Pixels of You by Ananth Hirsh and Yuko Ota, Illustrated by J.R. Doyle

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Pixels of You
Author: Ananth Hirsh and Yuko Ota
Illustrator: J.R. Doyle
Published February 8, 2022

Summary: A human and human-presenting AI slowly become friends—and maybe more—in this moving YA graphic novel.

In a near future, augmentation and AI changed everything and nothing. Indira is a human girl who has been cybernetically augmented after a tragic accident, and Fawn is one of the first human-presenting AI. They have the same internship at a gallery, but neither thinks much of the other’s photography. But after a huge public blowout, their mentor gives them an ultimatum: work together on a project or leave her gallery forever. Grudgingly, the two begin to collaborate, and what comes out of it is astounding and revealing for both of them. Pixels of You is about the slow transformation of a rivalry to a friendship to something more as Indira and Fawn navigate each other, the world around them—and what it means to be an artist and a person.

Praise: 

“Ultimately a short but sweet story about two girls slowly falling in love. . .The art, however, is striking, with bold, stark colors; plays on light and dark; and disrupted frames depicting photos and extending emotional moments.”

Kirkus Reviews

“The robot/human relationship serves as a reflection on managing cultural alienation, and the girls’ chemistry is well developed, building to a surprising, sweet conclusion. Hirsh and Ota’s story is a combination of broad narrative strokes and intimate moments, and Doyle’s manga-inspired, deliciously purple and pink illustrations float with ease through a near-future New York.”

School Library Journal

About the Creators: Ananth Hirsh and Yuko Ota are the Ignus Award winning team behind Lucky Penny, which won a Cybil Award, was a JLG selection, and received a starred review from PW. They live in Brooklyn. J.R. Doyle is an up-and-coming artist, creator of Knights-Errant, a successful web comic and Kickstarter project. They live in Brooklyn.

Review: This short but impactful graphic novel hits on so much! It is an interesting look at where our world may be going when it comes to AI and humans living side by side. It can be taken on the surface for what it is: a human dealing with the rise of AI and her own inclusion of an eye transplant and a human-presenting AI who is dealing with not fitting in anywhere. But it can also be discussed within the context of identity in general. There is one point where Fawn is trying to prove herself to Indira when two robot-presenting AI tell her that she isn’t better than them. This can definitely tie into so many trying to find their place when they are in between worlds.

I will say, my one criticism is actually what also may be one of its strengths: its length. I felt like there was so much unanswered in the story, specifically in the world building, but maybe we’ll have more in the future!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: In addition to finding love from your sci-fi graphic novel fans, I’d love to see the premise for this world to be used as a creative writing prompt or even an exploratory essay about how the students would take the world or the commentary throughout that discusses bias could be used as a short research project or expository essay. Additionally, there are great aspects throughout that talk about photography, such as lighting, exposure, and setting.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why is Indira haunted by AI in her dreams?
  • What did Indira originally think about Fawn?
  • How does Fawn not fit in anywhere? How does that make her feel?
  • In the future, do you think AI and humans will be seen as equals?
  • How does photography bring Fawn and Indira together?
  • What did Indira realize after meeting Fawn’s parents?
  • Why does Fawn call her parents her parents even though AI wouldn’t have parents?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Science fiction, graphic novels, Isaac Asimov’s robot short stories

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Media Masters Publicity for providing a copy for review!**

What is Love? by Mac Barnett, Illustrated by Carson Ellis

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What is Love?
Author: Mac Barnett
Illustrator: Carson Ellis
Publishing December 28, 2021 by Chronicle

Summary: A beautiful fable about the nature of love, from beloved, award-winning picture book creators Mac Barnett and Carson Ellis.

“What is love?” a young boy asks. “I can’t answer that,” his grandmother says, and so the boy goes out into the world to find out. But while each person he meets—the fisherman, the actor, and others—has an answer to his question, not one seems quite right. Could love really be a fish, or applause, or the night? Or could it actually be something much closer to home? This tender, funny tale is an original take on the “I love you” story, a picture book treasure for all ages to read and cherish.

A CLASSIC LOVE STORY: A wonderful narrative voice and spectacular pictures give this book the feel of a modern classic. Fans of The Runaway Bunny, Guess How Much I Love You, and Love You Forever will adore this book.

A BOOK THAT KIDS AS WELL AS PARENTS WILL ENJOY: Many books about the love between parents and children are told from an adult’s point of view. This book begins from the child’s perspective, and it’s funny and unexpected in ways that children can relate to, while being thoughtful in ways that adults will appreciate. Like all great children’s books, this book can be understood on many levels.

A BOOK ABOUT FINDING YOURSELF: The boy’s journey takes him to many different people, whose descriptions of what love means to them is very much about how they see themselves and their lives.

A GREAT READ-ALOUD: The engaging text is full of surprises and the distinctive voice of the narrator invites audiences to respond.

STAR TALENT: Mac Barnett is a New York Times bestselling author and a beloved figure on the school speaking circuit. Carson Ellis is a Caldecott Honor-winner and illustrator of some of the most interesting and beautiful children’s books published today. They’re an incredible creative duo and long-time friends, working together for the first time on this book.

Review: What is love? Adults and children will have a hard time defining it. It’s an abstract concept that is difficult to describe. A boy sets out to try to find the answer to this question. What I loved most about this book was that it wasn’t entirely serious—instead, this charming story has dabs of humor in it. Mac Barnett is just incredibly talented, and I’ve always loved the ways in which Carson Ellis’s illustrations capture the hearts of kids. I adored this book and think it will be one that readers of all ages will appreciate. It will leave them pondering—what is love to them?

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book offers words and images which attempt to describe an abstract concept. Readers might write their own versions of this book with a different concept. For instance, “What is joy?” or “What is hope?”

Discussion Questions: 

  • What is love?
  • What answers does the boy find?
  • How do the author and illustrator add humor to the story?
  • Which spread was your favorite, and why?
  • Why is love defined differently by each person he asks?
  • Although the boy said he didn’t find an answer, he tells his grandmother he did–what is his answer?

Flagged Passages: 

“She picked me up in her arms and said,

‘I can’t answer that.’

‘Who can?’ I asked.

‘If you go out into the world,

you might find an answer.'”

Read This If You Love: Books about Love

Recommended For: 

**Thank you to Chronicle Books for providing a copy for review!**

Charming as a Verb by Ben Philippe

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Charming as a Verb
Author: Ben Philippe
Published October 13, 2020 by Balzer + Bray

Summary: Henri “Halti” Haltiwanger can charm just about anyone. He is a star debater and popular student at the prestigious FATE academy, the dutiful first-generation Haitian son, and the trusted dog walker for his wealthy New York City neighbors. But his easy smiles mask a burning ambition to attend his dream college, Columbia University.

There is only one person who seems immune to Henri’s charms: his “intense” classmate and neighbor Corinne Troy. When she uncovers Henri’s less-than-honest dog-walking scheme, she blackmails him into helping her change her image at school. Henri agrees, seeing a potential upside for himself.

Soon what started as a mutual hustle turns into something more surprising than either of them ever bargained for. . . .

This is a sharply funny and insightful novel about the countless hustles we have to keep from doing the hardest thing: being ourselves.

Review: This is one of the best examples of characterization that I’ve read in a book. I fell in love with so many characters (even minor ones!), which drew me into the story even more. Henri reminds me of some of my favorite students that I’ve had. He’s charming, driven, and likable. There’s a lot that happens in this book that I don’t want to spoil—but I should write that it teaches an incredibly powerful lesson. There’s one scene that made my stomach do flips, and I will think of that scene often. This would be a great text to use to explore concepts of ethics. It also offers a lot of insight about the college prep experiences for teens. I highly recommend this book to readers. It’s a powerful story and one that will stick with me.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does the characterization of the text add to the story? Who were your favorite characters, and why?
  • Which minor characters really stand out to you? How does the author make them so noteworthy?
  • What did you learn from this book?
  • What does this book teach us about ethics? About humanity?

Flagged Passage: 

“There’s no use complaining about it and wishing the world was different. This isn’t how we change things for ourselves.”

Read this if You Loved: Love is a Revolution by Renée Watson; The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe; I Crawl Through It by A.S. King

Recommended For: 

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Love is a Revolution by Renée Watson

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Love is a Revolution
Author: Renée Watson
Published February 2, 2021 by Bloomsbury

Summary: From New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Renée Watson comes a new YA–a love story about not only a romantic relationship but how a girl finds herself and falls in love with who she really is.

