Staff Picks: On A Sunbeam

Reviewed by Sarah B., Materials Handler


Tillie Walden’s graphic novel On A Sunbeam is a stunningly colorful and heartwarming space opera. Walden describes her art as being influenced by Studio Ghibli artist Hayao Miyazaki, and this novel reflects his influence not only in her art style, but also her fascinating, strange, and beautiful world-building. The story alternates between different points in time and Walden utilizes alternation between different stunning color palettes corresponding to each setting. Each setting is fascinating visually and conceptually: stunningly vast visuals of a spaceship restoration crew traveling from planet to planet, restoring abandoned sites, and an innocent and youthful depiction of one member’s high school experience in a futuristic version of the world.  

With all women and non-binary characters, the novel strongly features tender queer love. Frequently, representation of queer love in fiction depicts it as a rebellion against the norm. This is an important and real aspect of the experience of being LGBTQ, but this graphic novel provides a contrasting and comforting depiction of queer love (specifically between women, in this case) simply as love, as the average experience. This graphic novel displays queer love completely separately from any lens of outside observance, it simply exists. The romance in this book is a large aspect of the plot, but in the way that straight couples commonly see themselves depicted in literature: as a grand and beautiful thing but not one that has to be inherently subversive. 

The novel does still challenge the microaggressions that trans individuals in particular face through a non-binary character Elliot and a minor character who “forgets” to use their pronouns or gender neutral language around them. Every other character uses language respectfully and naturally, so this bigoted character’s disrespectful, chosen ignorance stands out. Characters that are respectful of Elliot try to remind her to use the right language at first, and then over time become less tolerant or “polite” with her ignorance. These interactions are an example of how kindness and respect do not always mean being nice and polite to every individual no matter what—if someone taking hateful and harmful action does not respond to gentle nudging in the right direction, sometimes the kindest action is to be more blunt and make it known that their harmful opinions and choices are not always acceptable, and that someone’s identity and existence are not up for debate. 

This novel sweeps you up into its black, cosmic backgrounds in contrast with beautiful, symbolic colors, its fascinating interplanetary world-building, and the tender, grandeur love between women it depicts. I would recommend this book wholeheartedly, especially to queer women and binary people hoping to see themselves represented, fans of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, or to anyone who enjoys clever, strange, and beautiful world-building. 

This is review is part of the Finding Value series, inspired by the eleven core values central to the Library's mission. Tune in as Library staff review books and movies that highlight the values accessibility, civil discourse, inclusiveness, integrity, intellectual freedom, lifelong learning, literacy, respect, safety, service, and stewardship. 

Pioneer Grants Fund Adventure Backpacks and Dyslexia-Friendly Library Projects

Adventure Backpacks

Each year the Friends of the Library invites Library employees to submit their enterprising ideas for consideration of a Pioneer Grant. Projects must be innovative and beneficial to the community and lead the way to a knowledgeable, inclusive, and engaged community empowered by the Library. This year two projects were awarded grants.

Adventure Backpacks

Community Engagement Librarians Jen Hoffman and Morning Wilder, and Edwin Fallwell, a Senior Information Assistant, proposed a collection of Adventure Backpacks. In their proposal, the team noted that the backpacks would “facilitate an interactive exploration of nature, the outdoors, and local park and trail systems.”

Adventures Backpacks contain several useful items for your outdoor adventure including identification guides (flowers, trees, birds), and outdoor tools (binoculars, compass, multi-tool, flashlight).

Additionally, the team worked with the Department of Natural Resources and Indiana State Parks to provide a voucher allowing for free admission to any Indiana State Park. Backpacks check out for seven days and are now available!

Dyslexia-Friendly Library

A second Pioneer Grant was awarded to Community Engagement Librarian Kim Baker to make the Library dyslexia-friendly. The purpose of the project is to kickstart development of a new service offering for dyslexic individuals, their caretakers, or people looking to learn more about dyslexia.

Kim’s proposal requested funds for staff training to serve as a foundation for a system-wide turn towards developing a dyslexic-friendly library. Kim was motivated by Indiana’s Senate Enrolled Act 217 which dictates that all kindergarteners through second-graders must be pre-screened for dyslexia.

