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2015 Young Adult Services Symposium: Diverse Teen Fiction

Thu, 11/12/2015 - 07:00
Diverse Teen Fiction: Getting Beyond the Labels

Moderator: Dhonielle Clayton (middle school librarian, VP of Librarian Services of We Need Diverse Books, author of Tiny Pretty Things)

Panelists: Swati Avasthi (author of Chasing Shadows, 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults), I.W. Gregorio (author of None of the Above), Fonda Lee (author of Zeroboxer), Stacey Lee (author of Under a Painted Sky), Anna Marie McLemore (author of The Weight of Feathers), Renee Watson (author of This Side of Home) #weneeddiversebooks
  • All children need access to diverse books.
  • We need to change the landscape.
  • Mirror books: books that reflect your experience.
  • Window books: shows you an other experience.

What was your first mirror book?

Avasthi: It was actually Little House on the Prairie, while she was not white, personality-wise she felt akin to Laura. She felt conflicted when reading it though because at the time there was no difference when it came to identifying Native Americans and Indians. Did that mean she was a savage? In her twenties she found Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, and she feels that this was really her first mirror book and it taught her that there doesn’t need to be just one experience.

Gregorio: For her it was In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord. The character was the same as her, but the experiences was not hers. The main character was a first generation immigrant, and she was a second generation immigrant who grew up in upstate New York.  When she read The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan in college, it was then that she found a book much closer to her experience as second generation immigrant. This shows how much diversity is needed in diverse fiction. There are multiple stories and different experiences.

Fonda Lee: She read lots of sci-fi and fantasy, which was greatly lacking diversity. The Sign of the Chrysanthemum by Katherine Paterson was the first Asian character she read. Years later she drew inspiration from reading Eon and Eona by Alison Goodman, since it was a great example of fantasy drawing from other cultures.

Stacey Lee: The Five Chinese Brothers written by Claire Huchet Bishop and illustrated by Kurt Wiese was her first mirror book. Now looking back we know it is a problematic book. Depictions of all Chinese people looked the same in that book. She cringes that it was first mirror book, but it was all she had.

McLemore: Her first mirror book was Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel. It centered on strong women and communal magic that was not controlled by one person. She identified with the cultural representations  as well as the family of strong women. She didn’t feel like she existed in the world of books until reading it.

Watson: She first saw herself in literature through poetry, like Gwendolyn Brooks. She fell in love with poetry as a child. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros was the first book that spoke to her.

Clayton: She had lots of mirror books growing up like those by authors Virginia Hamilton, Walter Dean Myers, and Mildred Taylor. However, they only revolved on two topics: the legacy of slavery and civil rights. She wanted more stories that reflected being and African American girl. We can’t just carve out one story.

Do you pitch books as diverse reads and should librarians?

Avasthi: Yes I do, because people don’t realize it’s a diverse book. When people look at her books they may think it’s about white people because of the cover. But she does recognize that it’s a double edge sword. She wants to represent the truth of experience, but she also wants it to be accessible to everyone.

Gregorio: Her book is about an intersex person, and people don’t know about this word and don’t know what it is. She has to pitch it as a reading experience that you’ve not read before. It’s all about self acceptance rather than diversity.

Fonda Lee: She doesn’t pitch her book as diverse. “This is diverse book” is not a good description for her novel. “This is a kick ass book about fighting in space!” is a good description. Her goal is that her characters are a cross section and representation of society. Pitching your book as diverse varies greatly on your book.

Stacey Lee: She does pitch her book as a diverse book, but it depends on the audience you’re pitching it to. Her intention in writing this book was to show the diversity of the United States in the pioneer era.

McLemore: She is a Latina woman that can pass as white and queer woman that passes for straight. If we’re not counted we don’t count. If we don’t speak up, people won’t find us. Books need to be pitched in both ways, but she is trying to be diverse in her writing and so she pitches her books as diverse. You have to get diverse books into people’s hands.

Watson: She never intentionally pitches her work as diverse. As she talks about her characters and her book, people naturally understand that it is a diverse book, but that it is also about friendship. She also wants to make sure that we read across gender, race, and class. White students need to read diverse books, it’s just as important for people to read mirror books as it is those to read window books.

How do you not pigeon hole diverse books? How do you get wide interest, readership, and circulation of these books? How do diverse books get pigeon holed?

Stacey Lee: Multicultural shelves are problematic. We put books in categories and forget that they are other things too like romance, fantasy, sci-fi…

Clayton: We hold on to labels and genres as librarians. What does the label multicultural mean?

Avasthi: Don’t segregate diverse books at all but have lists for people that do need to find their mirror book. Double shelving may be a solution. What does it tell our white readers when we label a book multicultural? They can’t read the books if they are not of that race?

McLemore: As librarians, you can help readers find the books they need. Be careful of telling readers to stay in their own place to find themselves.

How do you spend a budget effectively? Deciding what to buy is a social and political  act. Am I censoring voices with my choices? Not having diverse books can be a form of censorship. How do you use your choices powerfully and effectively?

Fonda Lee: Libraries have the power to influence readers. Self discovery is important and so is knowing what else is out there. A librarian needs to know that diverse books are out there. Making yourself well informed is half the battle.

Avashti: Put together a panel on it! Because that’s one way to reach out and educate others. Self censorship and the idea of gaslighting is problematic (gaslighting: when you notice something that feels wrong to you, but people tell you it’s not that way at all and even go so far as saying you’re playing the race card).  In her case she was getting a message that Asian people are supposed to be passive and not have agency, but it wasn’t being said outright.  What we accept as normal is often askew.

Fonda Lee: There are only a few books that getting a lot of support from publishers, and tons of well written great books that don’t get the marketing dollars. Bear that in mind when you purchase. Great books are being pushed by the publishers, but you have to look beyond these books to what else is out there.

As a librarian what happens when you don’t have “those people” in your community? This is a question Clayton gets asked a lot.

Gregorio: If you don’t give teens a view of the actual world, you are crippling them. This is a global society and they have to know empathy.

