Last week I had the opportunity to attend a portion of the 2013 Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of the NCTE (ALAN) Workshop. This two-day event, which brings together a wide range of young adult authors, English teachers, librarians and others, was held in Boston this year, so I decided to take the opportunity to attend and I’m very glad I did! Though I was only able to attend a portion of the first day of the workshop, I heard both Jack Gantos and Chris Crutcher speak about their work and saw some great authors speak on panels about everything from humor to dystopias. While I could go on at length about everything I learned, this post will focus on some of the most interesting speakers and particularly on the panels I was able to attend about genre writing for young adults.
The morning started with a short speech by Jack Gantos, who spoke about history. This topic encompassed both his own books, such as Dead End in Norvelt, and the way each reader’s book history has an impact on their life. He emphasized the importance of making sure that kids have access to books– not just to give them the inspiration to write, but also so that they all have a rich life of the mind. As someone who has never read any of Gantos’ books, I was impressed by his humorous account of the town he grew up in and it definitely made me want to go out and read his books. Existing fans will be interested to know that he is currenty working on the next and last Joey Pigza book.
Next up was a panel on fantasy books entitled “Enchanting Reads: Encountering the Magical Worlds of Young Adult Books,” which featured Tamora Pierce, A.G. Howard, Holly Black and Nancy Werlin. They all spoke about their inspiration in writing fantasies and it was fascinating to hear how their responses were alike and different. 2013 Edwards Award winner Tamora Pierce went first, talking about how she watched the Robin Hood TV show as a child and then moved on to reading everything she could about Robin Hood and Richard the Lionheart. She admitted that she often read “boy books” because of the types of stories that interested her and that when she started writing her focus was on the sorts of books that she would have liked to read, including female heroines and plenty of sword wielding characters. This led her to write the Alanna series. Now she sees that there are more strong girls out there in young adult literature but that there is still a struggle.
A.G. Howard’s inspiration came from her childhood love of Alice in Wonderland. Even as a grown-up, she still wanted to know what happened to Alice, which led her to write own books, Splintered and the soon-to-be-released Unhinged. For Holly Black, inspiration came from her mother, who raised her believing in ghosts. She said that they lived in a 100-year-old house that had been her grandparents’ and her mother had played with a ghost in the attic who she still blamed when she lost things as an adult. She also warned Holly to never astral project because if you do, anyone can possess your body. Holly also spoke of her husband’s childhood experience moving Star Wars toys back and forth between his mother’s house and her boyfriend’s house so that he could play with the boyfriend’s son. When his mother broke up with him, her husband never got his toys back. All of these childhood stories help to inspire her work and particularly her 2013 middle grade book, Doll Bones.
Finally, Nancy Werlin, who writes in multiple genres, talked about how each theme and story demands a particular genre. She made an analogy to a carpenter who builds a house that will work on the piece of land available for the project, which I found very interesting. During the question and answer period at the end of the panel, Tamora Pierce summed up the panel and young adult fantasy writing overall quite well by saying that “fantasy is a literature of passion and idealism” and that “teenagers are passionate people and fantasy answers that passion.”
After a brief remembrance of Robert Cormier by Connie Zitlow, past president of ALAN, there was an interesting panel on young adult mysteries entitled “Intrigue and Romance: Uncovering Secrets and More in Mystery Books for Teens” that included Megan Frazer Blakemore, Michaela MacColl, Julie Berry and Andrea Cremer. The authors on this panel had all written very different stories, many of which straddled multiple genres beyond mystery, such as historical, fantasy and steampunk. On this panel, I found it particularly interesting how each of the writers’ works focused on strong relationships seemingly as much as they did on mysteries, whether this meant romantic relationships or family relationships.
Perhaps my favorite panel of the day was one on dystopia, entitled “The Future Is Ours! Daring to Disturb the Universe and Other Dark Adventures,” which included Neal Shusterman, Cristin Terrill and Jeff Hirsch. The authors shared a sense that their work is just an extreme version of our own world, rather than being a completely fantastical world. In many ways, they repeated some of the same sentiments that I heard at the panel on dystopian fiction at the ALA Annual conference last summer. In fact, Terrill said practically the same thing that Patrick Ness said at that panel when she said “it’s a little glib to say high school is a dystopia, but it kind of is.” Simmons went on to add “I think teenagers feel oppressed.” Several of the authors talked about how directly they were influenced by real world events and things they heard on the news. As a fan of dystopian fiction, it was fascinating to hear them talk about how they build the worlds in their books and what elements of their own lives and current events seep into their work.
Another highlight of attending the conference was hearing 2000 Edwards Award winner Chris Crutcher speak eloquently about the importance of resisting censorship and the inspiration for his books. He spoke specifically about Whale Talk and about “this sense that there is some shame in being treated badly” and one particular girl who inspired that book. His talk mixed powerful and inspirational thoughts with humor. Perhaps the funniest moment of the day for me was when Crutcher was asked of his large body of work, “What novel or novels would you like to be remembered for?” and responded without hesitation “I’d like to be remembered for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.” (…by frequently-challenged author Sherman Alexie, in case you didn’t immediately get the joke!)
You can see more info on the ALAN Workshop (including all the amazing panels I had to miss!) on their website. I would highly recommend attending future ALAN Workshops if you have the opportunity to do so. I heard from some great authors and discovered a bunch of fun books that I can’t wait to read!
This time of year always means one thing to me: baking. My family and I have always baked (and cooked) a lot between Thanksgiving and the New Year since the weather is finally cool and we have a lot of get-togethers. Instead of doing the predictable “holiday” contemporary books, I decided to focus on the bakers or those whose lives were affected by food. I searched for some male protagonist bakers, but couldn’t find any. Let me know if you know of any!
What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen (2012 Teens’ Top Ten)
This is the story of McLean Sweet who loves with her father since her mother ran off with the college basketball coach. Her father is a chef and it’s because of his job that she and her father have moved four times in the last two years. Each time they move, McLean takes on a new personality in her new city, but she seems to find her true ‘self’ in Lakeview, just as her father decides to move to Hawaii, forcing McLean to figure out what she really wants and how to deal with her mother.
Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults)
While on winter break, Dash is perusing through his favorite bookstore, The Strand, when he happens upon a Moleskin notebook filled with clues. Dash responds and begins a relationship with Lily through the notebook. Lily is full of holiday spirit (including baking a lot of cookies) while Dash prefers to be left alone, but neither one can quite let go of the notebook and all its clues.
The Sweetest Thing by Christina Mandelski
Sheridan Well is happiest when she is baking a cake. She can forget about her mom abandoning her, that her dad is more interested in his restaurant, and that she doesn’t have a boyfriend. She decides finding her mom will solve all her problems, but when her dad gets his own reality show in New York everything changes.
