I made an Instagram story yesterday evening. It was a picture from the back of the Photography II classroom of a dozen kids looking at Isabel Quintero and Zeke Pena, the author and illustrator of the graphic novel Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide that I blogged about in 2019 alluding to this collaboration. Above it I said “I f*ing love what I do” with a bouncing heart emoji over the Smartboard projector in the photo and a gif of a girl waving a book next to the words “school librarian”.

Because, I f*ing love my job as a school librarian and days like this remind me of that exponentially.

I’ve spent about a month in and out of this class working with the teacher and students to include the graphic novel into their identity unit that teaches them about portrait taking where they photograph six different portraits for the project.

Remember and remind yourself of days like these above on the days that I feel like this below:



Last and first


Some readers have rituals. For a lot of my reading librarian friends specifically there was a lot of late 2019 chatter about their last book of 2019 and/or their first book of 2020. I fall into the same category whereby I strategically plan specific books around occasions. I fall into the latter category of planning both my last book and my first book, both of which ended up being five stars.

Last book of 2019

RebelMarie Lu’s Rebel, the fourth book in the Legend world that takes place in the future in which Daniel’s brother, Eden, is attending university in Antarctica where they’ve settled while June is still working in the Republic. The story, like Lu’s others, have two narrators that are differentiated by the text color as they pace the book out with the developing conflict as it switches fluidly back and forth. The  world she creates is superb and the futuristic action is heart-pounding.



First book of 2020

TheyWentLeftMonica Hesse’s yet-to-be-released They Went Left that’s anticipated for an April release. Not only have I read Hesse’s other YA historical fiction titles, but her adult nonfiction book American Fire. All showcase her skillful writing. This one fits in a newer focus of YA books on the liberation of Jews after World War II like the Morris finalist from last year, What The Night Sings by Vesper Stemper. Hesse dives into this world with Zofia, who has lost most of her family but still holds out hope that her younger brother Abek has survived. Shifting to several places before settling into a relocation camp where she meets a brooding boy, Josef, she is reunited with Abek but questions about what both boys have been through since the war broke out provide the riveting content of the book’s second half. Put this at the top of your list for April.

You can follow all of my reading and review on Goodreads and plenty of bookstagramming @ReadersBeAdvised on Instagram.


“Santa, can you bring my mommy a new heart?”

This post was originally published on the Times Union Books Blog.

I’m going to end the year making you ugly cry, so be prepared. Yet, I’m still going to connect it back to a book but also share a much more important message that is best said via video.

This is my cousin. Since I don’t have a sister, she is the closest thing as a cousin who lived up the road most of my life. And that was what has happened over the last few months which culminated in a heart transplant, the gift of new life, on December 4th.

I had been out to visit her before things turned worse and as I returned to work, I saw a book that had been sitting on our shelves. For some reason I thought that maybe I’d read it but I wasn’t sure, so I took it with me to lunch and was instantly drawn in because it mirrored the real life experience my cousin was going through: the right book at the right time. I’m sure we’ve all experienced that at one time. The book was The Man Who Touched His Own Heart: True Tales of Science, Surgery, and Mystery by Rob Dunn, which is a fascinating deep dive into the heart from 2015 in a fairly comprehensive look that includes chapters on da Vinci and dogs as well as air pollution and what animal’s heart could likely be the most useful in transplantation. Dunn is an associate professor of Ecology and Evolution and brings a bevy of knowledge. While the title itself is taken from one of the stories, the book as a whole brings together multiple stories that adequately represent his opening statistic: one in three adults in the world will die of a disease of the cardiovascular system. Dunn does well by the couch scientist in us all to tell the story of the heart without complicated medical jargon and chronologically explain our understanding of this vital organ. As a reader, I know much more about how hearts work and respect how he goes about explaining it all through the brilliance and courageousness of professionals (and sometimes non-professionals).

I was particularly struck by the romantic notion that people had in the 1400s that Dunn shares

“In the 1400s, it was often said that the story of each lived life was written on the inside walls of the heart by a scribbling and obsessive God. When the heart was finally opened and examined in detail later in the same century, no such notes were discovered. Still, each mended heart bears the mark of a different kind of narration. Each mended heart beats out a conclusion to the struggles of the scientists, artists, surgeons, and writers who, with heroism, hubris, and insight, have done battle with the heart’s mysteries for millenia. Each mended heart beats out a story of frailty but also of possibility.”