Watson: She overheard a white mother tell a child she couldn’t read a diverse book because the daughter would not be able to relate to them. The daughter answered with all the other things she can’t relate too, like wizards. We need, at a very young age, for white students to learn what it means to interact with others, and that can be done through literature. Make our young people ready for the real world.  It’s a fight worth having to have young people see the world reflected in literature.

Clayton: Lately she has been getting challenges for her LGBTQ middle school’s collection. How should we deal with challenges: to purchasing, displays, and recommendations. Especially because diverse books are the most challenged book out of any group?

Gregorio: ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom has great resources. Be brave, you are fighting the good fight and there are people that want to fight with you. David Levithan has said he likes when books are challenged because then the writing community rallies behind the book and brings attention to the book and to how necessary it is.

McLemore: We are graded on a curve with diversity. A romantic kiss in a LGBTQ novel is judged at a higher level than in a straight book. With diverse content it’s seen differently– with similar scenes side by side it’s the diverse book will be judged harshly.

Avasthi: Books by people of color are banned more that books by white people. For example, Eleanor and Park was being challenged for swearing? What is it really being challenged for? For the swearing? Or for the inter-racial relationship? Examine the challenge.

What about problematic books and problematic portrayals of diverse characters? We are told not to censor based on our own views. How do we support the true portrayals versus the problematic portrayals?

Gregorio: Try to discover the intent of the book, read the authors notes, and pair them with a more true portrayal of the race.

Watson: Have conversations! Read the book and talk about it. A follow up to any book should be to think about the themes and issues. Can the teens identify if the book is problematic? Talk to them about what they are reading and what they are taking away.

Stacey Lee: Having alternate reads and using the books to launch discussions is very important.

Tips: what can librarians do?

Clayton: Pitch the universal. Pitch the story. Diverse books are being boiled down to the characters rather than the story. Change the language with which we talk about these books. Also check out the We Need Diverse Books booktalking kit.

Gregorio: Use shelf talkers! Especially with suggesting a comparative title. Don’t emphasize the diversity. Give them the flavor of the book so that they will want to taste it again. Ask the sales reps on the exhibit floors for more diverse books. We are powerful! They will listen.

Fonda Lee: Many times your avid readers are aspiring authors. They form their dreams and aspirations in your library. Bring in authors for author visits, spotlight local authors in your community, and have books clubs. They are not just looking for themselves in the books but that they can also be writers. Make the message clear that aspiring authors can be authors.

Stacey Lee: Place books in high traffic areas and make books easy to find. Hire diverse staff and train staff on diversity. Examine our own biases and educate ourselves.

Watson: She wants to stress the importance of the power that librarians have: you are the gate keepers, you will give teens books that change their lives. Continue what you are doing! There are teens who need books to let them know their story matters. Have author visits and highlight authors, especially local authors that are not published with a capital P. Authors love to meet young people, and it’s important to let teens know and meet real life authors!

Gregorio: It’s especially important for diverse kids to meet authors. Usually there is a strong work ethic instilled in diverse teens (especially children of immigrants) and they think they can’t be authors. Meeting authors can change this view for them. Think about the language you use to describe books: saying it’s an important book is not going to mean much for teens. Pull out the fun and engaging words to use for teens when describing a book. When you interact in social media about diverse books, call out to the publishers so they can see the successes of diverse books. Think about how you review books.

Clayton: Use genres and work within the genre. Populate displays with diverse books. Use the “big” book to highlight the “little” books. Hit as many diversities that you can.  For example, in a romance display have LGBTQ, straight, and racial diversity. Hunt for diverse titles because they are buried.


How do you deal with negative publisher comments?

Clayton: She still receives publisher rejections saying that they “already have” this book, when really there is nothing the same about the titles. Publishers are sometimes just checking boxes.

Watson: Even after the purchase of her work, the critique and revision process can be hard because of our stereotypes. Sometimes editors gives feedback not on her writing but on their own issues and struggles.

What do you think of the role of cover art?

Avasthi: Her cover has a white girl on the cover. She experienced gaslighting because it sort of made sense to have the white girl on the cover, but the book is about interracial friendship. She appreciates that she could give feedback on the cover and that they listened, but it was so much fighting and still the person of color was only on the back of the book. The paperback was changed, most likely due to We Need Diverse Books movement. As an author she needs to fight, but publishers think teens think a lot about the cover and don’t give teens enough credit.

Stacey Lee: The marketing team is just thinking about selling the book, you have to go beyond the cover and focus on the content of the book.

Watson: Have conversations about the covers. Does it fit the story? How would you design the cover? Design your own cover.

Can you talk about the myth of neutrality and struggle with administration who believe this?

Watson: Even if you can’t purchase books, make lists about the diverse books out their for students or parents. Give resources as to where they can go out and find books. It may not be in your library but they can find them.

Gregorio: Neutrality should mean inclusivity, but in many cases it’s being used to be colorblind.

Avasthi: Sometimes a leadership change makes a difference, but coalition building is important. 30% of the population has to have buy-in to start change. Think about who your 30% are who can start change.

What was a comment from a reader where you realized that your book was a mirror or a window book, and that this is why you do what you do?

Gregorio: She met a twelve-year-old girl who was intersex and she was encouraged to reach out to a support group. She also likes hearing about those who are surprised that they liked her books.

Stacey Lee: There are audiences that we don’t think we will affect. For example, her book got into hands of federal judge who really enjoyed it and he passed it on to another judge.

McLemore: She received a letter that said “I didn’t think girls like us deserved magic”. That’s how she felt growing up. The possibility of magic belongs to all of us, that magic is not just fantasy, but that people like us exist and our stories are important.

–Colleen Seisser, currently reading The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey

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2015 YALSA Young Adult Services Symposium: Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Wed, 11/11/2015 - 07:00

Saturday afternoon I attended the session Teamwork Makes the Dream Work: Connecting School and Public Libraries to Enhance Teen Services presented by school and public library representatives from Nashville who have been involved in amazing collaboration since 2009. It was in that year, thanks to then Mayor Karl Dean, that Limitless Libraries was started.

Limitless Libraries (LL) is a program that seeks to bring together school and public libraries in order to provide students with access to the widest range of resources possible. The program not only allows for students at public schools to easily share materials, but also provides access to a much larger materials budget that has allowed school librarians to vastly improve their collections.

Just a few of the highlights of the program include:

  • All students are issued public library cards. Student ID numbers are also used as their library card numbers. (Students must opt out if they do not wish to participate.)
  • Students are able to request materials from the public library or through interlibrary loan and have them delivered directly to their schools.
  • LL has an annual collection development budget of over $1 million which is used to help schools meet state requirements and rejuvenate outdated collections.
  • School librarians can choose the extent to which they participate in the program. For example, some may wish for assistance in weeding and selecting materials to add to their collections while others may not.
  • LL will not work with schools that do not have a school librarian and that are not already designating funds for their school library’s collection development.

Nashville has found LL to be incredibly successful. Use of materials by students has skyrocketed, and a study of the benefits of LL found that students who made use of the program “tended to achieve at higher levels on state tests.” (LL Executive Summary, pg 9)

While the monumental Limitless Libraries program may not translate directly to every community, it is an inspirational example of how public and school libraries can work hand in hand to provide the best possible service to the children and teens in our communities.

The close partnership in Nashville has made many programs provided by the public library more accessible to students. When the Nashville Public Library (NPL) instituted a “Food for Fines” program allowing library patrons to donate canned goods in exchange for fine forgiveness, students were able to make donations at their schools rather than being required to make a trip to the public library. Similarly, at the end of summer reading, students were able to turn in finished reading forms to their schools in order to obtain prizes.

Collaboration also has allowed the public library to bring more programs ranging from author visits to book mark design competitions and Animanga programs into the schools. Also, by sharing materials such as posters, display ideas and book lists, public and school librarians avoid repeating work, spending their own funds on display and printing materials, and also are able to present a single cohesive image of an event, such as Banned Books Week, to their students.

Schools were also able to benefit directly from public library expertise in creating new library spaces where none had existed in the past, and creating makerspaces within existing school libraries.

If you would like to learn more about Limitless Libraries I recommend checking out the article published in School Library Journal this week about the program: “Libraries with No Bounds: How Limitless Libraries transformed Nashville Public Schools’ libraries” by Tricia Racke Bengel.

The website for the Limitless Libraries program also includes a great deal of helpful information for those wishing to learn more including a detailed report on the benefits of the program.

— Miriam Wallen, currently Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor and watching Doctor Who

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YA Literary Tropes: The Goofball Best Friend

Wed, 11/11/2015 - 07:00

Welcome back readers!  We have come a long way in our on-going discussion of literary tropes found in young adult fiction.  So far, we have explored The Old Clunker I Drive, The I Already Know you Introduction, The I Have to Take Care of my Parent(s), The Manic Pixie Dream Girl (and Boy), the A-Hole Friends, the Awesome Outfit, and The Repressed Protagonist.  Now let us get to know someone whom I consider to be pretty great: the goofball best friend.  You know the one. They play a crucial role in some of our favorite tales; sometimes it is to be the “explainer”, or the comic relief, often it is an alibi to unsuspecting parents, or a frantic midnight ride. But the goofball best friend is useful, sometimes carrot-topped, and always love-able.

  • Harry Potter Series (Best Books For Young Adults: 1999,2000, 2004, 2006, 20082009 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, Teens Top Ten: 2004, 2006, & 2008) by J.K. Rowling: Ron is the quintessential goofball best friend; he is this literary trope.   Ron is the comic relief from Harry’s angst.  Understandable angst, I mean we all know Harry has had it rough.  But Ron also plays the role of explaining magical culture to Harry (and us readers.) Hermione does this as well but as a “muggle” she tends to know more textbook-based facts.  Ron is a great best friend to have, and an absolute goofball.

  • Papertowns (2009 Best Book For Young Adults) by John Green:  Ben is the go-to guy for Quintin (aka “Q”.) Ben lends Q his famous car, is always ready to help him search for clues about Margo, and keeps it all interesting by being a funny goofy guy.  In fact, Ben has the best line (IMHO) in this entire book full of great moments.  (Paraphrasing here) Ben declares during a road trip that he has to pee so badly it hurts, and it hurts so badly that he is going to cry, and when he cries his tears are going to be made of pee.    Ben: I think we’ve all been there.


  • Jasper Dent Series by Barry Lyga: Howie.  Take one character who was raised by a serial killer, add a string of deadly murders in a small town, then pile on some deadly family secrets, and… well, things get pretty heavy for Jasper.  Luckily his BFF Howie is there to lighten the mood.  Howie is tall and skinny, a would-be lady killer, and a sufferer of hemophilia.  Howie is supportive of Jasper and makes him (and us) laugh even when we weren’t expecting to.  Howie even manages to make brooding Jasper look funnier.  As payback for favors owed, Howie has Jasper get ridiculous tattoos “for” him as he cannot (see above re: hemophilia).


  • The Mortal Instruments Series (Teens Top Ten: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 Readers’ Choice Nomination) by Cassandra Clare: Simon.  Clary and Simon are fully immersed in the “mundane” world (gee, thanks for the terminology– I feel so boring now) when they meet Jace and company.  The magical world is full of things both confusing and scary for Clary.  Luckily, Clary’s best friend Simon is a nice, normal, and funny guy who grounds her (and us) and lightens the mood considerably.  Simon maintains this role as the goofball best friend even after he becomes (VAGUE SPOILER ALERT) less mundane.


  • The Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy (2011 Readers’ Choice Nomination) by Laini Taylor: Zuzana.  Karou, like our aforementioned protagonists, has a lot to deal with.  Karou had been living a life very close to normal (except for her strange and beloved adoptive family of monsters.)  But when reality irrevocably changes, Karou comes very close to leaving the world of boring normal people for good.  Ah, but for Zuzana she may have.  Zuzana (and her boyfriend Mik) are the humans keeping this high fantasy grounded.  Zuzana makes us laugh, asks the questions we are dying to ask, and proves herself to be not only a goofball but a very brave woman willing to risk her own life for the greater good.