The Cupcake Queen by Heather Helper
Penny’s mom moves them to a small town from a big city to open up a cupcake shop and leaves her dad behind. As Penny settles in and gets used to her new life, her parents make a decision that will change it all.
Taste Test by Kelly Fiore
Nora Henderson can’t wait to leave her hometown behind when she get accepted into the teen cooking reality show Taste Test. Things don’t go as planned since she has run-ins with other contestants and the kitchen seems to be overrun with real life accidents.
I know about Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler, but I am saving that for a later post!
-Faythe Arredondo, currently reading The F-It List by Julie Halpern
As usual, Twitter has been busy this week with YA related news, events, giveaways and more. Here are some of the highlights, in case you missed anything…
Contests and Giveaways
- I just entered to win a kindle and a bunch of awesome books! @AmberGarr1 #ambergarrgiveaway http://www.ambergarr.com/2013/11/celebrating-1000-likes-giveaway.html …-@yaReads
- Solstice give away to U.S. librarians & reviewers – I usually do a giveaway once a year, and I know I… http://tmblr.co/ZAGFix10Bj5yc -@melissa_marr
- #Win one of @InsomniaBooks favorite 2013 debuts! International #giveaway #yalit http://inspiringinsomnia.com/2013/12/2013-debut-authors-giveaway-international.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+InspiringInsomniaBlog+%28Inspiring+Insomnia%29 …-@yaReads
- Hey, look! Diviners PB swag! #swell RT @DailyQuirkBlog Win a copy of @LibbaBray‘s ‘The Diviners’ & a custom tote! http://wp.me/p2iFlb-7uU -@libbabray
- Book Bangin’: My Top Ten Contemporary Book Boyfriends (Plus a GIVEAWAY!) http://wp.me/p34MKi-26G via @bookrockbetty-@HarlequinTeen
- “@HeroinesAddict: Hottest Heroine Covers [Round 2] + Giveaway! http://www.addicted2heroines.com/2013/12/hottest-heroine-covers-round-2-giveaway.html … Thanks for including SNAKEROOT!-@andreacremer
- Look at these lovely jewel-toned beauties we’re giving away this month! #prettybooksarepretty http://www.yabookscentral.com/info/10186-ya-and-kids-books-giveaways … @strangechem-@yabookscentral
- Check out @stdennard in the dress from the cover of @MeaganSpooner & @AmieKaufman‘s THESE BROKEN STARS http://www.publishingcrawl.com/2013/12/05/these-broken-stars-dress-tour/ … +a giveaway!-@bethrevis
- #RebelSpring by @MorganRhodesYA is on sale today! Have u ordered your copy yet? http://www.fallingkingdoms.com/book.html #bookbirthday pic.twitter.com/oArkcmXjIs-@PenguinTeen
- MIND GAMES by @kierstenwhite is now available in paperback with a bonus short-story! http://bit.ly/1aNYeb9 pic.twitter.com/jcUpN6uAEn-@harperteen
News and Events
- Announcing the winners of the 2013 #GoodreadsChoice Awards! See the best books of the year in 20 categories! http://bit.ly/1b643ND -@goodreads
- The DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE movie is happening! Hollywood, don’t eff this up. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/michael-gracey-set-direct-universals-661636 …-@4everYA
Just For Fun
- The strangest creatures in children’s literature http://huff.to/1chRCCz -@HuffPostBooks
- Truth. pic.twitter.com/To5vjJYJ9g-@Scholastic
- Whitney Etchison, currently reading Doll Bones by Holly Black
YALSA selected five books as finalists for the 2014 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults, which honors the best nonfiction books written for young adults between November 1, 2012 and October 31, 2013. YALSA will name the 2014 award winner at the Youth Media Awards at 8 a.m. ET on January 27 during ALA’s Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia.
At the end of World War II, Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi leader responsible for organizing the deportation and imprisonment of millions of Holocaust victims, went into hiding under an assumed identity. Eventually he fled to Argentina where he lived and worked under a false name for 10 years. Bascomb tells the story of Eichmann’s crimes, his years in hiding, and his eventual capture and trial with rich detail and riveting suspense. At the same time, Bascomb introduces readers to the courageous Israeli agents, Holocaust survivors, and their families who worked together to track down, capture, and bring Eichmann to justice.
This innovative book offers an introduction to the history and basic concepts of graphic design from one of the most successful designers working today. Using real world examples and rich visual aids, Kidd teaches readers how effective design can communicate ideas and messages, and he suggests ways to think critically about the design elements that infuse the media around us. Kidd invites readers to experiment with design themselves by ending the book with a series of 10 design challenges and offers a venue to share their work online.
After the Japanese military bombed Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, forcing the internment of over 100,000 Japanese-Americans. This detailed and compassionate chronicle of the internment years incorporates many first-hand accounts and photographs. Sandler skillfully provides context for the internment and also examines its lasting legacy by examining anti-Japanese sentiment in America before World War II and then the redress movement, which advocated for compensation and formal apologies for internees after the war.
“What is it like to jump out of an airplane? Imagine.” From these opening sentences, Stone chronicles the courage and persistence that were the hallmarks of the Triple Nickles, the African Americans who pushed through military barriers to become the first black paratroopers. Their individual efforts, the eventual recognition of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, and the broader issues of segregation during the war period are illustrated with a with a rich collection of interviews, letters, and photos. Stone’s afterword, the timeline, and the detailed source notes offer valuable insights into her research methods. Ashley Bryan’s foreword and artwork add personal insight and extend the power of this skillfully told story.
James Swanson takes readers back in time with a thoroughly researched and tightly written narrative of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Beginning with a succinct introduction to Kennedy’s early life and presidential administration, Swanson sets the scene for a detailed and engaging examination of the events before, during, and after November 22, 1963, when JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald crossed paths in Dallas with tragic results. The book brings events to life with extensive photographs, diagrams, and primary documents, and illuminates Swanson’s research and writing process with detailed source notes, an extensive bibliography, suggestions for further reading, and a comprehensive index.
Excited about the finalists? Be sure to participate in our Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge, which begins next week!
The Snow Queen is one of those fairy tales where you really can talk about “the original.” Unlike other fairy tales, in which we use the term “original” to talk about any number of versions from various times in history we can’t really pin down, this one was written and published by Hans Christian Andersen in 1845. It almost feels not like a fairy tale at all, because if you’re used to the usual (I could say Disneyfied, but it’s really far more common than that) fairy tale structures and characters, this one doesn’t follow. It’s about children, not teenagers or adults; it’s quite long and divided into chapters; and it’s really more of a classic hero’s epic, with challenges and magical beings trying to deter the hero – only the hero is a girl, Gerda, and the person she’s rescuing is her childhood best friend, Kai, who otherwise isn’t all that interesting.
So that’s what’s interesting about The Snow Queen. It’s about a girl doing stuff. Being the boss. Having an adventure and traveling. Rescuing a boy who doesn’t even try to rescue himself because he has ice stuck in his chest, freezing his metaphorical heart. So, like everyone else, I waited with baited breath for Disney to mess it all up.
Warning: from here on out, this post contains what you may or may not define as spoilers, depending on how much you think the surprise of a Disney movie lies in the plot, as opposed to in the sound and look of it all.
And I don’t think they ever really did. (Note: It seems that the look of the movie is boringly similar to Tangled, if you’ve seen it – I haven’t – and since Disney continues to have a race problem, I recommend, for entertainment and edification, taking a look at the fabulous Tumblr This Could Have Been Frozen. But I digress.)
Frozen has a complicated backstory in lieu of the complicated journey of the Andersen tale. There are two sisters instead of a childhood friend, and one (Elsa) has magical powers that she has to shield from the other (Anna), causing her to withdraw from her younger sister completely. When they come of age and the magical elder sister is crowned queen, her emotions get the best of her and her magic comes out, covering the summery kingdom in a cover of ice and snow. She runs away and builds a castle of her own out of ice (“The cold never bothered me anyway!” sings Idina Menzel as Elsa). It’s amazing, because you see a young woman who throws off all the ways that her body was controlled and shamed when she was young and decides that she wants to be who she is, the hell with everyone else. In a nod to Beauty and the Beast, Anna’s suitor sends people after Elsa to hunt her down and bring summer back (but if they happen to kill her, that’s okay, too), but Anna fends them off and goes off on her own. At this point, the movie goes for the comedic and the more common journey trope – Anna picks up a sarcastic ice salesman and his reindeer, and the three are followed by a goofy snowman (played pretty perfectly by Josh Gad) who just wants to go to the beach. There are none of the more classic challenges, like identifying something tantalizing as a temptation meant to steer Gerda off her journey, but there are the silly ones you’d expect, like needing winter clothes and finding them all on huge markup because supply is down and demand has just gone way up due to that eternal winter Elsa’s caused. However, once we get to the climax, you see another huge departure, and it’s not what you’d expect from Disney. When Everything depends on an act of True Love or All Is Lost, the True Love that saves all is the sisters sacrificing themselves for each other – because Disney just learned that FAMILY MEMBERS CAN LOVE EACH OTHER. It’s brilliant.
Don’t get me wrong – there are plenty of flaws in the film, the usual Disney ones and general ones. Everyone is white and skinny and beautiful. The only parents are dead parents. For something clocking in at close to two hours, there is very little singing, and Menzel’s “Let it Go” is the only song with guts and emotion. But Frozen did some things right, and here’s why:
In my book, fairy tales are not technically very interesting. They are usually either weak on plot or heavyhanded with it. The tropes get tired. They’re either Disneyfied or horrifying. The prose in just about any collection (picturebooks notwithstanding) is dry and without much art. But that’s what makes them fun to play with. That’s why creators take the skeletons and re-dress them, placing them in exotic locales or modern settings, gender swapping them, satirizing them… But what’s really great about looking at a fairy tale adaptation isn’t seeing Cinderella in a kimono instead of a ball gown. It’s seeing what tiny piece of the fairy tale the adapter wanted to point out, what thing they saw as relevant to their life and time, what they saw as fascinating or troubling. In the 1997 film Snow White: A Tale of Terror, it’s the idea that a woman could be so desperate to remain beautiful that she would cut out the heart of a child. In Anna Sheehan’s A Long Long Sleep, it’s the question of whether it’s abuse or protection to hide your child away to keep her from a destiny you think is bad. In Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, it’s that things that are forbidden are sometimes the sexiest things of all.
Disney’s Frozen plays with your expectation of how things in fairy tales are supposed to work, because the studio knows what their audience expects. And in their Disney way, I think they presented an interesting take on gender and family roles in fairy tales – at least the Disney ones. For that, I applaud them. For that, I think they’ve come a long way. They may yet have a long way to go, but Frozen is a promising new beginning for them.
There are, of course, YA and Middle Grade adaptations of The Snow Queen that you should take a look at as well. First, Anne Ursu’s Breadcrumbs, for its looks at what happens when kids start becoming aware of gender and change their relationships with their peers because of it, and for how it discusses transracial adoption. Cameron Dokey’s Winter’s Child, for how it makes the female character the one who puts the ice in Kai’s heart AND the one who takes it out. Frost by Wendy Delsol, because it seems to mix the fairy tale elements with the usual YA tropes. Alice Hoffman’s The Ice Queen, because I just heard about it right now, but apparently there’s a librarian in it. ;-) And for even more on the original tale, adaptations, criticism, and more, head to the great site Sur La Lune Fairy Tales.
What did you think about Frozen?
Edit: I just learned that the special edition of the soundtrack includes demos of the many other songs that were cut from the film. While they have varying levels of musical success, the ideas expressed in them show how interested the movie’s creators were in exploring gender in fairy tales. While the movie is undoubtedly better without the prophecy that apparently existed in early versions (less magic in the world makes Elsa stand out more), the songs are worth looking at, because they make Anna a more developed character who’s interested in her own agency.
- Hannah Gómez, currently reading (since June, on and off – SIGH) A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
Today marks the anniversary of the Repeal of Prohibition in the United States, brought about on this date in 1933 with the passage of the 21st Amendment. As such, it was the end of an era for all of the groups who had taken up the cause of national prohibition of alcohol and lobbied for it to be written into law (via the 18th amendment).
One of the most active of these groups, the Anti-Saloon League, was so important in the history of Westerville, Ohio, that it has its own museum attached to the Westerville Public Library, where I work.
So what’s the teen tie-in to this topic? Local History Coordinator Beth Weinhardt confirmed that The American Issue Printing Company (the League’s publishing arm) likely employed many teens as it became nationally known for its sheer output of leaflets — over 40 tons of mail per month.
In fact, all of this mail meant that Westerville became the smallest town to have a first-class post office.
When considering the recent teen book series focusing on this era — I’m thinking of The Flappers series by Jillian Larkin, the Bright Young Things series by Anna Godbersen, and The Diviners series by Libba Bray (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults Top Ten, 2013 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults) — I couldn’t help but notice that two of these kicked off with girls leaving their small Ohio towns for the big city. Evie in The Diviners has this in common with Bright Young Things’ Cordelia Gray.
These girls’ stories are more focused on the thrill of rebellion in the Jazz Age than fighting for the elimination of liquor, but an imaginative reader could still wonder if they knew about Westerville when they left home. Did they have peers working at the Anti-Saloon League? Did any hometown disappointment about the Repeal reach them on December 5, 1933, wherever they were?
-Becky O’Neil, currently reading Hyperbole and a Half, by Allie Brosh
YALSA selected five books as finalists for the 2014 William C. Morris Award, which honors a book written for young adults by a previously unpublished author. YALSA will name the 014 award winner at the Youth Media Awards at 8 a.m. ET on January 27 during ALA’s Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia.
The 2014 finalists are:
Drew, also known as “Win,” has been isolated in a New Hampshire boarding school since he was 12. Though he excels at both academics and athletics, he is concealing a horrific secret that has driven him to the brink of madness. With the help of his friends, can Win confront the beast within him before it’s too late?
Evan Carter bounces from school to school—he has no friends and views girls as nothing more than a means to sexual release. When a brutal attack leaves him physically and mentally broken, Evan must evaluate what matters in his life and learn how to “accept responsibility, but not blame.”
James has a lot on his plate: strained relationships, a fractured family, and an all-consuming anxiety. He deals with depression by hugging trees, “yawp”-ing at the world like his idol Walt Whitman, and conversing with his imaginary therapist—a pigeon named Dr. Bird.
When Maude Pichon moved to Paris, she never dreamed she would end up working for the Durandeau Agency as a “repoussoir”—a foil for society’s elite who believe a plain face alongside them makes them look more beautiful. A countess hires Maude as a companion for her daughter, Isabelle, but as the girls’ friendship grows, Maude finds herself torn between her integrity and her livelihood.
At the height of the Spanish flu pandemic, WWI, and the Spiritualism movement, outspoken Mary Shelley Black is adrift in a fear-ravaged San Diego. While her childhood friend Stephen challenges her heart, his antagonistic spirit-photographer brother, Julius, represents everything her scientific mind abhors. When the unthinkable happens, how will Mary Shelley endure the unbearable losses, not to mention the evolution of her supernatural abilities?
Excited about the finalists? Be sure to participate in our Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge, which begins next week!
In Eat, Brains, Love by Jeff Hart, the zombie virus has changed everything for Jake. The career aptitude test, unhelpful as it was, now means nothing. After you become a zombie, you have no tasks beyond eating. Optimistically, however, Jake reflects on a song lyric, “Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places.” Nice sentiment for a guy with such a grisly lifestyle.
The song, Scarlet Begonias, is by The Grateful Dead, a band that compliments Jake’s new lifestyle. The group was formed in 1965, just in time to play a role in the emerging psychedelic scene. Their music defied categorization, with bits of rock, reggae, country, and countless other genres appearing in their performances, which generally included long improvised segments. Their music was so unique that the band attracted a loyal group of followers, known as Dead Heads. More than a band, The Grateful Dead was a musical force that lasted for over three decades.
“Our audience is like people who like licorice,” Jerry Garcia said. “Not everybody likes licorice, but the people who like licorice really like licorice.”
-Diane Colson, currently reading This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett
Today is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. This annual, United Nations-sponsored event aims to “further raise awareness of disability and accessibility as a cross cutting development issue and further the global efforts to promote accessibility, remove all types of barriers, and to realize the full and equal participation of persons with disabilities in society and shape the future of development for all.” This year the theme is “Break Barriers, Open Doors: for an inclusive society and development for all.” In recognition of this day, below is a list of books set around the world featuring characters with a variety of disabilities who are facing a host of barriers in their own lives.
The White Bicycle by Beverly Brenna – This 2013 Michael L. Printz Award Honor Book follows Taylor Jane Simon, a Canadian teen with Asperger’s Syndrome, as she travels around France during the summer. While I have not yet started this book, one of the main points that has been mentioned again and again in relation to it is the way that Taylor’s voice and perspective shine through.
Enemy Territory by Sharon E. McKay – Sam, an Israeli teen who is waiting to learn whether his leg will have to be amputated, ends up sharing a hospital room with Yusuf, a Palestinian boy who has already lost one eye and is battling the risk of infection in the other. At first, their prejudices make them suspicious of one another, but over the course of one crazy night wandering around in Jerusalem they learn a lot about not only each other, but also about the different cultures that inhabit the city.
Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein – This companion to Wein’s amazing Code Name Verity (2013 Printz Honor Book) follows a young, female pilot from America during World War II who has come to England to fly planes for the war effort. While on a mission, she is captured by the Germans and sent to Ravensbrück, a concentration camp that houses many women, including a group who are permanently disabled due to medical experiments and procedures that the German doctors have conducted on them.
Among Others by Jo Walton – Set in Wales and England, the main character of this book is Morwenna, a young girl coping with the permanent effects of an injury that she received in the same incident that left her twin sister dead. The book follows her as she deals with this injury and her own unhappy family circumstances, involving a distant father and a mother who dabbles in dark magic, which was the root cause of her own injury. This book is also a great option for science fiction fans as significant portions of the book highlight real science fiction books that Morwenna turns to during her period of isolation. These scenes are sure to inspire you to go out and read those books yourself.
Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan – In this book, which is another on my to-be-read pile, Habo is a young teen in Tanzania who is obviously different from those around him. In addition to his visual impairment, he also has white skin, yellow hair and very light eyes. While he knows that this impacts how everyone treats him, it is not until he seeks refuge outside of his community that he learns that the term for his condition is albinism, a trait that can put him at great danger in this part of Africa.
The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida – The New York Times bestseller that was recently covered on The Daily Show is the autobiography of a 13-year-old Japanese boy who has autism. Unable to verbalize his views, this autobiography was written using a grid with the letters of the alphabet on it. Many reviewers have noted that it gives a rare insight into at least one experience with autism.
Some of these books are ones that I have read and enjoyed and others are on my to-be-read list, but they all highlight stories of people with disabilities. While I hope that these books will pique your interest, this is hardly a complete list of books that offer positive portrayals of characters with disabilities; let me know about any great examples you think I missed in the comments!
- Carli Spina, currently reading Colin Fischer by Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz
Good morning, Hub readers!
