We read X: A Novel

In March, we read and discussed X: A Novel by by Ilyasah Shabazz & Kekla Magoon. Although this wasn’t a Great Stories Club selection, we decided to that it was fitting addition to the theme: “Hack the Feed: Media, Resistance, Revolution.”


X: A Novel details Malcolm X’s childhood and young adult years – who Malcolm X was before he was X.

We started the discussion off by providing some historical context for the time period of Malcolm X’s Life: 1925 – 1965. We talked about what life was like for black folks living in different parts of the country during the Jim Crow era into the Civil Rights Movement.

We debunked the common argument: “slavery was so long ago, get over yourself…” by talking about this graph and what it means for the African American experience.

slavery timeline

In the book, there’s a scene where Malcolm is on a date at a night club and was deeply affected by Billie Holiday’s powerful and moving song, “Strange Fruit.” We discussed the significance of the lyrics to the story and how and why they had such an impact on Malcolm.

I adapted a PowerPoint by the York Region District Schools (Ontario, Canada) to aid with our discussion of Malcolm X’s life.  The Life of Malcolm X – A PowerPoint Presentation

Students responded to their reading through art. Here are a couple of the their responses.

X tree hanging

malcom by an

We had a thought provoking discussion which reminded me of a previous book club discussion from a few months back when we read another book by Kekla Magoon, How it Went Down.

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Free eBooks and Downloadable Audio Books are Back!

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Do you love to listen to audiobooks?
Do you like FREE books?

SYNC is a free summer audiobook program for teens 13+ and readers of any age. The 2016 season is May 5th – August 17th 2016. SYNC will give
away 30 titles – two paired audiobook downloads a week!

Text syncya to 25827 to receive text alerts about all the featured titles

sync-poster-dates-2016-finalDownload Details

  • Downloads are in MP3 format and are Mac and Windows compatible.
  • Downloads will operate through the OverDrive app.
  • Most listening devices are supported.
  • Each SYNC audiobook is available for download for a period of 7 days (only).
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March: Book One – Comic Analysis

Local comic book artist Greg Stump, visited with our book club in January to discuss the graphic novel, March: Book One by Congressman John Lewis and Andrew Aydin along with illustrator  Nate Powell. For more information on that book club meeting, check out this post.

Part of his presentation included analyzing the various illustrative techniques and how they were used to enrich the story, allowing readers to make powerful inferences based on visual cues. Stump’s commentary is included underneath each page from the book.


This is the opening page of the book and a good example of using a large scene/panel that dominates the page as a way of emphasizing the place/setting (in this case the bridge where the police confronted/attacked the activists). It’s always a sound strategy to emphasize the setting at the start of a story, and in this case it makes even more sense to do so because the detail imbued in the drawing makes it more vivid — it puts us there so we can feel more viscerally the significance of the moment. The fact that the first panel is borderless and “bleeds” towards the edges of the page adds to its standing apart from the panels that follow.


Lots of horizontal panels on this page also give a sense of place … e.g. the countryside, and its vast wide horizons, are complemented by the panels and their structure. the swooping diagonal lines help keep this layout from feeling static, since it’s a scene with some urgency (the bus is coming fast and Lewis needs to rush to catch it).


Here’s another example of form mirroring content, though in this case the orientation is vertical rather than horizontal. Similar to the first page, this city scene employs bleeds (here all the way off the page), as well as an unusual slanted perspective, to make it stand out from what has come before it, and to put us in the perspective of Lewis’ eyes … we see the startling bigness of the buildings just as he does partly because this scene is more immense than the scenes in the book that have preceded it.


There’s a visual rhythm here to the three panels arranged in a vertical sequence that seems to echo MLK’s speech patterns. Repetition of elements (the hand and forearm), structure (all panels are the same shape and size) and composition (the hand is in the same spot three times) makes the content/point striking and more emphatic, and that is amplified by the repetition of the four word phrases (“the evil of racism, the evil of poverty, the evil of war”).


This sequence, featuring the role-playing the activists do to prepare themselves for the abuse they’ll face in the course of their protests, is striking for the all-black background that surrounds the entire page, probably to emphasize and reinforce that they are exploring the “dark side” of humanity in taking on these roles.


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Book Discussion and Comic Presentation for March: Book One

On Thursday, January 21st, I met with Kevin Geloff’s English class at the Interagency Academy Alternative High School (at UDYC) for our first Great Stories Club meeting. It was a combination book discussion and comic drawing workshop with local comic book artist Greg Stump.

marchbookone_softcover_lgwe shall overcome

We discussed March: Book One, the first book in Representative John Lewis’s graphic novel memoir trilogy, co-written with his aide Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell. March is a critically acclaimed best-seller that received the 2013 Coretta Scott King Honor Book Award by the American Library Association among numerous other honors.

