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Chapter Books on the Loss of a Family Member

Janelle Mathis, University of North Texas, Denton, TX

In thinking about particular trends and themes in books explored during 2020 while serving on ALA’s Notable Children’s Books Committee, I want to share some of my heroes and heroines found within the pages of novels, especially in light of issues of family loss through death and separation. As is a common trait of fiction for adolescent readers, the protagonist is faced with a situation or problem around which the plot develops and the character evolves. The situation is one that is believable and invites the reader into the lives, actions and decisions of characters who experience identity shaping events. While the stories can be emotionally charged and often mirror the increasing complexity of a young person’s life, at times without a definitive conclusion, they do end with hope. So, I was not surprised to find the characters in books I read and discussed in 2020 to be in complicated situations; however, interesting was that most experienced the loss of a family member who played an important role in their life. The loss was through death, separation, or the ability of the person to function in the supportive way that they did prior to a change in health, mental abilities, or other life changes. In spite of and because of their loss, characters became resilient, self-reliant, and self-aware. Readers become immersed in their stories and lives, with the potential of learning more about themselves. A few of the books that continue to resonate in my thoughts follow. Continue reading

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MTYT: Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus

By Mary Fahrenbruck, PhD, New Mexico State University and Prisca Martens, PhD, Towson University.

This is the first installment of March’s MTYT, Mary and Prisca discuss the middle grade novel Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus. Author Dusti Bowling incorporates desert scenes of Arizona and a genetic disorder within a well-rounded story of everyday life and mystery.

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Authors' Corner

Authors’ Corner Dusti Bowling on “24 Hours in Nowhere”

By Courtney Gallant, University of Arizona
with Lauren Lombardo, Annie W. Kellond Elementary School (TUSD)

Dusti Bowling

Around the time Worlds of Words received an advance copy of 24 Hours in Nowhere by Dusti Bowling, Lauren was a UofA College of Education senior working at WOW while doing her student teaching at Kellond. As luck would have it, Lauren met Dusti on a school visit that was part of the Tucson Festival of Books in March 2018. Now that the book is out, we felt it appropriate to conduct a follow-up interview. We asked Dusti about the book, what makes for a good school visit and meeting fans. Continue reading

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Insignificant Events In the Life of a Cactus: Young Women Demanding to be Seen and Heard

By Dorea Kleker, The University of Arizona

As an educator and parent, the recent shooting in Parkdale, Florida rattled me. Again. Preventable, senseless deaths. Again. Mourning families and communities. Again. I scroll through the photos of 17 beautiful faces who walked into school on the morning of February 14, 2018 and didn’t come home. I read the details of the survivors’ accounts of a nightmare they will never shake. I hug my son a little tighter and think of all the mothers who are afraid. Again. Again. Again.

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