapien Agenda by Becky Albertelli
  • Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum
  • The Boy In the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds
  • My True Love Gave To Me, edited by Stephanie Perkins

If you loved the smart snark

  • Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
  • The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks by E Lockhart
  • Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa (great read-alike for fans of Perks of Being a Wallflower)

If you loved the love with a bit of sadness

  • All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
  • If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

If you loved the characters grappling with serious issues

  • Exit, Pursued By a Bear by E.K. Johnston
  • The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth

If you loved the can’t-put-it-down-ness

  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
  • Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld (which is two books in one. The “can’t put it down” book is the one with the black pages)

Or, if you’re looking to try some magical realism

  • The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen
  • Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

Or, if you’re looking to try fantasy

  • Ash and Bramble by Sarah Prineas (I pitch this to my students as a feminist retelling of Cinderella that starts in the fairy godmother’s sweatshop)
  • The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig
  • The Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Or, if you’re looking for a departure into gorgeous novels written in verse

  • One by Sarah Crossan
  • Ask Me How I Got Here by Christine Heppermen
  • House Arrest by K.A. Holt

Or if you’re looking for some great dystopia-influenced stuff

  • Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King
  • Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neil

Exit, Pursued By A Bear by EK Johnston

Nothing prepared me for how excellent this book is–not just as a story, which I couldn’t stop thinking about to the point I lost sleep, and not just as a political statement (about rape and rape culture and cheerleading as sport and abortion and faith).

And I was prepared!
–I read a interview with EK Johnston about this book in which she called it the most “fantasy” thing she’s written.
–I attended a conference with Andrew Karre who described a particular scene in this book as the kind of honest, gritty stuff he’s looking for in books he edits.

Still, nothing.

It’s that revolutionary.

I’ve asked our library at the school where I teach to order five copies, and I plan to recommend this book far and wide, teach it in my WNDB unit, and specifically recommend it to kids who’ve already read SPEAK and ALL THE RAGE.

PS) Hermione Winters and Polly Oliver effing rock. And Pastor Rob and Officer Palermo and Caledon (sp?) and even Hermione’s parents are pretty great too.

My Year in Books 2015

My Year in Books 2015-page-001

Thanks, GoodReads!

An easier-to-read .pdf version of My Year in Books 2015 available here.

So, you have a chapbook coming out. What’s that?

Covers x 2

Tuesday’s Children covers

I’ve used social media to share the wonderful news that Hermeneutic Chaos Press is publishing my chapbook, Tuesday’s Children this December (pre-orders beginning November 23).

My editor came up with the awesome idea of commissioning two different covers for the book, and you can see both of them here. Meanwhile I’ve been working with a variety of different visual artists on postcards for several poems in the chapbook.

As I’ve shared this news, lots of folks are wondering “so…what is a chapbook?” It’s a great question. I had no idea what a chapbook was until I started reading and ordering them over the last few years.

A chapbook usually a small collection of poems by an individual author. The books themselves are meant to be lovely but fleeting objects.


Some of my favorite chapbooks, links below

They’re often little! If you didn’t know you were looking at it, you might think it was a booklet or a pamphlet.

Often chapbooks are handmade by small presses who love book-making and treat it as an art. They can be bound in all kinds of ways—saddle stitches, post-binding, staples or even perfect-binding like a full-length collection.

Unlike most full-length collections, though, chapbooks usually have a theme or unifying idea behind them.

Typically, poets, flash-fiction writers, and even novella-writers submit to chapbook reading periods and contests from a variety of small presses. And small presses support chapbooks as a less expensive way of promoting authors they enjoy and admire.

If you want to see other chapbooks out there in the world, take a look at these options by some of my favorite contemporary poets:

And a few chapbooks on the weirder side that I adore:

Also, my poet-friend E. Kristin Anderson answers the “What is a Chapbook” question way better than I do so if you want more details and history, take a look.


The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond by Brenda Woods

Violet DiamondViolet Diamond’s dad passed away when she was a baby, so she feels like the only “brown leaf” on a pile of “white snow” in her family and at school. Sure, her mom told her she could get a kitten, but her best friend has plans to be in Greece all summer visiting her extended family. What’s she going to do with a kitten and no best friend?

That summer, Violet learns that her “other Grandma,” the one she’s never met, is having an art show in nearby Seattle, and she convinces her mom to go. Despite a fraught first encounter, Violet wins over her “Bibi” and begins to reconnect with her father’s side of the family. Sure, her cousins tease her about her “white” name and she’s never eaten grits pie before, but those things are easily remedied.

So when Violet faces a possible tragedy, she’s grounded and ready to step up to the plate with a heart full of love and a strong sense of herself–both the “Violet” and the “Diamond” parts.

This is a charmer of a middle-grade book, easy breezy reading, and has a ton of potential to connect to lots of kids and families. Most kids will love Violet’s sassy-sweet personality and will relate to her struggles. (Boring summer? Check. Best friend gone? Check). But the book will also find a special home in the hands of kids who are biracial or have been adopted into a family that’s racially or culturally different from them.

The Meaning of Maggie

18656207I read Megan Jean Sovern’s The Meaning of Maggie while I was on vacation. The titular character charmed my pants off (not literally). She’s ambitious, nerdy, certain about her place in the world and so incredibly loved.

Maggie faces summer vacation pragmatically–counting down to school starting again and dutifully rising at the same time each day to prevent the need for a re-adjustment period. She decides that Clyde is “perfect” for her on the basis of one conversation, and when no one will tell her what’s happening to her dad, she hits the library.

That he’s dealing with MS will be obvious to adult readers, but the process of discovering it is meaningful for Maggie, and becomes meaningful for us. The elliptical nature of how the family addresses their dad’s illness surprised me, though. They don’t talk about it, they shelter Maggie from a lot of the details, and they keep repeating that things will be “okay” and he is “not going to die.” –the frame story of Maggie writing about this from her father’s hospital bedside gives lie to these assertions in some ways, but leaves it stand for the (young) readers in other ways.

The book is also historical in a way adult readers will enjoy. It’s set in 1988, when I myself was a fifth grader, so I recognized trapper keepers and color-coded notecards as the familiar detritus of school life. The parental throwbacks to the sixties were the reality of growing up with those parents at that time.

I admit, the writing was a little too “voicey” for me as a reader despite being 100% authentic to a sixth grader. And near the end, especially reading the acknowledgements, it became clear that the story is much more of a mem-novel than fiction. This left me a bit at odds on where to peg it if I loan it to students in the future.

But all in all, I’d recommend it alongside The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher and the Penderwicks for wholesome family relationships.

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