When Nala Robertson reluctantly agrees to attend an open mic night for her cousin-sister-friend Imani’s birthday, she finds herself falling in instant love with Tye Brown, the MC. He’s perfect, except . . . Tye is an activist and is spending the summer putting on events for the community when Nala would rather watch movies and try out the new seasonal flavors at the local creamery. In order to impress Tye, Nala tells a few tiny lies to have enough in common with him. As they spend more time together, sharing more of themselves, some of those lies get harder to keep up. As Nala falls deeper into keeping up her lies and into love, she’ll learn all the ways love is hard, and how self-love is revolutionary.

In Love Is a Revolution, plus size girls are beautiful and get the attention of the hot guys, the popular girl clique is not shallow but has strong convictions and substance, and the ultimate love story is not only about romance but about how to show radical love to the people in your life, including to yourself.

Ricki’s Review: There is so much to write about this book! First, I loved the way it elevated body positivity. The comments (implicit and explicit) about Nala’s size felt, at times, infuriating. I was so proud of the way she handled these comments. I also loved the idea that everyone doesn’t need to be a loud activist to be doing amazing work. Nala was keenly focused on her family, and the work that she did was important work. I admired her greatly. The book made me think a lot about my own convictions and what I value most. This is a book that belongs in all classrooms, and I recommend it highly. 

Discussion Questions: 

  • How is Nala different from the other characters in the book? What do we learn from her?
  • What does Tye value? What do we learn from him?
  • How is Nala and Tye’s relationship perceived?
  • How do different characters in this book perceive family? Which characters reflect your own values, and why?

Flagged Passage: 

I can’t stand when people don’t follow through. Make a plan, stick to it. Say what you mean and mean what you say.”

Read This If You Love: Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson; Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado

Recommended For: 

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Furia by Yamile Saied Méndez

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Furia
Author: Yamile Saied Méndez
Published: September 15, 2020 by Algonquin

Summary: An #ownvoices contemporary YA set in Argentina, about a rising soccer star who must put everything on the line—even her blooming love story—to follow her dreams.

In Rosario, Argentina, Camila Hassan lives a double life.

At home, she is a careful daughter, living within her mother’s narrow expectations, in her rising-soccer-star brother’s shadow, and under the abusive rule of her short-tempered father.

On the field, she is La Furia, a powerhouse of skill and talent. When her team qualifies for the South American tournament, Camila gets the chance to see just how far those talents can take her. In her wildest dreams, she’d get an athletic scholarship to a North American university.

But the path ahead isn’t easy. Her parents don’t know about her passion. They wouldn’t allow a girl to play fútbol—and she needs their permission to go any farther. And the boy she once loved is back in town. Since he left, Diego has become an international star, playing in Italy for the renowned team Juventus. Camila doesn’t have time to be distracted by her feelings for him. Things aren’t the same as when he left: she has her own passions and ambitions now, and La Furia cannot be denied. As her life becomes more complicated, Camila is forced to face her secrets and make her way in a world with no place for the dreams and ambition of a girl like her.

But is it possible that she’s becoming too American—as her father accuses—and what does it mean when her feelings for Harrison and Neo start to change? Ana will spend her year learning that the rules of English may be confounding, but there are no rules when it comes to love.

With playful and poetic breakouts exploring the idiosyncrasies of the English language, Love in English tells a story that is simultaneously charming and romantic, while articulating a deeper story about what it means to become “American.”

Ricki’s Review: I lost a lot of sleep reading this book. I could not stop reading! Camila’s voice was so strong that I was really drawn to her story. I am not a particularly athletic person, yet I loved reading about the soccer within this book. It is set in Argentina, which offered a perspective of the country. It made me want to visit Argentina. There are many rich themes in this text that make it very teachable—in particular, it offers depictions of domestic abuse, sexism, and strength. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I would love to use this book with a translanguaging lens of analysis. It would also be interesting to look at feminist theory as a theoretical framing of the text. But it isn’t about me–instead, I’d ask students what they find interesting in the text and what they want to learn more about. This allows for a freedom of curiosity to explore topics of interest from the text (and there are many!).