Readers, there are goofball best friends aplenty in YA lit.  In fact, I would like to mention two more GBBFFs (I just invented that) that I didn’t have time to fully explore.  Earl from Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews and Iko from The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer; both goofy and awesome.   Any more out there?

I hope you will check in next Wednesday for the final literary tropes post: The Buried Memories.

— Tara Kehoe, currently Reading: How I live Now by Meg Rosoff

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2015 Young Adult Services Symposium Preconference: Panels & Pages

Tue, 11/10/2015 - 07:00

YALSA’s 2015 Young Adult Services Symposium included a pre-conference session on using graphic novels to inspire programming, recommended titles, a discussion with comics creators Terry Blas, Faith Erin Hicks, Mariko Tamaki, Gene Luen Yang, Leila del Duca, Joe Keatinge, and a discussion with teachers who use graphic novels in classroom instruction.

Robin Brennar, Teen Librarian and runs No Flying No Tights website, was our moderator.

First, librarians Cara and Emily talked about graphic novel readers advisory and using graphic novels in teen programming:

Who is your Batman?

Comic books always change. Your Batman may be different from your teens’ Batman. Lego Batman may be the Batman that resonates most with your teens! Keep this in mind when you do readers advisory and programming, your ideas and tastes may not match theirs.

So, how do you keep up?

  • Goodreads, use graphic novel tags to search and find reviews you trust
  • Comixology, for upcoming releases
  • No Flying No Tights
  • Trade Reading Order, good for figuring out series especially when there are rereleases. It’s also best for older/past comic reading order, because it hasn’t been updated recently.
  • Wikipedia, excellent resource for reading order (includes issues and ISBN).
  • YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teens, selections range from young to older teen readers.
  • GN4LIB listserv, it’s library centric but doesn’t get used a lot. It is still helpful because questions get answers from librarians.
  • VOYA has articles that are graphic novel specific and does have reviews for graphic novels.
The Readers Advisory Interview

Ask teens, “what do you like to watch on TV, or movies, or what do you like to read?” And then go from there.
Remember that not everyone is into superhero comics. Comics in other genres are popular now, for example:

Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Brooke A. Allen, and Shannon Watters

Teen Boat by Dave Roman and John Green

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, adapted by Ian Edginton and I.N.J. Culbard

Graphic Novels and Teen Programming

Comic Book Craft Club–get creative!

  • Button making with superhero symbols, or they can draw their own superhero symbols.
  • Draw your own comics: use online templates, then create an origin story.
  • Be sure to give comic books at the end of every program (can find them at or get them donated from local comics store).
  • Use comics/graphic novels that are going to be weeded or donated comics for your crafting too.
  • Network: your colleagues are your best resources when it comes to programming ideas, team up with your local comic book store too!

Comic/Graphic Novel Book Clubs

  • They see more success with their adult comic book club. But their most popular comic book club with teens was the with The New 52 comics.
  • Create a display and put a program flyer for the book club in the book.
  • Try reading one volume a month; this doesn’t overwhelm readers.
  • Examine the art of the book, tie in media trends (i.e. Batman)
  • Everyone can read a graphic novel, high level readers and low level readers can be in the same place
  • Graphic novels can bring generations together
Now what? Where to find and share ideas

Tumblr, checkout their Tumblr
Pinterest, look for crafts that you can substitute comics in or adapt
Manga site:
Scholastic Graphic Novel Guide
Comic Legal Defense Fund
Teaching Visual Literacy by Nancy Frey and Douglas B. Fisher
Diamond Bookshelf Newsletters

Comics Creator Panel

featuring Terry Blas, Leila del Duca, Faith Erin Hicks, Mariko Tamaki, Gene Yang

Question: When did you first find your comic community?

Faith Erin Hicks:  When she started publishing and working online– that is where she found her community, especially with young female readers.

Mariko Tamaki: She’s from Toronto and there is a great community there. Now she lives in California and there is also a great community there, including comic librarian nerds!

Gene Yang: He started collecting comics in fifth grade and his friends who shared this interest with him were his first community.

Terry Blas: He also collected comics as a kid, and he found a great community and got connected to a studio when he was in art school.

Leila del Duca: She started to find he community in college but then when she moved to Portland she really found a strong comic community.

Question: How do you feel about the online aspect to comics and graphic novels, and that connection to readers?

Hicks: It’s a way to promote work and get your name out there, but it can be invasive. She feels like people may want things that she can’t provide. However, she wouldn’t have this career if not for the Internet. She would not have succeeded with her early work had it not been for being able to publish online. Protect yourself, but the Internet is a positive thing for reaching readers, especially teen readers.

Tamaki: Feels torn. Online there is a plethora of opinions that rise above the perceived consensus. Important conversations need to happen (i.e. about stereotypes), but she’s not always comfortable participating in those conversations as a writer.
Yang: Agrees with Mariko Tamaki. It is a forum for important discussions, but as a creator you need really intelligent critical feedback to help you with your work. The Internet is not the place for that. It is not a healthy place to go. You need to find balance. We need the forum for important discussions, but you have to protect yourself and focus on the healthy creative criticisms of your work.

Blas: His original work, Briar Hollow, got average views online but when he published his comic of being an ex gay Mormon Latino man he got a lot of feedback and it wasn’t always useful. The Internet is not going to go away, but comics are strongly tied to identity and the Internet is a great place to find inspiring works.

Del Duca: lots of your readers are not the ones commenting online, so don’t pay attention to nay-sayers.

Question: What would you like to see that hasn’t been done in graphic novels, or what is happening that you are excited about now?

Del Duca: Wants to see non-white people autobiographical comics.

Blas: Some great stories are being made by independent authors and distributors. We nend to support these people. Read more stories by independents!

Yang: We want stories that reflect our current world. Cultural and even genre diversity are needed. He wants to see the nonfiction comics genre grow. American comics have not tackled nonfiction in a meaningful way.

Tamaki: Suspense comics would be interesting, or a fat superhero. She tries to challenge herself and how can she change with creating new work. Having a personal conversation with yourself about what you want to be doing is always important.

Hicks: We are in an exciting time, because comics are branching out. Women are still treated as minorities in the comic community, though. More genre diversity is needed. YA graphic novels need to blossom just as YA prose has blossomed. We also need stories where the diversity isn’t the point, the characters are just there. We need more people and different types of people making comics.

Question: What us the impact that libraries may have had on you as a creator, or connecting you to readers?

Del Duca: She was only able to keep reading comics was because of libraries. She didn’t know shops existed and was too poor to buy them.

Blas: He grew up near a library and it exposed him to a lot of different stuff. There was a small comic collection and he devoured it.

Yang: Nowadays the library is what he dreamed of as a fifth grader. Sometimes there are more graphic novels are at the local library than at a comics store. His entire career as comic artist was from librarian support.

Tamaki: Her first graphic novel was Skim, and that year she went to the ALA conference and met with librarians. At that time the feedback was her book was great but “we don’t read graphic novels”. They were not completely sold. It has been an amazing journey to flash forward to This One Summer and it’s great reception: the Printz and the Caldecott. There is incredible support for graphic novels now and librarians are ready to fight for graphic novels. The Comic Legal Defense fund even published a document on how to teach This One Summer.

Hicks: She grew up without TV, and the library was her form of entertainment. She grew up reading Tintin and Asterix, but access to comics was limited in her twenties. It wasn’t until she moved to a new town that she had access to a library with a great collection of comics. She could not have afforded the exposure to that many comics otherwise.

Question: Why do you want to write for teens?

Hicks: High school is a pretty charged setting and you can get away with a lot. She enjoys the ideas of teens getting caught up in something larger than themselves. Adult comics can be grim, and she tends to not to be a dark person.

Tamaki: She didn’t realize that her first work was for young adults; she was not thinking about the teenage market. She focuses on the character and just writes. A lot of her work is about adults from a teenager perspective. She doesn’t try to focus on writing for teens.

Yang: He also doesn’t think of himself as YA author. He didn’t realize that age demographics was a thing, but now that he’s been in YA he feels he fits there.

Blas: He also has not thought about it a lot. He writes and draws what he wants to read and it fits in the YA market. He feels YA  has more imagination, adventure, and fun than adult stuff. YA stuff is geared to finding identity, and lots of people can relate to it.

Del Duca: Shutter is not really YA, it may be all ages but it may not be. But she is aware how language and violence can really define a graphic novel.

Tamaki: Our population is a younger one, so the notion of trying to find out who you are is resonating more.

Question: Should non diverse creators create works about diverse characters?

Tamaki: You choose what you write and it has to make sense to you. Certain stories need to be told by that community. Be aware of what your story means in the context of what has and has not been told. She feels a responsibility to represent something accurately. Try to keep the conversation going of what your story means.

Yang: As a writer it’s hard to put words to page so there is a hesitance to put limitations on what a writer can write. But you need to have that hesitancy to write outside of your experience and let that hesitancy drive your research so that you can write it with humility and respect.

Del Duca: She is currently working on a comic with black characters and it is hard, they have hired a black editor and it has helped with the process.

Hicks: She approaches what she didn’t know about with humility and she needed to do the research.

Blas: Avatar is a good example of when this is done well, it was researched and they hired people to help accurately capture this story.

Using Graphic Novels in the Classroom

Finally we heard about teaching American Born Chinese (2007 Printz Award, 2013 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, 2007 Top Ten Best Books For Your Adults, 2007 Top Ten Graphic Novels for Young Adults) a panel discussion with Gene Yang and students who took part in the curriculum.

American Born Chinese is becoming a core text for the school and it has been a huge part of getting diversity into their curriculum. It also helped by introducing open conversations of race and identity to students.

How to talk about race with today’s teens:

  • Confront points of tension.
  • The very form of comics is the most useful aspect of using comics to talk about race.
  • There is a language you use when you talk about comics, and it gives students a frame work to talk about the issues in the book without directly talking about the issues.
  • Students will naturally bring up topics of race.
  • American Born Chinese also addresses how the media perpetuates stereotypes.

Questions to the teen panel about reading American Born Chinese:

What were the tense moments reading American Born Chinese?

  • You laugh about some of the stereotypes because they don’t apply to you, and they are so exaggerated, but when one teen read the Timmy character it did apply to him and he questioned that this is what the young American white boy stereotype is?
  • It makes you reflect on how you interact with others, especially when reading the sections between Greg and Jin.
  • Some classmates’ reactions were really surprising, especially when they blamed Jin’s unhappiness on trying to fit in and trying so hard to be American, instead of understanding the rejection Jin felt as not being considered an American and not being accepted. Jin was born in California, he was American.

Question to Gene Yang: What issues come up most when you talk to those who teach American Born Chinese; what are some tensions that come up?

Yang: Does talking about stereotypes actually perpetuate them? Just by bringing them up, are you worsening the problem? Yes, but you are also trading for the opportunity to defame and behead that stereotype.

Return to the teen panel: How does reading American Born Chinese increase your awareness of stereotypes
It has brought more awareness, even the smallest things and how they can impact people so much, even if there is no ulterior motive behind it.

Question to Gene Yang: How do you see the responses/trends to American Born Chinese?

Yang: Micro Aggressions was not a common term until recently, and there is finally a term to describe what happened to him when he was growing up. It’s amazing that these discussions are now happening, especially in the classroom. Conversations about American Born Chinese are always different because the future is here but it is unevenly distributed.

Question for the teen panel: What would you say to educators considering this book for teaching to their students?

  • Be mindful of the minority view of the classroom. Be aware that is your classroom is predominantly white, so that view may be the consensus and the peer pressure could make minority students feel their views aren’t valid. The educator should remember to address the minority view and challenge the predominant view.
  • Address controversial characters early on or very directly.
  • Do your research and get the background information about the subject at hand.

Question for Gene Yang: What age level do you find most appropriate for American Born Chinese?

Yang: It’s young adult, ages 13-35 is the target audience. If it’s read in middle school settings, he hopes it’s read with a moderator.

Question for the teens: What ages do you think should read American Born Chinese?

