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It all started when I set aside some real time to weed the YA nonfiction section. I’ve neglected it more then I should since it’s such a small part of my collection and doesn’t take up too much shelf space. But I finally had some down time over our mellow holiday hours and stopped neglecting my duties as a librarian. Now as one would suspect there were many foolish books that I was thrilled to discard from our collection (an internet safety book from the 1990’s anyone?). However I also discovered quite a few gems, in particular:

Upon posting the above my dear friend commented: “yes def. the only way I got sex info as a teen was the sex section of Barnes and Noble – they almost exclusively had “how to be good at sex” books, so a frank book on sex geared toward teens seems amazing.” Which totally inspired me to make a whole display around that book. Once I got back from New Years I instantly got started work on my “Questions You’d Never Want to Ask Your Parents” display.

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It’s fairly simple, I made a giant question mark out of construction paper scraps (you’re welcome environment and library budget), die cut some letters and wrote out the message, die cute some question marks tapped them to string and then tapped them to the ceiling.

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For the books I just went through our nonfiction section– again the YA nonfiction section is very small it did not take me a long time– and pulled out things I remembered being curious about as a teen. So queer stuff and sex stuff obviously, but also things about guns, health, bullies, divorce, puberty, siblings with special needs, and depression.

I’m excited about showcasing this part of our collection, but mostly am excited about getting this important information into young folk’s hands. I had to fill in at least four gaps in books that were taken the first day, so I feel like my plan is already working!

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So, like my first gender fluid kids books blog post, most of these books explore femme trans identities. I’m not totally sure why femme trans narratives dominate the youth lit– lemme know if you have thoughts– but that seems to be where we’re at right now. I think it’s important to remember that we, right now today, are at the very beginning of trans/gender nonconforming representation in kid’s lit. So while there are some glaring holes–and it’s not just MOC kids getting left out, these books are also mostly about White kids– in what gender independent narratives that are getting told right now, one could be optimistic about the diverse gender representations that are going to be in kid’s books as more and more of them get published.

Which brings me to my first couple of reviews. Flamingo Rampant is an independent kid’s book publishing company, that focuses on stories of gender independent folks. (They are about to launch a book club which will be 6 new picture books over 2015; you can find out all about it on the main page of their website). Currently they have published two books, Backwards Day and The Adventures of Tulip, Birthday Wish Fairy.

Backwards Day has a really fun concept! On a far away planet called Tenalp a lot of things are different, one of which is that one day every year everything is the reverse of how things usually are. Day is night, upstream runs down, and binary genders switch! While there are a lot of things to enjoy on backwards day– ice cream for breakfast!– one kid named Andrea LOVES backwards day because it’s the one day of the year she [sic] feels like herself [sic]: a boy. The book looks at one particular Backwards Day where Andrea stays a girl – a particularly devastating day- and the following day when Andrea becomes (and ends up staying) a boy [sic]! While it’s confusing to his parents at first when a nice doctor explains that Andrea is actually boy, and sometimes the magic of backwards day lets folks permanently transform into who they really are, everyone ultimately gets on board, and Andy’s totally thrilled!

The Adventures of Tulip, Birthday Wish Fairy felt a little amateurish to me. It’s another super cute concept, but it’s just not executed as well as the other books on this list. My main issue is that it just has too many words jam packed onto every page; it feels too scrunched to be a picture book. I feel like it would have done better as an illustrated chapter book or a kid’s graphic novel. It tells the story of Tulip who, true to the title, is a fairy who grants birthday wishes. One day he gets a special birthday wish from a boy who wants to be a girl [sic]. After receiving guidance from the head wish granting fairy, Tulip gives this child luck and courage, and also gives the kid’s family open minds to see who their child really is. After the child’s birthday has passed, Tulip continues to work with this family giving them strength, resilience and the ability to advocate for their trans child after the rest of his birthday wish duties are done. Tulip is so dedicated to this child that he is given a new job as the fairy who helps gender nonconforming children with their transition wishes.