“The Library is in a unique position to offer individuals in our community much-needed resources and support in an inclusive environment which they may not otherwise have access to furthering our ability to foster lifelong learning opportunities for members of our community,” Baker wrote.

As part of the dyslexia-friendly library project, all children’s signage at Main and Ellettsville has been updated. While the Library is closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, staff are developing their understanding of dyslexia through online training and expanding their knowledge of accessible resources. More updates coming soon!


Curious about past Pioneer Grant winners? In 2019, Creating Access for Violence Survivors (CAVS) was proposed by Information Assistant Shannon Bowman-Sarkisian. The project created Library protocol for Monroe County residents in hiding or transitional housing due to escaping domestic violence. It also provided training for Library staff on domestic violence and related issues, and gave Middle Way House residents access to eLibrary and digital learning tools on Library-curated iPads and Playaway tablets.


Staff Picks: Such a Fun Age

Reviewed by Sarah K., Materials Handler

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid is also available as an ebook and audiobook.

Civil Discourse

Late one night, Alix Chamberlin, a white woman, calls Emira, her child’s Black babysitter to take her toddler out of the house. While browsing at a nearby high-end grocery store to pass the time, Emira is stopped by security after a customer expressed her concern that the child might have been kidnapped.

As the consequences of that night unfold, Reid masterfully shows how good intentions from white people are not enough. In fact, the actions that come from those intentions too often have the opposite effect. Alix does her best to right the wrongs that occurred that night, but lacks an understanding of Emira’s life and a respect for her choices. Even white characters well-versed in racial issues stumble when they can’t see the ways in which they center themselves.

Since the death of George Floyd and other Black Americans at the hands of the police, the country is rightfully focused on the racial injustices and oppression that have plagued it for more than four centuries. Reid’s novel provides a platform to engage with issues of race, white saviorism, and privilege--as individuals and as a collective. It is a perfect example of how fiction can offer an entry point into difficult conversations. Such a Fun Age is an engrossing, powerful novel that meets the moment.

This is the first review in the new Finding Value series, inspired by the eleven core values central to the Library's mission. Tune in as Library staff review books and movies that highlight the values accessibility, civil discourse, inclusiveness, integrity, intellectual freedom, lifelong learning, literacy, respect, safety, service, and stewardship. 

"Finding Value" Review Series

Finding Value depicting different values

Accessibility, civil discourse, inclusiveness, integrity, intellectual freedom, lifelong learning, literacy, respect, safety, service, and stewardship.

These values are all central to the Library’s mission to strengthen the Monroe County community and enrich lives by providing equitable access to information and opportunities to read, learn, connect, and create. From new programs and collections to new branches, these core values guide the way.

The Library reaffirms its commitment to these core values in a new ongoing blog series, Finding Value. Tune in as Library staff review books and movies that highlight Library values here on the blog.

The local and national challenges of 2020 have only emphasized the importance of these values. As the Library adapts to new ways of service during a pandemic, its focus is on safety, accessibility, and stewardship. As the Library provides resources and information to address systemic racism and the Black Lives Matter movement, inclusiveness, civil discourse, and respect are front and center.

The Library hopes you enjoy the opportunity to connect with the new books and movies featured in Finding Value. May they enrich your world and open windows to the experiences of others.

Read Finding Value Reviews


Additionally, the Library invites you to take a brief survey to inform its strategic roadmap for 2021–23. Your input has always been a vital part of this process, informing that the Library is a safe, welcoming, and inclusive place for the community to read, learn, connect, and create. Your response will guide the Library’s decisions on a variety of topics, including values, technology, programs, partnerships, and materials.

Tween Quaranzine

Call for Submissions

Monroe County tweens (ages 7–11) are invited to contribute to making an online Tween Quaranzine to document how you, the community’s young people, are responding to these strange times of quarantine and social distancing in the face of COVID-19.

To participate, you may contribute an 8.5” x 5.5” page. All ideas that highlight the community and uplift your voices are encouraged and welcome. The Library will accept writing (250 words or less), artwork, comics, photography, recipes, tutorials, and/or a combination of all of these––really anything goes as long as it can be represented on paper. For example, you can make a sculpture but you’d have to photograph it and then share the photo which is what would be used. The Library cannot accept video or audio files.

Zines have always amplified community voices. During this time, it is more important than ever to find alternative ways to connect. The Tween Quaranzine will be a reflection of Monroe County’s amazing community. Your pages will be compiled and made publicly available on the Library’s website as one zine! 

Submissions are due by July 31 and will be published the week of August 7.

By the way, what’s a Zine?

Zines are magazines published by individuals or groups independent of big publishing companies. Zines can be written on any topic! From personal narrative, to fiction, to DIY guides, if it exists, there’s probably a zine about it.

Zines come in lots of different styles. Some are written entirely as comics, others are written using only words, while others use only images. Some are black and white, and others are in full color. Check out this zine written for kids on the coronavirus.

The Library’s zine will be digital. The Library will also print a copy for its in-house zine collection and will send each contributor a digital file that can be printed.

Prompts to Get Started

Imagine your story.

  • If COVID-19 weren’t happening right now, how would your school year have ended?
  • If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be and what would you do?
  • Imagine aliens came to Earth during this pandemic. What would they think about our world? Would they be able to help us?
  • Imagine that COVID-19 were a dragon. Write a story about a brave adventurer slaying it.

Draw a picture or write an open letter describing what it is like to be stuck at home to someone who lives in a different part of the nation or to someone in the future long after COVID-19 has been cured.

  • What does it feel like?
  • What are you doing to pass the time?
  • How are you staying connected to friends, family, and classmates?
  • How do you stay positive?
  • What advice would you give to others?

Write a poem or make a piece of art that shows what you’re most excited to do when this is all over.

  • Maybe it’s a place, a person, or a thing––everyone is missing something right now!
  • Do you have a favorite toy or game that has helped you get through this time? Describe it, draw it, and share how it has helped you.

Rules and Submission Guidelines

Please submit your work through this form. Please email kbaker [at] with any questions or entries.

Your submission will be publicly visible on the Library’s website. Please get your parent or guardian’s permission prior to submitting content.  Your first name, the first letter of your last name (optional), and your age (e.g. John S., age 8) will be published along with your submission.

Submissions will be reviewed by Library staff. Work must be appropriate for age 7 and up and is subject to the Library's behavioral guidelines. Submitted content must be original and previously unpublished. You may choose to submit multiple pieces, but the Library will only publish one per participant. Submitting your work is not a guarantee that your submission will be published. 

By submitting your work, you agree that MCPL has the right to publish your work in their Tween Quaranzine but ownership rights of the original work remain with the creator.

Real Friends

Shannon had long believed the advice of her mother, “One good friend. My Mom says that's all anyone really needs.” But when her one friend, Adrienne, starts spending more time with the new, popular girl and her “friend group,” Shannon is left confused about where she fits in.

What’s even more challenging, one of the girls in the group is a bully! How can Shannon navigate the complex social order of middle school? Real Friends is a relatable fast paced graphic novel based on the experiences of award winning author, Shannon Hale. Recommended for readers 8-12.

Pride Month Zines - QZAP Archive

Queer Zine Archive Project

In honor of Pride month, the Library is highlighting QZAP, a huge, free, queer zine collection available online! QZAP (The Queer Zine Archive Project) exists to catalog and preserve the history of queer zines. The Library has showcased just a few of QZAP's zines below. Make sure to check out QZAP's archive for many, many more zines––all available virtually!

Fort Mortgage

Fort Mortgage

Buying and finding your first home may be intimidating, but this Chicago-based zine helps readers using the writer's first-hand experience.


Growing Pains

Growing Pains

This zine is written by Sarah Kennedy, a punk woman who was involved with riot grrrl, on her life, privileges, and background, in relation to her work and who she is now. It includes an essay by Erika Reinstein defending riot grrrl culture and calling for allyship between zinesters.


From Sheytls to Yarmulkes

From Sheytls to Yarmulkes

As stated within, “This zine is about the unique experiences of transgender Jews, examined through personal narratives that explore the idea of gender and sexuality among different sects of Judaism."


A Quick Guide to Transgender Health Care Information in Davis, CA

A Quick Guide to Transgender Healthcare Information

Based in Davis, CA, this zine provides an overview of queer terminology, library call numbers and subject searches, websites, books, and articles on transgender healthcare.


Empty Orchestra #1

Empty Orchestra #1

A fun and quirky guide to one girl’s love for karaoke bars, and her reviews of such bars around the US.


Our Library Crushes

Our Library Crushes

A personal favorite, this mini-zine is full of cute and awesome librarians!


How We Kiss: privilege on the dance floor

How We Kiss: privilege on the dance floor

Highlighting the difference between cis-gendered and queer spaces, this zine makes clear boundaries for showing empathy and providing safe places for different communities.


Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter

A Note from the Director

Recent events of racism and physical violence against Blacks across our country are both frightening and abhorrent. Monroe County Public Library mourns the lost lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many more. 

As a trusted community institution, we stand in solidarity with the American Library Association (ALA), the Black Caucus of the ALA, and with Monroe County residents who are susceptible to acts of prejudice, threats of violence, and even death based solely on their race or ethnicity. We condemn the systemic and systematic social injustices endured by Black people and people of color and we stand against racism and injustice.

We must all affirm that Black Lives Matter and understand that “all lives matter” is not an appropriate response. We must acknowledge systemic racism and the role that we all play in it––in our homes, our workplaces, and our community organizations.

The Library reaffirms its mission, values, and goals to strengthen our community through civil discourse, inclusiveness, respect, and safety by providing a safe and welcoming place for all and promoting a climate of civility, inclusiveness, and compassion.

As part of our reaffirmation, we want to share some actions we’ve recently taken and are committed to in the future:

  • Staff participated in implicit bias and homelessness training and will continue to participate in other opportunities to achieve a better understanding of how to reduce inequities
  • An ongoing review of programming, services, collections, partnerships, and staffing to ensure equitable practices and procedures are in place
  • In an effort to make the Library more accessible to all, we waived all unpaid overdue fines and collection agency fees, and eliminated fines for all late returns moving forward

Public libraries are critical links in our communities and essential as we move forward in this troubling time. As a public service institution, it is our responsibility to be responsive to the needs of our community, to address inequities, and to provide a place of safety and inclusiveness. It is also our responsibility to provide resources and information to help individuals seek knowledge which can lead to greater understanding and compassion. To move towards change, we’ve compiled these staff picks lists and resources. We will continue to add resources in the coming weeks.

We know there is much more to do and we will work with our community to make improvements, and to encourage communication and deeper, compassionate understanding. 

Supporting Our Black Community

There are many ways we can support our Black community. If you don’t know where to start take a look at this list for all kinds of ideas to learn, support, and engage with our Black community.


For a quick start check out one of these online articles.

Staff Picks

Check out these Library staff picks lists for more in-depth reading:

Local Resources

  • Black Lives Matter Bloomington 
    This local chapter of Black Lives Matter includes an extensive resource list
  • Support Minority and Women-Owned Bloomington Businesses 
    A list of local businesses owned by women and minorities compiled by the City of Bloomington Community and Family Resources
  • Learn about ways to support the City of Bloomington’s Commission on the Status of Black Males
    This commission promotes positive aspects and addresses concerns of our local Black male population
  • The City of Bloomington’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration Commission 
    This commission plans activities and events in celebration of Martin Luther King’s birthday
  • Take a class or explore a campus partner of IU’s Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies
    You can choose to take classes, participate in research, attend performances, and form friendships with others who share an abiding interest in the experiences of Black Americans and other people representing the African diaspora
  • Visit or donate to the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center 
    The NMBCC has an extensive history of supporting the IU’s efforts to challenge, support, and contribute to the continued development and success of the black students, faculty, and staff
  • Check out Bloomington’s own Bring It On! on WFHB
    "Bring It On!" is Indiana’s only weekly radio program committed to exploring the people, issues, and events impacting the African-American community


  • George Floyd Memorial Fund
    This fund is established to cover funeral and burial expenses, mental and grief counseling, lodging and travel for all court proceedings, and to assist our family in the days to come as we continue to seek justice for George.  A portion of these funds will also go to the Estate of George Floyd for the benefit and care of his children and their educational fund.
  • National Black Lives Matter 
    The official #BlackLivesMatter Global Network builds power to bring justice, healing, and freedom to Black people across the globe. The website includes toolkits for healing action, conflict resolution, and other educational resources. 
  • Campaign Zero
    We can live in a world where the police don't kill people by limiting police interventions, improving community interactions, and ensuring accountability.

Social Justice Resources for Teens

Current Issues:
What You Can Do:


Under the Kanopy: Two with Michel Piccoli

You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet

By Craig J. Clark

You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet (Alain Resnais, 2012)

On May 12, the great and greatly prolific French actor Michel Piccoli died at the age of 94. With
hundreds of screen credits to his name, from 1945 to 2015, Piccoli was a fixture of French cinema who
worked with nearly every major director in the French film industry, often multiple times. He didn’t
cross paths with New Wave fixture Alain Resnais until both were in the twilight of their careers, though,
when Resnais cast Piccoli as himself in his penultimate feature. Based on two plays by French playwright
Jean Anouilh, You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet starts with a baker’s dozen actors being summoned to the
home of a deceased playwright whose version of Eurydice they've all performed in at one time or
another. To their surprise, they’ve been assembled to view a recording of a new avant-garde production
of the play, but instead of idly watching, the actors – starting with Piccoli, who played Orpheus’s father –
begin reciting their dialogue and interacting with the performers onscreen. And Resnais doesn’t stop
there, employing digital effects to make people appear and disappear and split screens when multiple
actor pairs are playing the same scene simultaneously. It’s all part of the gamesmanship that has been
part of the director’s modus operandi going back to 1961’s Last Year at Marienbad (which doesn’t
feature Piccoli, but is still worth checking out and puzzling over).

Death in the Garden (Luis Buñuel, 1956)

One of Michael Piccoli’s most fruitful collaborations was with Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel, with whom
he made six films in all. The first was Death in the Garden, a French/Mexican co-production for which
Buñuel toned down his surrealistic tendencies to tell a story set in an unnamed South American state
where a government takeover of the diamond mines gets the prospectors who have staked their claims
all riled up. That leads to complications for a number of people just passing through, including Piccoli’s
Father Lizardi, a Catholic missionary who’s eager to take up his post with an Indian tribe deep in the
jungle. When the miners’ rebellion tips over into violence, Father Lizardi joins four other French
nationals – a prostitute played by top-billed Simone Signoret, a grizzled prospector played by Charles
Vanel and his deaf-mute daughter, and a rugged loner played by Georges Marchal – on the next boat
heading out of town. Unfortunately for all of them, when they're forced to cut through the jungle
they're deprived of their provisions and they really aren't up to the task of surviving without them. To
say Father Lizardi’s faith gets tested along with everyone else’s would be an understatement.

After Death in the Garden, Piccoli reunited with Buñuel for 1964’s Diary of a Chambermaid and could be
counted on to pop up in roles both large and small in Belle de Jour, The Milky Way (in which Piccoli plays
the Marquis de Sade), The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, and The Phantom of Liberty. He even
dubbed the voice of Spanish actor Fernando Rey in Buñuel’s final film, That Obscure Object of Desire, in
which the female lead is played in alternating scenes by two different actresses. Sounds like something
Alain Resnais would cook up.

Staff Picks: The First Rule of Punk

When 12 year old Malú’s moves to Chicago with her mother, she’s worried she won’t find her place. But in exploring her Mexican heritage, embracing her love of all things punk, and connecting with new friends, she learns how important the first rule of punk actually is. Malú’s zines (self published magazines) are printed throughout the novel, offering another glimpse inside her mind and a great introduction to the art of zine making. Recommended for readers aged 9-12.