Last week, we wanted to know which YA book makes you the hungriest. A lot of you must be in the mood for lamb stew, or maybe it’s Peeta’s delicious baked goods that make your stomachs rumble– The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins topped the poll with 36% of the vote. Relish by Lucy Knisley came in second with 20% of the vote, followed by The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson with 16%. Several commenters weighed in with their most delicious suggestions, including Pizza, Love, and Other Stuff That Made Me Famous by Kathryn Williams, Sunshine by Robin McKinley, A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park, Gabrielle Zevin’s Birthright books, and the Mythos Academy series by Edie Ramer. Thanks for the great suggestions, Bridget, Tiffany, Alissa, and Kelsey!
You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks very much to all of you who voted and commented!
This week, we’re asking which literary quest you’d like to join. Adventure? Mystery? Danger around every turn? Vote in the poll below, and be sure to leave a comment if we’ve missed your ideal quest!Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.
We posted a teaser last month about our upcoming Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge, and now that it’s just one week away, it’s time to share some details of this exciting challenge.
The 2014 Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge will begin on Monday, December 9. Once the challenge starts, you’ll have until the Youth Media Awards at ALA Midwinter (which begin at 8AM Eastern Time on Monday, January 27) to read all of the books on the shortlist for the William C. Morris YA Debut Award, all of the books on the shortlist for the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults, or both.
Only books that you both begin and finish within the challenge period count, so if you’ve read any Morris or Nonfiction shortlist titles before December 9, you’ll have to re-read them to count them. However, if you complete the Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge, the books you read for this challenge may be counted toward our 2014 Hub Reading Challenge. So by participating, you get a head start for the next challenge, which involves fabulous prizes! It’s like earning extra credit in school, only way more fun.
The William C. Morris YA Debut Award, first awarded in 2009, honors a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens and celebrating impressive new voices in young adult literature.
The award’s namesake is William C. Morris, an influential innovator in the publishing world and an advocate for marketing books for children and young adults. Bill Morris left an impressive mark on the field of children’s and young adult literature. He was beloved in the publishing field and the library profession for his generosity and marvelous enthusiasm for promoting literature for children and teens.
The YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, first awarded in 2010, honors the best nonfiction book published for young adults (ages 12-18) during a November 1 – October 31 publishing year.
Keep track of what you read every week and which titles you’ve finished. Every Sunday, we’ll publish a check-in post, so please comment on the post with what you’ve read that week and what you thought of it. If you’ve completed the challenge, fill out the form embedded in the post to give us your name and email address so we can congratulate you after the challenge is over. The challenge will run on the honor system, so be good!
All readers of young adult literature — teachers, librarians, publishers, booksellers, bloggers, parents, teens, anyone and everyone! — are welcome to accept our reading challenge. If you’re a librarian or teacher, consider encouraging your patrons, collagues, or students to give it a try!
Have questions about the 2014 Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge? Let us know in the comments or send us an email. Otherwise, we’ll see you when the challenge kicks off next week!
-Allison Tran, currently reading Better Nate Than Ever, by Tim Federle
With one holiday past and more to come, this month will prove to be a busy one Sagittarius. Between parties, shopping for the perfect gifts, and getting those decorations placed just right, there will be many distractions to contend with. But all that fun and excitement can come with a cost. Just don’t forget in all the hubbub and chaos what is truly important, time with friends and family, opportunities to reflect on the past year and a chance to plan all the coming year’s adventures. Hopefully these books will get you into a joyful frame of mind.
Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley
Lucy Knisley has grown up around food her whole life so it’s no surprise her memoir of her childhood would focus on this delicious topic. Her parents instilled in her at a very young age an appreciation for fine foods that has spanned her childhood and into adulthood. Besides interesting stories and great art, Knisley also shares her favorite recipes as well. This book would make a perfect gift for your foodie friends or you could relish it all on your own.
Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff
Delilah Dirk is never what you expect her to be. The daughter of wealthy parents and a former member of the Queen’s Court, Delilah also has no problems running through markets, stealing a pirate’s treasure and flying all over the world looking for adventure. Selim, a Turkish Lieutenant, is equally stunned by Delilah when she implicates/rescues him from a Turkish dungeon and follows her along for the ride. This graphic novel has enough adventure for two books and vibrant art that belongs on a museum wall, as long as Delilah doesn’t steal it.
Cherish this special time of the year Sagittarius and starting preparing for the next adventure just around the corner.
- Amanda Margis, currently reading Money Boy by Paul Yee and listening to Fat Vampire by Adam Rex.
Now that Thanksgiving has ended for another year, many of you are probably turning your attention towards holiday shopping. Whether you are planning to brave Black Friday sales today, wait for Cyber Monday deals or procrastinate until the last second, the bloggers at The Hub have put our heads together to come up with some great suggestions for the book lovers on your list.
For scarf fans, Storiarts on Etsy offers infinite scarves with quotes from Anne of Green Gables and The Raven (among other famous works). For other scarf and clothing options, NerdAlertCreations offers a scarf with the Marauder’s Map on it and another of a bookshelf as well as a variety of literature-related skirts and aprons.
For the Pride & Prejudice fan in your life, try these knit hand warmers with silhouettes of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy. They’ll keep hands warm while still leaving the wearer free to type or write.
General bookworms will love these bright blue knee socks that proclaim their love for the written word. Or perhaps they would like to bathe with a rubber ducky who is just as much of a book fan as they are.
Out of Print can always be counted on to offer fun, book-related products and recently they started stocking jewelry as well. Check out the gold So It Goes necklace for the Slaughterhouse Five fan in your life.
John Green fans will definitely love this Fault In Our Stars phone cover, which is available for iPhone 4 and iPhone 5.
If you know a book fan who is always unimpressed with the movie adaptations of their favorite books, check out this t-shirt which proudly proclaims that The Book Was Better. Or, if you know a To Kill A Mockingbird fan, try this Atticus Finch is My Co-Pilot shirt.
With the second movie in The Hobbit trilogy coming out in December, there are lots of options for Tolkien fans available this year. If you are getting a gift for someone who has always wanted to be a hobbit, try these hobbit feet socks. If your Tolkien fan is more of a writer, they will be sure to appreciate one of the limited edition Hobbit Moleskine notebooks. Or, if they are more of a coffee or tea fan, perhaps this Hobbit mug will be the perfect holiday gift.
If you want to give the gift of luxurious reading, this leather book weight is sure to impress. It is the perfect size to keep a book open for reading or research.
If you want to give the gift of a book, but you want a more unique option, there are lots of fun choices this year for all sorts of readers. If you are giving a gift to a Game of Thrones fan, try the Feast of Ice & Fire cookbook that has recipes inspired by the foods in the series. Or, for a Star Wars or Shakespeare fan, check out William Shakespeare’s Star Wars.