10322836Be Who You Are, by Jennifer Carr

Be Who you Are is a realistic story about a young trans girl who goes through the process of transitioning. Everything goes the way you would hope it would. Her family is open to her identity and advocates for her at school, which allows her to be who she is. Her brother has a hard time with the concept, then they have a rather sweet conversation about it and he gets on board too. It’s a cute, light hearted book that one would hope could serve as a blueprint on how to handle kids transitioning in your community.

Like the two previous, this book initially uses the main character’s birth name and the gender pronouns she was coercively assigned at birth and  switches to her real name and gender pronouns at the end. This isn’t my favorite; I am a much bigger fan of trans kids books that consistently use the kid’s real pronouns throughout the narration. However I included all three books in this review since, as I’m sure you already know, there isn’t a great variety of gender independent youth lit to choose from. For some kids and families it would make sense to have a more selective collection of picture books that uses the child’s real gender pronoun consistently; but for some kids and families it would make sense to have more books with trans narratives even if some use outdated and/or incorrect language. And I’m just hoping I give folks enough information to make those choices for themselves.

 I am Jazz, by81o59-snvyL Jessica Herthal & Jazz Jennings

This book is really exciting because Jazz Jennings co-wrote it about her own experience being a trans girl! It starts off introducing Jazz, what she does, what she likes, and who her friends are. Then it goes back and talks about what it was like for her to be coercively assigned male as a young child and what transitioning was like for her. Her family is so sweet and supportive, and it’s delightful to read about the joy she experiences when they get it and she gets to start publicly being who she is. Her wider community does find it confusing. For a while they make her play on boy’s soccer teams, and some kids still tease her and use a boy name for her. But she has friends who love her, support her, and know who she is. It ends with Jazz proclaiming she doesn’t care if she’s different; she knows who she is, happy, fun, and proud. She is Jazz!

what-makes-a-baby-cover1What Makes a Baby, by Cory Silverberg

I’m including this book, even though it’s not a trans narrative, because I want trans inclusive kids books to go beyond stories of transition, and What Makes a Baby does that. What Makes a Baby is a really great kids book about how babies get made that is inclusive to all families! When it talks about what you need to make a baby, it talks about sperm, eggs, and uteruses; what’s really exciting is it doesn’t assign any of those pieces to any kind of body or gender. What Makes a Baby also goes beyond trans inclusivity when it asks the reader “Who helped bring together the sperm and the egg that made you?” and “Who was happy that it was YOU who grew?” Making it inclusive to babies who who conceived not only by trans parent(s) but any parents using donor sperm or a surrogate womb, or parents who adopted their babies. And while I think it’s pretty awesome that as the cover says this is “a book for every kind of family and every kind of kid,” it is the first kids book about making babies that is inclusive to trans parents and trans kids which is pretty ground breaking.

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So Mask Magazine is a “Reader Supported, Ad-free, Style + Culture for the Disappointed Generation” online publication. I know the editors, started subscribing and have really enjoyed it. I suggest you check it out as well. I was asked to write a buying guide of youth lit for it, and promptly and excitedly threw this thing together. Check it out, get some books to some kids or something!

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If you cared to go back into my display history (It’s easy to do just select “my job: displays” on the pull down menu on the left) you will see that nerd displays are a reoccurring theme in my library career. A fact that did not occur to me when I was putting this display together… I wonder what that reflects about me… However this is the first time that I’ve made a nerdy library display that went along with strictly nerdy themed books, so yeah still a first for me!

I choose like 2 of these books from my own knowledge and memory, but mostly they came from Chicopee Public Library’s Geek Out! Teens & Tech Book List. It’s a long and varied list with books almost any reader would be excited about.

The inspiration for the Pac Man board came from this collection of creative bulletin board ideas. I did it all free hand, except the eyes which were made with a giant hole punch and I printed then cut out the cherries (which ended up being such small and delicate shapes it didn’t save me anytime).

Graceling-RealmI want everyone to read these books, so I can talk to everybody about them!  They’re fantastic feminist fantasy (#fff could we get that started?) stories. They have enough story building to keep you immersed, but not so much that you get bogged down; they have amazing character development and totally enthralling relationships; and all while leaving me feel stoked and even empowered by how the interactions play out: They’re a dream come true to feminist fantasy readers. Since I’m so in love with this series it’s a fairly long blog post so feel free to jump to: my thoughts on Graceling, my thoughts on Fire, my thoughts on Bitterblue, or tl;dr

So, it starts with Graceling which tells the story of Katsa (Graceling came out before Hunger Games so it is NOT a Katniss rip off). In Katsa’s world gracelings are people who special abilities, these graces can be anything from good tree climbing to extra strength to physic abilities. You can tell gracelings apart because they all have two different colored eyes. Katsa is and graceling with an innate ability to kill, and because of her grace her king forces her to be a thug who enforces his rule, and she hates its. To rebel she created The Council, an underground network of people committed to thwarting the evil kings who rule the Seven Kingdoms. It’s pretty awesome.

Katsa being a rebel leader is totally effing cool, but for me, it’s only the beginning of the awesomeness. The rest of the Graceling review is going to be a bunch of spoilers, so read on at your own risk. Katsa discovers what her grace is when a creepy noble man makes crude remarks and then tries to touch Katsa, so she thrusts her hand at his faceand accidentally splinters his nose bone into his brain. Because that happens other people decide her grace must be killing, and that’s how she sees herself: a murderous monster. But throughout the narrative as she tells that story to different people, and more and more of her grace is shown (she can carry a man her own size up a long flight of stairs, she can make her body sleep or wake on command, she can start fires with wet kindling) it becomes clear that her grace isn’t killing at all: it’s survival. When she defended herself as a child from a man’s unwanted attention she was seen as a monster or a killer, when in reality she is a survivor. This revelation is thrill to read, and an important message I wish more people learned.

Another thing I love about this book is the romantic relationship she develops with a prince nick named Po. Katsa isn’t looking for love and is annoyed when it finds her in Po, mainly because she doesn’t want to get married and marriage is the only option she thinks is available. Katsa doesn’t want to marry Po because no matter how much freedom he allowed her he would always be giving her the freedom, it wouldn’t just be her own. But Katsa isn’t forced to chose between love and independence, Po suggests that they can still be together without getting married. This blows Katsa mind and allows her to create a partnership with Po on her own terms. And when they start having sex her takes herbs to prevent pregnancy, so you know, it promotes birth control. It’s incredibly refreshing and exciting, and allows feminist readers to just fall in love with the characters and enjoy the love story (which feminists want too sometimes!).

Another thing I adore about these books is that Katsa notices as she travels throughout the Seven Kingdoms that women and girls do not know how to defend themselves. It’s generally assumed that men and boys will look after females they’re related to, so when women and girls are harassed or attacked on their own they have no tools to fight back with. Katsa sees this obvious problem and starts teach women and girl’s how to fight, across the Seven Kingdoms,  both hand to hand and with different weapons!

The second book in the Graceling Realm series is Fire. Fire takes place in the same fantasy universe but on the other side of a very large mountain range, so they kingdoms don’t know about each other and it’s almost a different world. In this world there are not gracelings but there are monsters. Monsters exist in all species, they are exactly like their average animal counterpart except they are radiant bright colors, and they have seductive abilities. the main character of this book is named Fire, she is the last human monster, and she is named for her brilliantly bright red/orange/yellow/pink hair. Fire’s abilities allow her to sense other’s minds and with weak minded people suggest ideas and even control their actions.

(spoilers ahead, be warned) Monster abilities also make them disturbingly attractive, which in the animal kingdom makes the normal creature easy prey, but in Fire’s life puts her in danger. Fire’s monster attractiveness is a fairly spot on metaphor for gendered violence in contemporary society. Fire does everything she can to conceal her monster features, but no matter how she dresses weak minded people still flock to her. These people exhibit all types of behavior from gaping, fist fights against each other for her hand in marriage, and violence towards her. At one point of the book she’s traveling with an army across the country, and plays her violin during the nights; one day she comes back to camp to discover that a soldier smashed her violin to smithereens. She cries and blames herself her tempting him by playing it, but her friend and guard Musa assures her that is wasn’t her fault, is was his choice and his action. Fire drawing attention to herself and her instrument was not cause her someone to attack her or her belongings. Which is a theme the book returns to frequently, Fire is a supernaturally irresistible babe, and men can control control themselves around her, because that’s their responsibility.

