February is Black History Month, read an author of color

February has so many spectacular events to celebrate, it’s hard to know where to begin! Let’s start by celebrating Black History Month, ok? Why not choose to read a few books written by an African American or depicting African American characters?

Read African American

Read an author of color this month!

Here are the ones depicted in the photo:

  • The Cruisers: A Star is Born by Walter Dean Myers
  • Pinned by Sharon G. Flake (the characters have special needs)
  • STAT: Double Team by my athlete BFF Amar’e Stoudemire

Don’t they look great? Flake gets extra bonus points for including kids with special needs!

What are YOU reading for Black History month?

Banned Books Books

Banned Books Week Starts TODAY!

We all know the importance of knowledge and learning, right? I don’t want to waste anymore time talking about why banning books is dumb. Let’s celebrate the great books that have been challenged and you can decide for yourself what you think.

1. Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

perks of being a wallflower

I love this tiny book so hard. First because it is set in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA and second because the setting is the 80s which is also when I grew up, although the author is a couple years younger than I am. Our experiences are kind of similar: no cell phones, record players, pac man and hairspray to name a few.  This is a coming of age tale that is beautifully told about the man character who suffers from some dangerous mental health issues.

Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mix tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But he can’t stay on the sideline forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.

I am a tad confused about why books about teens and intended for teens should be completely sterile. Kids want to read about situations that are similar to what they are experiencing; at least when they are reading realistic fiction, right? So why then, do people insist on challenging books that  “…deals with sexual situations and drug use.” ?

Again, this is a title you should read for yourself.

2. Looking for Alaska by John Green


This is by far my fave John Green book.

Miles “Pudge” Halter’s whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the “Great Perhaps” (François Rabelais, poet) even more. He heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.

Oh how this title reminds me of some of the books we read in high school: the what’s it all about and how do i make a difference in this world type of books!

The book was challenged because of sexual content.  Again. Teens, experimenting with sex. It’s what they do, right?  This one, however, is rather mild considering what I’ve read in other books.  It’s a botched BJ and while that might not be appropriate material for young teens or even middle grade readers, I guarantee your older teen has read worse. Or heard worse on the bus. Check it out for yourself before you pass judgement. As always, parents have a right to decide what’s best for their own kiddos, just not for everyone.

3. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers


Ironically, Fallen Angels was

Challenged on the Danbury Middle School reading list in Toledo, Ohio (2013) because of inappropriate language. The book depicts the reality of the Vietnam War, with sometimes gruesome descriptions of combat and frequent foul language from soldiers.

But here’s the question that I’d like answered: what kind of language would you expect soldiers to use? I know the books are for young teens but depicting soldiers using language that is a little too clean, might be a little too unrealistic.  I don’t know about where you live, but around here, Fallen Angels is on many schools’ required reading lists.

Have you read it?

4. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison


Please don’t confuse Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison with The Invisible Man by HG Wells!

As he journeys from the Deep South to the streets and basements of Harlem, from a horrifying “battle royal” where black men are reduced to fighting animals, to a Communist rally where they are elevated to the status of trophies, Ralph Ellison’s nameless protagonist ushers readers into a parallel universe that throws our own into harsh and even hilarious relief. Suspenseful and sardonic, narrated in a voice that takes in the symphonic range of the American language, black and white, Invisible Man is one of the most audacious and dazzling novels of our century.


For the same reasons that Invisible Man is an important read to understand the struggles of the African American community, Invisible Man has also been challenged. To be sure, the book contains strong language but you cannot properly depict the struggles of that era by using tame language, I think.  Either way, it’ll make you think. This book is so so so well written.


5. The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq


There is so much to learn about the Middle Eastern region and so little time to read.

Alia Muhammad Baker is a librarian in Basra, Iraq. For fourteen years, her library has been a meeting place for those who love books. Until now. Now war has come, and Alia fears that the library–along with the thirty thousand books within it–will be destroyed forever.

In a war-stricken country where civilians–especially women–have little power, this true story about a librarian’s struggle to save her community’s priceless collection of books reminds us all how, throughout the world, the love of literature and the respect for knowledge know no boundaries. Illustrated by Jeanette Winter in bright acrylic and ink.

Sounds great, right? Other people obviously don’t feel the same way and have challenged the book “because of violent illustrations and storyline” which  is rather irrational because what would kind of story do you expect to hear when reading about a war torn country? Perhaps the age group was not appropriate for the book.




Taking the Mystery out of Black History Month: All The Right Stuff by Walter Dean Myers

There’s a reason the late great Walter Dean Myers was named the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature:  he gets young people. His books are for, by, and about, young people. Young people of all different walks of life. Ask any boy in 11th grade, he’s probably read at least one WDM book (Sunrise in Fallujah, for example). And why is that? Because WDM books rock!

They’re not just about life in the inner city, although there’s plenty of that. His books are about growing up and learning to be yourself and learning how to adapt to the world and making choices. Who can’t relate to that? And you know what else? All the Right Stuff relates to food.


All the Right Stuff by Walter Dean Myers

How’s that?

After young Paul’s father is killed, he takes a summer job in a soup kitchen in Harlem. The soup man and Paul discuss economics, politics, and decision-making.  And Paul learns how to make soup. Here’s my review.

Another reason to love Black History Month! Also? Counts toward the Diversity Reading Challenge!!


February is Black History Month, read an author of color

February has so many spectacular events to celebrate, it’s hard to know where to begin! Let’s start by celebrating Black History Month, ok? Why not choose to read a few books written by an African American or depicting African American characters?

Read African American

Read an author of color this month!

Here are the ones depicted in the photo:

  • The Cruisers: A Star is Born by Walter Dean Myers
  • Pinned by Sharon G. Flake (the characters have special needs)
  • STAT: Double Team by my athlete BFF Amar’e Stoudemire

Don’t they look great? Flake gets extra bonus points for including kids with special needs!

What are YOU reading for Black History month?

Diversity Reading Challenge Young Adult

Flying Lessons and Other Stories, edited by Ellen Oh

Flying Lessons and Other Stories

I’m just now starting to get back into short stories. When I was younger I was a fan; but then I went through a phase where I needed 300+ pages of a novel to settle me down. Lately, thanks to Neil Gaiman, I’ve gotten back into short stories.

I’m so glad I did too, because when Ellen Oh, the co-founder of We Need Diverse Books published this compilation of shorts I knew it was something I needed to get behind. If you’re into diversity, you will LOVE LOVE LOVE these stories. There is a story for practically every ethnicity, race, disposition, or whatever. It’s the perfect collection!

Every single ding dang story is like a peek into perfection. This is what YA literature should be! Inclusive and representing everyone. Sure you’ll love Kwame Alexander and Jacqueline Woodson, but you’ll fall in love, like I did with Soman Chainani’s grandmother, Tim Tingle’s uncle, and the heartbreak of a family “servant” in Grace Lin’s The Difficult Path. Ps. you can hear it here thanks to Penguin Random House.

Flying Lessons is diversity at it’s finest. Flying Lessons will make a fun addition to your Diversity Reading Challenge.


Challenges Diversity Reading Challenge

2017 #Diversity Reading Challenge: Check up

2017 Diversity Reading Challenge: Check up

Diversity Reading Challenge Button

How’s your diversity reading coming along? Here’s what I’ve read lately:

I Just Want to Say Goodnight by Rachel Isadora

I just want to say goodnight

Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin Alexander Ramsey


Ghost by Jason Reynolds


Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

I Got This: To Gold and Beyond by Laurie Hernandez

Scorpions by Walter Dean Myers

These are the books from this summer that qualify for the Diversity Reading Challenge. Here’s how they break down:

Books for/by/about African American young person:  Scorpions, Dear Martin, Ghost

Book with an African American woman as the main character: Another Brooklyn, I Just Want to Say Goodnight, Ruth and the Green Book

Book written by a Latinx person: I Got This by Laurie Hernandez

An illustrator of color: Ruth and the Green Book, Floyd Cooper

How did you do this summer? Did you find any new diversity reads? Let me know!


Books Children Young Adult

Invasion by Walter Dean Myers

Hotlight Spotlight: Invasion

by Walter Dean Myers

There are many reasons to love Walter Dean Myers.  He writes books for communities who are often overlooked: boys and African Americans.  Many students are turned on to Myers’ books through school assignments.  Then they keep coming back to Myers for more of the hard hitting reality that Myers is known for.  Kids who won’t read about vampires and aren’t interested in sports will often be willing to read about war like “Invasion.”


What’s “Invasion”?

Walter Dean Myers brilliantly renders the realities of World War II.

Josiah Wedgewood and Marcus Perry are on their way to an uncertain future. Their whole lives are ahead of them, yet at the same time, death’s whisper is everywhere.

One white, one black, these young men have nothing in common and everything in common as they approach an experience that will change them forever.

