Sages Reader Spotlights are an opportunity to shout out some of the many amazing book lovers in our community. We think you'll see some familiar faces in these reader profiles and we know that you'll get some great recommendations and inspiration to help you complete your own Sages Read 2021 Challenge. Don't miss the links to this Sages Reader's recommendations below. We've even matched them up to this year's challenge categories for you.
Mia Adams is the new Youth and Program Services Librarian at Allerton Public Library. She's quickly become an awesome champion of the Sages Read program and recently completed her own 2021 challenge (more on that below). If you're not already following her on Facebook, you definitely should be! In addition to library events and other happenings, she posts new books arriving, special displays, check-ins at Little Free Libraries around town, lots of book recommendations, and random fun facts about holidays (National Chili Dog Day? Count us in!). We were super excited to get to know a little more about our community's newest librarian and scoop up all of her wonderful recommendations. Read on for sooooo much challenge inspo!
SAGES READ: Mia, you recently took up the position of Youth and Program Services at one of our favortie places in town, the Allerton Public Library! Are you new to the Monticello area?
MIA ADAMS: I was actually born and raised in Monticello. I went away for college and graduate school, and then returned.
SR: Did you always know you wanted to be a librarian?
MA: Although I’ve always had a strong relationship with librarians growing up (both school and public), I never thought I would end up as one. I decided in high school that I wanted to be a teacher. In undergrad, I double-majored in English and Art History. I got sucked into the awe of art and how it influences history, and I thought about working in a museum for a short time (and I discovered later that librarians actually play a role in how information is displayed in museums sometimes!). But, my career goals (and life in general) changed in 2015 when I traveled to Tanzania, East Africa for the first time. During my time working there, I had the opportunity to bring books and computers to rural areas and set up libraries and computer labs. I was also able to take the time to teach students about how to find and utilize print and digital resources. I began to see how librarians can teach, too, in a way that is so subtle and beautiful. After I returned, I started a master's program in African Studies at the U of I, but I felt the most love and passion for my library projects, so I decided to pursue a second master's in Library and Information Science.
SR: Have you always been an avid reader?
MA: Yes, I have always loved reading. At a very early age, even before I could attend preschool, I remember going with my mom (Dr. Gay Adams of Adams Chiropractic) to work and sitting in the back room of her clinic listening to books on tape. I was definitely “hooked on phonics,” as they say. As soon as I could read by myself, I did. I read the newspapers with my dad and medical journals with my mom and everything in between. I remember being so curious and hungry for knowledge that I would read anything I could get my hands on, even if I didn’t necessarily understand some of the bigger words or context.
SR: Sounds like your love of reading was nurtured by your parents from a very young age. Were there any teachers or librarians who contributed to your passion for books or libraries when you were growing up in Monticello?
MA: When I was little, my dad worked for the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (that I later attended), and sometimes I would go to work with him. I remember attending classes with him and becoming friends with a number of the faculty and librarians on staff there. Those librarians were constantly recommending countless books to me, including books about East Asian folktales, books about being vegetarian, or books about building computers. I have a lot of memories of my dad taking me to the Center for Children’s Books (the children’s library on campus run by the Information School) and the wonderful librarians there, too. I also had an exceptional school librarian when I was at Monticello Middle School and I remember her being so supportive of my ferocious reading appetite. It felt like I read almost every book in that library!
SR: You just finished a graduate program. How did your reading habits change during school, or after you were finally finished?
MA: When I was growing up, and especially during high school, I wanted to read the classics and all of the really thick, challenging books. But now, after finishing two back-to-back Master’s degrees, I find myself reading for pure pleasure. I like to tell people that my brain is tired from all of those collegiate articles and I need some rest. I’m thoroughly enjoying reading only children’s, middle grade, and YA right now.
SR: That's not to say that you won't find stimulating and challenging material in children's books, though, right?
MA: Absolutely! In my personal reading journey, I have found that the structure of adult books can be challenging because the vocabulary is expansive, or the format is dense or confusing. But children’s books can challenge you in a number of ways, too; children’s books can challenge the way we think, the way we feel, and the way we see the world. In my opinion, adult books can challenge us to read, whereas children’s books can challenge us to think. I’ve learned so much about other people, places, and perspectives from reading children’s books.
SR: Is there a book that really inspired you in either your educational or professional journey?
MA: I always appreciate books that I either identify with completely, or that are so different from my own experience that my eyes are opened to other people and their perspectives. During graduate school, my main focus was on community engagement and I remember connecting with Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book Braiding Sweetgrass and feeling like my desires toward how I want to use my information degree being validated. I have always felt and believed that we are all connected and, with that connection, we should all fail or succeed together. I guess it was just heart-warming to see my understanding of the world illustrated in such a beautiful way. Kimmerer definitely made me feel like I was on the right track.
SR: Okay, now onto the part where we torture bookworms by forcing them to pick favorites! Let's start with genre. What's your go-to?
MA: I love so many different things, and I’m really not all that picky when it comes to characters, subject matter, voice, etc. But, historical fiction has always been my genre of choice. When I pick up a book for fun, I choose historical fiction. I definitely love books relating to ancient Egypt, Greece, Africa, and East Asia, if I had to pick a few. Although, folktales, folklore, and legends have always caught and kept my interest, too.
SR: Librarians are excellent book matchmakers. Is there one book or author you recommend to others most often?
MA: My recommendations always depend on the age and interests of the individual who’s asking, but the Magic Tree House books are always a good option and I recommend that series to several overlapping age groups. For older kids, I tend to recommend writers like Meg Cabot, Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, Gail Carson Levine, Cornelia Funke, Kate DiCamillo, Tamora Pierce, Shannon Hale, or Laurie Halse Anderson. I also really like Rick Riordan and Richard Peck.
SR: What's your go-to gift book?
MA: When I'm choosing a gift for a child, I try to pick a book that they can read up to, since you never really know what their reading level is. For adults, I typically gift cookbooks or non-fiction, just because you don’t always know what kind of fiction people prefer. I find people tend to either love or hate genres like fantasy, sci-fi, or even mystery. My go-to cookbook is Cook Korean! A Comic Book with Recipes by Robin Ha, mostly because I’m part Korean and love Korean food. But, I also think it’s really cool because it’s formatted like a graphic novel and the illustrations are amazing. My go-to non-fiction books are typically anything Eye Witness or anything having to do with animals.
SR: What's the best book that's ever been recommended or given to you by someone else?
MA: Wow…such a hard question! I’ve been gifted so many books over the years that it’s difficult to choose just one. I suppose I would say the best books I’ve been given are the ones where someone says the book or main character made them think of me, like Hillary Clinton’s The Book of Gutsy Women, or Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness series.
SR: A compliment in the form of a book—that's awesome! So, finished with school, getting settled in a new job... are you reading more often for business or pleasure these days?
MA: If you asked me this while I was in graduate school, I definitely would have said business—no time for pleasure reading! But now, in my role as a children’s librarian, I would say the books I assign myself to read are either books that I think the library might need, or that I could use in a book club or for a recommendation. I also really enjoy all of the things I’ve been reading lately, though, so I guess you could say it's a little of both.
The Sages Read display at Allerton Public Library
SR: It's been so exciting seeing displays and information about this year's reading challenge pop up in the library this summer!
MA: I was so excited to learn that the Allerton Public Library is a partner in the Sages Read program, and I was so pleased to be able to make the program more visible to our patrons. So many people still don’t know what Sages Read is, or that it's open to readers of all ages, not just kids! I’ve found that readers are more likely to pick up a book if they can see the cover, so I’ve been trying to create little displays around the library to attract people’s attention—the Sages Read display corner being a fan favorite.
SR: We're definitely big fans of it, too! What other cool things do you have planned for our library community?
MA: Thankfully, I was hired during a transition period of sorts, so I had some time to figure out what kinds of programming I want to do moving forward. We will be continuing with a few of our long-standing programs, as well as creating a few new ones! Starting next month, we are bringing back our weekly story times on Wednesdays (for ages birth-18 months) and Thursdays (for ages 18 months-5 years), and our monthly family events on Saturday mornings. For now, the story times will continue to be virtual and bigger events will be held outside. But, we are hoping to have in-person events for younger children again soon. New and exciting events will include a monthly teen book club and several joint events where we partner with other community organizations and businesses (like Hartfield Book Co.)!
SR: You recently completed the Sages Read Community Reading Challenge, going above and beyond by completing all 20 challenges! It's no surprise that a librarian has LOTS of great recommendations to share, so let's wrap this up with a ton of books for readers still working on their own 2021 challenge sheets. Here we go, rapid fire...
Best books you read in 2020
Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love (Find it at Hartfield | Find it at Allerton Public Library)
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (Find it at Hartfield | Find it at Allerton Public Library)
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson (Find it at Hartfield | Find it at Allerton Public Library)
The Dark by Lemony Snicket (Find it at Hartfield | Find it at Allerton Public Library)
And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson (Find it at Hartfield | Find it at Allerton Public Library)
The Watch that Ends the Night by Allan Wolf (Find it at Hartfield | Find it at Allerton Public Library)
Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World’s Strangest Parrot by Sy Montgomery (Find it at Hartfield | Find it at Allerton Public Library)
Picture This: How Pictures Work by Molly Bang (Find it at Hartfield | Find it at Allerton Public Library)
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (Find it at Hartfield | Find it at Allerton Public Library)
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill (Find it at Hartfield | Find it at Allerton Public Library)
Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani (Find it at Hartfield | Find it at Allerton Public Library)
Best books you've read so far this year
All He Knew by Helen Frost (Find it at Hartfield | Find it at Allerton Public Library)
Baby Goes to Market by Atinuke (Find it at Hartfield | Find it at Allerton Public Library)
Finding Junie Kim by Ellen Oh (Find it at Hartfield | Find it at Allerton Public Library)
Bilal Cooks Daal by Aisha Saeed (Find it at Hartfield | Find it at Allerton Public Library)
Grandpa Across the Ocean by Hyewon Yum (Find it at Hartfield | Find it at Allerton Public Library)
Freedom Soup by Tami Charles (Find it at Hartfield | Find it at Allerton Public Library)
The Girl Who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson (Find it at Hartfield | Find it at Allerton Public Library)
The Color Collector by Nicholas Solis (Find it at Hartfield | Find it at Allerton Public Library)
An Anthology of Intriguing Animals by Ben Hoare (Find it at Hartfield | Find it at Allerton Public Library)
The Karate Kid adapted by Rebecca Gyllenhaal (Find it at Hartfield | Find it at Allerton Public Library)
Donut Feed the Squirrels by Mika Song (Find it at Hartfield | Find it at Allerton Public Library)
The Sea-Ringed World by Maria Garcia Esperon (Find it at Hartfield | Find it at Allerton Public Library)
Miss Meteor by Tehlor Kay Mejia and Anna Marie McLemore (Find it at Hartfield | Find it at Allerton Public Library)
Magic Tree House the Graphic Novel: Dinosaurs Before Dark adapted by Jenny Laird (Find it at Hartfield | Find it at Allerton Public Library)
For even more inspiration, here is Mia's completed Sages Read Challenge sheet—she completed every single category! (Click on the image to download it as a PDF).
Sages Read is list of reading challenges intended to get our community reading and discussing books together. Learn more about this year's challenge categories and prize opportunities on the Sages Read website.