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Season 1, Episode 6

Other Cultures, Other Homes

February 18, 2021

In this episode of the Planet Book Podcast, Emily welcomes guests Julia and Sarah, who talk about stories featuring different cultures, found families, and finding your place in the world. Book recommendations for young adult and middle grade readers.

Titles Mentioned in This Episode

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Emily 0:03 Welcome to the Planet Book Podcast. I'm Emily Alexander, a Youth Services Assistant with the Springfield-Greene County Library District. Every episode I welcome two guests to talk about their favorite books for middle grade and young adult readers. Thank you for joining me on this podcasting adventure.


Emily 0:17 Today I'm joined by Julia, a Youth Services Associate at the Schweitzer Brentwood Branch Library. Hello, Julia.

Julia 0:22 Hi, how are you, Emily?

Emily 0:24 I'm good. How are you doing?

Julia 0:25 It's a great day. Thanks for having me.

Emily 0:27 Thank you so much for being here. Also joining us today is Sarah, a Youth Services Associate with the Springfield-Greene County Library District. Hello, Sarah.

Sarah 0:36 Hey, thanks for having me.

Middle Grade Book Recommendation

Emily 0:38 Thanks for being here. So now that I've introduced our guests, we're gonna get started with our book talks. Julia, what middle grade book have you brought to share with us today,

Julia 0:46 I'm sharing Amal Unbound today. It's written by, Aisha Saeed. And it's about a young girl growing up in Pakistan, Amal is a well kind of like myself. And I think a like a kind of similar to a lot of us, she has a desire to learn, she loves to read. And she's just kind of interested in the world around her. And while being interested in the world around her, she has an insight into how how sometimes girls are kind of left behind and overlooked by society, and maybe taken for granted, and not really given the opportunity to pursue their dreams and goals. And I think that that kind of hit home with me, I think it's so important that all of us as as girls and as young women and grown women, that we're able to pursue interests that we want to investigate, things that we might want to learn about, or places we might want to go. And Amal finds herself in a in a rough position when she makes a decision that is maybe not the best decision to be made on the spur of a moment. And she finds herself becoming caught up as an indentured servant for another family, and thus has to leave her own family and leave her beloved school and leave all of her friends. And she has to kind of get a good belief in herself built back up and try to find her worth in that situation. And it's quite a journey for Amal. And I think it's a journey we can all learn from.

Emily 2:26 Alright, and what kind of readers do you think would like Amal Unbound?

Julia 2:29 Well, definitely, I would think, um, young women kind of interested in finding out what they maybe have to offer the world, people that are interested also in reading about others of their age group in different economic and different cultural places in the world. And kind of people that are interested in investigating what are some of the differences and what are some of the similarities amongst all of our cultures, that kind of brings us into this big global world that we're all sharing.

Emily 3:04 I think, I love getting to recommend books that are set in other countries, because I think there's just so much to learn from seeing that kind of different perspective. So that is a great book. How, what kind of like age range would you suggest for these readers? Is it a young middle grade? Is it an older middle grade?

Julia 3:20 I think it would work great for maybe grades like six, even through nine. And of course, I'm a grown up and I enjoyed every page of it every page. But yeah, I would say definitely six through nine, but it was just an enjoyable read. For everyone really.

Emily 3:37 Is there any sort of violence or any any kind of warnings that we should give to a reader? Somebody that is maybe a little more sensitive? Would they struggle with this book? Or no?

Julia 3:49 There's really not a lot of overt violence or language or anything that I would want to warn anyone about it is is a good read. It's heartfelt. And I think it's really just kind of true to nature.

Emily 4:01 Is it, Um, I can't remember how long it is. Is it something that somebody who's maybe more of a reluctant reader might struggle with? Or do you still think it has maybe at high enough appeal that they would be able to get through?

Julia 4:13 I think they could get through it fine. It's just it's 225 pages. And although that might sound imposing, it is a fairly quick read, the chapters are really short. And it's that kind of book that once you finish a chapter you'd like okay, I've got to do the next one. I just got to! So it kind of just draws you into it.

Middle Grade Read-alikes

Emily 4:30 Awesome. So people who liked this book, what other kinds of books would you say are similar? What would you do you have read-alikes?

Julia 4:38 Aisha herself in the back of the book recommends Malala Story out of Pakistan, of course. Also, I found that the Other Words for Home.

Emily 4:50 Yes, I love that one.

Julia 4:52 Yes is kind of similar story if you like that, and then the Night Diary is also of a similar nature. And so if you enjoy those stories, or have enjoyed those, you would also love this Amal.

Emily 5:10 Well thank you, Julia, so much for sharing that book with us. I have read Other Words for Home, but I have not read them Amal Ubound yet, but I am definitely moving it up my list now because it sounds great. Thank you so much.

Julia 5:21 You're welcome. Thanks.

Young Adult Book Recommendation

Emily 5:23 Alright, so let's move on to our YA choice. Sarah, I already know what we're talking about today. And I'm so so so excited for it. So why don't you tell our listeners what book you are sharing today?

Sarah 5:34 Okay, so we're gonna talk about Lumberjanes. It's got a slew of authors, but I believe the first one is Shannon Watters, Noelle Stevenson, Hope Ellis. [edit: Grace Ellis]

Emily 5:48 Yes!

