Ep. 64: Author Michelle Hoover Shares the 2020 Massachusetts Book Award Winners

Today we have a special episode all about the Massachusetts Book Awards! The winners and honorees were just announced yesterday.

My guest is author Michelle Hoover, the 2020 Coordinator for the Massachusetts Book Awards, who I served with as a lead juror in the children’s picture book and early reader category. Michelle will give some behind the scenes and help us add to our “to be read lists” as she shares the winners and honorees.

Michelle is a 2014 NEA Fellow and has been a Writer-in-Residence at Bucknell University, a MacDowell Fellow, and a winner of the PEN/New England Discovery Award. Her debut, The Quickening, was a 2010 Massachusetts Book Award “Must Read.” Her latest novel, Bottomland, was the 2017 All Iowa Reads selection. Michelle teaches at GrubStreet, where she leads the Novel Incubator program.  She is a native of Iowa and lives in Boston. 

Listen and subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

To learn more about Michelle Hoover and follow her on social media visit http://www.michelle-hoover.com

Browse Books Mentioned On This Episode:

A Bookish Home has teamed up with Bookshop.org! Support A Bookish Home and independent bookstores at the same time when you purchase books from our new online bookshop!*

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Browse books by authors interviewed on the podcast, titles mentioned on the show, and more recommendations from your host and librarian, Laura Szaro Kopinski. 

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Is there an author you’d love to hear interviewed on the podcast? I’d love to hear! Let me know in the comments or wherever you hang out on social media, I’m @abookishhome.

Happy Reading and Listening,

Laura Szaro Kopinski

ABookishHome.com

*A Bookish Home is now an affiliate of Bookshop.org. At no extra cost to you, we receive a small commission if you purchase something through the Bookshop.org links provided.

Bookshop.org is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support local, independent bookstores. Thanks for supporting A Bookish Home and your local indies!

Ep. 63: Steven Rowley, Author of The Editor

Today on A Bookish Home, I’m talking about all things books and writing with Steven Rowley, bestselling author of The Editor, which is now out in paperback.

This book is a fascinating window into the writing life and the author/editor relationship. The novel also explores a lesser known chapter of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s life, her time in publishing.

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“Filled with whimsy and warmth, the Lily and the Octopus author’s second novel centers on the complex relationship between a fledgling writer and his fabulous editor, the latter of whom becomes a mentor, friend, and maternal figure. Oh, and she happens to be Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, but that’s Mrs. Onassis to you.”

O, The Oprah Magazine

Listen and subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

“Steven Rowley has hit a home run. What a stunning portrayal of family this is. At equal turns laugh-out-loud funny and searingly poignant, Rowley has created a truly unforgettable story of a son trying to understand his mother. The Editor is one of those exceptional stories that is both a joy to read on every page and also deeply profound. It took my breath away.”

— TAYLOR JENKINS REID, AUTHOR OF DAISY JONES AND THE SIX

Browse Books Mentioned On This Episode:

A Bookish Home has teamed up with Bookshop.org! Support A Bookish Home and independent bookstores at the same time when you purchase books from our new online bookshop!*

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Browse books by authors interviewed on the podcast, titles mentioned on the show, and more recommendations from your host and librarian, Laura Szaro Kopinski.

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Is there an author you’d love to hear interviewed on the podcast? I’d love to hear! Let me know in the comments or wherever you hang out on social media, I’m @abookishhome.

Happy Reading and Listening,

Laura Szaro Kopinski

ABookishHome.com

*A Bookish Home is now an affiliate of Bookshop.org. At no extra cost to you, we receive a small commission if you purchase something through the Bookshop.org links provided.

Bookshop.org is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support local, independent bookstores. Thanks for supporting A Bookish Home and your local indies!

Embracing The Bookish Mess

Raising Readers Means Keeping Books At Our Fingertips.