Let us know in the comments if you have any other great gift suggestions! And, a special thanks to Diane, Jessica, Jennifer and Laura for their helpful suggestions for this post.
Note: Nothing in this post should be considered a product endorsement nor have we received compensation for suggesting these products.
- Carli Spina, currently reading Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick.
Here’s some news you might have missed.
Two conferences were held this week – check out Twitter for more info under #alan13 and #ncte13
- @catagator: 2014 contemporary YA titles to get on your radar: http://www.stackedbooks.org/2013/11/2014-contemporary-ya-books-to-get-on.html …
- @ValPayneCNN: Im soooo excited about this!!!! ‘Fear Street’: R.L. Stine and the return of teen horror http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/25/living/young-adult-fear-street-books/index.html?sr=sharebar_twitter …
- @MacKidsBooks: Looking for Thanksgiving themed books to read this week? We’ve got you covered! http://ow.ly/rcMbi
- @kishizuka: SLJ Best Books 2013 Adult Books 4 Teens http://ow.ly/rcWvt Nine out of 21 titles are debuts #sljbestbooks
- @ChelseyPhilpot: Most young adults prefer printed books to e-readers, study finds http://fw.to/aRKB9zM
- @IceyBooks: Hitting Shelves (98) — November 26th, 2013 http://goo.gl/fb/Gf8X4
- @Scholastic: Drumroll, please… RT @EW: The Best YA Novel of All Time bracket game: And the winner is… http://ow.ly/raMMU
- @PWKidsBookshelf: How Hans Christian Andersen Revolutionized Storytelling | Brain Pickings http://pwne.ws/1aSp2Go
- @KateMessner: I believe kids should read books about all different religions & @HornBook has a great list out today: http://www.hbook.com/2013/11/choosing-books/recommended-books/world-religions/#_ …
- @catagator: If you haven’t read this smart piece on gender dynamics in Catching Fire, you should http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2013/11/25/247146164/what-really-makes-katniss-stand-out-peeta-her-movie-girlfriend?utm_medium=Email&utm_source=DailyDigest&utm_campaign=20131126 …
- @hollywoodcrush: What does MORTAL INSTRUMENTS author @CassieClare have to say about a possible sequel? http://on.mtv.com/1hg731E
- @jenbigheart: Actors Who Were Almost Cast in The Hunger Games http://popsu.gr/22309916?utm_source=outbrain&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=popsugar_celebrity_galleries_desktop&utm_term=Actors-Who-Were-Almost-Cast-in-The-Hunge …
- @megcabot: Where has this website been all my life? I’m so happy right now! http://wornontv.net/
- @PageTurnersBlog: RT @MortalMovie Loved the romance in #TMIMovie? Here’s a mashup you won’t be able to stop watching! – http://sot.ag/26n85
- @PWKidsBookshelf: ’Catching Fire’ Ignites the Box Office with Biggest November Opening Ever http://pwne.ws/181YGP1
- @earlyword: VAMPIRE ACADEMY: They Suck at School: Below is the first full-length trailer the adaptation of Vampire Academy… http://bit.ly/1boqUJL
- @FierceReads: Want an ARC of CRESS by @marissa_meyer? Give the gift of CINDER! #GiftOfCinder Learn more here: http://ow.ly/qmQjy
- @coffeelvnmom: @IceyBooks has 2 #giveaways going right now… @sguillory262‘s RECLAIMED and my forthcoming IF I SPEAK TRUE: http://iceybooks.com/
- @TLT16: We’re giving away 4 boxes of bks (1 to each of 4 winners) as a way of saying thanks http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2013/11/in-which-i-say-thanks-and-we-give-away.html …@mz_christie@boothheather
- @TLT16: Photo: So, Gwyneth Jones (AKA The Daring Librarian) has some awesome posts on her website about using QR… http://tmblr.co/Z2Ipfr-Wqqsv
- @PWKidsBookshelf: A high school English teacher on what Common Core means for fiction in schools http://pwne.ws/1bPwtMb
- @lbraun2000: RT @afterschool4all: Tweens and teens talk about what would get them to go to an #afterschool arts program http://ow.ly/r8eGZ
- @sljournal: White House Names Librarian as Connected Educator “Champion of Change” http://ow.ly/r6snl
Just for Fun:
- @annareadsbooks: My bookish holiday gift guide is out today — third year in a row! See anything you like? http://ow.ly/r9A9o
- @EpicReads: The Stages Of Waiting For A New Book ––> http://bit.ly/1aJq4Vh
~ Jennifer Rummel currently reading Daylighters by Rachel Caine
Happy Thanksgiving, American readers! While our pies are baking and our turkeys (or tofurkeys) are roasting, we here at The Hub are taking a moment to pause and express what we’re thankful for in the world of YA lit, just like we did in last year’s post and the year before that.
- Laura Perenic: I am thankful for all the readers, writers and librarians I have met on Twitter. They are a constant source of inspiration and motivation for me in terms of book choices and programing ideas.
- Jennifer Rummel: I’m thankful for having the coolest job in the world – talking about books and reading with teens, adults, authors, publishers, librarians, and bloggers. It’s great to have so many people to talk with about all the fantastic books that come out in each year.
- Colleen Seisser: I am thankful for Rainbow Rowell, and her fantastic novels Eleanor and Park and Fangirl. They made me want to read realistic fiction again after I had decided that I only enjoy supernatural reads. I am also thankful to Holly Black for writing a fantastic vampire novel (The Coldest Girl in Coldtown), that put a new spin on one of my favorite supernatural creatures.
- Sharon Rawlins:
*Steampunk- even if it’s not popular with many teen readers, it’s one of my favorite types of fantasy, especially Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series and her Etiquette & Espionage Finishing School Series.
*More stand alone books by fantastic authors such as Holly Black’s The Coldest Girl in Coldtown and Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races.
*On the other hand, I’m grateful there’s one more Mortal Instruments book coming out by Cassandra Clare, and that authors are creating e-novellas and e-short stories for some of my favorite series (Sarah Maas’s Throne of Glass being a favorite).
*I’m really grateful for Rainbow Rowell! I adored Eleanor and Park and can’t wait to read Fangirl.
*I’m also happy that Gene Luen Yang continues to amaze with his graphic novels on subjects I wouldn’t expect to even want to read about but find irresistible in a graphic novel format, like Boxers and Saints. *For the collaborations of various authors and illustrators that are producing such amazing works such as the graphic novel March, Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell, and David Levithan with anyone else! *Dan Kraus for his twisted characters and totally unpredictable, creepy plotting (Rotters, Scowler) *And, lastly for Jennifer Nielsen for taking a familiar plot (impostors) and making it so fresh and fun to read in her Ascendance Trilogy (The False Prince, The Runaway King and the upcoming The Shadow Throne).