It’s May 1944. World War II is ramping up, and so are these young recruits, ready and eager. In small towns and big cities all over the globe, people are filled with fear. When Josiah and Marcus come together in what will be the greatest test of their lives, they learn hard lessons about race, friendship, and what it really means to fight. Set on the front lines of the Normandy invasion, this novel, rendered with heart-in-the-throat precision, is a cinematic masterpiece. Here we see the bold terror of war, and also the nuanced havoc that affects a young person’s psyche while living in a barrack, not knowing if today he will end up dead or alive.

Need I say more about the power of Myers’ ability to discuss the human condition in a way that boys can understand? TheWWII backround will certainly discuss racism in a manner that the kids might not have thought about.

Which Walter Dean Myers’ books have your children read?


Children Diversity Reviews Young Adult

You Should Read Walter Dean Myers

Walter Dean Myers is a prolific writer of young adult and middle-grade children’s literature.  The problem is, you might not have heard of him.  WDM’s many titles include:

  • Monster
  • Sunrise over Fallujah
  • Autobiography of My Dead Brother
  • All the Right Stuff
  • and many more

Walter Dean Myers Unconventioinal LibrarianWDM’s writing is good and his work has been awarded countless awards.

That’s because Myers is African  American, his audience is primarily African American children, and his characters are primarily African American or other minorities.  So, unless you’re an avid read of the YA genre, or African American or an educator, you probably haven’t heard of him.

Now you have. And now you should get acquainted with his work.  His work is powerful and speaks to not only those of color but to those who want to do better with their lives or don’t understand why things work the way they do.

Does that sound like you?

That’s because it IS you.

Everyone can benefit from reading a Walter Dean Myers title or two.

I just finished All the Right Stuff, his latest release.

See below as Cleo takes a break from supervising my reading of All the Right Stuff.

Unconventional Librarian All The Right Stuff

I love this book and d’you know why? It’s smart and it makes you think!  Young Paul lives in Harlem and gets a summer job at a soup kitchen where he learns not only how to make soup but how to evaluate his place in the world and how to engage in intelligent conversation about how to change the world for the better.

Any child can relate to this book, not just an African American child or a child who lives in Harlem or another impoverished neighborhood.  Any child who must make a choice between doing good and doing wrong can appreciate the choices Paul has to make.

I can’t recommend this book enough.  Look in your bookshelf; there’s prolly an old copy of a WDM book lying around from a required reading assignment.  Pick it up and read it.  It’ll make you think.  Meanwhile? I’m going to do the same…

I give this book four paws for honest portrayal of young African Americans.

Unconventional Librarian 4paws


Diversity Reading Challenge

Scorpions by Walter Dean Myers

What a pleasure it is to read another of the late Walter Dean Myers’ works. “Scorpions” is a bleak book, reminiscent of Dickens, but without the macabre. Myers’ books give the reader insight into the lives of POC in the inner city. “Scorpions” is the tale of young Jamal and his family and his best friend Tito. Jamal’s brother is in jail, and he’s being pressured to take his brother’s place as leader of a gang but the gang members have other ideas. After all, Jamal is only 12 and what does he know about running a gang?

Jamal’s family can’t catch a break. His mother works intermittently, Jamal and his younger sister often fend for themselves for food, and his troubles at school keep mounting. Through it all  is his constant friend Tito.

What I find most troubling in the book is the school. This is not the era of child centered education. The teachers belittle, threaten, and generally don’t offer support to Jamal in a time when he needs it most (like when he’s being beaten by the school bully). It’s no wonder he gets in trouble so much.

Scorpions will tear your heart out, although there are a few tender moments.  Can you see why this was a Newbery Honor book?

Totally qualifies for the Diversity Reading Challenge.

Diversity Reading Challenge Young Adult

I AM #BLACKHISTORYMONTH -#Herstory – Rad Women Worldwide by Kate Schatz

Let’s celebrate Black History Month with
Rad Women Worldwide by Kate Schatz

Rad Women Worldwide discusses women around the globe but there is one woman in particular that I’d like to feature in today’s post.

Kasha Jacqueline Nagabasera.  This young woman is a lesbian in a Uganda, a coutnry that punishes homosexuals with death. It’s not a safe place to be but Kasha Jacqueline is a prominent LGBTI (Intersex) activist.  She is called The Mother of the Gay Rights Movement and speaks out against homophobia and acted as Grand Marshall of the New York City Gay Pride parade. She’s been beaten, arrested, attacked, and lives in secret with friends.

True bravery. Truly admirable and part of Black History in her own country but also an inspiration here, as she doesn’t let fear keep her from her beliefs.

That’s it for Black History Month! See you in March!