This librarian has a confession to make. The books at my house are not organized perfectly by color or arranged alphabetically on my shelves. In fact, they’re a mess. They teeter in towers on end tables and are scattered across the floor. You’ll find my library books thrown on the backseat of my car and stacked on the stairs. Alphabetical order? Please. Call it typical life with little ones, but I’ve started to embrace the bookish chaos. 

Rather than beat myself up about not having a perfect system in place, I’ve actually noticed a real upside. There are always books at our fingertips. If I’m making dinner, there is probably a board book left on the counter I can hand to one of my kids. When we head out for a walk, there are likely a few abandoned titles sitting in the garage. And that mountain of books on the living room rug? It’s a good reminder to ask them to bring me a few to read.

And my books are everywhere too, so that maybe I pick one up when I notice them playing quietly for a few minutes, instead of scrolling on my phone. Or so when I collapse on the floor and let them watch Frozen for the umpteenth time, I might reach for a magazine I checked out of the library, instead of automatically starting to pick up toys. Our bookish mess serves as a visual reminder to weave reading into everyone’s daily routine. 

Some days I trip over a board book or some come spilling out as I open the car door and I vow to Marie Kondo my life. The books get put in pretty new bins (impulse bought at Target) and arranged nicely on bookshelves. But inevitably we fall back into our messy bookish ways.

For this season of life, I’m going to be ok with that. I can tell myself that I’m raising readers. And so those piles can stay on the floor. We’ll be reaching for them soon.

Laura Szaro Kopinski, A Bookish Home

Ep. 62: Fiona Davis, Author of The Lions of Fifth Avenue

Today on A Bookish Home, the podcast, I’m chatting with library fan and historical fiction author, Fiona Davis, whose new book is called The Lions of Fifth Avenue.

I loved the bookish mystery at the heart of this story and being able to step into the world of the New York Public Library during alternating time periods. Fellow bibliophiles will want to get their bookstore orders and library holds ready!

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“Davis delves into the history of the New York Public Library in this delightful mystery … The characters and story are stellar, but the real star of the show is the library, which Davis evokes beautifully.”

Publishers Weekly, starred review

 

 

Listen and subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

 

“Fiona Davis has again produced a first-class tale … intrigue seeps through until the final pages, revealing New York in the early 1900s, the beginnings of the feminist movement and the insidious sale of stolen rare books. It’s a literary delight.”— Authorlink

 

Browse Books Mentioned On This Episode:

A Bookish Home has teamed up with Bookshop.org! Support A Bookish Home and independent bookstores at the same time when you purchase books from our new online bookshop!*

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Browse books by authors interviewed on the podcast, titles mentioned on the show, and more recommendations from your host and librarian, Laura Szaro Kopinski.

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What are your favorite books about books? Let me know wherever you hang out on social media @ABookishHome.

Happy Reading and Listening!

Laura Szaro Kopinski

ABookishHome.com

*A Bookish Home is now an affiliate of Bookshop.org. At no extra cost to you, we receive a small commission if you purchase something through the Bookshop.org links provided.

Bookshop.org is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support local, independent bookstores. Thanks for supporting A Bookish Home and your local indies!

 

Celebrate Poetry Month

 

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April is Poetry Month! Celebrate by reading poetry with the children in your life or by picking up an adult collection. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Children’s Collections:

For collections that celebrate poetry and reading, try Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poetry by Kwame Alexander and Book Speak!: Poems About Books by Laurie Purdie Salas:

 

 

 

 If you’re looking for a funny poetry book, try A Light in the Attic or anything else by Shel Silverstein, Laugh-eteria by Douglas Florian, and I’m Just No Good At Rhyming And Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-ups by Chris Harris.

 

 

 

Travel the world, celebrate sports, and explore animal life in these collections: The National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry Edited by J. Patrick Lewis, Amazing Places with poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, and Good Sports: Rhymes About Running, Jumping, Throwing, and More by Jack Prelutsky.

 

 

For fun, creative pairs of poems that can be read in reverse I recommend Mirror Mirror, Follow Follow, or Echo Echo, which are all by Marilyn Singer and are based on fairy tales and greek myths.

