Looking for a YA Vacation Read? Check out *All Summer Long*

35791910With loving observational style, All Summer Long by Hope Larson captures the insecure wavering that is often felt in the time between childhood and adulthood. Bookended by the end of 7th Grade and the beginning of 8th Grade, and broken up into seven weeks of summer, the graphic novel follows Bina over her summer vacation of ups and downs.

The novel opens with terrible news: Bina’s best friend Austin is going to soccer camp for the entire summer. Gone are the usual summer adventures and vacation traditions they have shared for years. Being left behind is never easy, and at first Bina copes by binging a television series until her mom cuts off the cable. After that, each week brings a new mishap and life experience. Losing her key brings her to a new friend in Austin’s older sister Charlie, that friendship introduces her to the machinations behind teen dating, and a babysitting job – complete with a traumatic episode that is at once upsetting and comforting. Typical teenage summer stuff.

Bina and Austin reunite at the end of the summer having both grown in different directions and learned a lot about who they were becoming. Will their friendship survive for 8th Grade?

The best parts of this graphic novel display the push and pull of growing up. In one scene, where Bina accompanies Charlie to a babysitting job, Bina grumbles and whines like a child about the walk and being hungry, much to Charlie’s dismay. Later, Bina holds her own when defending herself to Charlie in a scene that both highlights and refutes that Bina is “just a kid.”  In another scene it is Bina’s youthful enthusiasm for her favorite band that brings a very grownup piece of advice to her ears and ends up affecting her 8th Grade year.

All Summer Long is a joy to read. Bina is awkward and likeable and fun to watch as she stumbles and dances over the summer. The adventures and mishaps are relatable and have just enough fantastic twists to keep the story stimulating and still believable. It is perfect for fans of Victoria Jamieson’s Roller Girl. Highly recommended for ages 10-13.

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Another One: The Reality of Numbness and What To Do and What To Say

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After today’s school shooting in Texas, a friend shared that she was disturbed by her lack of emotional reaction to the event. It’s been a cycle that can be played out in shock and denial, horror, anger, helplessness, and throwing up our hands in an attempt to separate and move on with life. A row of various emojis ending with a reluctant and somewhat sheepish ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

However, she ended with “Numbness is not an option.” And she’s absolutely correct. If you love yourself, others, our republic, life, numbness is not an option. Continue reading

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RBG is an Inspiring and Instructive Must See

300xThe new documentary RBG is a Must See if you believe in The U.S. Constitution, incremental but meaningful forward change that lasts, and the power of focus, love, and laughter. It screened recently as part of The Montclair Film Festival, and the film is wrapping up an active festival circuit before opening to wide release this week.

Even active and avid fans of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg will learn something new about this icon of dissent and warrior for equal rights for women. Audiences get a peek at her closet of collars, hear touching letters from her life partner Marty Ginsberg, and watch as RBG belly-laughs at Kate McKinnon giving a GinsBURN on SNL. RBG is an entertaining, educational, and hopeful journey centered on cases that shaped the Supreme Court Justice’s career and passion for law. Continue reading

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Review: BE PREPARED by Vera Brosgol

Be PreparedAnyone who has tried and failed to fit in during childhood will find something to relate to in Vera Brosgol’s graphic memoir BE PREPARED. The book opens with 9-year old Vera, an eager and hopeful girl, at the perfect birthday party with a Carvel cake, a stuffed crust pizza, and “high quality” party favors. When Vera tries to re-create her dream birthday for herself, everything is just a little off. Her mother has tried to provide all the ingredients on a budget and with nods to the family’s Russian heritage. The cake is not a Carvel ice cream cake, but a Russian tort complete with Russian lettering, the pizza is from a friend’s pizzeria (no stuffed crust), and all the girls disappear overnight after phone calls home, and without taking their goodie bags. She feels “too poor…too Russian…too different.” The discomfort, desire to belong, and repeated, hopeful attempts at fitting in are palpable and cringe-worthy. Through it all, Vera is a remarkable example of perseverance and sensitivity – even if those qualities are not always consistent. Continue reading

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March for ALL Our Lives

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Note that the top center name is incorrect. Gabrielle Hill Carter, 8, was shot and killed in Camden. Lela Cruz, 8, was hit by a car and killed. RIP

