Monday, February 26, 2018

MMGM- One True Way and Votes for Women

I feel bludgeoned. There has been entirely too much bad in the world lately, and it's getting to me.  To add to this, social media has focused not only on the violence in the world, but on weirdness in the children's literature world. As important as this is, it is wearing.

It doesn't help that I had a friend who had a heart attack last week, and over the weekend FIVE of the books I read had parents who died and families where the survivors couldn't get out of bed.

My mother always made it VERY clear that being sad in public IS NOT AN OPTION. The only option that exists is to get up, get dressed, put on a happy face, and go out in the world and be helpful and kind.

In order for me to do that, I need to ignore all the bad stuff going on in the world. I will try to make a positive difference by being upbeat and supportive to the children with whom I come in contact. I just can't go on any other way.

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Always in the Middle and #IMWAYR day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.

Hitchcock, S33382228hannon. One True Way
February 27th 2018 by Scholastic
ARC provided by publisher upon request

In 1977, Allie and her mother move from New Jersey to the South. Grieving over the death of her brother in a car accident and the separation and pending divorce of her parents, Allie is relieved when a popular girl, Sam, talks to her on her first day at Daniel Boone Middle School. Allie has a great interest in journalism, and through Sam's connections is given a chance to write for the school newspaper by Webb, the editor. She starts by writing an article about Sam, interviewing her basketball coach and going to her house to meet her family. Settling into their new community, Allie's librarian mother makes the acquaintance of a local female minister as well as Sam's coach... and her roommate. Allie feels that something is different about this relationship, but Sam won't tell her anything when she asks. As Allie continues to write articles, she spends more time with Webb, who has a crush on her. Oddly, Allie feels much happier when she is around Sam, and starts to realize that she has a crush on her friend. Knowing the problems that the coach is starting to face when her sexuality is under scrutiny, Allie is uncomfortable with this, but confides in the minister and her mother about her concerns. Sam is even more concerned, because her parents are very religious, and when she talked to her pastor, she was told that how she felt was a sin. While both girls struggle with their relationships and families, they are helped by concerned adults in their lives so that they can navigate through the social mores prevalent during this time period.

While more recent books are mainly concerned with incorporating LGTBQ+ characters in stories that are not necessarily focused on coming out, I realized that even though I've tried very hard to build a diverse collection, my library actually didn't have any coming out titles about lesbians other than Dee's Star-Crossed, although I may purchase Jan Petro-Roy's P.S. I Miss You (3/6/18). Nancy Garden's excellent Annie on My Mind (1982), is dated now, and Young Adult novels don't speak to the middle school experience. While this is not an #ownvoices book, Hitchcock had several sensitivity readers, and the variety of responses to the topics in the book from various characters seem realistic.

The thing that I liked best about the book was that it introduced sensitive issues without putting too many value judgements on them. The was especially evident with Sam's parents involvement in the church. While this attitude is shown as being hard on Sam, there is no outright condemnation of the church, and there is another minister who is portrayed sympathetically. The parents are amicable in their divorce, keeping Allie's well being first in their thoughts. The best bit of information Sam is given is that she needs to stay safe, which was critically important in 1977 when teachers could lose their jobs if the slightest inkling of homosexuality was revealed, but is still good advice to students today. Sam has an ally in her sister, but clearly would not be safe if she continued to bring the topic of her sexuality up with her parents.

The late 1970s were very different from the earlier part of the decade, and Hitchcock manages to accurately portray the social Zeitgeist while throwing in details like a boy wearing a silky shirt with sleeves rolled up and a comb in his back pocket with the handle sticking out. Yes! And I know, because, like Allie and Sam, I was a seventh grader in 1977!

One True Way is a great addition to diverse middle school collections. Add it to Barakiva's One Many Guy, Federle's Better Nate Than Ever, Sayre's Husky, Wittlinger's Saturdays with Hitchock, Gino's George, Hennessey's The Other Boy, Polonsky's Gracefully Grayson, and other books that show different experiences with sexual orientation and gender identity in a way that will make middle school readers more understanding of the challenges faced by the people in the world around them.

My only criticism-- the characters should have been named Lisa and Jenny. Or Pat. Or even Terry, if we wanted a more gender neutral name. I did know a few Allisons, but never knew any Samanthas. My own name was #5 in popularity for my age cohort!