Fire starts the book in a romantic/sexual relationship with a friend named Archer (in which she uses herbal birth controll), which she has to carefully negotiate because he has grown to be possessive of her. Throughout the story she asserts her independence in the relationship, she decides to travel multiple times despite Archer’s insistence that such things are unsafe. She aides an army in battle without telling him because she knows he would stop her. She continues to create and maintain relationships with people outside of Archer despite his jealousy. And all of these things she does that she decides are safe or worth while for her to do turn out ok, sometimes they are dangerous, sometimes she needs help, but she’s never shown as someone who should have listened to her man. She knows what she can handle and we trust her to make her own judgments. Ultimately after living a way from Archer for a few months when he comes to visit she breaks the romantic relationship with him off.

Another thing I love that Fire adds to the Graceling Realm is a femme and physically vulnerable heroine. Katsa , who is wonderful and I LOVE her, has strengths that aren’t necessarily relatable to many women: she can defend herself against anything that would do her harm. Fire doesn’t have that advantage, Fire can be hurt by people bigger and stronger then her, much like me and all other women I know. But Fire isn’t a wuss or a weakling (again, like most women I know) she has limitations, but she’s smart resourceful and knows how to use weapons. She defends herself from undesired romantic advances by stating boundaries, using her monster powers (when they can aide her), closing doors on men, and asking for help when she needs it. I am eternally enchanted by fiction stories the show different female presentations, and different ways women can be strong.

The last book in the series is Bitterblue. Bitterblue is the name of a young queen on the Garceling/Katsa side of the giant mountain range, who has no fantastic powers, and is trying to help her kingdom as they recover from a shared trauma. Her father, the ruler of the kingdom before her, had a grace that made people believe whatever he said; he would do horrible things and then make people forget them/think that they wanted them/or think that someone else had done them. So Bitterblue has a nearly impossible task of moving her kingdom forward with different groups of people having opposite ideas of how to do that, on top of  shorting though her own mangled memories, and like dating and having friends and stuff.

(spoilers ahead beware) So these books subscribe to the notion that what kingdoms need are good leaders, it’s shown throughout the first two books but we’re far more deeply immersed in that idea as Bitterblue struggles to be a good leader. This won’t be problematic to everyone, but it’s one of my least favorite parts as an Anarchist. I also know many leftist don’t like children’s stories casting royalty as heroes. To quote The Coup “Tell your teacher princesses are evil / that got their money cuz they killed people.” What I enjoy about her queenly struggles is how she comes to consciousness with how privileged she is, and how many people make her castle work and thus her lifestyle work. While reading about a queen coming to understand her privilege may not be super rad to all readers, I think it’s awesome that Cashore takes the time to explain how the castle works, who the castle employees, and all the many workers it takes for these fairy tales to happen. I also think for a privileged reader coming to consciousness with Bitterblue about how fricking lucky she is to want for nothing would be a pretty important read.

Despite this story being about #RoyaltyProblems it might actually be my favorite. Just because the scope of the book is so big. Dealing with entire country healing from such travesty, every character you meet is trying to deal with their own painful past. And it’s only through the telling of the narrative everyone’s stories are peeled back and revealed. The horrible things Bitterblue’s father did hurt everyone from distant farmers, to his advisors, to his family. And the effects this harm did still have hold on the kingdom today. What I think is brilliant about this book is the journey Bitterblue must go through to cut thought the layers of deception that are drawn around her, to keep her ignorant about how bad things still are in her kingdom.

What Bitterblue ultimately learns is that people close to her in the palace were working actively not only to keep her in dark, but to kill others that would try and bring the truth of her father’s reign to light, because they are culpable. These men who were terrorized and are now broken by the former king’s rule also helped him hurt others. These men who love Bitterblue and who Bitterblue loves, were forced into doing terrible things, and now would go to any lengths to stop those truths from coming to light. It’s heart breaking and it’s complicated and it’s incredibly realistic.

But it’s not just a downer book. It’s a story about resilience and varied resistance. It’s a story about friendship, truth, and healing. It’s a story where you see the benefits of Katsa’s fight lessons as Bitterblue defends herself. It’s a story where Bitterblue is given birth control herbs by multiple women in her life before she needs them. It’s a story where Bitterblue sleeps with a boy she doesn’t love because she wants to. It’s a story where punitive responses to crimes are shown as cruel and stopped. It’s a story with rich complicated characters who you cannot judge by their first appearance. It’s also a story where I think Cashore realized that she hadn’t written any gay characters into the previous books so every single possible side character is gay. But more then anything I think it is a story about love, how it comes in a myriad of forms and can sustain us even when it hurts us.

tl;dr these books have amazing messages:

  • Women can have varied gender presentation
  • Women can be strong in a myriad of ways
  • Women form underground rebel groups
  • Women have sex when they want, with birth control
  • Women can form romantic relationships on their own terms
  • Women who defend themselves aren’t monsters but survivors
  • Women teach each other how to fight and defend themselves
  • Men are responsible for their actions towards women
  • Women can make their own decisions about what risks they are willing to take
  • Men who try and control their partners should be dumped
  • Privilege is real and needs to be examined and recognized
  • Survivor’s stories must be told for healing to happen
  • Evil is complicated and can come from people you are close to and love

Please. Dear God. Read them.

I’ve been slacking on posting my displays. Eeek! So here’s the last three I’ve done:

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I’d seen a few different examples of color based book displays. I LOVE color coordinated bookshelves (for small personal collections, of course) and also enjoyed the simplistically beautiful idea of a color coordinated book display. AND it was the perfect book display to maintain during the summer, I just walked down the YA shelves and pulled blue books, easy, squeezy, back to SRPeasy!

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I made this one mid September. I had been trying to get a teen volunteer to do it since July, as soon as pride month was over, I’m anti-ghettoizing <insert marginalized group here> to their history (or in this case Pride) Month. She came up with the wording, but was always whisked away to a more important job before she could execute it. So I did it. It was colorful. I also included every YA nonfic title I could find, because some kids will be looking for resources beyond narrative.

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Here’s the one I just put up today! So while I would have wanted to leave up the Queer display for a full month, kid’s are ALWAYS asking for scary books. With October coming up I thought I’d give myself and the staff a break and meet a very real reader’s advisory need. The web’s easy to make, use a stapler and some yarn, make an x then a +, then spiral another piece of yarn around them. The letters were free hand, that was also easy for me- but I also find free handing block letters easy, so, grain of salt- just draw your block letters and then draw drips coming off the bottom and sides.

 

Book displays! I love ’em!

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I made a birthday card for one of our shelfers. One of my co-workers had found a picture of a gameboy birthday card online and asked if I thought I could make one (there were no instructions), and I gave it a shot.

What you need:

  • One piece of construction paper, color of your choosing
  • One 1/2 page print out of a Game Boy
  • A glue stick
  • Scissors
  • A black marker
  • A pixelated font or font generator

Fold the construction paper in half, like a hamburger.

Cut out the black pieces of the Game Boy, so: the direction pad, the A key, the B key, the screen, the select button, and the start button. Cut out the middle part of the screen so it’s a window.

Use a word processor and your pixalated font, or your font generator, to write out your card’s message in about the size of the screen’s window. Print it out, trace the outside of the screen (not the inside window, the black outline), cut the message out, then use your glue stick to attach it inside the the screen.

Glue your printed out pieces onto the construction paper at about the same spacing as the Game Boy (have the photo up as reference if you don’t have it memorized, that’s what I did). Then make the speaker holes with your black marker: start with the center, a square of four dots, then draw a square of dots around the last square over and over again until you think it’s about the correct size, then leave the corner dots off the last layer of the dots to give it that rounded look.

Then there’s the inside of the card. Since I had already written happy birthday on the outside I needed a new message… so I went for the contra code:

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It’s easy enough to make yourself with arrows and a pixalated font. But I have it formatted correctly in a .doc file so feel free to download it and use it if you want. Cut this piece out so you like the margins and glue it on the right side of the inside of the card.

And BAM that’s it!

Let me know if you have any questions, this is my first tutorial and I’m not sure how clear I was.

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Today an essay I wrote about this really great article by Tunette Powell and the causally racist responses it got when I posted it to the Storytime Underground facebook group got published on Storytime Underground‘s website. It’s a challenge to all of us White educators to think about how, even though none of us want to, we all have internalized racism; and if we really want that to change we need to acknowledge it, and actively work on it. I’m pretty proud of it and really greatful I had a few amazing friends to help me edit it. Please check it out here.

I also want to give a shout-out to Storytime Underground, which is an AMAZING resource for early childhood librarians; and also who sought me and other writers this week to engage in this topic when they saw the disparaging comments on facebook.  MAJOR thanks to Amy Koester the Storytime Underground founder, please check out her blog as it’s another incredible resource for librarians and other child care providers!

So I’m doing a femme edition of gender fluid kid’s books because books about gender nonconforming kids exploring masculinity or androgyny have not been available through any of the library systems I’ve had cards at. I have every  intention of creating a masculine and an androgynous edition of this blog post, if I can find and purchase relevant books, so please let me know about books that fit the bill!

My Princess Boy, by Cheryl Kilodavis

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My Princess boy is an absolutely fantastic book! It’s a nonfiction picture book written by a mother of a feminine boy, and just gives you a snap shot of their lives. You see her Princess Boy play with his father and brother, go to parties with his friends, enjoy going to school; but you also see how strangers react to him with laughter, and hurts him and his mother. One of the best things about this books is how it challenges it’s readers to consider how they would treat a princess boy. It’s also exciting that it tells the story of an accepting and loving Black family, I just wish the artist had drawn their faces…

Jacob’s New Dress, by Ian Hoffman

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Jacob’s New Dress is a lovely simple story of a boy who loves wearing dresses. He starts wearing them as he and his best friend find them in the costume box during free time in class; but he ultimately decides he want to wear one at school as just his outfit that day. The book feels like it could happen in real life: there’s a mean kid who tells him boys can’t wear dresses, his parents have to think about whether or not he should wear one to school. But his best friend and teacher always have his back, and his parents get behind him too, his mom even makes his dress. It’s a sweet validating little book.

10,000 Dresses, by Marcus Ewert

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10,000 dresses is a book about Bailey, a little girl who dreams of beautiful dresses every night; when she wakes up and tries to get her family to help her makes them they tell her that she’s a boy and boys don’t wear dresses. While it is sad that Bailey’s identity and dreams are denied by her family, the reason I love this book is because she goes out and finds someone who won’t. She wanders a way from her house and finds a girl who just happens to be trying to make dresses, and is thrilled Bailey has many dreams worth of dress inspiration. While of course all queer children hope their families will love and accept them for who they are, a lot of us grew to understand if we wanted a family that would love and accept all of us we had to go out into the world and find it. I love that the happy ending of this book is that Bailey finds a friend who thinks she’s the coolest girl ever.

Why would anyone create or approve this cover? It's terrifying! I literally cringed when I picked it up the self it!

Why would anyone create or approve this cover? It’s terrifying! I literally cringed when I picked it up the self it!

So, I dunno about your local library, but ours gets SWAPMED over the summer. Our usual well utilized building and collection goes into hyper-drive and you can often see 6-8 fully stocked book carts stocked and ready to be shelfed out in our stacks. Add to that one shelfer recently quit, and this little librarian is out shelfing daily.

Nothing too exciting to report, but I just wanted to show you a daily loosing battle I find myself fighting: the YA graphic novel area

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And, yes, right now the battle is won, but I would betcha nearly anything that an hour after we open this order will be destroyed. Le sigh.

 

programs/displays/book recs