Upper middle school to high school. Sophomore year is the perfect year to read this, but sooner is better because American Born Chinese can change your school’s view of racism.

Question for the teens: Did this lesson change how your classmates interacted and dealt with each other?

People are more comfortable with talking about racism, but they’re not sure if actions have changed, there is more awareness though. They realize what is wrong with what they have said and done in the past, and they’ve change their views of “funny” things.

To close, email Megan and she will share education resources for those interested in teaching American Born Chinese.

Robin Brenner has slides posted on the No Flying, No Tights website.

— Colleen Seisser, currently reading The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason

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Gendered Booklists and Their Place in Reader’s Advisory

Tue, 11/10/2015 - 07:00

It’s difficult to talk about gender definitions and not talk about labels, double standards, and stereotypes.  There is a fine line between narrowing the focus in a book search based on gender and narrowing topics or experiences.  How do you recommend books?  Do you begin by asking questions or immediately name a title?  While understanding gender roles is necessary to form one’s identity, should gender be a significant role in choosing reading material?  There is a place for gendered booklists, but it should not be the deciding factor and it does not remain the focus of reader’s advisory. After all, how often have you asked an adult “Are you reading a ‘boy’ or a ‘girl’ book?”

Some Background on Gender Roles

As adolescents begin to form their own identity we encourage curiosity through learning, yet topics are restricted once labels are introduced.  The preteen and teen years are the years when adolescents broaden their views.  Therefore, a variety of sources is required to shape a full image of gender to prepare them to enter the adult world.

Like all stereotyping, gender stereotyping restricts a person’s full potential.  If readers believe they can only read “boy” or “girl” books, then they miss out not only on great pieces of literature, and learning, but they continue to believe and live by the gender myth on what defines male and female.   Not every masculine trait is found only in males and not every feminine trait is found in females.  Likewise, males and females vary in perceived masculinity and femininity.  There is variety even within one gender and if teens are only reading one type of book and only seeing one example, then they are not experiencing the diversity among people nor thinking critically.  Branching out of the traditional “boy” or “girl” book talks can be exciting.  What if your next book talk just gave plot points and character descriptions with no names to divulge whether the characters were male or female?  Or what if students were given an introduction and told to create the storyline based on whether the narrator was a male or female – would the action and dialog change?  If so, then we need to do better than focusing on the gender of our characters.

Questions to ask instead of focusing on “boy” or “girl” books:

  • What books were your favorites?
  • What did you like about a book – dialog, action, character? By asking open ended questions, the teens choose their descriptors and will mention character traits and “he” or “she” and you can see if there is a preference of the gender of the characters
  • What type of book? Focus on genre and time period and less on character labels

There are two instances when gendered booklists assist reader’s advisory and those are when the readers are young and when booklists are used as a brainstorming tool.

The Age of the Reader

Typically gendered booklists are for children (or parents of children) who are still identifying children’s interests and identifying with typical gender roles.  I do not know of a teenager asking for “boy” or “girl” books since their development is more mature and they are able to find other literary elements more important than the protagonist’s gender.  I certainly do not place Harry Potter or The Hunger Games as gender specific books.  Whereas tweens and preteens find interests based on what peers and parents have established, teenagers are able to think outside of stereotypes and are more likely to read – and want – diversity in their literature choices.

Brainstorming Tool

While I lean more towards the philosophy of a gender-less book classification system, I also know the goal of parents, teachers, and librarians is to get books into the hands of readers and sometimes these gendered book lists help connect readers to books.  I do not censor the types of books students read, but I also suggest similar titles if the student asks for “boy” or “girl” books.

The ideas shouldn’t be to make it one or the other, either soldiers or princesses, but should focus on how a person searches for reading material or knowing the favorite subjects of the reader.  For younger readers this may still incorporate gender roles, but for older teens books should not be divided by gender.  Teenagers are willing to read outside of the norms, learn about different perspectives, and often see past the stereotypes.  Readers can find admirable characters based on intelligence, kindness, and humor.  Heroes are heroic based on their behavior and deeds, not always based on strength or gender.

The Appeal of a Good Book (regardless of gender)

Authors are branching out of the stereotypical gender roles for their characters as well.  Books such as Defy by Sara B. Larson and Stiching Snow by R.C. Lewis have incredibly strong, and atypical female characters.  In Defy, Alexa disguises herself as a boy and proves she is one of the toughest, most skilled swords(wo)man in the Prince’s guard. She saves the kingdom.  In Stitching Snow, Essie is a runaway princess who is an amazing coder who programs drones. There are amazingly strong female and male characters more focused on truth and not on their gender, Code Named Verity by Elizabeth Wein and Vango: Between Earth and Sky by Timothee de Fombelle are two books focused on intelligent, honest people who strive for justice.  Many recent books continue to focus on personal traits and characteristics more than the gender of a character.  Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson partners two near strangers, one male and one female, to solve a scavenger hunt of clues in a “to do” list from a missing friend.   Fantasy titles such as Marie Lu’s The Young Elites, the Reckoners series by Brandon Sandersen, and The Red Queen series by Victoria Aveyard have such positive and negative characters, both male and female,  that they will appeal to male and female readers alike (even adult readers).  Young Adult literature is not only creating very strong male and female characters, but it is producing very thoughtful and curious readers.  To limit readers, in any method is a disservice to all readers.  Since books are a way to seek out new information and libraries are a safe space to explore, we should focus more on the connecting readers to literature, strong characters, and topics of interest and focus less on the gender of a character or reader.

— Sarah Carnahan, currently reading Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

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2015 YALSA Symposium Session Resources At a Glance

Mon, 11/09/2015 - 11:15

We’ll continue coverage of the YALSA Young Adult Services  Symposium all this week with more detailed session recaps of sessions that focused on collection development and content curation topics relevant to the Hub’s mission, but I also wanted to share links to session slides and other materials all in one place. Find the full program details here.

For a recap in tweets, check out this Storify that highlights some of the takeaways and nuggets of wisdom attendees shared throughout the weekend.