Sarah 5:49 Um, yeah, and there are just so many more and they switch around throughout the series. And so it's hard to pin down just one author. They're all so good. Lumber- Lumberjanes is a comic series about a group of girls at Miss Qiunzilla Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpets Camp for hard-core lady-types. They're known as Lumberjanes, and hence the title of the series. They're kind of like Girl Scouts, but they're not Girl Scouts. Um Jo, April, Molly, Mal and Ripley are members of the Roanoke Cabin. And they get into all sorts of supernatural hijinks, much to the annoyance of their camp counselor, Jen.

Emily 6:28 Poor Jen!

Sarah 6:29 Poor Jen. She's just so frustrated all the time, and I feel so bad. They also get involved in shenanigans with the boys from the camp across the lake. I can't quite remember the name of it, but it's delightful. And they have adventures with them too. I wouldn't say that the themes or stories are overly feminine. Each character has their own characteristics and skills that are unique and help the group succeed in a variety of situations. Although it really does have a girl power vibe going on. It also has a hearty dose of action, adventure, mystery, intrigue and magic. There's a little bit of romance later on. There are LGBTQ characters, and I know some folks will super love that about it. And some folks, that'll be a deal breaker for them. There's also a wide range of diversity. There are all sorts of characters. It's really wholesome, and it's a feel good read. I feel that it's geared towards a little bit younger teens. The comics are found in the teen department. But there's also a spin off novel series, but we've got that housed in the children's department.

Emily 7:41 There's a spinoff series?

Sarah 7:43 There's a spin off novel series. Yeah.

Emily 7:45 What?!

Sarah 7:45 Yeah, the library currently owns 15 volumes of Lumberjanes, as well as the spin off novels and one-off comics. It is still actively being published. And so if this is something you really like, and you just shoot through all of them super fast, you'll still have more to look forward to. Um, the first book in the series is called Beware the Kitten Holy. And if you have a hard time getting into the first one, I would keep going into the second and third volume before you give up. They're super fast reads. My favorite volume is definitely number nine. I really like big foots, yetis and that volume is all about all about yetis and their friendship with the yetis. Um, if you really liked and missed Gravity Falls from the Disney... Disney Channel and Disney XD you will adore this series. If you're an older teen and you like Lumberjanes, I would also recommend the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and Giant Days.

Emily 8:45 Giant Days! Which I just realized there's a novelization of that too.

Sarah 8:48 Is there really? The um, I met the publisher at a conference and they actually, actually suggested Giant Days to me, so I got to read that one before it even came out.

Emily 8:58 That is so awesome.

Sarah 9:00 And if you're a little bit younger, and you really enjoy Lumberjanes, either the novels or the comics, I would also recommend the Tea Dragon Society. They are all just really wholesome reads. And they're all about the power of friendship. And they all have really strong thorough Girl Power vibes.

Emily 9:21 One of the things I noticed when I was reading them because I feel like I kind of came to Lumberjanes a little late. There were already several collected volumes, which usually feature between three and five of the like one off comics. And I felt like there was a really big, like art change of the illustrations in the third volume. How do you feel about the change of the art as it's kind of evolved?

Sarah 9:49 Um, it was a little bit hard to get used to. I believe Noelle Stevenson was the artist for the first few and I read these because I really enjoyed her graphic novel Nimona.

Emily 10:01 Me too! That's where I found it.

Sarah 10:03 She, I actually just read her, um, illustrated biography last night. And it talks about how she had some personal things going on and had to step away and that it was really hard. And so I really feel for her for that, because she loves this series so much. Um, but yeah, it was, it was hard for me to get used to, but I got used to it. And it switches again later on in the series,

Emily 10:30 I think, no matter like, even as the art changes, you still care about the characters.

Sarah 10:34 Yeah,

Emily 10:35 Storyline stays consistent enough that it's, it's still recognizable as the same series.

Sarah 10:40 Yeah.

Emily 10:41 You mentioned your favorite volume earlier. And I think mine is volume five, Band Together. Because you find out there's rock and roll mermaids in the lake.

Sarah 10:49 Yeah!

Emily 10:50 It's so awesome. I love that collection so much. It's so good. All right, so you talked about, you said people who like Gravity Falls, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Giant Days, and recommended the Tree Dragon Society for our younger readers. Do you think that this graphic novel series is good for readers who maybe haven't tried graphic novels before? Or is that a little too complex? What do you think?

Sarah 11:14 I think it would be perfect for readers who haven't really tried graphic novels before. Um, I think this was my real first introduction to graphic novels that I got that I got into. Um, and then I kind of found the others I listed off after I was reading this one for a while. And so if you're a little bit of a reluctant graphic novel reader, I think it'll really it'll really hook you.

Emily 11:37 The first collected volume is such a great like, if you're wanting to feel like summer vacation, that is the book to read. It introduces you to their summer camp and all the characters and it just really launches you on this adventure and makes you want to know more about the Lumberjanes world. So I definitely think it's a good one for people who haven't maybe given graphic novels a chance yet. Sarah, thank you so much for sharing this one. I'm so glad that we got to talk about it because I absolutely love Lumberjanes, and I would love for more people to read them.

Sarah 12:10 Yeah.

Emily 12:10 And also thank you to both of our guests. You guys were so great today. You both recommended some amazing books and some amazing read-alikes thank you so much for being here.

Julia 12:20 Thanks, Emily.

Sarah 12:21 Thanks for having us.


Emily 12:23 Are you looking for more teen and tween book recommendations? Check out the kids and teen pages at for booklists and other helpful resources. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, click on the Your Next Read banner on the library website and fill out our questionnaire. We will email or call you with a list of books based on your specific reading requests. Remember to tune in next time for more great middle grade and young adult reading suggestions. And thank you for listening to the Planet Book Podcast.

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