- Amanda Margis: I’m thankful for the bold and unique work that came out this year from some of my favorite authors; Kendare Blake’s Antigoddess, A.S. King’s Reality Boy, Patrick Ness’ More Than This, Meg Rosoff’s Picture Me Gone and Ruta Sepetys’ Out of the Easy. Every year YA gets more diverse and exciting and I can’t wait for what’s to come in 2014!
- Geri Diorio: I am thankful for author Daniel Kraus. Horror is a genre that does not get a lot of press, but it is important to me, and it can be difficult to find a good YA horror novel. Mr. Kraus is giving me plenty to be thankful for: gripping stories, well-told, with gorgeous language, and horrific elements to the tales that leave me unable to sleep – exactly what I want from a horror novel! I am recommending him to all the teens in my library who want a good scare in a good book.
- Jessica Lind: I am thankful for all of the bloggers and tweeters who help me to discover awesome new YA books for my personal reading and for our library’s collection. The contributions of this online community have made it far easier to make successful recommendations. My “to read” list will never be too short thanks to you all!
- Diane Colson: I am thankful for the announcement of the Youth Media Awards at Midwinter Conference. It’s so fun to guess who will win ahead of time. The actual, Oscar-ish presentation of the awards is almost too exciting to bear. And finally, after the announcements, we all scramble to find the books we haven’t read, and possibly never even heard of! Counting the days!
- Emily Calkins: I’m thankful for my online community of smart, thoughtful readers of YA lit! There’s no way I can read everything on my my list, but thanks to great bloggers, Goodreads friends, and librarians on Twitter, I can still stay on top of what’s new and great in YA lit.
- Wendy Daughdrill: I am thankful for Maggie Stiefvater’s blog and also for the other amazing YA authors out there who are so accessible to their readers on social media and generous with writing advice.
- Brandi Smits: I am thankful for engaging series. I’ve just finished Allegiant by Veronica Roth and I’m impatiently waiting for Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor. I feel like a long-lost friend grants me a visit when the next book in a series arrives. I am also thankful for authors who are willing to take the envelope, tear it into pieces, and reassemble them into something new and unexpected, particularly Ransom Riggs, Libba Bray, and David Levithan.
- Jessica Miller: I’m so thankful to have a community of other people who are as passionate as I am about reading YA lit. I love getting and sharing recommendations and talking about trends and important developments in the field!
- Carla Land: I think what I am most grateful for this year are Young Adult books that are fun and engaging and stand on their own- books that aren’t part of a series but still have well developed characters and satisfying plots, like This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith and My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick. When you try to read as much as I do you don’t always have time to finish a series, and being able to get to the end of a well crafted storyline is so incredibly satisfying!
- Allison Tran: This year, I’m thankful for the amazing community of bloggers who contribute to The Hub, and our fantastic readers. I am so inspired by the great content and conversations generated here; always adding new titles to my to-read list, and looking at issues and trends in a new way. Thank you all for making The Hub such a great resource for YA lit.
Readers, what tops your list of things to be thankful for in the world of reading and YA lit?
-Allison Tran, currently reading Afterparty by Ann Redisch Stampler
Serendipity slipped in as I pondered which book to feature for a Thanksgiving post this week. This song, The Giving Tree by Plain White Ts, was playing as I drove, and I confess that it took a couple of verses before realization clicked in. Here was the song, and, of course, the book.
Few books have the emotional power of The Giving Tree, and even fewer manage it with simple line drawings and spare text. For many readers, it is a painful story of thankless service, environmental ignorance, and male dominance. For others, it perfectly encapsulates the selfless love of a mother, a friend, or even of God.
I love the way Tim Lopez makes the book his own story, because that is absolutely the spirit of The Giving Tree. Below is just a snippet of the song, with images from the book interspersed with images that parallel the lyrics. I hope all of you who work so selflessly in your vocation will accept this as humble thanks for your own bottomless giving.
-Diane Colson, currently reading Burn by Julianna Baggott and listening to David and Goliath: underdogs, misfits and the art of battling giants, written and narrated by Malcolm Gladwell.
I love all things zombie and The Walking Dead TV series on AMC certainly gives me my fill every week. Even when I think I can’t watch any more because I’ll get too scared, I’m sucked in and then I’m talking about it with a friend the next day. A lot of the teens at the library where I work watch the show and read the graphic novels. In recent episodes one of the characters, Carl, asks for more comic books when other go out on a raid, and Carol reads to kids at a story time… before she also teaches them some crucial defensive knife skills! This got me to thinking about reading in the time of a zombie apocalypse. What do you do: read as many zombie novels as you can find because that’s how your life is now? Or read to escape your horrifying world?
The Walking Dead TV series, and comics to a certain extent, exist in a world that requires a bit of stretching of the imagination. There are zombies, after all. In keeping with that imaginations, here’s my hypothetical episode for this week: the gang goes on a raid into town looking for food and supplies when they stumble across a public library! Rick decides they should all get some reading material to get them through their brief downtimes when the zombies aren’t trying make dinner out of their brains. Fighting their way through a crowd of zombie librarians, they get to a safe space to hole up for a while: the YA section! Here are my recommendations for what each character should read.
Rick – He’s been shouldering the weight of responsibility for the group for a long time and it’s been hard for him. He’s had hallucinations of his wife and had to make some hard decisions. I’d recommendation something that is a complete and over-the-top distraction for him, like Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber. This has just enough shoot ‘em up action that he would be interested, but it’s different enough that he may be able to distract himself from the hardships of the real world. Another option would be Moira Young’s Dustlands series, if for no other reason than to remind him that the end of the world could be worse– and at least he has his little farm!
Darryl – Darryl is a tough guy, but his care for Carol and Judith shows that he does have a heart. He may like classic middle grade novel Where the Red Fern Grows with its heartbreaking story of hunting and dogs. Or if anyone can handle the themes of abuse, fear, and general grossness of Rotters by Daniel Kraus (2012 Odyssey Award winner), Darryl is your man.
Carl – Carl is growing up so quickly right before our eyes and often it’s because he’s stuck in this terrible situation. He’s already had to make some pretty tough choices and wields a handgun like his dear old dad. I think Carl could use a couple more positive and less violent role models to emulate as he grows. My recommendations are Michael Rubens’ Sons of the 613 and Gary D. Schmidt’s The Wednesday Wars (a 2008 Best Book for Young Adults). If he lets himself relax into these books, I think he can grow up into a man and still have emotional depth.
