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Gold Medal # 4: LONG ROAD TO THE CIRCUS, by Betsy Bird, illustrated by David Small, a review by Alexis, 21

 "Those People Keep A-Movin'/And That's What Tortures Me..."--Johnny Cash In some ways, we should have known this book was coming. Betsy Bird writes epic kidlit reviews. She brings attention to books readers may otherwise overlook with her "folksy" style and razor-sharp, librarian ability to spot a good thing, plus a big dash of appreciation for creators and the babies- tweens they entertain. Other times, she goes batty for a book that I put on hold at my library and discover I'm not quite the enthusiast as Bird, but that's okay--because all of this thinking about what makes a good book and detailing fine qualities (and some pitfalls) in essay-style reviews means she's been honing her writing skills. Not to mention plotting what story corner she could carve out for herself.  While possessing eclectic sympathies, it's not hard to discern her tastes. I've seen her say more than once that Charlotte's Web is the ultimate Neverbery. Her tw
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Gold Medal # 3: SISTERS OF THE NEVERSEA, by Cynthia Leitich Smith, a review by Alexis, 21 and Charlie, 18

  Tick tock, Tick tock. It's already August, 2021. Last year seemed to go on forever. This one's speeding by. Some of us are back in college or school, at home or virtual. But it's also been a landmark year for Indigenous folks.  We saw the first Native person, Michael Goade (Tlingit and Haida), win the Caldecott Medal for her illustration in the picture book We Are Water Protectors, written by Carole Lindstrom (Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe Indians). The book rocketed to # 1 on the New York Times  bestsellers list and zinged up and down "the list" for months. Akimel O'odham/Pima librarian Naomi Bishop, who chaired the American Indian Youth Literature Awards from 2014-2018, was honored with an I Love My Librarian! Award from ALA and was recently named distinguished Alumni from the University of Washington ischool.  Cynthia Leitich Smith of the Muscogee Creek Nation was the winner of the 2021 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children's Literature. She also launched

Gold Medal #2: SET ME FREE, by Ann Clare LeZotte, a (first!) review by Liz, 17

  Hi, my name is Liz. I'm in high school in Florida. My family is Mexican Indigenous (Otomi). I'm Deaf, I have a cochlear implant, Sign and oral speech. I'm happy to be a new member of Indigo's Bookshelf but a little nervous to post my first review. (Thanks to Charlie, Ms. Deatrice and Ms. Linda for their advice, help and patience in getting me here. It took a lot of work!) Though this is a white MC historical written by a white author, the book weaves racism, anti-Indigenous prejudice, colorism along with the ableism/audism and sexism the MC (and author) experiences firsthand. Other white authors writing historical fiction should use this as an example of how it can be done. And hearing BIPOC authors maybe will consider leaning into Deaf culture and issues to create realistic subplots in their books. I'll write about the book from a Deaf POV because we badly need Deaf and disabled intersection in our sovereign states, nations, tribes and bands. When all my new frie

Gold Medal Prime time: An Interview with Alia Jones, by Charlie, 18

 This person is so awesome, she was like: "Why do you want to interview me?"  Later asking (when I pestered), "You still trying to interview me?"  😂 As soon as I found out about Alia Jones, I knew I liked her and that she would accept me. She is a voice of justice and art and talent and care. We love kids books. We're concerned with Afro-Indigenous identity and history--and how our ancestors honor each other today.  I worked extra hard on my questions because I knew our conversation would resonate. I knew she would dare with me--if I dared with her. Grab a hold--here we goes! C: What's your provenance? You've mentioned your mom and dad a little online. I recently learned your name comes from Frank Herbert's St Alia of the Knife. Where did you come from and who do you belong to? A: My roots are in Alabama and Mississippi, but I was born and raised up north, in Cincinnati Ohio. My mom and dad were very special people. They’ve both passed on. I’m tryin

GOLD MEDAL #1: JOJO MAKOONS, The-Used-To-Be-Best-Friend, by Dawn Quigley, a review by Ashleigh, 15

I asked my friends if I could be the first one to do a blog after our long hiatus. Indigo's Bookshelf has changed. We have some new members--like Liz H., 16, who can talk to Florida, Deaf, Mexican Indigenous experience! Alexis has decided to take more of a backseat (because she became a lightning rod for criticism). But we still feel this is worth the mission we set out to do! To honor the strength and memory of our friend Indigo and talk about Indigenous books for kids and teens.  My life has changed too. Last year, my younger sister Violet, or Vi which she preferred, died of Covid-19. She was "almost six." It's been hard for me to read kidlit because of her. It was Dawn Quigley's early chapter book Jo Jo Makoons that brought me back and I know this is a book that kids like Vi will love to read and feel proud to be Indigenous. Dawn Quigley is a citizen of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe, North Dakota. The illustrator Tara Audibert is of Wolastoqey/French he

Afro-Native/Ancestral Memory: An Interview with Mama Penny Gamble-Williams, by Charlie, 17

We're all doing at-home school or college and not reading a lot for pleasure. Some of us are experiencing major stress and flare ups of existing conditions. Our parents are furloughed or in essential jobs. We have a half dozen unfinished kidlit & YA Lit reviews and essays, which we promise we'll get to. In the meantime, we are excited to present interviews by some of our mentors and influencers. It's been the most meaningful event of my time with Indigo’s Bookshelf to interview Mama Penny, as she invited me to call her. This is a simple version of her biography: Penny Gamble-Williams of Wampanoag and African heritage is an artist and spiritual leader involved in Native land, freedom of religion and sacred site issues, Indigenous and environmental rights. She was incredibly generous with her knowledge and experience, knowing that we would share it with all readers. She was warm and supportive at every turn. I am still drinking her words. C:  We found o