In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Game-players, large and small

Dear Aunt Debbie,

Your list of early chapter books to help a fairly new reader ramp up step by step is inspiring -- thank you for this one! I have a feeling that Isabel, as she begins to do more independent reading, may follow this trajectory as well.

With the new year came new teacher consulting work for me, and the last couple of weeks have found me scrambling to keep on top of everything. Apologies for the brief hiatus.

While my blogging has paused, reading in our house continues unabated, and since Christmas we've been helped monumentally by your excellent finds for all three kids. Today I thought I'd highlight three, all playful reads, all new to me, which have become immediate favorites.

For Eleanor, in the middle-grade range: Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library, by Chris Grabenstein. This is a book for book-lovers, game-players, and decoders, which makes it an excellent fit. Twelve 12-year-olds are invited to the grand opening of a huge, state-of-the-art library designed by eccentric game-making genius Luigi Lemoncello. They're locked in for an overnight party, and the next morning discover that the game will go on: anyone who chooses to stay has 24 hours to find their way out, using clues and puzzles hidden around the library.

Our hero is a video and board game-playing whiz named Kyle Keeley, who starts out less interested in books than some of the other players involved. He's a good guy, and teams up with three of the other players: Akimi, Miguel, and Sierra (sneaking in some ethnic diversity in the supporting characters, there). On the flipside, our antihero Charles Chiltington is a spoiled, rich kid who will stop at nothing to win. He teams up with a cheerleader who's smarter than she looks, and a whiny kid.

The book is packed with references to other books -- mostly children's literature, but some adult novels and stories as well. If you think this all sounds a little like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, well, that comparison is made directly by the characters involved. There's fun in the identification of famous quotes and titles, but you don't need wildly extensive book knowledge to appreciate the story. Grabenstein includes a few small puzzles that a reader can try to work out as well. Eleanor whipped through the book in less than a day, and has declared it's one of the books she wants to use as a project choice for her 2nd grade reading portfolio. I'm reading it now (slower than my daughter), and enjoying it very much.

Isabel, the girl who only wants to read books with pictures, is now in love with The Book With No Pictures, by B.J. Novak. (Yes, that B.J. Novak -- writer and director of The Office fame.)

It's a meta-book, the kind that declares up front that it's a book, and then plays with the concept -- much like our old favorites Press Here and We Are in a Book! Novak's conceit is that he's writing to convince kids that books without pictures can be fun. He starts out:

This is a book with 
no pictures.

It might seem like no 
fun to have someone 
read you a book with 
no pictures.

It probably seems 
boring 
and 
serious.

                            Except...

Here is how books work:

Everything the words
say, the person reading
the book has to say.

No matter what.

The book goes on to make the reader say all kinds of nonsense words, with little side comments ("Wait -- what? That doesn't even mean anything"). With the right adult reading the book aloud -- it begs for over-acting -- the kid listening gets the experience of making the reader look and sound ridiculous. Isabel's favorite page reads: "My only friend in the whole wide world is a hippo named BOO BOO BUTT."

There are visuals -- changes in font, font size, and font color to liven things up. But at heart, the book is an exploration of the effect words can have -- pretty thrilling for a five-year-old.

Back in the land of picture books that do have pictures, Will is crazy about A Visit to Dr. Duck, by our beloved Rosemary Wells. It looks like it's being marketed as a Don't be afraid of going to the doctor book, which it sort of is, but the joy in this little board book is in Wells's lovely quirky use of language, and her utterly appealing animal drawings.

It begins: 


At bedtime Felix ate too many chocolate blimpies and stayed up way too late.


Felix's mama tries sugared prunes ("You'll feel perkier with the prunes") and sending Felix outside to play ("Fresh air will give you a boost.") When none of this works, she takes him to see Dr. Duck, a squat little guy who stands on his desk to greet them while Felix hides under the back of his mama's coat (Will finds this very funny). Dr. Duck lets Felix's mama stay in the room for the examination, then gives him "two spoonfuls of Happy Tummy" and sends him home. Felix sleeps, and feels like himself again. The book ends with a page of "Dr. Duck's Tips for Staying Perky" (eat fruits and vegetables, get good sleep, play outside, etc.) Will loves it so much, he has me read all the advice every time.