Panels & Pages: Learning, Inspiring, and Building Communities with Graphic Novels

Robin’s resources

Teen Services Beyond Borders

Session slides

Moving On Up: Introducing Middle Schoolers to the YA Collection

Alicia’s resources and Beth’s resources

Full STEAM Ahead: Lessons from A Library Coding Camp

Session resources

Teen Job Fair

Session resources

Elevating Teen Volunteers to Loftier Roles

Session resources and project management worksheets

Literature and Programming for New Adults

Session resources and more programming ideas

Yes, You Can! How to Fill the Library with Teens, Create Buy-in, and Keep Your Sanity

Session slides

If you presented and your slides are not included here and you would like them to be, email Molly at or tweet a link to her @molly_wetta.

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Take Five: What Was Your Favorite Moment or Takeaway of the 2015 YALSA Symposium?

Mon, 11/09/2015 - 07:00

Hello, Hub readers! I got to spend the weekend learning, networking, and brainstorming with lots of teen librarians and library workers, authors, and other professionals serving youth at the 2015 YALSA Symposium. Fellow Hub bloggers and I will be sharing recaps of sessions the rest of this week, but we wanted to start off with a few of our favorite moments and nuggets of wisdom, advice, or ideas we discovered over coffee breaks and during presentations.

What was your favorite moment or takeaway of the 2015 YALSA Symposium?

I also always leave this conference in particular feeling a renewed sense of gratitude to be able to work with an awesome groups of peers and colleagues and serve teens full time.

My overarching takeaway was the importance of framing our work and values; to stakeholders, decision-makers, patrons, concerned parents, colleagues, etc. Whether you’re framing goals and expectations for your own supervisor, to create a space to experiment (and potentially fail) with new programs and approaches, or explaining the values and research that drive collection purchases to concerned or disgruntled adults intent on censoring access or preserving a (limiting) status quo, good framing can help generate buy-in and understanding from all quarters. — Carly PansullaMy biggest takeaway was to remember that building lifelong learners is a team effort not a competition. Keep pushing boundaries and listen to your teens. — Katie S. Yu

My biggest takeaway is the reminder that I truly believe I have the greatest profession out there. I am surrounded by people who love what they do, believe that teens are awesome/worth their time, and are willing to share their successes and failures with others.

If that response doesn’t fit your plan and you would prefer something relating more to specific content:
At the base of everything I saw and read on Twitter is the need to know your community inside and out. Even if you want to provide something new or different, figure out how you can make it work with what your community loves and needs. — Jessica Lind

I love attending the Symposiums because I always learn something new and meet new colleagues from all over. I loved some of the catchy phrases Alicia Blowers, one of the librarians who presented the Moving On Up: Middle Schoolers to the YA Collection said, such as “Set traps to lure your kids into reading and it will work.” Funny but true.

I always love everyone’s energy and excitement.

The Poetry Slam was great too! The teens were so good. I’m so glad I wasn’t asked to be a judge because I never would have been able to pick just one winner. — Sharon Rawlins

I enjoyed the Panels & Pages preconference panel discussion! I thought the creator panel was a great cross section of creators that spoke to what is going on right now in graphic novels for teens.

I also really enjoyed author Carrie Ryan speaking about the differences of books for middle grade readers and teens readers. It was invaluable to hear an author who writes for both ages give her perspective on the differences. — Colleen Seisser

If you attended, we’d love to hear from you. Share your thoughts in the comments! If not, maybe we’ll see you in 2016 in Pittsburgh! 

— Molly Wetta, currently reading thousands of #YALSA15 tweets and compiling a Storify I’ll publish later today!

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2015 Young Adult Services Symposium – Supporting Youth Learning Through Building Sustainable Partnerships

Mon, 11/09/2015 - 07:00

A number of The Hub bloggers attended YALSA’s awesome YA Services Symposium in Portland over the weekend. There were so many great sessions and authors there. In case you couldn’t attend the Symposium or missed this pre-conference session, here are some of the highlights compiled by Hub bloggers Carly Pansulla and Sharon Rawlins from Friday morning’s program called “Supporting Youth Learning Through Building Sustainable Partnerships.” All of the presenters were generous and detailed in sharing their experiences of partnering with outside organizations to better serve the young adults in their communities.


For those of us who enjoy a good checklist, Amy Twito, Informal Learning Program Manager from Seattle Public Library, offered us a list comparing establishing good community partners to finding romantic partners. She advised us all that the same guidelines can lead to success in both arenas:

*Know what you want out of a partner – What are the library’s goals for this relationship? What are the partner organization’s goals? Is the library looking for specific resources or expertise? Is the partner organization? Are these goals and expectations compatible?

*Learn from past mistakes 

*partnerships can be uncomfortable, messy and awkward…(ditch the comfort zone)

*communication, communication, communication ALL THE TIME (don’t assume anything)

*1st rule of partnering: be a good partner

*it’s all about the balance (don’t need to continue with partner forever if things go off the rails)

*everything is harder & takes longer than you think it will (trust your intuition)

Especially if it’s an important project & if it’s new

*don’t be a pushover – maintain your own identity

*have fun, learn & grow! (relax  & be ready for everything)

We also heard from librarians from Seattle Public Library and Multnomah County Library in Portland about their experiences with developing and maintaining community partnerships for the benefit of teens.