33590224Conkling, Winifred. Votes for Women!: American Suffragists and the Battle for the Ballot
February 13th 2018 by Algonquin Young Readers

This extremely informative book on the history of women's suffrage starts with Elizabeth Cady Stanton's life, and her father's disappointment that she is not a boy. It continues through the Seneca Falls Convention, covers Susan B. Anthony, and gives really interesting information about Victoria Woodhull. Lucy Stone and other luminaries in the Suffrage movement are amply covered, and the stories are told in an intriguing way. For example, we are given just enough information about Stanton's difficulties in raising 6 children, and anecdotes like these are balanced out with more global history. There is a fantastic bibliography, ample footnotes, some primary source documents or links to them online, and a helpful timeline.
Strengths: Conkling writes exceedingly well-researched, all-encompassing history books like Radioactive: How Irène Curie and Lise Meitner Revolutionized Science and Changed the World, and does a great job at making them a suitable length and depth of information for high school students to read for pleasure and middle school students to use for research. The information is presented in an easy to understand way, and there are enough pictures and accompanying sidebars to help this book move along at a good pace.
Weaknesses: This went into exquisite detail, but even I had to take some breaks reading this. A lot of information to process, even for one really interested in the information.
What I Really think: Definitely purchasing this for research, and there will be one or two readers a year who are able to make it through the whole book. This is more accessible to middle grade readers (most of whom peter out after 200 pages) than Colman's  Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: A Friendship that Changed the World (2011) but not quite as enthralling as Deborah Kops Alice Paul and the Fight for Women's Rights. (2017).

Ms. Yingling


  1. These books sound really good! I'm sorry to hear about your friend and your week, but it's great that you're trying to push through! Thanks so much for the recommendations!

  2. Both sound very good. I taught middle schoolers and One True Way would have been a good one to share with them. I like that it seems milder, just showing things to work out and families doing that. The Rules for Women will be one that I will enjoy, hoping that others like you will make it available for students. Thanks, Karen!

  3. I'm sorry about your friend's heart attack, Karen. For what it's worth, I appreciate that you highlight more upbeat books (and warn when they are not). There's enough sadness in the world without wallowing in fictional sadness all day, I think.

  4. Yes, way too much sadness in the world. I balance it by reading funny books out loud to kids. There's nothing better than the sound of laughter. Thanks for all of your intriguing selections this past week.

  5. I think you are a wise and brave woman and I appreciate your insights on how to carry on when things get overwhelming. And I agree with Greg--go find the rest of the Brixton Brothers books and, if you can't find a kid to read them aloud to, enjoy them yourself.

  6. The depressing events of late have been very difficult. And much of my reading has been rough, as well. I was so sorry to hear about your friend's heart attack. That's frightening. :(

    I'm especially interested in reading Votes for Women! I know my kiddos need to learn more about this movement and what all was involved. I'm also wondering how it pairs with the movie Iron Jawed Angels.

    Have a wonderful week!

  7. I agree with your thoughts about how heavy the world feels right now. Kids have enough angst to deal with during their teenage years. Add an unstable world and it can be overwhelming -- even for adults. Agree with Greg that kids need to balance with humor. We do to! I reviewed a humorous story by Natalie Lloyd. I was in college in the early 70s and very involved with theater. It was a difficult time for those who were gay. Interesting times then. The book sounds intriguing. I would definitely enjoy reading the book on the history of women's suffrage. Great picks today.

  8. I too lost a close friend to a heart attack last week. I still can't process it. It has been a difficult time and I agree that all we can do is carry on.
    I am so happy to read about One True Way! the first book I brought into the library with a gay character was James Howes Misfits. It and all the rest of those companion books were a success. I even purchased lit circle sets of that and Totally Joe. I never did find a lesbian book that was appropriate for my elementary aged readers. I'll pass this recommendation on to the librarian who took over my job, and all my other librarian friends.
    On a positive note, I find the teens speaking out after the Stoneman shooting, making me hopeful for all of you.

  9. Anonymous9:36 PM EST

    I hope your journey through the heaviness of the world is short and that you find yourself in a better brighter place. I enjoy the honesty of your reviews. I appreciate it.

  10. I love One True Way. Terrific book. Votes for Women looks pretty interesting. Thanks for the review.

  11. Not sure if you're familiar with Laura Redniss' Radioactive: A Tale Of Love and Fallout? I reviewed it here -

    I hear you about the ugly things going on in the world. Sending you love, light, and positivity from Singapore.