Thank you again for this bounty. More soon!

Love, Annie

Monday, January 5, 2015

Early chapter books, step by step

Dear Annie,

Happy New Year!

We're starting 2015 with an Emerging Reader, as we say in the biz.  Your pal (and guest blogger) Cyd's daughter Ellie is working her way into independent reading step by step:

We went from Learn to Read type books (Henry and Mudge, Pinkalicious, Fancy Nancy) to Mercy Watson and then to Stephanie Greene's Princess Posey series (perfect next step: chapter books but with large print, short chapters, and easy vocabulary, but high-interest level for a first grader, as they are about a first-grader) and now we've just started Julie Sternberg's
Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie
, which is also perfect: very short chapters, slightly harder vocabulary (but only slightly), written almost like verse so not much text on a page.... I need something at either the same level or just above.  She gets overwhelmed by too many words on a page and too much vocabulary she doesn't know and then gives up, so taking it up notch by notch is very important.

I've grabbed a handful of books -- all from different series -- which I would talk with Cyd and Ellie about if they came to the store.  I'm not sure where Ellie's interests lie, but here's an assortment to consider, more or less in order of difficulty.

-- The Cam Jansen series by David Adler, now up to #33.  Cam is a fifth grader with a photographic memory.  She needs only to say "click," and she memorizes a perfect image of what she's looking at.  Very useful in solving a string of mysteries with her friend Eric.  The mysteries maintain interest, and  action.  Pictures on almost every page, with occasional lapses.  Here's a two-page spread from the first book:

 
-- I know I rail against Magic Tree House books, but this is the situation they were invented for.  They're great for kids who are getting their confidence reading on their own.  Think of these books, with repetitive plots and structure, as aerobics for the reading muscles.  The reader doesn't need to figure out who the characters are every time she opens a book, she knows more or less what to expect, yet has some variety from story to story.  She can keep exercising those muscles until they're strong enough to realize they're a bit bored, and ready for something more challenging.

-- Cyd mentions that Ellie's progressed beyond the Fancy Nancy readers.  Jane O'Connor has also put her character into a chapter book mystery series: the first is
Nancy Clancy Super Sleuth
.  The mysteries are tame, the emoting is high.  As with all Fancy Nancy books, these come with a Lesson to be Learned.  In this book, it has to do with her parents trying to convince her that everything isn't a huge deal to worry about.

-- Sometimes I feel the entire publishing industry is pushing Books About Girls, and Books About Boys, with not a lot in between. But hey, you may find the perfect book if you cross the line. 
Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot
, by Captain Underpants author Dav Pilkey, combines slick illustrations, a little bit of graphic novel, simple text and a sense of humor.  Ricky is a mouse who befriends a giant robot.  They have adventures that involve some cartoon physical combat and villains from many planets.  They're an easier read than Captain Underpants.

-- Moving to slightly harder, the Geronimo Stilton series is wildly popular.  It's translated from the Italian, about a newspaper editor mouse who has many many adventures.  The series has spawned several spinoff series as well.  Part of the attraction of the books is the playful use of typeface:

-- The same author has started a lovely mystery series called Agatha, Girl of Mystery, under another pseudonym, Sir Steve Stevenson.  It's a little harder read.  Agatha goes to a different country in each book (eight so far), and the mystery usually involves a missing object.

-- Has Ellie read Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown yet?  A classic: Stanley wakes up one morning and he's flat.  Flat enough to be a kite, to be mailed to California, and to solve a museum theft by hanging on a wall.

Three which you've probably hit as read-alouds are worth considering for reading alone:

-- The wonderful Anna Hibiscus.  Good stories, lots of pictures, just good.

-- The Ramona books.  Ellie's probably not quite there yet, but her familiarity with them might make them feel a bit less intimidating.

-- Lulu and the Brontosaurus comes in a nice oblong shape with illustrations on every two-page spread.  And it has that excellent repeating chant:  "I'm gonna, I'm gonna, I'm gonna, gonna get/A bronto-bronto-bronto Brontosaurus for a pet."