Discussion Questions:

  • How do gender roles differ related to soccer in Argentina, according to Camila’s perspective?
  • What is the role of family in the text?
  • What does Camila’s mother teach readers? Her brother? Her best friend?
  • Do you think Camila makes the right choices regarding her future? Why or why not?

Flagged Passage: “Our family was stuck in a cosmic hamster wheel of toxic love, making the same mistakes, saying the same words, being hurt in the same ways generation after generation. I didn’t want to keep playing a role in this tragedy of errors.”

Read This Book If You Loved: Love in English by Maria E. Andreu;  Ask Me No Questions by Marina Budhos, Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok; YA Books with Sports

Recommended For: 

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  RickiSig

Love in English by Maria E. Andreu

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Love in English
Author: Maria E. Andreu
Published: February 2, 2021 by Balzer + Bray

Summary: Sixteen-year-old Ana has just moved to New Jersey from Argentina for her Junior year of high school. She’s a poet and a lover of language—except that now, she can barely understand what’s going on around her, let alone find the words to express how she feels in the language she’s expected to speak.

All Ana wants to do is go home—until she meets Harrison, the very cute, very American boy in her math class. And then there’s her new friend Neo, the Greek boy she’s partnered up with in ESL class, who she bonds with over the 80s teen movies they are assigned to watch for class (but later keep watching together for fun), and Altagracia, her artistic and Instagram-fabulous friend, who thankfully is fluent in Spanish and able to help her settle into American high school.

But is it possible that she’s becoming too American—as her father accuses—and what does it mean when her feelings for Harrison and Neo start to change? Ana will spend her year learning that the rules of English may be confounding, but there are no rules when it comes to love.

With playful and poetic breakouts exploring the idiosyncrasies of the English language, Love in English tells a story that is simultaneously charming and romantic, while articulating a deeper story about what it means to become “American.”

Ricki’s Review: I read this book and immediately thought of the many people who would love reading it. It does a beautiful job offering a lived experience of a young girl who is finely attuned to language acquisition. I have been meeting regularly with two students who have shared similar experiences to those of Ana, and I plan to share this book with them. For many, this book will act as a mirror, window, and sliding glass door. I understand fully the criticism this book has received–Maria E. Andreu writes in the opening that she was born in Spain, and her grandparents moved from Spain to Argentina as toddlers. She grew up in the US, traveled to Argentina at age 6 and then was not allowed to return to the US. She was undocumented at age 8 in the US. She talks about her experiences with this and with White privilege in powerful ways in The Secret Side to Empty. My thoughts about this controversy are not as valuable as those of a person with Latinx descent. In the end, I do wish that the character more closely matched Maria E. Andreu’s story rather than that of a native Argentinian. I loved the book and appreciated all that it taught me about Maria E. Andreu’s experiences with language, and there simply aren’t enough books available that explicitly discuss the linguistic diversity within our schools. this book is one that I will remember for quite some time.

Kellee’s Review: One of the things I love most about my school is the amount of diversity and the acceptance and inclusion of all in the school; we do not care where you are from or what language you speak–you are welcome with open arms!  While reading Love in English, I found myself being so upset with the students and some of the teachers in Ana’s school. Why was her ethnicity and language acquisition something that anyone would find funny or bully-worthy?! But then I remember that other places are not like my school… 

I also found myself connecting with Mr. T the ELL teacher! When I first started working at my school, I was intimidated with teaching ELL students because I didn’t think I would be of any help with someone learning English when it was the only language I knew. But throughout my first few years there, I began to learn that teaching ELL students is one of my favorite honors of being a teacher. My 7th year teaching, I taught a class much like Mr. T’s class, and it is one of my favorite classes I’ve ever taught. Mr. T shows how an ELL class, done correctly, can truly become home at school. 

Also, as a reading teacher & librarian at a school with a large Latinx population, primarily from South America, I found that it is so hard to find books that truly reflect my students’ experiences, but Love in English is a mirror for so many of them! It made me so happy while reading because I know that Ana’s experience is one that they will connect with. 

