Dare to Disappoint


Title: Dare to Disappoint: Growing Up in Turkey

Author/Illustrator: Özge Samancı

Summary: Özge grew up in a small village on the Mediterranean sea in Turkey, a proud and ancient nation with a tumultuous recent history. While she treasured her dreams of becoming an actress, or an adventurer, or even an underwater explorer like her idol Jacques Cousteau, she also knew that she had an obligation to her family and to herself to study as hard as she could and enter a profession that would allow her to support herself in a time when such opportunities were rare, especially for girls. So at a young age, Özge sets her dreams aside in order to devote herself to one goal: Getting in to the best college possible so she can study the most challenging subjects so she can get a great job to guarantee her future. Will she succeed? Is it worth it? What will she find out about herself along the way?

This bright and charming graphic memoir was written and designed by Samancı, who is now a professor living in Chicago. While it offers a detailed and lighthearted look at growing up in Turkey, what makes it truly fascinating is its terrific depiction of living through the stress of expectations, be they of your family or your society in general, and how it is truly universal, whether you live in the United States today or grew up halfway around the world 30 years ago. Heartfelt and unexpectedly sensitive, this book is well worth your time.

Who will like this book?: Fans of books set in other countries. Memoir readers. Anyone who likes beautiful illustrations – these pages are full of creative and clever visuals.

If you like this, try this: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. For more on Turkey, try Blue Voyage by Diana Renn.

Symphony for the City of the Dead


Title: Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad

Author: M.T. Anderson

Summary: During World War II, the Russian city of Leningrad, formerly known as St. Petersburg, was bombed and held under siege by Nazi forces for almost three years, unable to obtain fresh food or other necessities for survival. Starving and desperate, residents of the cosmopolitan cultural capital of the nation endured unspeakable horrors. It was the stuff of nightmares, but it was also a source of inspiration, as famous composer Dmitri Shostakovich created a piece of music that would come to demonstrate to the war-torn world the incredible strength of his native city, the Seventh Symphony.

Born before the Russian Revolution, Shostakovich was a living witness to an incredible time in world history. This stunning and impeccably researched work of non-fiction describes the epic story of the war in the U.S.S.R. by telling the story of this one man, an artist who had been held up a both a hero and a pariah by those in charge over the course of his turbulent life. This book is challenging and deeply rewarding, much like author Anderson’s acclaimed fiction including Feed and The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing. Even if you think you know all there is to know about World War II, this book will surprise you.

Who will like this book?: Mature readers who are interested in history. Musicians and artists. People who are curious about everyday life under war conditions.

If you like this, try this: For more on Russian history, try The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming. The Road of Bones by Ann Fine. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. For mature readers, City of Thieves by David Benioff.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Between Shades of Gray


Title: Between Shades of Gray

Author: Ruta Sepetys

Summary: Lina is a talented artist planning on attending an art academy over her summer holiday. Her happy and peaceful life is shattered on a quiet night in June, 1939, when she, her brother and mother are forced from their home and crammed with dozens of others first onto a truck, then a train, with no idea where they are headed. Lina’s father, a college professor, is considered anti-Soviet, and so like thousands of others the Vilkas family has been deported and sent to labor camps in Siberia, under the brutal regime of Stalin.

With little more than the clothes on their back, Lina and her family, separated from their father and everyone they know, will have to be resilient and resourceful in the face of unimaginable danger, brutality and inhumane living conditions.  Bravery and dedication to each other can only take the Vilkases so far in their bleak new life. This powerful story, based on little-known historical events will shock and sadden you, but like Lina’s artwork, you will also find strength, hope, and even beauty as well.

Who will like this book: Anyone interested in ‘secret’ histories that aren’t very well-known. Budding artists. People who like intense, dramatic stories.

If you like this, try this: Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt. The Road of Bones by Ann Fine. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian