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Photo: Miler Lagos, Book Igloo
Earlier this week the American Library Association announced their 2013 Youth Media awards, sparking immediate discourse on Twitter and listserv about the winners and honorees. Being Australian leads to some unfamiliarity with these American titles, however I found myself reading the thoughts of many American librarians. Their arguments were scarily familiar– the notion of literary quality versus teen appeal.
Is the priority in these awards to recognise the best writer? Awards committees have an established list of guidelines in which to follow – it makes sense that a title’s literary qualities are more easily quantifiable. A writing award should go to the best writer. Good writing elevates young adult literature. However, in arguing for the best piece of literature, we sometimes eliminate books that resonate more strongly with teen readers.
Many librarians expressed dismay that some of the awarded titles would gather dust on their bookshelves despite vigorous booktalking and elaborate displays. Which begs the question – is the concept of quality made null and void if there is no hunger for what is being awarded?
Many readers read books that are the equivalent of Fruit Loops while growing up, yet will move onto works of literary genius. Some readers like to dally in each end of the reading pool, some like the deep end, some do laps churning through everything. Teens know what quality is. They just prefer it when quality is also enjoyable to read.
It is nigh on impossible to sell a book to a teen if it doesn’t sell itself. Quality or not, there needs to be a plot or a concept that ignites a spark. Quality isn’t a selling point to a teen and this is something we need to remember as adults. We might be over paranormal or dystopia, they aren’t. We might choose to reference Ferris Bueller in order to spark their interest, they probably haven’t heard of it. At some point, we need to divest ourselves from the equation.
While teens are represented in the title of an award, they should also be a part of the award criteria. Young adult literature is for teens. That should count for something. While we have a vested interest in cultivating taste, and having teens read about social injustice and inclusivity – sometimes teens just want to read what they want to read.
While quality is important, so is the teen reader’s engagement with reading. There are many authors who achieve this, John Green’s Looking for Alaska, Cath Crowley’s Graffiti Moon, or Markus Zusak’s The Messenger. I am cautious of award winning books that have an “issue” clearly stated in the blurb. Good writing for teens isn’t about an issue, it’s about living, loving and surviving. It’s about bravery, and yearning, and sacrifice. It’s about growing and changing, not learning. It’s about feelings, emotions and the every day difficulties of ping ponging between who you are and who you want to be. It’s these books, without social agenda, that connect. It’s these books that fulfill teenage readers.
Quality in youth literature should represent exceptional writing, emotional awareness and a representation of a young person’s experience through an authentic gaze. Some people will read this and believe I am a proponent of dumbing down teen’s reading. This is not true.
Every year the Centre for Youth Literature hosts the Inky Awards, a teen’s choice award. Teens have a strong voice in the longlist of ten Australian and International titles, and are primarily responsible for the shortlist and the ultimate winner. The adults who oversee the teen judging panel usually approach the task assuming the teens will choose along popularity, quality-lite books. They come away knowing they are wrong, and reevaluate their thoughts on teen readers and their perceptiveness. Previous Inky winners, as decided by teens, have included John Green, James Roy, Simmone Howell, Jenny Downham and Lucy Christopher Teens have taste, and quality ones at that, so why is teen appeal so often dismissed as popularity?
Why are adults deciding what is quality teen literature? Where are all the judging panels that have teens sitting alongside librarians or teachers? Often awards from teens are separated from the big awards. Where is the teen representation for the Printz, The Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year or Prime Minister’s Literary Awards? If awards are for teen literature, shouldn’t the audience be represented?
Adele Walsh is the Program Coordinator for the Centre for Youth Literature promoting ways and means to encourage young people to read for pleasure. Adele is an avid YA reader and advocate, and a successful YA blogger (Persnickety Snark). She has previously worked as a teacher in Australia, and Japan.
One of the reasons I love working with teens and kids is that their books are so awesome. There are so many amazing authors in YA right now, from John Green to Holly Black to Stephanie Perkins. I could spend all day, every day reading amazing YA lit and still not even make a dent in my to-read pile. That’s not even mentioning the great kidslit out there, including Rebecca Stead and Catherynn Valente. Just thinking about all the books and authors I want to read makes me giddy.
So, in terms of reading, I’m a pretty busy lady. As you all know, librarians don’t really get to sit around reading every day, so I have to squeeze in what I can during lunches, after work, and on my commute (don’t worry, that’s an audiobook happening there). With all of the pressure to keep up with popular authors and series, I sometimes forget about all the books over in ol’ Dewey. I mean, I know they’re cool (probably. maybe? definitely.), but nonfiction just seems less appealing when I’m plucking my next book to read off my stack of library tomes. I know that connecting to all types of books – nonfiction included – is just as important as connecting to readers and community members when serving teens successfully.
Because of my aversion to the facts, I was pretty excited to take advantage of the YALSA Nonfiction Reading Challenge. The idea of gamifying my reading appealed to me, and the Excellence in Young Adult Nonfiction committee already did the legwork of picking out some of the best books of the year. Thanks, guys!
I plunged right in and started reading the nonfiction titles, which range from a biography about Steve Jobs to a book about the Birmingham children’s marches. All of the topics wouldn’t have appealed to me without the challenge, but once I started reading each book, I was enthralled. Hearing the full story of Jobs’ rise, and fall, and rise again! at Apple gave me a better understanding of the tech news I like to read. Learning about shorebirds made me realize even more the impact of disappearing environments. The Titanic, which I’ve never really given one whit about, enthralled me as I read about people who spent hours in icy water.
Reading five books for the challenge was pretty much the easiest way I’ve diversified my reading this year. Just having an idea of some of the awesome nonfiction titles out there has made me more eager to go over to that side of the library, and I’ve already been able to recommend several of the titles to patrons!
If you haven’t joined the challenge yet, don’t worry! The Best of the Best Challenge from the Hub will be coming up soon, and it will include the Morris Award, the Nonfiction Award, and more. I would recommend that anyone who is looking to spice up reading their and connect to titles (and teens) they might not otherwise take a chance on – check it out!
Twelve-year-old Fern feels invisible. It seems as though everyone in her family has better things to do than pay attention to her: Mom (when she’s not meditating) helps Dad run “Harry’s,” the family restaurant; Sarah is taking a gap year after high school; Holden pretends that Mom and Dad and everyone else doesn’t know he’s gay, even as he fends off bullies at school. Then there’s Charlie: three years old, a “surprise” baby, the center of everyone’s world. He’s devoted to Fern, but he’s annoying, too, always getting his way, always dirty, always commanding attention. If it wasn’t for Ran, Fern’s calm and positive best friend, there’d be nowhere to turn. Ran’s mantra, “All will be well,” is soothing in a way that nothing else seems to be. And when Ran says it, Fern can almost believe it’s true. But then tragedy strikes-and Fern feels not only more alone than ever, but also responsible for the accident that has wrenched her family apart. All will not be well. Or at least all will never be the same.
I was beyond excited when I received this book (Adele picked it up in the States for me and it is hand signed by Jo Knowles… the excitement level is too big to be contained within this post), because Jo Knowles is one of my must-read authors. I was blown away by her debut novel Lessons from a Dead Girl, which I reviewed here. For me, she is essential reading.
I cannot tell you how odd I looked reading this book on the train. The cover all happy and light, while I sat in a vat of hot tears. The other commuters gave me a wide berth, to say the least.
A warning that my review will be riddled with spoilers – I’ve tried to write the review without spoilers and it just didn’t come together, or make much sense – so please do not read on if you wish to remain unspoiled. For those of you who will dash away from this review, before you go I’d implore you to put SYaH’s in your reading pile. It is a beautifully written book with a great cast of believable characters.
I did not want the book to end.
I was so engaged and enchanted with SYaH’s that once completed I spent my time imagining possible sequels and adventures for Fern. I want to be a part of Fern’s life. I want to check in with her as she grows up. I want to see her learn from life’s lesson. I want to see her family and friends again. I want to know if she’s passing maths. I want to know it all. I fell so deeply in love with the characters that I cannot ever imagine letting them go. SYaH’s became a friend. Is it weird to have a book as a friend? One who you laugh with; cry with; have in-jokes with.
I was surprised by the direction this book ended up taking. I thought the storyline would be a predictable arc, and that the real meat of the novel would be in the characters and their interactions. I was half right. Jo Knowles knows how to write characters you cannot help but love. It was the story arc that got me. I was completely unprepared for it, and as a consequence was the crazy commuter sobbing in carriage one.
You see, Jo Knowles had an older brother who was gay and sadly died of AIDS, and a classmate who committed suicide during high school. When Fern’s older brother, Holden, is bullied on the school bus I thought I knew where this story was going. I thought it was going to be a terribly sad tale of a boy who was ridiculed and abused for his sexuality, and who found solace in death. It is perhaps why I had such a reaction to this book, I was prepared for one tragedy but not another. You see, Holden doesn’t die. Instead the family wake one morning, just like any other morning, to find their youngest son, Charlie, dead in his bed. Sometime during the night he had suffered a massive brain aneurism. I cannot tell you how destroyed I felt. Knowles had captivated Charlie’s utter joy in life, he’s sweet innocence, the depth of he’s imagination, all by page 1. So I cried and cried and cried on that carriage. It was the shock that a character had given me joy for a 100 plus pages and that I would never read that joy again. I was heartbroken.
The rest of the story revolves around a family and their grieving process. Such a raw and painful process to view, but one that resonates with anyone who has lost a loved one.
Jo Knowles’ strength are her characters. Do you know that feeling you get when you’re just waking up, and your dream hasn’t quite left you yet, so reality is a green monkey’s with three heads (don’t ask, I have some odd dreams). That is a Jo Knowles book; a moment in between dream and reality, where I honestly believe with all my heart that Fern, Ran and Charlie are all alive out there, just waiting to be my friend.
I’m so unbelievably sad that they’re not real. That my reality isn’t Fern and co. But every time I open that book they do become real. I hope one of your teenagers walk away feeling like they made a friend too.
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With a tagline like ‘celebrating the freedom to read’ is it no wonder bannedbooksweek.org is a favourite?
For thirty years banned book week been reporting on book censorship in America.
Hundreds of books have been either removed or challenged in schools and libraries in the United States every year. According to the American Library Association (ALA), there were at least 326 in 2011. ALA estimates that 70 to 80 percent are never reported.
In 2011, the 10 most challenged books were:
ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: offensive language; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
ttyl is a constant stream of IM chat, email and texts between three friends ‘SnowAngel’, ‘zoegirl’ and ‘madmaddie’. It’s a little of a shock to read as the language is expressed in a short hand that seems impossible, yet is a reflection of how teens are interacting online, and the topics discussed break the barriers of ‘polite’ conversation.
The Color of Earth (series), by Kim Dong Hwa
Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
A graphic novel that explores a daughter’s relationship with her mother, and the social ramifications of being a ‘single’ mother in Korea. The minimal nudity and implied sexual acts pales in comparison to the lyric-like qualities in the writing and the strength of the mother-daughter relationship.
The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
Reasons: anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence
A very popular series that has encouraged many ‘non-readers’ to open up it’s pages and delve into a world of action, adventure and romance. I find it interesting that in it’s ‘book’ format, The Hunger Games finds itself on the 10 most challenged book lists. In ‘movie’ format, it finds itself the number one box hit of 2012. This implies to me that there are two standards when a story is told. When in a movie format, the level of ‘violence’ is more readily accepted then in a book format.
My Mom’s Having A Baby! A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy, by Dori Hillestad Butler
Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
A children’s picture book that describes the experiences of Elizabeth, a soon to be older sibling as her mother goes through pregnancy. There is language about the human body, reproduction and child development. Some of the language, such as sperm, has caused parents to ask for the book to be banned from their libraries.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: offensive language; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
Alexie chose to respond in the Wall Street Journal, in 2011, about the push to ban his book due to it’s content.
“I have yet to receive a letter from a child somehow debilitated by the domestic violence, drug abuse, racism, poverty, sexuality, and murder contained in my book. To the contrary, kids as young as ten have sent me autobiographical letters written in crayon, complete with drawings inspired by my book, that are just as dark, terrifying, and redemptive as anything I’ve ever read.”
With books that deal with such strong issues it can be quite confronting and distressing for some. When that is balanced against the children it has managed to reach because they know the same type of pain or humiliation or depression and find solace in knowing that they are not alone, then you need to make that book accessible to them.
Alice (series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Reasons: nudity; offensive language; religious viewpoint
A twenty-four strong series that explores the world through the eyes of Alice, who is on the cusp of becoming a teenager. There are cringe worthy moments of embarrassment, new friends, new love interests and a role model or two.
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Reasons: insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit
When a book is 81 years old and still in-print, I find it shocking that people would still wish to ban it. It’s not longer just a work or fiction, but part of the history of fiction.
What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
Reasons: nudity; offensive language; sexually explicit
Another of those lighter books that explores being a teenage girl and all that entails. I’m extremely disappointed (although not surprised) that nearly all the books on this list involve women protagonists. It feels like we’re continuing a 1950′s women belong in the kitchen mentality. I have to question why women aren’t allowed to explore their sexuality and men are.
Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily Von Ziegesar
Reasons: drugs; offensive language; sexually explicit
Another book that has made itself onto the (not as) big screen. As a weekly television show for CW it sees millions of viewers. As a book it sees itself in the number 9 position for most banned books in 2011. Too rich teenagers, drugs, drinking and sexual encounters. It looks at it all.
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Reasons: offensive language; racism
New rule; if a book has been in-print for 52 years, it also shouldn’t find itself on the most challenged book list. When complaints are made that To Kill a Mockingbird should be censored because of ‘racism’ I’m unnerved by the lack of comprehension of social commentary and injustice. When a book chooses to hold a mirror up to the law to demonstrate the social inequity that was part of American history… well I’m on board with that book.
1. Coming soon…
Remember when Hardie Grant Egmont caught everyone’s attention earlier this year with the Ampersand Project? Well, they’ve now announced that Melissa Keil is the first author to be published as part of the project - congratulations Melissa!
Melissa’s debut novel is called Life in Outer Space. It won’t be hitting the shelves until March next year, but you can oggle the shiny cover design…
2. John Green continues to be amazing
Just when you thought it wasn’t possible to love the man any more, he goes and does an impromptu I Am A interview on reddit.com. He answers questions about his writing (from ”Why do all of your characters name their cars?” to “Can you tell us a little bit about your early days as a writer?”) and about life (from “What is the biggest regret of your life?” to “I’m a freshman in college. Do you have any advice about how to decide what the hell to do with my life?”).
Adulthood, for better and for worse, is not quite so simple in my experience. You are always figuring out what the hell to do with your life, and then the decisions you’ve made are always be changed by circumstance…
Look, I could copy and paste the whole thing. It’s brilliant. He’s brilliant. Just go read it.
3. The trouble with reading
The latest UK statistics say 17% of children would be embarrased to be seen reading. In America, a teen boy shares his experiences of being teased for reading:
Simply reading a book is considered passive or introverted. Or it’s considered a “white thing”—something black kids, especially black boys, shouldn’t be caught doing if they want to be popular.
What do you think – do these stories and statistics reflect your own experience?
We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again – in Australia, at least (hey, we’d love it if we were international!) we want to help. We’re here to advocate reading for pleasure for all young people! If you’re looking for some support, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll see what we can do. (Please note that we can’t do everything, but even in situations where we cannot be of assistance, we will attempt to refer you to someone who can be.)
Side note: We’re not sure that vintage library posters are the answer, but gosh are they fun to look at.
4. Loving the silver screen
Do you like your books adapted? Beautiful Creatures now has it’s very first movie trailer (compelte with stunning musical backing by Florence and the Machine). The Hobbit : An Unexpected Journey also has a brand new, highly squee-worthy movie trailer.
5. Wikipedia in the classroom?
Do you use wikipedia in your classroom? ReadWriteWeb has put forward two great cases both against and in favour of the idea. Wikipedia - an unreliable source or a valuable crowd-sourcing tool?
6. Competitions and Awards
The winners of the 2012 WA Premier’s Literary Awards have been announced. Congratulations to Penni Russon, who won the Young Adult prize with Only Ever Always!
Vote! Vote! Vote! There’s just 2.5 weeks remaining for 12-20 year olds to vote for their favourite book in this year’s Inky Awards (and go in the draw to win all 10 shotlisted titles!).
Did you also see our Library Prize competition? Schools and libraries can enter to win all 20 longlisted titles for their collection.
Text Publishing is also running a very cool competition to celebrate Richard Newsome’s latest Billionaire book: 10-13 year olds can win a $100 book voucher + a $1,000 book voucher for their school, by writing a story – details here.
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Next up in our Inky Awards series is A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.
The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do. But it isn t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming… The monster in his back garden, though, this monster is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.
It becomes quickly apparent to the reader that Conor is drowning. His mother is on her third round of chemotherapy and she is dying. In fact she has barely days to live. It is also apparent that the monster wants the most dangerous thing of all; Conor’s secret shame.
What is absolutely heartbreaking about this novel is the yearning Conor experiences. He’s whole world is about to open up and disappear before him. His mother will leave him, just as his father left him for a new family. He will be cared for by an emotionally cold grandmother. He has no friends (having found himself alienated from everyone after his mother’s sickness became public knowledge), he is being physically and emotionally bullied by a boy in his class, and he is unraveling in the face of his, and his mother’s, reality.
I’m not ashamed to admit I cried during a majority of A Monster Calls. Around page 100 I gave up the gig and just sobbed (opposed to the don’tlookatme crying I was originally attempting). The strength of the novel is in Ness’ ability to create voice. Conor feels as real as you and I. He is a character that you willingly emotionally tie yourself to. He compels your compassion and sympathy, despite knowing that there is only heart break around the corner.
A Monster Calls is a simple story. There are no surprises of plot or miracle cures, it is just the sad tale of Conor in the last days of his mother’s life. The complexity of Conor’s emotions -anger, shame, abandonment, hate, love, sadness - all wrapped up in Patrick Ness’ accessible writing style, and it is Ness who is the conduit here, ties us deftly and (so very) easily to Conor.
Complimenting the text is the illustrations by Jim Kay. I cannot imagine one without the other; they are two parts of a whole. It was an extremely interesting partnership as Ness’ writing is often very visual. Accompanied by the illustrations, this novel felt like a silent movie. The impressions of the drawings follow you while you’re reading; the monster fills your conscience, large and imposing.
Another brilliant performance by Patrick Ness, after his success with the Chaos Walking Trilogy.
This week was a bit of a hectic week for the CYL team; there was Inky and his shortlist announcement and there was MWF.
MWF was great fun for us all. We met some really great authors and had a lot of great panel conversations. Below is a recommended reading list from the panel ‘Read Any Good Books Lately’, with Adele Walsh, Lili Wilkinson and Melissa Traverso.
A Straight Line to my Heart by Bill Condon
A warm tale about Tiff and that in-between time of life where you’re no longer and teenager but not yet an adult. A fairly simple plot where the strength lies in it’s feelings and connections of family, friends and life.
Allen and Unwin
Friday Brown by Vikki Wakefield
Vikki Wakefield has such a unique voice and writing style that her stories leave you slightly off kilter. Like you’ve missed a step and had to skip to catch up. Friday Brown finds herself in the seething underground of Australian slums; homeless, afraid and trapped by a curse.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
A very very laugh out loud funny story of Greg, his best friend Earl and Rachel (recently diagnosed with leukaemia). Greg is a jokester; funny, self-deprecating and honest. It would be easy to dismiss this book as just another ‘cancer’ book, but instead it takes on the role of showing the lighter side of a serious subject. There is no miracle save or life lesson. Sometimes death is just death.
Allen and Unwin
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Much like Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is not just a ‘cancer’ book, John Green’s Fault in Our Stars takes a walk on the humorous side of death. There are tears of laughter and despair throughout Hazel and Augustus’ tale. It was a glimpse at the sweetest of every emotion, because there was always the thought that this might be the last.
Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley
Another cusp of life story featuring Ed and Lucy. The adventure they take over one night, the hardships and prejudices they must face, and the decisions they must make to keep their lives moving forward and their futures bright with possibility.
Other titles discussed as must reads-
Only Ever Always by Penni Russon
This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers
The List by Siobhan Vivian
The Deep: Here be Dragons by Tom Taylor and James Brouwer
I’ve been trying to read more manga lately. Manga in book form is very popular at my library, so I have been working on building up our print collection. My anime club kids are always telling me about new titles. There is also a lot of manga to be read electronically. Reading scanlated manga online has been a longtime habit of many fans, regardless of the copyright issues involved, (scroll down on this page for a good definition of scanlation) but more manga is becoming available electronically either for free or for reasonable prices. It will be nice if this encourages more fans to pay for content and support the creators whose work they enjoy. Even if it doesn’t, it does afford more options for consuming content for people who enjoy reading on their mobile devices. Viz Media and Yen Press, are two popular publishers making manga available via mobile app. I decided to check out how these apps work and compare and contrast their features.
Title: Viz Manga
Cost: Free App includes previews, but manga prices vary (3.99 – 8.99)
Platform: iOS (also available for Android and web browsers at VIZmanga.com)
To look through the available titles in the VIZ app, you can have options to view all series, or select titles by featured, new, or free options. A rotating banner at the top of the home page promotes titles as well. The first chapter (about 50 pages) of a manga series is offered as a free preview. This is enough that I felt like I could really tell if I was enjoying a series and if was interested in buying it or reading more by the end of the preview. Selections from Shonen Jump Alpha are also free through the VIZ app, which is nice because I think people will be missing the print version of Shonen Jump now that it has gone digital only. You can zoom in the regular way by pinching and pulling. The only thing I didn’t like about this app was that the screen alignment doesn’t change when you flip your device sideways. I like having that option because sometimes it makes things easier to read.
Some VIZ titles worth checking out: Blue Exorcist, Dengeki Daisy and Bakuman.
Title: Yen Press
Cost: Free App includes previews, but manga prices vary (6.99 -12.99 an issue)
There are three different options for viewing the available titles on the Yen Press app. You can scroll through cover images horizontally, which is fun if you swip
With the Hunger Games movie premier right around the corner (11 days, folks!), everyone is talking about Katniss and Peeta and their fight for survival. While no one in this country is fighting to the death to feed themselves, their families, and their communities, hunger – and the desperation that goes with it – is a real thing. Some libraries are using the movie’s popularity to bring light to this difficult and often overlooked social problem.
- Some branches of the DC Public Library system are sponsoring “Hunger Action Stations” throughout the month of March. The branches are official drop-off locations for non-perishable food items (to be delivered to the Capital Area Food Bank). They are also handing out information on child hunger in the DC area, with ways to help/volunteer as well as ways to acquire food for hungry children.
- The Kitsap Regional Library in Washington state is hosting a retired US Navy Medic and her K-9, who will tell teens true stories of survival, and how they can be vigilant in staying safe. They are also hosting a fundraiser at their local movie theater. For $25 people can buy a ticket to the movie premier of The Hunger Games and be eligible for door prizes. All proceeds benefit the library’s foundation.
- The Frederick County Public Library in Maryland is hosting a program on teen survival skills. Another program
These libraries are taking advantage of the movie’s popularity to do good things for the community and to build the skills of their teens. It makes sense to use such a trendy thing to promote safety and community service. What other books or books-turned-movies are coming out that could be turned into community-serving platforms?
There are so many great fiction books on the 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults list that it was hard to pick just one to highlight. So, I fell back on an old favorite. The Chronicles of Harris Burdick shares 14 stories from well known young adult authors such as M.T. Anderson, Sherman Alexie, and Walter Dean Myers. All of these stories are based on the book The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris VanAllsburg, a book with wonderful illustrations and cryptic captions.
For years, I have used the portfolio edition of The Mysteries of Harris Burdick as a writing prompt for my teen writing group. They would each pick an illustration and write a story about it to share with the group. Now, with The Chronicles, I can also share stories with them by their favorite authors that were inspired by the same illustration. The stories are short enough that they could even be read aloud. A great, multi-week writing group program would be to show an illustration from The Mysteries and read the caption. Then, give the teens 30 minutes to write a short story based on the illustration. Then, read the corresponding story from The Chronicles. It’s a great chance to talk about point of view and perspective in writing because everyone can look at the same illustration and come up with a different story, which may or may not be wildly different from the version in the book. This could also tie in to talking about different books by the authors of the stories in the Chronicles and what the teens might have done differently than the authors if they had been writing the story.
To me, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick have always been inspiring. I’m glad to see that some of my favorite YA authors felt the same way. The Chronicles of Harris Burdick adds a whole new dimension to them.
…is the first line in the book for a certain character. Do you know the character?*
Teens (and adults) in my library are all abuzz about the imminent opening of Hunger Games. Students who say they haven’t checked out a book in years are reserving the first book in Suzanne Collins’ dystopian trilogy because they want to know what all the fuss is about, and others are rereading it before the big premiere.
One such student inspired me to create a running countdown behind my desk, which she has helped me update each morning. (Mondays in particular were exciting, since the number dropped significantly from the previous week.) The countdown, in turn, gave me the idea to put on Hunger Games Trivia–and you can too!
I modeled my format after Stump! Trivia, a pub trivia quiz used across the country (which is particularly popular here in the Boston area). Players use the team sheet to keep track of their wagers and write down the categories for each quarter, or copy their answers to check later. Teams submit an answer sheet for each question, including their team name and wager. (Some trivia MCs are particularly vigilant about answer sheets remaining unfolded so that they can quickly tally points, but with a small group I don’t think it’s as much of an issue.)
You’ll see that the stakes get higher as the game progresses; correct answers in the first two rounds are worth 1, 3, 5 or 7 points, while answers in the second half net 2, 4, 6 or 8. I tried to keep my questions balanced between easy ones that even the casual reader would know and much tougher ones for diehard fans. The match-up bonus round was easy, but I had to resort to using a movie poster for the picture round.
For prizes, I’m using gift cards from Barnes & Noble (the Hunger Games-themed cards, naturally), AMC (good for even new releases, unlike some discount passes), and Dunkin’ Donuts (because New England runs on Dunkin’). To give everyone time to answer each question, I’ll be playing songs from a playlist I created on Grooveshark. (I keep most of my music on an external hard drive, so I figured this would be less cumbersome than playing directly from my iTunes library. My mix is… odd, but you could certainly pull songs from the movie soundtrack or try to match songs to themes from the book.)
Feel free to use any of the materials linked in this post, or modify them to create trivia sessions for other books that are popular in your library. (If you’re wondering where I got that awesome Hunger Games font, it’s from dafont.com, my go-to site for fonts.) What are you doing to celebrate the Hunger Games?
Though teen services are usually defined as serving patrons in the 12-18 age range, in practice, teen librarians serve a broader range of patrons than merely 12-18 year olds—from 10 year olds with mature tastes and reading abilities, to college students uninterested in transitioning to adult fiction, to grandparents pulled to teen books by the young adults in their lives and the quality of the materials.
In serving this broad age range with teen materials, I find that I need to have different cultural glasses at the ready during readers’ advisory. After all, the patron whose adolescent experience is being molded right now, page by page, is different from the patron who fondly recollects reading a particular book the summer when she first fell in love.
Here is some information we teen librarians can use during readers’ advisory to guide adults to new teen titles similar to those they loved in their adolescence.
Graduated 2000—Born 1982—Today 30 years old
- A “45″ is a gun, not a record with a large hole in the center.
- The year they were born, AIDS was found to have killed 164 people; finding a cure for the new disease was designated a “top priority” for government-sponsored research.
- They have never referred to Russia and China as “the Reds.”
- There has always been a national holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.
- They feel more danger from having sex and being in school, than from possible nuclear war.
- They have always bought telephones, rather than rent them from AT&T.
- There have always been ATM machines.
- The year they were born, the New York Times announced that the “boom in video games,” a fad, had come to an end.
- They have never used a bottle of “White Out.”
- “Spam” and “cookies” are not necessarily foods.
Popular YA books in 2000†: Little separates the books on the children’s bestseller list from the books on the youth bestseller lists. All of the books on both of the lists fall into either the sci-fi or fantasy genres, and the Harry Potter phenomenon is at full steam. When romance is a part of these titles, it is not a primary selling point.
Suggestions for YA books today: For fantastic world-creation and mild or secondary romantic content, I would recommend Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series, Michael Grant’s Gone series, the books of Scott Westerfeld, and “The Scorpio Races” by Maggie Stiefvater.
Graduated 2005—Born 1987—Today 25 years old
- Heart-lung transplants have always been possible.
- Pixar has always existed.
- Aretha Franklin has always been in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
- “Baby M” may be a classmate, and contracts with surrogate mothers have always been legal.
- Snowboarding has always been a popular winter pastime.
- They learned to count with Lotus 1-2-3.
- Car stereos have always rivaled home component systems.
- Voice mail has always been available.
- They may have fallen asleep playing with their Gameboys in the crib.
- They have always been challenged to distinguish between news and entertainment on cable TV.
Popular YA books
I have to tell you, I’m nervous about the state of YA collection development. Why? Because I worry that teen collections may transition from collections for teens who read YA to collections for adults who love reading YA. Don’t get me wrong, I am a reader of YA and I know that that reading can be just as good, if not better, than adult book reading. But, yet, I don’t think my library’s YA collection should be filled with the YA that I want to read if teens don’t also want to read it. And that’s why I worry. There is so much talk of late about adults reading YA and why that’s OK that I begin to wonder, who are we building YA collections for? The adults who love YA or the teens who are simply looking for a good book to read?
My take is that we always build for the teens. If adults want to read YA titles that aren’t popular with teens in the community, then those titles should go in the adult collection and be a part of the adult collection purchasing budget. Those serving teens often have to struggle with budgets as it is. So, if they are buying books for adults that read teen AND teens that read teen how are they going to have enough money to do both? They won’t. The teen collection is the teen collection. That’s the priority. That’s who teen library staff serve. That’s the bottom line.
Yet, I continue to worry. I think about the books a library buys that circulate and have great statistics and so more of that type of book is purchased and put on the shelves. Yet, if the library really delved into those statistics they may find that it’s not teens checking out the books, it’s adults. But, circulation can drive collection development so the books continue to land on the shelves. That just isn’t right.
I worry that a teen walks into a library filled with titles that are being read and titles that are published for teens, but, yet, the titles aren’t of interest to the teen or his friends. Or, for that matter to a large part of the community’s teen population. So, what does that teen think and do? He doesn’t think of the library as a place that serves his reading needs. And, he doesn’t use the library to find materials for leisure or informational reading.
Or, what about the teens who hang out in the library and notice that the stacks are always inhabited by adults looking for their new favorite teen novel? What message does that send? If you were a teen would you really want to be hanging out in a teen section filled with adults looking at and talking about the books that are supposed to be for you? Come on be honest. Would you?
I have to say, “be careful.” Sure, it’s OK that you and other adults you know read YA but don’t make that the focus of your teen collection. If you know adults in your community are really into a dystopian series but that the teens just don’t show an interest, then don’t buy that series. Inform the adult collection development staff of the adult interest. Save your money, and your shelf space (virtual or physical) for the books teens want and need. That’s really what you are there for. Right?
Are my worries completely unfounded? Let me know what you think in the comments.
There’s a profusion of pollen and awards in the air. It must be springtime. ‘Tis the season that YALSA rolls out the award announcements for the Printz, the Morris, the Edwards, the Odyssey, and more; the Spring issue of YALS is devoted to awards, the winners, and the speeches. But even so, in the flurry of awards that get announced in the late winter and early spring, it can still be easy to overlook a few. But don’t forget Alex!
The Alex Awards are named in honor of Margaret A. Edwards (who was known as Alex to her friends, hence the name). She’s probably best known for her book The Fair Garden and the Swarm of Beasts: The Library and the Young Adult, a classic in the field of young adult/teen library services. (The chances are good that if you take a YA literature or youth services course while getting your library degree that you will hear mention of it—and rightly so.)
Each year, the Alex Awards committee chooses ten books written for adults that are judged to have particular appeal to young adults between the ages of 12 and 18. These books are fiction and non-fiction, well-known and not. They encompass pretty much every genre and also include literary fiction, and the tone can range from dark to side-clutchingly funny. The non-fiction titles have tended to skew towards adventure, history, and modern society.
Some books may be familiar to you, such as this year’s winner The Night Circus, and some may not be, such as another 2012 winner, Salvage the Bones. Here’s a link to the complete list of this year’s Alex Awards. And while you’re there, take some time to go back through the older Alex lists. You’ll find a mixture of now-classic crossovers such as Neil Gaiman’s Stardust, Dianne Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale, and Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich. (A small piece of trivia: Neil Gaiman is the only author—-so far-—to make the list twice: in 2000 for Stardust and in 2006 for Anansi Boys.)
So how can you use the Alex Awards?
1. For some of your more advanced, curious, or sophisticated teen readers, who may be more challenging to do readers’ advisory for, these awards are a boon. The Alex titles are a rich source of interesting and more complex reading material, which is also still emotionally appealing and accessible to teen readers.
2. Don’t forget to add them to your teen booklists (print or digital). I usually include a section of related or crossover adult titles at the end of my teen booklists and the Alex lists are an excellent place to start.
3. Familiarize yourself with them in the name of readers’ advisory and collection development. I always make a point of taking a look at all of the Alex Award winners and also checking to see if my system owns copies (and if so, how many). The winning writers may have other titles that would make good recommendations or read-alikes that would have teen appeal as well. Crossing teen and adult readers over into each other’s sections is always fun regardless of the direction. (And don’t forget that these still make excellent suggestions for adult readers, too.)
4. Add some more books to your own towering stack of books to be read. I try to read several of the Alex winners every year and have been introduced to titles and authors I might not have come across otherwise. And I’ve read many books that I’ve loved and still recommend to friends, family, and patrons whenever the opportunity presents itself. (Soulless, Persepolis, The Eyre Affair, Gil’s All-Fright Diner, The Spellman Files, and The Vanishing of Katharina Linden, to name a just a few.)
Several of this year’s winners are on my personal summer reading list. So if you’re not sure where to begin in adult fiction these days or you’ve simply enjoyed as man
It was spring of 2011. I had only been an intern for a few months at Patchogue-Medford, and I was just a face to many people in the area. Barbara Moon was looking for volunteers for the first Author’s Unlimited, and I showed up decked out for work. Tie and all. Imagine my surprise when everyone was wearing yellow. It was my job to greet, so I stood outside the doors to St. Joseph’s Danzi Center. Barbara tells me I did an excellent job greeting, but I’m not sure how I could have screwed that up. In between bouts of providing directions, I stared at the trees across the athletic field and pondered my new profession.
Barbara Moon, she always smiles. It mystifies me.
In my orientation for Library School, the CUNY Queens Faculty impressed on us the importance of being involved. I thought this was a networking thing. Blah blah, jobs. You know? But Author’s Unlimited was my first exposure to Librarians undertaking a massive amount of work, on their days off and with little expectation of thanks from anyone else. I was stunned.
Librarian Sheila Doherty and her team of teens gave up a Saturday to make the event a success
This year, I was again amazed at the amount of work Barbara, her assistant Tracy and the Suffolk County Young Adult Services Division put into making this event a success. Because I’m annoyingly curious, I started badgering Barbara about the origin of the event.
Of course it led to another Librarian who does stuff for free, and it led to another central aspect of the profession that I believe is central to our future success. It is the willingness of librarians to share the guts of their personal projects. I am sure when Stephanie Squicciarini first organized the Rochester Teen Book Festival it was a huge amount of labor and time involved. That in itself is an amazing thing, but she went the extra mile.
At the 2007 Spring conference of the Youth Services Section of NYLA, Stephanie shared her experiences organizing Teen Book Fest. Her hand-outs from the YSS conference got Barbara started in 2009. In 2010, Stephanie shared her model for the Rochester Teen Book Festival at the ALA Annual Conference. She provided Barbara with templates for programs, schedules, letters and checklists. Continued badgering, I’m an expert pest, led Barbara to say this:
“This program has been a model of professional cooperation. Stephanie has helped us with a vision of what can be accomplished. Our committee is indebted to her for her willingness to share her experience and expertise with us.”
In short, Stepanie is responsible for the Rochester Teen Book Festival. But she is also responsible for inspiring others to provide oppurtunities for tee
As the school year winds down for me, it’s easy to get caught up in the last minute whirlwind of final exams, papers, coercing materials returns, and talking my wonderful faculty off the proverbial ledge.
But when I’m really on my game, I begin thinking about the first couple of months of the next school year and cataloging what, if anything, I need to do to lay a foundation for successful programming. Teen Read Week is always an event that sneaks up on me (and I’m on the committee, for goodness sake!) since it usually happens mid to late October and I’m in full project swing by then.
After over a decade of being a school librarian, I can chalk up my success to that much-overused word, collaboration. For me, collaboration just means using the network of relationships I already have with my teachers and students and searching for any new relationships in my community that will help me do my job which, in the case of Teen Read Week, is promoting recreational reading.
My Library Advisory Board and I have already tackled some preliminary brainstorming. Teachers have already been approached for posing with their favorite horror books and these will advertise our offerings and be showcased on the school website. We are going to have a community poll with various horror movies listed and the top two winners will be a “Creature Double Feature” complete with popcorn and blankets to make our own picnic style movie night.
We are also going to produce a short library video (showcased on the library website and the school website, and shown during an assembly to promote our programming that week) interviewing two of our English teachers who teach related classes, Science and Society and Novel to Film, about the meaning and importance of the horror genre. My LAB came up with the idea of also interviewing dedicated gamers who can speak about what they find so appealing about the recent trends in zombie or other horror games. A few book covers and promotion snippets about programming and we’ll have an interesting vehicle for TRW.
When we had our amazingly successful Hunger Games movie premiere party, the most popular stations were the ones where student volunteers taught flame nail polish effects and did Capitol-style makeup on participants. With that in mind, we will be offering a session prior to our horror movie double feature instructing students in horror movie makeup, complete with faux vampire bites, zombie face makeup and gory wounds. My theater faculty have friends in the local community and university theaters who are proficient in these areas and have expressed an eagerness to come and instruct. I imagine we are going to get some great pictures from this instruction!
If you can, begin talking up possible connections with teachers and students so everyone will be ready to leap into the fray of the school year. Join the Teen Read Week 2012 Ning and peruse the ALA Store items with them to help with brainstorming. You can be sure that in October it will be something great that “Came from Your Library!”
– Courtney Lewis, Director of Libraries, Wyomin
Fairy tales are pervasive. Across cultures and throughout time fairy tales are retold, reworked, reimagined. So what do the classics look like when they’re placed in a more contemporary setting?
Beastly – Alex Flinn
Beauty and the Beast in modern-day New York City.
Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and the perfect life. And then, I’ll tell you how I became perfectly . . . beastly.
A Kiss In Time – Alex Flinn
When Jack went on holidays to Europe, he wasn’t expecting to find Sleeping Beauty…
I couldn’t help kissing her. Sometimes you just have to kiss someone. I didn’t know this would happen. Now I’m stuck with a bratty princess and a trunk full of her jewels. . . . The good news: My parents will freak!
Sisters Red – Jackson Pearce
Scarlett and Rosie March are not your usual Little Red Riding Hoods, and Fenris are no ordinary wolves…
Scarlett March lives to hunt the Fenris—the werewolves that took her eye when she was defending her sister Rosie from a brutal attack. Armed with a razor-sharp hatchet and blood-red cloak, Scarlett is an expert at luring and slaying the wolves. She’s determined to protect other young girls from a grisly death, and her raging heart will not rest until every single wolf is dead.
Rosie March once felt her bond with her sister was unbreakable. Owing Scarlett her life, Rosie hunts ferociously alongside her. But even as more girls’ bodies pile up in the city and the Fenris seem to be gaining power, Rosie dreams of a life beyond the wolves. She finds herself drawn to Silas, a young woodsman who is deadly with an ax and Scarlett’s only friend—but does loving him mean betraying her sister and all that they’ve worked for?
Sweetly - Jackson Pearce<
For this post I thought I would share my personal top 10 favorite YA websites. Of course, the YALSA Blog would be on this list, as I check it at least once a week. It is a great resource for YA librarians and for people who work with youth in general. But, since you’re on the blog, reading this post, I’m going to assume you’re already aware of the awesomeness of the blog:) The sites are listed in no particular order, with the exception of number 1, which deserves to be there. Please feel free to share your favorite sites in the comments section!
Number 1 http://socialtimes.com/ Social Times
I discovered this website over the summer and it has become my all time favorite website. It has all kinds of different information that is pertinent to our field. It gives quality info about all things digital. It has information about new technology that is coming out, new websites, old websites, any current news going on in the world of technolgy. This website helps me to stay on top of many different areas of my job and gives me the knowledge to competently speak on current issues in our field.
In edition to all of this useful information, it also has a very cool web video section. Every week the editor puts together viral youtube clips on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Whenever I am stuck trying to find something to post on my library system’s teen Facebook page, I just go to this section and find a funny video to post – total lifesaver!
Number 2- www.teenreads.com Teen Reads
This is a great source for checking out new (and old) YA titles. This site offers reviews of newly released or soon to be released YA books. It has booklists and resources for starting a teen book club. It has author interviews- some are podcasts, some are written. I’ve also seen video book reviews on this site. You can sign up for their monthly newsletter so you don’t have to remember to check it all the time. There’s also fun stuff- like polls and all kinds of different giveaways ( I enter every month and haven’t won anything yet. I still keep trying- it’s gotta be my turn sooner or later, right?).
Number 3- www.etsy.com Etsy
I’m going to assume most childrens and YA people know about Etsy. It’s a website where people sell handmade crafts and crafting supplies. Don’t judge it yet- there are REALLY nice things on Etsy. If you’ve heard of it and have been meaning to check it out, today is the day. When I’m totally stuck on what to do for a teen program, I check out Etsy. There are all kinds of different craft categories and I just start browsing through for inspiration. Some of the things they sell are really cheap. ( I also just found out about www.regretsy.com – crazy stuff found on etsy and similar sites- funny stuff:)
Number 4- http://www.the4yablog.com/ 4YA
I decided to just go ahead and keep with the craft theme and mention the 4YA blog here. One of my co-workers had this site up one day when I came to take my turn at the desk. HELLO- it’s awesome! It has all kinds of great ideas for YA librarians to use from program ideas and crafts,plus useful information about things like new gaming systems and video game reviews. It has a focus on outreach oppurtunities.
Number 5- http://www.webjunction.org/1 Webjunction
Do you need to brush up on your reader’s advisory? Want some tips on how to deal with unhappy patrons? Tyring to figure out what ereader is the best for your library system? Have no fear, webjunction is here. The website has fantastic FREE webinars for library workers. I have listened to three or four dif
What’s all the buzz? There has not been this much tweeting since John Corey Whaley won this year’s Printz and Morris Awards!
The initial announcement about Booze for Books, scheduled for April 12, 2012, sure stirred a heated debate. While the title says Booze, the event does not have to include booze, and is your opportunity to help raise funds to get books into the hands of needy teens. It’s all a part of YALSA’s Books for Teens initiative.
Options Galore After reading the initial post about Booze for Books, many YALSA blog readers posted other options for events that don’t incorporate alcohol. Janene suggested “Burgers for Books!” Beth mentioned quite a few “Pizza for Pages,” “Tea for Teens,” and “Chocolate for a Cause.” Another Beth wrote “Mocktails for a Mission.” YALSA’s first Booze for Books fundraiser can be adapted to meet your community’s needs. The core idea of this fundraiser is to raise money for Books for Teens, which connects at-risk teenagers with books. A novel idea!
How do you get started? Check out the brand new fundraising guide that provides a ton of ideas on how to host a fundraising event for YALSA. The guide includes templates, tips, forms, weblinks, and more. Are you too afraid to do it alone? Team up with a librarian from another library!
Let’s share some new ideas! YALSA started a Pinterest Board to have members share photos and recipes. You can snap a photo of your creation (alcoholic or pizza or chocolate, or whatever). Another idea is to add a book cover image that inspires your event (I am thinking Cormier’s The Chocolate War).
Thinking Outside the
Booze Box Speaking of chocolate, I may steal Beth’s idea, Chocolate for a Cause. I am considering hosting an event at a local artisan chocolate café. I am thinking handcrafted truffles, cocoas and drinking chocolates, chocolate shakes, and chocolate fondue. I can have a dark vs. milk chocolate competition. Besides Cormier’s The Chocolate War, I can have copies of Klause’s Blood and Chocolate, Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate, or Candyfreak: a journey through the chocolate underbelly of America. I can have a donation bucket where attendees can throw in a few bucks toward Books for Teens.
Another Box (Pizza Box) Option Instead of chocolate, try Pizza for Pages. You can host a pizza-making dinner at your home. Have your guests bring their favorite toppings; you can supply the dough and sauce. Another possibility is to have a no-host Pizza for Pages event at your favorite local pizzeria. Maybe the pizza business will give you a discount. Henry Holt has a new book coming out in August, Pizza, Love, and Other Stuff That Made Me Famous by Kathryn Williams. Remember you can request YALSA swag and a couple of books as part of your event.
Different Events; Same Goal Whatever you decide, remember the goal is still the same to empower the nation’s at-risk teens to achieve more by providing them with free high-quality, new, age-appropriate books. So put April 12th on your calendar!
If you would like to donate to Books for Teens outside of a special event, you can do so via the Facebook Books for Teens page or send a donation by check to YALSA, 50 E. Huron St., Chicago, IL 60611, attention: Books for Teens.
If you have any questions