 

 

 

You could also celebrate Poetry Month by reading a novel in verse. These also make fantastic choices for listening to as audiobooks.

Novels In Verse:

From Kwame Alexander’s Crossover (Plus Booked and Rebound), to Sharon Creech’s Moo and Another Day As Emily there is great kids’ realistic fiction in verse! (Bonus for Poetry Month: Another Day As Emily’s Susie decides to try living like poet Emily Dickinson).

 

 

For a historical read in verse try Inside Out & Back Again by Thanha Lai or Jacqueline Woodson’s incredible memoir Brown Girl Dreaming.

 

 

 

 

For a beginning chapter book in verse read Gone Fishing (Also Gone Camping) or the sweet, funny series of books beginning with Like Pickle Juice On A Cookie by Julie Steinberg.

 

 

I also adore “A Child’s Garden of Poetry” which HBO created with the Poetry Foundation. You can watch video clips of some of the poems on The Poetry Foundation’s website. 

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Check out “Hope” is the thing with feathers by Emily Dickinson, read by Claire Danes and also shared with sign language. It’s one of my favorites.

 

Poetry for Adults

I usually spend so much time sharing children’s poetry during April, that I haven’t made enough time for adult poets! This year, I picked up two collections from my local public library, Yeats’s When You Are Old: Early, Poems, Plays, And Fairy Tales And Maya Angelou’s The Complete Poetry:

 

 

 

What books will you be reading and sharing during National Poetry Month?

 

 

 

Caldecott, Newbery and More ALA Youth Media Awards Announced

Yesterday was my SuperBowl, a day librarians and children’s book fans look forward to with so much anticipation and excitement–the ALA Youth Media Awards were announced!

For more background on these prestigious awards you can read my previous post, Get Ready for the Oscars of Children’s Books.

As with every year, some of the winning books are ones I’ve read that I cheered for happily and many others sounded fantastic and are now added to my very long TBR list and/or “books to order for the library” list.

Here is just a sampling of this year’s incredible winners. I hope you discover some new books for your “To Be Read” list as well!

wolfsnowThe Caldecott Medal went to Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell. This mostly wordless picture book was the first book we read for our Mock Caldecott, so I was definitely cheering when it was announced! This is a wonderful read aloud because children need to use their imaginations to determine how the pictures are telling the story. A girl and a wolf are both lost in a snowstorm…can they each find their way home?

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Hello Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly is the winner of the Newbery Medal. I realized I purchased this for the library, but hadn’t read it yet, so it’s now at the top of my list! The publisher calls it, “a funny and poignant neighborhood story about unexpected friendships. Told from four intertwining points of view—two boys and two girls—the novel celebrates bravery, being different, and finding your inner bayani (hero).”

You can also check out the book trailer from the author:

 

PiecingMeTogetherOutofWonder

The Coretta Scott King Author Award went to Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson. I cannot wait to read this book from the author of Harlem’s Little Blackbird which is described as, “a powerful story about a girl striving for success in a world that too often seems like it’s trying to break her.” This book also won a Newbery Honor.

The Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award went to Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets by Kwame Alexander. This stunning book was part of our Mock Caldecott this year and I’m looking forward to all the ways we can use this one for Poetry Month (April).

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La Princesa and the Pea by Juana Martinez-Neal is the Pura Belpré Illustrator Award winner and this familar story gets “a fresh twist in this charming bilingual retelling” according to the publisher. 

Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar is the Pura Belpré Author Award winner is described as an  “unforgettable multicultural coming-of-age novel – based on the author’s childhood in the 1960s – a young Cuban-Jewish immigrant girl is adjusting to her new life in New York City when her American dream is suddenly derailed. ” You can see a book trailer from the author:

 

CharlieMouse

Charlie & Mouse by Laurel Snyder is the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award Winner. “Four hilarious stories, two inventive brothers, one irresistible book! Join Charlie and Mouse as they talk to lumps, take the neighborhood to a party, sell some rocks, and invent the bedtime banana.” (from the publisher).
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Twelve Days in May by Larry Dane Brimner is the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award winner. “Noted civil rights author Larry Dane Brimner relies on archival documents and rarely seen images to tell the riveting story of the little-known first days of the Freedom Ride.” (from the publisher).

