Lizard in a Zoot Suit: A Graphic Novel For Our Time

By Megan Ciskowski, Assistant Publicist

Los Angeles, 1943. It’s the era of the Zoot Suit Riots, and Flaca and Cuata have a problem. It’s bigger than being grounded by their strict mother. It’s bigger than tensions with the soldiers stationed nearby. And it’s shaped like a five-foot-tall lizard. When a lost member of an unknown underground species needs help, the sisters must scramble to keep their new friend away from a corrupt military scientist—but they’ll do it in style.

This diverse sci-fi graphic novel reimagines a lesser-known moment in history, and takes young adult readers on the adventure of a lifetime! Discover what others have to say about Lizard in a Zoot Suit and enjoy an excerpt below.

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How to Live on the Edge of Past, Present, and Future

I’m an anxious person. So are a lot of the teen characters in the novels I’ve edited. It makes sense; the teen years are fertile ground for anxiety. So much is beyond your control, even as you feel a pressure to take on greater responsibility. The present is a mess; the future is a terrifying unknown; and if you’re paying attention to history, the past is distressing too!

This summer, as our present continues its spiral of chaos and the future threatens even more upheavals and the past rears its head with reminders of unhealed wounds, I’ve often thought about my teen self. High school was when I first began to grapple semi-constructively with uncertainty, with the limits of what I could control, with the reality that horrible things happen in the world, and with fears that one of those horrible things was about to happen to me or to a loved one. I continue grappling with all this, much more constructively, as an adult, but my teen experiences are still vivid in my memory.

That’s why I find Sarah Scheerger’s young adult novel How to Live on the Edge so compelling. Cayenne, the eighteen-year-old protagonist, is nothing like Teen Me (and nothing like Teen Sarah, she’ll be quick to tell you). She deals with her fear of dying young—as her mother did—by courting danger and making light of risks. She treats her anxiety like an enemy to be spited, even imagining a personification of death whom she names Lorelei and takes great satisfaction in baiting.

Her younger sister, Saffron, is much more like Sarah and me: eager to pin down her anxiety with plans and information and backup plans and caution and even more backup plans. In one of my favorite moments in the novel, they both drag their father for alluding to the serenity prayer—Cayenne because she hates the idea of taking responsibility for what she can control, and Saffron because she hates the idea of letting go of what she can’t control.

But gradually, each sister is forced to reconsider her outlook. Cayenne realizes that to truly live her life to the fullest, she has to do what she can to protect her life by making safer, healthier choices. Saffron accepts that no matter how carefully she makes her decisions, she can never guarantee a good outcome or eliminate all risk.

And so it goes. Today’s teens are standing on their own precipices, weighing the choices they have, mourning or raging against the ones they don’t. They’re shaped by the past, navigating a complex and often painful present, and bracing for a future full of question marks. I hope some of them will find Cayenne and Saffron to be welcome company.

Librarian Prep Post for September & October

Welcome to the end of summer, and in some areas of the country, back to school time. Whatever your location is deciding or struggling with, we wish you all health, safety, and as little upheaval as possible. To help with your planning, here are some booklists and readers advisory for September and October.

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What Would You Put in a Bowl Full of Peace?

By Carol Hinz, Editorial Director of Millbrook Press and Carolrhoda Books

August 9, 2020, marks the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan. It also marks the 75th anniversary of the extraordinary survival of Sachiko Yasui—a six-year-old girl who was nine hundred meters (about half a mile) from the hypocenter in Nagasaki when the bomb exploded. Sachiko experienced great hardship and loss, and she grew up to become a peace advocate. Caren Stelson has told Sachiko’s story for middle grade readers in the award-winning Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story. And today we’re releasing A Bowl Full of Peace: A True Story, in which Caren tells Sachiko’s story in picture book form. Illustrated by Japanese artist Akira Kusaka, the book has already received starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, and the Horn Book Magazine. Today, Caren shares her thoughts about how Sachiko’s story is relevant as students begin returning to school (in whatever form it may take) in the midst of a global pandemic. Read More