Michonne – It’s hard not to recommend Jonathan Maberry’s Benny Imura series (Rot and Ruin was a 2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults pick) to Michonne based on the samurai swords alone. But I think Michonne is a complicated character who has varied interests. Right now, her interests seem to be all about revenge, so I’d recommend The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (2009 Printz honor) and Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian, letting Michonne experience vicarious revenge through those books’ characters.
What do you think? Should the characters of The Walking Dead commit themselves to reading only post-apocalyptic novels in an attempt to learn all they can from those fictional worlds, or let themselves be carried away by the power of something entirely different? At least, that is, until those zombie librarians find their hiding place!
-Anna Tschetter, currently reading Ask the Passengers by A.S. King
Good morning, Hub readers!
Last week, we asked you to choose the first line (or lines) from a YA book that make you want to keep reading. In the lead with 20% of the vote were the first lines of Winger by Andrew Smith: “I said a silent prayer. Actually, silent is probably the only type of prayer a guy should attempt when his head’s in a toilet.” Coming in second with 16% of the vote was the first line from The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater: “Blue Sargent had forgotten how many times she’s been told she would kill her true love.”
We also got several great write-in suggestions in the comments:
- From Scorch by Gina Damico, suggested by Amy: “Lex wondered, for a fleeting moment, what her principal’s head might look like if it were stabbed atop a giant wooden spear.”
- From The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, suggested by Jenn: “It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.”
- From Feed by M.T. Anderson, suggested by Jessica: “We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.”
You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks very much to all of you who voted and commented!
This week, in honor of the traditional feasting that accompanies Thanksgiving, we want to know which YA book has the most tantalizing descriptions of food. Which book makes you want to just eat and eat and eat? Vote in the poll below, and please comment if we’ve missed anything delectable.Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.
Given that the film adaptation of Hunger Games: Catching Fire managed to earn $70.5 million dollars in its opening day, I think it’s safe to say that this was a hotly anticipated movie this holiday season.
The first film had a few misses but overall has been viewed favorably by the trilogy fans. Rotten Tomatoes has the average approval rating for the first film at an 81%, a solid B effort. Not bad considering how beloved these books have become and how tricky the subject matter can be translated to the big screen while still keeping the films MPAA accessible to teens. It also made a ton of money, which is a lot to live up to for any sequel, let alone one with a rabid YA fan base.
There was hype, expectation, and excitement– so how did the new filmmakers do with our Catching Fire?
Catching Fire gets a Grade A from this Hunger Games fan, and I’m not alone. Rotten Tomatoes Top Critics’ gave the film an 89% approval rating and their Audience rating is 94%. Jennifer Lawrence, if possible, is even better in this second film. It feels like they really used her expressiveness in the best way possible for this film. Part of what was missing from the first film is the connectedness we want to feel with Katniss. She is the narrator of the books, giving the reader a front row seat to her internal struggles. Catching Fire does a much better job utilizing Lawrence’s talents to give us that front row seat.
The wardrobe department also stepped up their game for this movie. People always used to talk about how cool the costumes were for the Capitol folks in the first film, but I was underwhelmed. It is always a struggle as a reader when these fully developed worlds in your mind are translated on screen and your imagination does not fit the visual style of the people making the film. This can also be the struggle we sometimes have with casting in these movies. I’ve been in many arguments with people over Josh Hutcherson’s casting as Peeta. I personally like him for the role and truly believe the naysayers will be changing their tunes after this film. Maybe it’s the hair change or maybe he just has more to do in this one– but either way, it is working.
There will be people who want to know how close to the book do the filmmakers keep it. Entertainment Weekly wrote a great article about the changes from the book to the movie and why they don’t matter. To be honest, I didn’t pick up on half of these changes. As a rule, I don’t reread books right before the film adaptation comes out. It makes me too critical over small plot points. The last time I read the book Catching Fire was probably over a year ago, which is just enough distance to remember the important details but forget a lot of the small stuff. The movie stayed true to the essence of the book while also making a great movie. This is always the trickiest part of a film adaptation, and Catching Fire was able to come out on top.
What about you, Hunger Games fans? What did you think of Catching Fire?
Also, for anyone truly bummed that we have to wait another year before the first installment of Mockingjay, the first full trailer of Divergent, coming out in March, was attached to Catching Fire. Enjoy!
-Katie Shanahan Yu, currently reading Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Thanksgiving is just around the corner for our American readers, and with the deliciously long weekend coming up, we thought you might be looking for something to read. Thanks to the Hub readers and bloggers who participated in The Hub’s very first photo challenge, we have some terrific ideas for you!
Earlier this month, we asked you to show us what you’re planning to read over the Thanksgiving break, and we very much appreciate the enthusiastic response. It’s so much fun to see what’s in everyone’s to-read pile, and it gives us some inspiration for good books to curl up with this weekend.
Big thanks to everyone who sent in their pictures, and to Hub Advisory Board member Carli Spina, who spearheaded the challenge!
- From Hub reader Kelsey, who reports that she’s on her third or fourth re-read of Meg Cabot’s Mediator series:
- From Hub reader Lalitha, with a guest appearance from her kitty Sasha:
- From Hub reader and librarian at the Saline District Library, Katie:
- From Hub reader Lydia, 12 years old:
- From Hub reader Becky, 15 years old:
- From Hub blogger Geri Diorio, who says, ”I’ve been reading one fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm each night before bed, and Philip Pullman will continue to tell me a bedtime story over the holiday break! I was lucky enough to get an Advanced Reading Copy of Susan Cooper’s new book Ghost Hawk at BEA back in June but have not had a chance to read it. This long weekend will be that chance. And finally, I splurged on some comics – the first collection of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files – for my tablet. Those will be nice reading breaks I can grab in between visiting relatives.”
- From Hub blogger Laura Perenic:
- From Hub blogger Faythe Arredondo, who’s looking forward to “finally” diving into this book:
- From Hub blogger Jessica Miller:
- From Hub blogger Carla Land, who has undoubtedly captured the hearts of fellow Doctor Who fans with her choice here:
- From Hub blogger Sharon Rawlins:
- From Hub blogger Molly Wetta, who says, “Spike and I plan on spending a day over Thanksgiving weekend lounging in bed reading John Corey Whaley’s Where Things Come Back.”
- From Hub blogger Carli Spina:
- From Hub blogger Kelly Dickinson (who says these are just “a few” of her to-read books for Thanksgiving!):
Thanks again to everyone who participated in our first photo challenge! We hope you’ve gotten some good ideas for books to add to your to-read piles. Happy Thanksgiving, and happy reading!
-Allison Tran, currently reading Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple (a 2013 Alex Award winner)