I've saved one of my favorites for last.  In the great sea of early chapter books, many of which are just great for this stage of getting used to reading, lovely writing is not always there.  Enter
Violet Mackerel
by Anna Branford, a relatively recent arrival from Australia. It has large type, fewer words per page, but a more sophisticated vocabulary than others with this typeface. Violet lives with her single mom (romance shows up as the series progresses) and has real-life feelings and mild adventures.  I love to sell this book: I just open it up and show the customer the first page:
Chapter One: The Red Button
Violet Mackerel is quite a small girl, but she has a theory.
  Her theory is that when you are having a very important and brilliant idea, what generally happens is that you find something small and special on the ground.  So whenever you spy a sequin, or a stray bead, or a bit of ribbon, or a button, you should always pick it up and try very hard to remember what you were thinking about at the precise moment when you spied it, and then think about that thing a lot more.  That is Violet's theory, which she calls the Theory of Finding Small Things.

Here's hoping Ellie will find many more books -- small and large -- to keep her happily reading.

Love,

Deborah









Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Graphic memoirs, for kids and adults alike

Dear Aunt Debbie,

Happiest of holidays! I'm so glad to hear that things are humming along at the store, despite the odd objection to stories that are "too sad."

As we head into the school break, I wanted to highlight a couple of books we've recently fallen in love with, excellent reading for both kids and adults.

The kid appeal: both are graphic novel memoirs (have I mentioned we're a little obsessed with graphic novels?), both focused on the early to middle childhood years of the author/protagonist, both full of humor and intelligence and drama, both featuring smart, creative girls.

The adult appeal, especially to adults around my age: the major action in both books takes place in the 1970s and 1980s, so they have a real time capsule quality (walkmans! slouchy socks! the San Francisco earthquake! the Waltons!).

Book number 1 is from our beloved Raina Telgemeier, author of Smile and the Rapunzel story in Fairy Tale ComicsSisters is billed as "the companion to Smile." In Smile, Telgemeier focused in depth on her fraught dental history (she knocked out her adult front teeth in an accident, and years of surgery and complicated braces followed). In Sisters, the braces take a back seat, and Telgemeier focuses on her fraught relationship with her younger sister, Amara.

The frame story puts Raina, Amara, their younger brother Will, and their mom in a minivan on a road trip from San Francisco to Colorado for a family reunion. Bickering abounds, and frequent flashbacks (with the pages tinted slightly yellow, to make it clear what's a flashback and what is present day) expand on the sisters' history. It feels like such a real family -- the back and forth among the siblings, expert at pushing each others' buttons, the ways in which small moments of connection break through. Amara loves all nature, including lizards and snakes; Raina thinks they're disgusting, and a snake figures prominently in one of the book's later scenes. The road trip offers a chance for the sisters to take stock of their relationship to each other, and to realize that their parents' marriage is in trouble. It feels like a pivotal summer.

Isabel bought Sisters at her school book fair, and we must have read it 12 times through in the first week. Both Isabel and Eleanor identified with the family deeply (two sisters! who bicker! and their brother is also named Will!), though thankfully there is no parental tension looming on the horizon in our house. We took Smile out of the library not long afterward, and we have now read it at least as many times. Telgemeier's illustrations are a little goofy and totally expressive, and she's able to explore complicated emotional material in clear and accessible ways. An absolute hit.

Book number 2 captured Eleanor before Isabel.  In El Deafo, Cece Bell tells the story of losing most of her hearing at age 4 after a bout of meningitis. It's the mid-1970s, and she's outfitted with two different hearing aids, both enormous by today's standards: a smaller one for home, and the large "Phonic Ear" for school. The people in El Deafo are depicted as rabbit-like creatures, with long ears, so the wires connected to the hearing aids are extremely visible, as Bell says they felt to her as a child.

Cece wears the Phonic Ear as a box hanging around her neck (underneath her overalls, which she wears every day to hide the box). Her classroom teacher wears a microphone, which allows Cece to hear her speech far more clearly. It turns out that the microphone is quite powerful, allowing Cece to hear her teacher anywhere in the building: in the teacher's lounge, even in the bathroom. This, then, is her superpower. Cece fights off her feelings of loneliness and difference by imagining herself as El Deafo.