 

 

For the full list of winners and to watch the video of the awards you can visit: ALA Youth Media Awards 2018. Happy Reading!

Celebrate Black History Month with these Picture Book Biographies

Today I’m sharing a few of my favorite picture book biographies published in recent years. These books would be great to share with the children in your life all year long, but especially during the month of February, which is Black History Month:

SplashofRed

A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin is an inspiring biography of artist Horace Pippin, with stunning illustrations you’ll marvel over. This book is by Jen Bryant and one of my favorite illustrators, Melissa Sweet. Horace Pippin is someone who did whatever it took to create his art, no matter the obstacles. Whether it was searching for charcoal or discarded paint for supplies, or figuring out a way to paint again after his arm is severely injured during World War I, he never gives up and eventually becomes a respected painter with his work in museums. For more information on the creative process behind the book, you can check out an interesting interview with the author and illustratore` from Two Writing Teachers.

 

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Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton by Don Tate is a powerful story of determination and resilience. Enslaved in North Carolina, Horton loved words and manages to teach himself to read and begins to compose his own poems. When he is sent to sell produce at the University of North Carolina: Chapel Hill  and is teased by students there, Horton distracts himself by reciting his poetry. The students see his talent and actually start paying Horton for poems for their sweethearts while word spreads of his poetry. George Moses Horton faced incredible adversity over the course of his life which Tate does not shy away from, including being sold and separated from his entire family at seventeen, but he perseveres to become a published, sought after poet.

You can view a book trailer from the author here:

 

 

Harlem'sLittleBlackbird

Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills shines a light on Harlem Renaissance singer Florence Mills. With its lyrical writing and stunningly beautiful illustrations by Last Stop on Market Street’s Christian Robinson, this is a book that completely immerses you in Mills’ life and story. Florence Mills, the child of former slaves, became a prominent performer who used her incredible voice and talents to pave the way for other African American performers, help others, and promote equal rights. Highly recommended.

For an interview with author Renée Watson, check out this post from the great Mr. Schu’s Watch.Connect.Read.

Take Your Child to the Library Day on Saturday, February 3rd

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Saturday, February 3rd is Take Your Child to the Library Day. This is a great day to celebrate all that libraries offer to children–and adults!

I absolutely love my local public library, the Chelmsford Public Library, and it’s often #TakeYourChildtotheLibraryDay around here! We’ll stop by after school sometimes and always go at least once on the weekend.

If you haven’t been to your local library in awhile, this Saturday would be a great day to go check it out. Many libraries are offering special events for children, you could check out the library’s calendar. My library is offering drop-in play and crafts for children of all ages.

While you’re there, sign up for a library card if you haven’t already. Make sure you bring proof of address (a utility bill or your license works). Once you’re signed up, you and your little ones could check out some great new books from the children’s room. And while you’re at it, borrow a few new titles for yourself! If you’re not sure where to start, maybe check out one of the books from these posts: Books to Curl Up With this WinterGet Ready for the Oscars of Children’s BooksBooks and Podcasts for the New YearAre there “Windows and Mirrors” on My Child’s Bookshelf?, or Windows in the Books We Read.

You could also choose a dvd to check-out for a weekend movie night (often for free!), some magazines to relax with, and take a peek at the museum passes your library offers.

Grab a library events calendar to take home as well. There are so many fun, free activities for adults and children available at the library–storytimes, crafts, book clubs, author visits, special guest speakers and much more.

Beyond the physical library, there are many digital resources you can take advantage of as well. Did you know you can download audiobooks and ebooks (for free!) from your local library?