We had some great discussion around the effects of segregation and the Jim Crow laws in the 1940s – 1960s; non-violent resistance and protest in times of civic unrest; the parallels to today (we discussed Detroit Public Schools, the poisoning of Flint’s water, the Black lives Matter Movement, and more); and how the comic medium can be used to convey emotion and may make for a more powerful story.


Greg Stump did a brief “how to draw comics” tutorial and then he instructed the students in making “jam comics.” They folded a white piece of paper into four sections, drew in a panel, and then passed it to their neighbor to draw the next panel, and so on. The students had a blast. He also led a discussion with the students on the various illustrative techniques that the illustrator/artist of March used to evoke certain emotions and to convey various points and themes. So cool!

Check out some of the photos from our meeting:

This month (February), we’re celebrating our success with a field trip to the University Branch Library for a tour, library card signup, and to watch a movie!

We’ll resume book club on March 24th when we’ll be discussing X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon. In April we’ll discuss a Great Stories Club title, Hunger Games, and in May we’ll discuss another GSC title, Feed.


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book review/rave

***This post contains spoilers for Daughter of Smoke and Bone***

Love this German cover!

Love this German cover!

I’ve been meaning to post this “book rave” from an awesome teen, Mailina, for quite some time. I visited School of the Arts (SOTA) in Tacoma last December to booktalk to Mary Boone’s 12th grade class. Many of you know that I’m a big fan of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone (and the sequel Days of Blood and Starlight). So, I showed my video booktalk of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and continued to talk it up after the video played. I also passed around a copy of DOSB, while booktalked other books. Mailina approached after the class was over and asked if she could check out the book. I made plans to hold the book for her at the library, and she came for it immediately. A few days later, I received this amazing email from her.

Before you read it I have to say a few things:

  • I *love* how she uses the word, karou, for hope!!! True fan!fell in love
  • She mentions how long it’s been since she’s had time to read a book for pleasure. I see this all too often with high school students. When my former students (who left middle school as voracious readers) would pop in and visit me at the the middle school library, I would inevitably ask them about their reading life. They would lament the fact that they hadn’t read a book of choice in months, as they had no time. Instead they had homework, extracurricular activities, and assigned texts that seemed to turn them off from reading in general. How sad!
  • This book saved her. It never ceases to amaze me how powerful books can be and how they seem to find us at the exact time we need them the most.

Without further ado. here’s one of my favorite emails, ever! 

This. Book. Is. UNBELIEVABLE!!!!!

I couldn’t put it down. At first, I thought she could fix up a few parts but what wasn’t quite sure what they were, now I’m thinking maybe the absurdity of all the supernatural fights taking place before a crowd in public places, but now at the end I think I take that back and am totally pleased!!! Even if I didn’t take those “weak complaints” back, I still would have been all over this!!! Something about that beginning page I read when you were talking to us in class. What a blessing, right? That you would have happened to bring this to us during this time. It really has been a good thing, it came into my life just at the right time.

I couldn’t even handle, I stayed up til 3AM the night you gave me the read and continued to read it until tonight, (with breaks, of course. I would have definitely finished it before 10 if that weren’t the case).

But I was really obsessed. Well, am. Part of me wanted to take the time because I’m a bit nostalgic and didn’t want to finish something so good in such a quick time with nothing to follow it up, and as I neared the end I was all too aware of the dwindling in number of pages, BUT I HAD TO CONTINUE!!!

I absolutely love Karou and sincerely hope that Brimstone isn’t what we are told he is… SHE NEEDS TO HUG HIM!!! SHE NEEDS HIM IN HER LIFE!!! And Akiva, in all his glory, SLAYING all of Loramendi?! Too insane to be the end, I am SO glad you told me of the sequel before I found out on my own. I was able to ready myself for what was to come, and now I have hope-karou-that things will work out and the love that they have will bring them back TOGETHER!!! (Excuse the silliness of me referencing the book already, haha).


I can’t remember if I’ve ever been so ridiculously excited about a book. I think it may be because I can tell you how much I like it that I’m excited???? UNF. I can’t WAIT to see how this war pans out. I CAN’T WAIT TO READ THE NEXT ONE.

Oh, but the main reason for this message was to say THANK YOU!!!

Thank you SO much, Miss Kristy, for deciding to bring this novel to our class on Thursday and for making it a point to not forget to try and get it to me later that day. I haven’t sat down to read a book for pleasure in a long time and I’ve been so busy this year, but I just decided to push everything aside for the past day and a half and just FINISH it and by golly… I am SO incandescently happy that I did. (:

Have a good week and I’ll see you soon enough!!!

— Mailina

Swoon. This email made my day/week/month. Seriously! It makes me want to reread books one and two in preparation for book three… which isn’t currently scheduled to be released until April, 2014.

Le sigh.rbk-young-adult-laini-taylor-books-03-de

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For the Kids!

We thought it would be fun to highlight some of our favorite books from when we were growing up. We have so many fond memories associated with these titles. They give us the warm fuzzies!

What were some of your favorites stories as a child? Why have they stuck with you?

Kelly talks about Peter Pan

Korey talks about Guess How Much I Love You

Lilli talks about Mr. Brown Can Moo. Can You?

Andrew Talks about One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

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Current Likes & Dislikes in YA

Name your 3 most recent YA favorites and 3 most recent dislikes. (Yes, please pick just 3. I know it’s hard!) You can add details if you want, or just list the books.

My favorites and dislikes are below. One caveat I want to mention about my dislikes is that I don’t necessarily think these books are terrible. They just aren’t my cup of tea, but that doesn’t stop me from recommending some of them to my teens that I know will enjoy them.

Top 3 Recent Dislikes


  1. Anna Dressed in Blood
  2. Bloody Chester
  3. Hold Me Closer Necromancer

Top 3 Recent Likes

  1. The Diviners
  2. Eleanor and Park
  3. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

List your most recent favorites and dislikes in the comments!

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Free Audiobooks Starts Today!

For more information, check out our previous post! 

SYNC YA Listening Summer 2013 Opens with a Splash!
Download the 1st free YA Novel & Summer Reading Classic pair from SYNC here.This Week’s Audiobooks:
Available to download free May 30 – June 5
Of PoseidonOf Poseidon
By Anna Banks
Read by Rebecca Gibel
Published by AudioGO
Galen, prince of the Syrena, is sent to land to find a girl he’s heard can communicate with fish. After several encounters with her, Galen becomes convinced Emma holds the key to his kingdom.

“Gibel’s flirty banter will make a big splash with listeners.”
— AudioFile Magazine

The TempestThe Tempest
By William Shakespeare
Performed by a Full Cast
Published by AudioGO/ BBC Radio

A storm rages. Prospero and his daughter watch from their desert island as a ship carrying the royal family is wrecked. Miraculously, all on board survive. Plotting, mistaken identities, and bewitching love follow as the travelers explore the strange place of spirits and monsters.

Thank you to AudioGO for generously providing this week’s titles.

Available for a Limited Time:
Remember — grab these titles before they are replaced by a new pairing on June 6! While the title availability is time-limited, your listening time is not. Once you have downloaded the MP3 files, the audiobooks are yours to listen to at your leisure.

Downloading Tips:
The OverDrive Media Console will deliver SYNC summer audiobooks to you viaOverDrive Media Software installed on your computer (compatible with Windows and Mac) or through an OverDrive App on your mobile device (compatible with iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7).
Visit the OverDrive website to download the App or Software.

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June’s Book Club Title!

Dear readers! June’s book club is coming up, and we’re meeting on a Friday. I (Kristy) will be back for this special book club.

Date/Time: Friday, June 21 @ 2-4pm
Place: Tacoma Public Library, Main Branch (Downtown)
Book: Dirty Little Secrets by C.J. Omolohu


Dirty Little Secrets is an incredibly moving, heartbreaking, captivating, and at times, a disturbing read. From Goodreads:

Everyone has a secret. But Lucy’s is bigger and dirtier than most. It’s one she’s been hiding for years—that her mom’s out-of-control hoarding has turned their lives into a world of garbage and shame. She’s managed to keep her home life hidden from her best friend and her crush, knowing they’d be disgusted by the truth. So, when her mom dies suddenly in their home, Lucy hesitates to call 911 because revealing their way of life would make her future unbearable—and she begins her two-day plan to set her life right.With details that are as fascinating as they are disturbing, C. J. Omololu weaves an hour-by-hour account of Lucy’s desperate attempt at normalcy. Her fear and isolation are palpable as readers are pulled down a path from which there is no return, and the impact of hoarding on one teen’s life will have readers completely hooked.

 I hope to see all of you in June! Please register here!

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I’m Famous!

Well no, not at all, but I just discovered that one of my video booktalks was featured on  Sync’s (part of AudioFile’s) web site. Here it is! Yay!

Laini Taylor, Daughter Of Smoke And Bone

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