El Deafo, which came as a gift from you, resonated for me because of the history of deafness in my family: as we've written about before, both of my father's parents were born deaf, and communicated largely through lip-reading rather than sign language. Cece struggles with self-identifying as deaf, and rejects learning ASL when her mother encourages it. She depicts herself as both lonely and independent, always very much herself. In one of my favorite details, she wears a red two-piece bathing suit and nothing else for pretty much the entire year she's four.

I think El Deafo resonated for the girls, especially Eleanor, because of Bell's depiction of elementary school friendships and their vagaries. There's a lot to talk about here (as there is in Smile) in terms of making friends, and standing up to your friends when they treat you in a way that makes you uncomfortable, by focusing on your differences. Eleanor's research into the life of Helen Keller (which led us to another terrific graphic novel) also whetted her interest in the subject of deafness.

Isabel loves to read graphic novels on her own, but I think she had trouble making sense of this one without adult help. She picked it up and put it down, fully getting into it only when we sat down to read it aloud together. Recently, it has come into the rotation of books she reads in bed on weekend nights -- the highest accolade.

Have a wonderful holiday, and give my love to your amazing family, all home together for Christmas!

Love, Annie

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas and Hanukkah and seasonal spirit

Dear Annie,

I love the passing of the code-breaking to a new generation.  This is giving me tons of ideas for Christmas presents for your household.

The store is in full holiday mode: shelves that were well-stocked in the morning have gaping holes by afternoon.  I'm seeing customers I see only once a year -- and never have quite enough time to talk.

I thought I'd give a tip of the Santa hat to Christmas books we've loved and blogged about in the past:


and some Hanukkah ones too (tonight's the first night):




I have two stories from the bookselling frontlines this year, good illustrations of the extremes of the season.  I'll start with the Grinch-y one.

A grandmother asked me about books for an 8 year-old good reader who "doesn't like anything sad."  (Nothing sad, or nothing scary, are frequent requests.)  I offered Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, which we have all loved.  It's the story of a girl who runs away from home to find the Man in the Moon and to ask him to change the fate of her parents, who are poor farmers.  It's a magically wonderful book.  No, said the woman, too sad.  Actually, I said, it's pretty uplifting.  No, she said, it's about poor people: "too sad."  So much for the spirit of the season.

But for every customer like that, I talk with dozens and dozens of kids and adults who are just happy to be in the midst of books.  My other story is about literature always being in people's lives.  A dad asked me to special order one of the Who Was books I was out of: Who Was Bruce Lee? (the range of subjects of those books keeps getting wider and wider).  He left his name and number: his first name was Dickon.  Ah, I said, a great name from children's literature.  Dickon is the Yorkshire boy in The Secret Garden who's deeply in sync with nature.  "Yes," he said, "My mother was reading The Secret Garden to my sister when I was born."  That alone was wonderful, but I wondered if he might be a bit tired of the book, having been so closely tied to it.  "Oh no," he said, "I love it.  I'm looking forward to being able to read it to my daughter."

So here's hoping readers everywhere have books they're looking forward to giving to and reading with the kids in their lives.

Love,

Deborah


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Codes and ciphers for your 8-12 year old

Dear Aunt Debbie,

Yes, tell me more about about your experiences with book fairs! I'd love to see the list you've developed. With Eleanor in 2nd grade, Isabel in kindergarten, and Will just under 2, I'm going to have plenty of opportunities to be involved with elementary school book fairs for the next -- gulp -- ten years. Tomorrow we volunteer at Isabel's Barnes & Noble fair, for which I've been compiling the teachers' wish lists. I'm loving the glimpses into different classrooms that this affords, and have already started thinking about how to do it more smoothly next year.

As the holiday season rolls around, I wanted to recommend a book I bought for Eleanor last Christmas, which has turned out to have tremendous staying power:

Top Secret: A Handbook of Codes, Ciphers, and Secret Writing, by Paul B. Janeczko.

It's a fabulous introduction to codemaking, written in clear, accessible prose. Here's the beginning of Chapter 1:

Before we talk about making and breaking codes, we need to realize that most of the time when people talk about making codes and breaking codes, they are not talking about codes at all. They're really talking about ciphers. What's the difference? A code is a system where every word or phrase in your message is replaced by another word, phrase, or series of symbols. On the other hand, a cipher is a system where every letter of your message is replaced by another letter or symbol.