Overall, this story looks at language acquisition in a way that I have not seen in another book and it does so during a wonderful story with some amazing poetry woven throughout. I also love that the language acquisition aspect is based on the author’s experiences.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: We would love to use this book to teach about language and translanguaging. We’d group texts that help us think about the power of discussions related to the nuances of language.

Ana, throughout the novel, focuses on aspects of English in her journal. Use Ana’s journals to guide activities on some of the more challenging and, some would say, nonsensical parts of English, like idioms, similar looking words that are pronounced differently, and more.

Ana’s journals are written in beautiful poetry! Use Ana’s poetry for a mentor text to have students write poetry about similar topics to Ana.

Many of Mr. T’s activities that he implemented in his classroom are amazing activities to work with students acquiring a new language. If you are in a language-focused classroom, they would be assets to your classroom.

Discussion Questions:

  • How does language influence the ways in which Ana moves in the world?
  • How do Ana’s relationships with family and friends impact her life?
  • What is the significance of the title of the book?
  • How might the author’s perspective have influenced her work?
  • Why does Mr. T recommend Ana and Neo watch movies as part of their language acquisition?
  • What is the impact of the author’s use of ### since Ana is the narrator?
  • What is a part of the English language that you find confusing?
  • How did the year that Ana and her dad were apart affect their current relationship?
  • Why was Ana so drawn to a relationship with Harrison at first?
  • How was Altagracia’s friendship lifechanging for Ana?

Flagged Passage: 

“‘We don’t have to speak English,’ I tell her. I think–

We don’t have to do it this way.

We don’t have to make it so hard.

We don’t have to erase everything about us. At least not all at once.

—but I do not say it” (Advanced Reader Copy p. 35).

Recipe for Disaster

How do you get an apple in your eye?
Just how easy is pie? 

Who would eat crow or eat their heart out? 
Or how could anyone eat enough hay to eat like a horse? 
How can a potato sit on the couch?
In a world where so many thins are confusing, even food, 
I dream of a day when it is a piece of cake.” (Digital Review Copy Loc 1125)

Read This Book If You Loved: The Secret Side to Empty by Maria E. Andreu, Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez, Ask Me No Questions by Marina Budhos, Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok, Illegal by Bettina Restrepo

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall litcirclesbuttonsmall

  RickiSig and

The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik by David Arnold

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The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik
Author: David Arnold
Published: May 22, 2018 by Viking

Guest Review by Natalia Sperry

Summary: This is Noah Oakman → sixteen, Bowie believer, concise historian, disillusioned swimmer, son, brother, friend.

Then Noah → gets hypnotized.

Now Noah → sees changes—inexplicable scars, odd behaviors, rewritten histories—in all those around him. All except his Strange Fascinations . . .

Review: The longer I sit with this book, the more I feel like I’m still it; every time I sit down to think about it, I find new things to consider. If that’s not the sign of a good book,I don’t know what else is. The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hipnotik is a surreal exploration of identity, friendship, and family on the brink of the many changes protagonist Noah Oakman faces (both before and after his hypnotic episode) as he looks to the future beyond high school.

Above all else, I loved the nerdom in this book, both in its literary and historical detail as well as the variety of pop-culture references. In particular, much of the book (including its title) is drawn from musical icon David Bowie, so I’ll admit,  it’s hard to go wrong. The humor also brings some lightness to the moral questions and philosophical questions of self and reality, which helps keep the largely internal narrative afloat.

Through it all, this book captures an important to capture the emotional gamut of someone’s life, especially when it feels like everything is ch-ch-ch-changing around you. Whether you’re looking for fun or serious contemplation of reality, this book will let you escape for a while (and even for a while longer after you’re done!)

Teacher’s Tool For Navigation: Though grounded in humor and pop culture references, this book would make for a really interesting companion to classics like James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, or J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. In asking students to compare the latter with Strange Fascinations, there are some really interesting parallels to be made both in the coming of age story and in the respective protagonists’ relationships with their sisters.

Discussion Questions: Do you agree, like Circuit, that genuine conversations are rare in the contemporary world? What do you think of Noah’s “strange fascinations?” Do you have any “fascinations” of your own, in this sense?

Flagged: “Some books are songs like that, the ones you go back to, make playlists of, put on repeat” (page 108).

Read This If You Loved: Mosquitoland by David Arnold, Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall 

RickiSig