For my cousin, mending her heart wasn’t possible, she needed a new one. She got one because someone decided to donate theirs. So, my message is two-fold: donate life through blood and organ donation. If you need a goal for 2020, make it this if you’re not already. And second, take this opportunity to learn, explore, escape, re-evaluate, and empathize with books. If that’s not a 2020 goal to read more, add that to your list too.

Signing off for 2019.

1 Comment

Posted by on December 21, 2019 in Adult, Authors, Miscellaneous, Nonfiction, Short Story


The top 15 of 2019 on the 15th

Top15of2019 (1)

Let’s make this a thing!

Last year I shared two lists: an adult and a YA/middle grade top 10 based on the books published in that calendar year. This year, absent from my list will be any fiction titles since I’m finishing up my term on YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults blogging team. Our final list will be available soon and in the meantime you can see the titles we’ve all blogged about throughout the year.

Now onto my top 15 published today, December 15th for 2019.

Graphic novels (in no particular order)

  • Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell: The color palette and storyline is richly detailed with the internal romantic lives of teenagers, especially highlighting unrequited and abusive relationships in a powerful story.
  • Pilu of the Woods by Mai K. Nguyen: A family-focused middle grade graphic novel with a vividly earthy color palette and a magical understanding of our natural world that has a message.
  • White Bird by R.J. Palacio: The historical graphic novel wrapped in a contemporary story that shows the power of technology and the need for youth to talk to their older relatives to reveal the secret stories that might never get told.
  • Maker Comics: Bake like a Pro! by Falynn Koch: I love baking, so this is my absolutely favorite maker comic to date. It’s so practical and useful wrapped in the goofy story of wizards honing their skills.
  • Bloom by Kevin Panetta and Savanna Ganucheau: The same use of a smart color palette like Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me, this romantic GLBTQ story in a bakery clearly has me gah-gah.
  • Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks: An endearing slow burning romance at a pumpkin patch where what you wish for isn’t always what you really need. The adventures were a humorous addition to a good ol’ fashioned romance in the fall. The setting is it’s own lovely character.
  • Kiss #8 by Colleen A.F. Venable and Ellen T. Crenshaw: Ah, what more can be said about a girl figuring out relationships while the readers follow along.
  • Hephaistos: God of Fire by George O’Connor: I’m all about this graphic novel series that keeps mythology alive for us all.

A picture book

  • Liberty Arrives!: How America’s Grandest Statue Found Her Home by Robert Byrd: I read it and then immediately booked a trip to the Statue of Liberty with my family. Yes, we were one of the lucky 400 per day to head up to her crown on a chilly October morning. So you should read the book and take the trip too.

And those fabulously fascinating nonfiction titles (again, in no particular order):

  • The Miracle and Tragedy of the Dionne Quintuplets by Sarah Miller: It’s a shocking look at five babies born in 1934 that shouldn’t have survived but did, then were ripped from their parents and raised as an amusement park attraction whose visits per year rivaled Niagara Falls.
  • Notes from a Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi with Joshua David Stein: A truly spectacular behind the scenes look at Onwuachi’s rise to popular chef that mixes the personal and the professional (and includes recipes!)
  • Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? by Caitlin Doughty: We all know I’m obsessed with Doughty and this one didn’t disappoint by sharing funny, gross, and impossibly weird questions posed by kids and Doughty’s straightforward and quirky answers that are truthful and entertaining.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt: The Making of America by Teri Kanefield: Her series always entertains and informs about those that built America. Kanefield never shies away from details that are less than stellar about these individuals and does the same with FDR.
  • Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson: I mean, Anderson powerful words in prose format? Yes, please. The story is meant to be uncomfortable but also powerful and uplifting. A true battlecry for a new era.
  • Rising Water: The Story of the Thai Cave Rescue by Marc Aronson: Whenever I’m talking about this book to teens, I’m always sharing how I knew what the outcome was and I was still sweating whether they were going to make it out alive! That is how capable Aronson is as a writer in manipulating our emotions.

10 women


Over the last few days, people on Twitter have been sharing their tweets about ten women that have inspired them. Today, I joined the crowd. But I couldn’t let it end with tagging them. Here’s a little more:

  • Stacey S.– A former colleague in education turned MBA grad who now works in the non-profit world a few hours away.
    • What I’ve learned from you is that power is confidence, food and drink is life, and friendship can range from a book recommendation before a plane ride to a breakfast while in town.
  • Stacey R.– A librarian colleague who doesn’t work in the same district nor at the same level, but the connection is undeniable.
    • What I’ve learned from you is that passion and purpose make our profession (and matching leggings to her 2nd graders is just a bonus on why I love her).
  • Kristen– I’ve already written about her before, but I’ll never get sick of talking about her.
    • What I’ve learned from you is that we can be serious, be silly, and be good at what we do… together. And encouragement always helps; matching our outfits is just a bonus.
  • Silvia– A librarian and entrepreneur, she speaks her mind and shares the beauty of the place that I have come to call home but that has always been hers.
    • What I’ve learned from you is to never wait if you want to travel. Live a life of abundance in food, style, and merriment.
  • Ruta– An author of hidden histories with a powerful pen and a big heart.
    • What I’ve learned from you is that listening has the power to give a voice to the voiceless.
  • Molly– I’ve known you less than a year but I know you love what you do in a banana costume or hosting an author.
    • What I’ve learned from you is loving what you do makes it that much easier to work and that book criticism comes easy for some– your mind is like a steel trap!
  • Annie– Stepping in to an administrative position was the next logical step for you and you’ll shine for sure.
    • What I’ve learned from you is that leadership is kindness and knowledge is power because learning never stops.
  • Lisa– Your work can’t be easy but your wordsmithing skills are superb.
    • What I’ve learned from you is that hard work as a team is easier than going at it alone.
  • Heather– My oldest friend. And ironically one who also works in education but in a different field but with the same goals to be good at what we do and inspire others to do the same while impacting young lives.
    • What I’ve learned from you is that women should never be in competition with each other. We should spend our energy building each other up and that takes time and an investment.
  • Alea– Leading a committee of fabulous women who were once strangers and giving us direction and guidance from afar couldn’t have been easy. But you did it.
    • What I learned from you is that leadership is quiet but it can also be loud: use your voice. (And give the best damn present ever– I still get misty-eyed looking at mine).


Think about the women in your life and how they inspire you.

We should all spend a little more time thinking about what we’re grateful for. And, rolling in to the Thanksgiving season, it is the perfect time to stop and think about. And sometimes you just need a old-school chain tweet to remind you about it too.

Leave a comment

Posted by on November 10, 2019 in Blogging, Miscellaneous


I never apologize


I never apologize to myself or others for reading hiatuses, just like I don’t apologize if it’s been four weeks or four days since my last blog post.

I never apologize for taking a break from reading fiction so that I can read a graphic biography.

I never apologize for reading picture books at lunch even though I’m a high school librarian, and I will count each book including those picture books in my overall total.

1 Comment

Posted by on October 14, 2019 in Blogging, Miscellaneous


Photographic memories: A collaboration with wings


Spending a massive amount of time reading fiction for my year-long commitment to the Best Fiction for Young Adults blogging team means that I need a mental break once in a while to read nonfiction, poetry, short stories, and anything graphic to keep me fresh for fiction. And in the words of Frenchman Stendhal, “a good book is an event in my life.” Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide is one such book from this past weekend. It hasn’t left me.

Published in 2018, I saw the cover frequently and wanted to get my hands on it. Focused on the life of Graciela Iturbide, she is the title character and the most memorable. A life that endured a tragedy, the death of a child, which she never talked about, it threw her into a tailspin and she became uber-focused on photography by specifically documenting her native Mexico.

2019-09-28 10.45.05And it’s the likes of illustrator Zeke Peña combined with the words of Isabel Quintero that merge Iturbide’s photography with an illustrated style that brings it to life two-fold. The most memorable panel, the one in which Peña re-works the iconic woman with the iguanas side by side with the photograph courtesy of Getty Images, is striking. And there are other panels that captivate the reader in their presentation and solidifies Peña’s skill both individually and collaboratively working with Quintero’s storytelling. Plus, the font itself worked seamlessly for my eyeballs to move around the pages and panels. Even Peña recognizes the beauty of illustrations by thanking readers “you and your eyeballs for reading this book”. You’re welcome, Peña. Thank you for illustrating it. And it got me thinking about my own life at thirty-something– how would Peña draw mine? What would Quintero write about me? Perhaps the best kind of self-reflective writing prompts could come from this book.

2019-09-28 10.45.18-1

How can we know so little about Iturbide? I am grateful to author and illustrator for starting the conversation with this glorious ode to her life and skill. And nothing says it better than Quintero’s words on Iturbide’s travels in this memorable quote: “Traveling is lonely. Not a desperate loneliness but the kind that asks me to reflect more deeply about the place I’m in. The wings behind my eyes open wide; traveling helps me see my many selves better”.

I advise (that like me) you read this more than once, keep it close by to recommend often, order multiple copies, and encourage budding photographers with this graphic novel biography.

1 Comment

Posted by on September 30, 2019 in Authors, Cover Love, Graphic novels, Nonfiction