For now, let's stick with codes. For example, you and your partner can make up code words for places in your neighborhood. Your code word for "post office" might be GREEN. Your code word for "playground" might be AWARD.

A code can also be a number. We might say that the code for "post office" is 71715. And the code for "playground" is 71716. Again, the words or numbers don't matter, as long as you and your partner know what they mean.

Janeczko packs the book with examples of codes and ciphers from history, and brief stories about the people who have used them: Thomas Jefferson, Charlemagne, Julius Caesar, The Shadow. He explains the way particular systems have worked, and offers practice codes to encipher and break. The text is broken up with drawings and challenges -- it's easy to dip into and out of. Chapter 2 is all about code breaking, and includes handy frequency lists:


As you know, Jeff is a puzzle-maker and puzzle-solver from way back, so bringing this book into our house was a no-brainer. He and Eleanor solve Ken-Ken puzzles together on the weekend, and I thought this might lead to further father-daughter play. It has.

Eleanor was a little young for Top Secret when I gave it to her last year -- the age range on the back of the book says "9 and up," and that feels pretty accurate to me. She didn't sit right down to read it cover to cover. But when Jeff's birthday came around last August, she pulled out the book and took it to bed with her every night for a week, creating five different enciphered messages for him to crack to reveal the locations of his presents. Last week, Jeff presented Eleanor with an enciphered message, and she used techniques in the book to decipher it. I have a feeling it's going to be in use for a long, long time.

If you don't have a code-breaker parent in the house, you might give a copy to your kid's best friend, and get them started encoding and enciphering messages to each other. Or is this asking for trouble?

I hope your holiday season is getting off to a rousing start. I'd love to hear what you're recommending at the store right now.

Love, Annie

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Diversity in the details

Dear Annie,

Happy post-Thanksgiving!  That was a very impressive list of resources for diverse books.  You talked about getting involved in school book fairs -- excellent!  Most of my knowledge comes from supplying one annual book fair which gets all its books from us, with which we've evolved a really lovely list.  We should talk about book fairs more in the future: I think a lot of schools charge into them without defining why they're doing them.  A blog for another day.

Today we have one more request from your bid for same.  Dawn writes:
 I'd like to learn about more books like *Anna Hibiscus* that are good for gently introducing children to global diversity. At Alice's insistence we read *Anna Hibiscus* together three times, and it was only our insistence on moving on to *The Borrowers* that kept us from reading it again.
Anna Hibiscus is of course a big favorite of ours.  Dawn, I assume you know it's a four book series.  Anna lives in a family compound in a city; Atinuke's No. 1 Car Spotter lives in rural Africa.  So far there are only two Car Spotter books.

I'm interpreting Dawn's question as having to do with more or less contemporary real life situations.  Moving south to Botswana, adult novelist Alexander McCall Smith has written two early-chapter book series for kids.  One chronicles the elementary school life of Precious Ramotswe, the heroine of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books. 

In
The Great Cake Mystery: Precious Ramotswe's Very First Case
, Precious solves a case involving an unjust accusation of theft.  Her father, whose legacy funds her detective agency in adulthood, is very present in Precious's young life, a constant storyteller. 

Iain McIntosh's illustrations give a refreshingly different feel to the book series.

They're gentle and engaging mysteries.

McCall Smith's earlier children's series is about a boy named Akimbo, whose father is head ranger in a game preserve.  The stories include everyday life scenes, and adventures he's involved in because of his father's work.  Akimbo and the Lions is a younger variation of Born Free: Akimbo raises a lion cub but then realizes he has to send it back to the wild when it starts scaring his neighbors.  In Akimbo and the Elephants, he tries to catch ivory poachers who have been killing elephants.  They're great stories -- I used to sell a lot of them.  They're all now unfortunately out of print -- links are to alibris used listings.

Back to the north of the continent, a classic picture book:
The Day of Ahmed's Secret
by Florence Parry Heide and Judith Heide Gilliland, illustrated by Ted Lewin (written in 1995).   Ahmed, bursting with excitement because he has a secret, drives his donkey cart through the streets of Cairo delivering bottled cooking gas.  (Spoiler alert: the secret will be revealed.)   We get a sense of the intensely rich and varied street life of the city.  When he finally gets back home, he announces the secret: he's learned to write his name.  I once had a customer who used this one as the central book in a first grade book group about urban life.