My sign for Newark’s #MarchForOurLives had several names and ages of children killed with firearms in New Jersey. It’s by no means an exhaustive list, but I wanted to include a range of places and ages. Please find details, from oldest to youngest by area, for each of the children listed. Continue reading

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23 Years Ago, in Montclair

Screen-Shot-2016-01-09-at-8.59.35-AMIn the 90’s, I remember hearing the phrase “Going Postal” used as almost amusing hyperbole when someone seemed a little too upset about what felt like a minor issue. I remember hearing about unbelievable incidents in passing, trying to explain them away with “ifs, ands, or buts” that protected my sense of safety, and then half-shrugging. But “Going Postal” was never amusing or hyperbole for those directly affected by incidents of gun violence that occurred in or around U.S. Post Offices. Montclair included.

About a month ago, the daughter of Scott Walensky, one of the Montclair Post Office shooting victims, left a message on an old blog post here, and it really hit home (again) how deeply and for how long friends and family and communities of those taken by gun violence feel the loss. Continue reading

Posted in Activism, Memory | Tagged , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

I am holding your hand.

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I feel like we need to hear this today. 

Current public discourse and breaking news and personal tragedies and life stresses and national events and expectations of action and more and more and more, empties our reserves and shreds our nerves. We’ve all been surrounded by so many opportunities to feel called on and pushed away and demanded and urged and ignored and lessened and derided and shut into boxes that don’t fit. Let’s hold each others hands more, and let’s help us all get to the other side intact. Continue reading

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Review: Don’t Miss *Star Scouts: League of Lasers*

9781626722811.jpgLEAGUE OF LASERS by Mike Lawrence, the sequel to STAR SCOUTS, is not only fun, it builds wonderfully on the characters and situations that were so enjoyable in the first book. The upcoming graphic novel flips back and forth between scenes of marooned protagonist Avani Patel’s interactions with her nemesis Pam and the efforts of her ever-larger group of friends’ attempts to rescue her. And this time, Avani’s Dad is along for the journey!

The adventures and interactions are more mature and serious in this story, and the relationships are carefully nuanced, but still relatable. Avani and Pam realize that they need each other to survive, and they each find an appreciation for the others’ strengths. Avani is faced with snaring (super cute and doe-eyed) animals to survive, and Pam, free from her methane helmet, learns to put others’ needs before her own in both small and hugely dramatic ways. Continue reading

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Don’t be like FEMA ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

941744406620643329Shrugging and poking fun at authoritarian behavior, clicking on Facebook posts about ICE demanding to see identification on domestic Amtrak trains with an angry emoji and calling it activism, and succumbing to ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ over calling and marching isn’t the only unlearned lesson from history. FEMA hasn’t learned from the disastrous lessons of Hurricane Katrina either.

From The New York Times: The mission for the Federal Emergency Management Agency was clear: Hurricane Maria had torn through Puerto Rico, and hungry people needed food. Thirty million meals needed to be delivered as soon as possible.

For this huge task, FEMA tapped Tiffany Brown, an Atlanta entrepreneur with no experience in large-scale disaster relief and at least five canceled government contracts in her past. FEMA awarded her $156 million for the job, and Ms. Brown, who is the sole owner and employee of her company, Tribute Contracting LLC, set out to find some help.

Good intentions without follow-through only help the one with good intentions to feel warm and fuzzy. And blaming others (FEMA blames Ms. Brown, Ms. Brown blames FEMA, the subcontractors blame Ms. Brown, Ms. Brown says ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, and Puerto Rico is left with crackers, chips, and dirty water. Oh, and paper towels. Continue reading

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Life at 23: Happy Birthday, Trayvon Martin

27540197_1801716216565674_492740138872809870_nMillion Hoodies launched six years ago in the wake of the racist and horrific murder of Trayvon Martin. Today, what would have been Trayvon Martin’s 23rd birthday, the Million Hoodies NYC chapter launches their #Lifeat23 campaign to honor Trayvon and the lives lost from police brutality and gun violence. Too many lives from our communities are cut short due to systemic racist practices and prevents young Black and Brown children (and their families) from fulfilling their goals.

Million Hoodies invites you to share pictures and reflections of what life was like when you were 23, or alternatively, what you hope life would be like at the age of 23. Please use #LifeAt23 and share your posts over Instagram, Facebook, & Twitter. Continue reading

Posted in Activism, Parenthood | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments