CECH Library Spotlight: Ellen Outside the Lines by AJ Sass

CECH Spotlight highlights recommended books in the the UC College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services (CECH) Library.

Ellen Outside the Lines / written by AJ Sass / 2022

CW: Queer character being outed 

Ellen Outside the Lines by A.J. Sass is a contemporary juvenile novel that follows Ellen Katz, a queer, autistic, Jewish girl as she navigates life and friendship. Ellen’s Spanish class is going to Barcelona for two weeks, and she expects it to be a time for her to reconnect with her best friend Laurel. But during this trip, her carefully planned routines and expectations are thrown for a loop when she gets paired with a different group, allowing her to learn not just about herself but those around her.

This novel explores gender identity, queerness, religion, neurodivergence, and what it means to be a friend. It is a heartwarming story of growth and acceptance that makes it a read that you won’t want to put down until you’re done.

This book is available from the CECH Library, as well as the OhioLINK and Search Ohio lending networks.

Review by Alice Somers, CECH Library Student Assistant | Early Childhood Education and Deaf Studies, CECH 2026

New Book Spotlight: The Blackbird Girls

The New Book Spotlight highlights new-to-us titles in the the UC College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services (CECH) Library.

The Blackbird Girls / by Anne Blankman / 2020

Content Advisory/Trigger Warning: physical and mental abuse, anti-Semitism

Anne Blankman’s The Blackbird Girls is a historical fiction that jumps between Oksana and Valentina in the aftermath of the Chernobyl power plant explosion in 1986, and Rifka who is on the run from the Nazis in 1941.

Rifka grew up practicing Judaism while Valentina identifies only ethnically with Judism. Separated by over forty years, the two girls experienced anti-Semitism in ways that were similar yet so different. Oksana was the perfect Ukrainian, and all her life she was told to hate Valentina and people “of her kind”.

When the Chernobyl power plant exploded, Valentina and Oksana’s lives were forced together much to their dismay. But when they have to live together in Leningrad with Valentina’s grandmother, they learn how similar they are and how important they are to each other.

Blankman explores the impact World War II and the Holocaust had on Jewish people while showing personal growth in a prejudice time in world history. Blankman has created a story full of hope and resilience in a time of fear and uncertainty.

The Blackbird Girls is available from CECH Library, as well as the OhioLINK and Search Ohio lending networks. It also won the 2020 National Jewish Book Award for Middle Grades Literature.

Review by Alice Somers (she/her), CECH Library Student Assistant | Secondary English Education, CECH 2025