You can also go on the library’s online catalog and request any books you want. If they don’t own the book, they’ll borrow it from another library for you. And if it’s checked out, they’ll place a hold. Then you’re alerted when the book comes in, and it will be waiting for you when you stop in the library. Magic!

I’ll have more tips on navigating all that your library offers online in an upcoming post.

Happy reading and I hope you enjoy #TakeYourChildtotheLibraryDay!

Are there “Windows and Mirrors” on My Child’s Bookshelf?

If you have not seen this Ted Talk by author Grace Lin, “Windows and Mirrors on Your Child’s Bookshelf”, it would be so worth your while to take a few minutes and watch it. This is a powerful look at the importance of children seeing themselves in the books they read (mirrors) and also having books that show them other children’s experiences (windows):

 

 

 

In my school librarian role, I try to purchase and promote a wide variety of books so that all students have windows and mirrors in the library in terms of race and culture as Grace Lin talks about, but also in terms of family makeup, experiences, religion, special needs, learning differences, and more.

As a mom, I want to make sure that my daughter’s bookshelf is filled with a variety of books as well–some that reflect her experiences and others that help her walk in someone else’s shoes, build empathy, and expand her worldview.

Here is a place to start if you are seeking out windows and mirrors for the little ones in your life:

 

Stella by Starlight and Out of My Mind are two stellar middle grade chapter books (that’s upper elementary/early middle school) by the incredible Sharon Draper. This author is so skilled at putting you in a particular character’s shoes and her books are impossible to put down.

Out of My Mind is a book I recommend all the time in the library for fans of Wonder by R.J. Palacio and students love it. In this novel, we see the world through the eyes of Melanie, a brilliant eleven-year-old with a photographic memory who also has cerebral palsy and is unable to walk, talk, or write. After being dismissed and underestimated by classmates and teachers her whole life, everything changes when Melanie is finally able to make her voice heard. This is such a powerful story.

Though set in 1930s North Carolina, Stella by Starlight, also by Sharon Draper, is so relevant to our lives today. Stella must find courage and strength in order to stand up to the forces of hate and racism in her town, where the Ku Klux Klan has become very powerful. I often show book trailers to my students (like a movie trailer, but for books) and there is an excellent one for Stella by Starlight where Sharon Draper shares how her grandmother’s journal helped inspire the story:

 

 

 

I love these two books so much and they both feature family makeups and cultures that might offers windows or mirrors for the children in your life.

In Just Like Me, three girls with a unique connection are sent to summer camp together. Julia, Avery, and Becca were adopted from the same orphanage in China as babies and their families have stayed in touch, referring to the girls as one another’s “Chinese sisters”. Everyone expect the girls to be close, but the last thing Julia wants is to go to Camp Little Big Woods together and she certainly doesn’t want anything to do with her Chinese heritage. This is a heartfelt story about growing up and figuring out where you belong, set amidst the adventures of a summer camp readers will long to attend.

The Misadventures of Family Fletcher has a classic, old fashioned family story feel that reminds me of another favorite series, The Penderwicks. The book opens at the start of a new school year and follows the everyday ups, downs, and adventures of “Family Fletcher”–navigating friendships, trying out for the school play, adjusting to a new school, camping trips, and holidays. This tale of Papa, Dad and adopted brothers Sam, Jax, Eli and Frog will make children wish they were one of the neighborhood kids that can just pop in and join the fun at the Fletchers’ house.

 

Don’t Throw It To Mo! by David Adler and Ling and Ting  by Grace Lin are engaging, funny early readers with a diverse cast of characters.

In Don’t Throw It To Mo,  Mo is seen as a “butterfingers” on the football field (which is literally true since his creative coach has had him practice catching a slippery football coated with butter!). Can he make the winning play for his team? Get a Hit Mo! is also available now and I hope we’ll see more to come in this series!

Ling and Ting Twice as Silly is one of the many fantastic books by Grace Lin you can add to your child’s bookshelf. This is the fourth book in this series and it’s my favorite. Each chapter is laugh out loud funny and their silly adventures make a great read aloud.

 

 

RadiantChild

Radiant Child by Javaka Steptoe tells the story of artist Jean Michel Basquiat who was famous for his collage style paintings. The illustrations in the book are incredible, Javaka Steptoe actually used wood and materials he found on the streets of New York to create the beautiful collages in the book. This book also won the highest picture book honor in the US, the Caldecott Medal.

 

 

LastStoponMarketStreet

What seems like a simple bus ride with a boy and his nana, becomes a rich experience of shared wisdom and lessons about appreciating our everyday lives in Last Stop on Market Street. This book won some of the highest honors in children’s literature: a Newbery Medal, Caldecott Honor Medal, and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor. Check out the book trailer which features the creative team behind the book: author Matt de la Peña and illustrator Christian Robinson.

More about those exciting children’s book honors to come. It’s almost time for the Oscars of children’s books!

Windows in the Books We Read

One of my goals in recent years has been to seek out books with diverse authors and characters, ones whose race, ethnicity, or experiences are different than my own. I want to make sure I’m reading books that offer a window into others’ lives and experiences, not books that just mirror my own. Through books we can travel to different countries and communities and experience life through someone else’s eyes.

If this is a goal of yours too, perhaps for 2018, here are some adult books I read last year in this category–some serious and thought-provoking, others light and fun.

Homegoing

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi is one of the most compelling books I’ve read in recent years. This epic novel follows the descendants of half-sisters Effia and Esi through 300 years–both in Ghana and the United States. At the start of the novel, these characters live in two different villages in Ghana, but both wind up at Cape Coast Castle, under very different circumstances. Effia leaves her village to be married to an Englishman and live at the castle, while Esi is imprisoned in the castle’s dungeons and is eventually sold into slavery in the United States. A thought-provoking look at how where we have come from shapes our lives and certainly a novel that will stay with you.

 

 

 

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan is the first book in a completely binge-worthy series that I fell in love with this year. As the series opens, Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer with her boyfriend, Nick Young, at his family’s home in Singapore. What she doesn’t realize is that Nick is heir to one of the biggest fortunes in Asia and she is entering a world of wealth like she could never imagine, one where she is not going to be accepted easily. These books are funny, impossible to put down, and would be perfect to take on vacation. A movie version is also due out this summer.

 

TheWindfall

The Windfall by Diksha Basu, set in modern day Delhi, has the wit and humorous observations of a Jane Austen novel. Mr. and Mrs. Jha have lived in the same tight-nit, middle class housing complex for thirty years. Now that Mr. Jha has come into millions selling his website, they will be moving to a wealthy suburban neighborhood where he becomes obsessed with “keeping up with the Joneses”. My favorite storyline follows Mrs. Ray, a neighbor from the old housing complex and a young widow in her 40s, who befriends the eligible brother of the Jhas’ new neighbors.

 

TheExpatriatesThe Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee is told through the point of views of three women who are expats in Hong Kong. If you’ve ever lived abroad or wondered what that experience might be like, this would be a great book for you. Mercy, a Korean American from Queens, has recently moved to Hong Kong after graduating from Columbia and is floundering. Margaret and Hilary, “trailing spouses” who moved there for their husband’s jobs, live in a privileged, Western bubble where the isolation and strong yet fleeting bonds are described much like being at college for a few years. The lives of these three women become intertwined, with some disastrous and heartbreaking consequences. This is a sharp, carefully observed novel that will keep you turning the pages.

 

TheHateUGiveThe Hate U Give is a timely Young Adult novel with an important perspective on the Black Lives Matter movement–it’s also a completely absorbing story that left me up late at night trying to finish. Starr Carter is getting a ride home from her friend Khalil when they are stopped and he is killed by a police officer (he is unarmed). Khalil becomes a national headline and in the face of intimidation and threats to her life, Starr must decide whether to speak up and tell the world what really happened that night. Some of my favorite books are the ones that shift the lens through which I see the world after I walk in the shoes of a particular character. Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is one of those characters. Highly recommended.