Another what-life-is-like on the street picture book is On My Way to Buy Eggs, by Chih-Yuan Chen.  A girl in Taiwan walks to the store to buy eggs, finding constant diversion in what she sees: a shadow, a blue marble, a pair of glasses.  Also not available new in the U.S.  Link is alibris.

I hope, Dawn, that these are books you haven't yet discovered.

Happy reading!

Deborah



Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Increasing kidlit diversity in book fair season

Dear Aunt Debbie,

It's school book fair season! Last weekend, Eleanor's school held a book fair at Barnes & Noble; this week, Isabel's school is running a Scholastic book fair in their multipurpose room. I have mixed feelings about both endeavors.

On the one hand, both kinds of book fairs encourage buying and reading books. They end up supporting the schools, to some extent, and get kids fired up about using their money to buy books. They turn book-buying into an activity central to the school community, and offer an easy way for parents to get more books into their children's hands if they don't frequent bookstores regularly.

On the other hand, the book-buying isn't going to support any nice independent bookstores. Much of what gets bought are highly-marketed franchise books and book-related swag: books packaged with toys or dangling plastic charms, junior novelizations of movies and video games, cute little cheap erasers.

We came out of the B&N fair having supported the Frozen franchise yet again (Will is now just as obsessed as Isabel. He sees anything Frozen-related and calls out, "Da Do!" a.k.a. "Let It Go!"). What Eleanor wanted most in the world was the latest Percy Jackson Heroes of Olympus book (we can't get it from the library, as we did the first 9, because the waiting list is 500+ people long). We redeemed ourselves slightly by buying a George O'Connor Olympians book for an upcoming friend's birthday, and donating a couple of books to Eleanor's classroom.

On Monday, I volunteered for a bookselling shift at Isabel's Scholastic book fair. Leaving aside my misgivings about the number of Lego Chima books sold, there is something beautiful about seeing a room full of kids browsing through tables of books. The school had also set up a "pay what you can" table of donated books, so that every kid attending the book fair could walk home with a book of his or her own, no matter their family's finances.

All this has made me interested in getting involved in planning next year's book fairs, and seeing how much I can tweak the content. What's the ratio of commercial stuff to good but lesser-known kids' books that will make money for the school AND send kids home with books they'll want to reread? I'd love your bookseller's opinion on this question.

Two friends and blog readers recently asked us about how to help make their school book fairs more diverse and multicultural. I'm afraid that because of fall craziness and family sickness, my thoughts on this are woefully late (apologies, Jonathan and Liz!), but perhaps they'll be useful for the next book fair season?

I started out with some Googling, and came across a number of excellent lists, and a growing movement aimed at making the world of children's books more diverse.

First, the movement:

Bloggers Valarie Budyar, of Jump Into a Book, and Mia Wenjen, of Pragmatic Mom, teamed up last year to create Multicultural Children's Book Day. On January 27, 2015, there will be a host of blog posts and other activities aimed at increasing awareness of children's books that celebrate diversity, and getting more of those books into classrooms and libraries.

The organization We Need Diverse Books was founded last spring by a group of authors and grassroots activists. Their campaign began as a response to the trade convention BookCon, which put forward an author panel consisting entirely of white men. After a wildly successful Twitter campaign (#weneeddiversebooks), the organization has begun to build programs to increase diversity in books used in classrooms, created an awards and grants program, and begun planning for a Children's Literature Diversity Festival in 2016 (in Washington, D.C.!).

These two sites led me to a number of excellent book lists featuring children's books with diverse characters:

The Multicultural Children's Book Day website has a nice set of book lists here.

Pragmatic Mom collects multicultural booklists here. My favorite is her Top 50 list, which is broken down by age group.

What Do We Do All Day has a list of 21 books which include diverse characters.

We Need Diverse Books has a collection of lists here.

Ink & Pen collects some good lists here.

And of course, we have our own list of Picture Books with racially diverse/mostly non-white characters.

So while it's troubling that these campaigns and lists need to exist in 2014 -- shouldn't we be at a point where the representation is far more equal? -- it's heartening to see that they're here, ready to be explored.

Love, Annie