Highlights from Rekha Kuver and Hayden Bass, from Seattle Public Library:

  • Identifying whether you are seeking micro partnerships (smaller teams or individuals/branches working with specific community partners) or macro partnerships, (large, system-wide organizational partnerships run by administrators or director, such as free zoo admission for summer program participants or other large-scale, system-wide undertakings).
  • Acknowledging the difference between equality & equity, (they used this great, simple graphic), and understanding that this can be especially tricky for librarians, because in trying to serve our communities equitably, we may very well need to stop doing certain things to free up resources for other/new things (ex. in order to direct human and financial resources to new outreach endeavors, SPL had to cut back on the numbers of hours the desk is staffed in their downtown Teen Center, to better align with the hours that teens most used that space).
  • Do community analysis and collect data such as: census information, school stats, languages spoken, transportation barriers, population and economic projections, etc. Know your community. Understanding who is using the library and who is not currently served by the library. Be prepared to be surprised by some of the data; you may learn new things, or even things that directly counter your previous assumptions about your community.
  • Try to strike a balance between seeking and analyzing good data-driven snapshots of your community and actually using that data to, y’know, plan programs and services.
  • Seek and leverage people you know with preexisting connections to teens the library is not currently reaching effectively.
  • Allow TIME for information gathering. Kuver and Bass spent a year (!) meeting with and getting to know youth-serving organizations in the Seattle area. They called it the Year of Listening.
  • Resist the urge to jump in immediately with suggestions for services – take the time to get a fuller picture before committing your library to any ideas.
  • Resist the urge to say “yes” to suggestions from potential partners until you have a fuller picture (with the caveat that easy-to-meet needs, like bring library card application forms, can be an easy “yes,” and that it can also be useful to give a limited “yes” such as delivering a storytime for 3 months and then agreeing to revisit the idea to see if it’s still the best way the library can contribute).
  • Resist the idea that bodies in the physical library are the ultimate metric of “success.” Patrons served via outreach initiatives may never set foot in the library, but the library can still make a positive impact in serving them (it is, however, important to figure out how to measure success and impact in off-site services, both to report back with and to assess for areas of growth or improvement).
  • Some overlap between the library’s mission and goals and the partner organization’s mission and goals is essential.
  • Ideally, there is little-to-no overlap between the library’s resources and the partner organization’s resources (1st example: a local public TV channel with a fully-equipped media lab but no teens to fill it with + library’s teen patrons = ideal fit. 2nd example: Homeless shelter with established relationships with teens but no physical space to run activities + library space = programs serving previously un-or-under-served teens).
  • Keep in mind “resources” can mean people in other organizations with skills different from librarians (case workers, specific technical skills, etc.)
  • The right person to work with the library to develop a partnership may not be the person you first approach.
  • Set an endpoint; this gives you space to assess, revisit goals and priorities, and determine continued needs.
  • Measure outcomes! Determine what “success” looks like and figure out how you will measure it.
  • Keep in mind that really fruitful partnerships take a lot of time and resources to develop and nurture. And they are worth it!

Highlights from Sara Ryan of the Multnomah County Library, Jeffrey Sens, from Pixel Arts, and Kristin Bayans, the Interpretive Media Specialist at Portland Art Museum, who presented about the Mythos Challenge, an initiative that brought together many youth-serving organizations around Portland for a teen-designed and run competition to design an app, story, or game around a specific theme.

  • Many community partners = wide range of expertise and potential contributions
  • Many community partners also = extra-important to clarify everyone’s understanding of the shared goals, priorities, and action plans.
  • The library does not need to be a leader in every community partnership (Multnomah County Library hosted workshops for teens learning skills to help them create their entries for the competition, but was not the driving force behind this initiative). Partnerships are valuable at many different levels of involvement, and partnerships that do not require a large investment of library staff time are sometimes the only realistic option.
  • Letting teens have ownership of projects can lead to enormous rewards and growth for participating teens.
  • Letting teens have ownership of projects requires plenty of structure and clarity around expectations to allow both teens and adults to feel comfortable and successful.
  • Regular, respectful communication is key to healthy partnerships.
  • Some adults within community partner organizations may not have extensive experience working with teens – staff training is imperative.
  • Allow room for failure; frame “success” to include potential disappointments so that the focus can be on the experience and engagement of those involved, rather than on hitting difficult or unpredictable benchmarks (ex. how many teens are you hoping to have participate? Designating a smaller number as a successful turnout and focusing on the richness of the experience instead can help alleviate some stress around participation).
  • Be sure to get buy-in from higher-ups about your framework for success if necessary.
  • Practice kindness to yourself, your community partners, and your participants. Seriously!

We also heard from K-Fai Steele, from the YOUmedia Network, who spoke in more broad strokes about the national-level relationships and support offered through YOUmedia Network, and specifically about the potential power of larger partnerships to establish and communicate best practices, as well as create (online) spaces and facilitate dialogues for a broad community of practitioners. Large-scale organizations can also sometimes have access to large-scale funding not otherwise available to a given community.

It was a detailed, informative, and energizing kick-off to a great Symposium weekend here in PDX.

We hope these notes help those of you who couldn’t attend get a sense of what the session was like, and help all of us to embark on meaningful community partnerships in our own communities!

— Carly Pansulla and Sharon Rawlins

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Week in Review: November 6th

Fri, 11/06/2015 - 07:00

Happy Friday, Hubbers!  With news on J.K. Rowling (twice!) and my secret boyfriend, Jon Stewart, this week is turning out to be just as exciting as Halloween (ha – just kidding!).  ICYMI, I’m here to compile all the other fun and interesting news here just for you!  Here’s your Week in Review for Friday, November 6th.


Books & Reading

Movies, TV, Music & Video Games

Just for Fun


-Traci Glass, currently reading A Series of Small Maneuvers by Eliot Treichel

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Women in Comics: Read Some Nonfiction In November

Fri, 11/06/2015 - 07:00

For November, I am focusing on nonfiction graphic novels written or illustrated by women. Often an overlooked subsection of the graphic novel market, nonfiction graphic novels can be a great way to learn more about new topics, particularly if you prefer your information illustrated by amazing artists. This list includes just a few of the many nonfiction graphic novels that women have created over the years, but hopefully it will help you find a perfect new read that will teach you about a completely new subject.



Pain Is Really Strange by Steve Haines with art by Sophie Standing – Written by Steve Haines, a healthcare worker who specializes in pain management, this nonfiction book brings together research on how people experience pain to create a book that not only explains how pain is felt, but also cites research on the topic. Sophie Standing’s artwork is instrumental to the success of this volume. She has a distinctive and engaging style that brings to life text that could be dull or overly technical without this visual element. This is a fascinating read for anyone with an interest in biology or medicine and it works extremely well in the graphic novel format.

The Influencing Machine by Brooke Gladstone with illustrations by Josh Neufeld – Written by NPR’s Brooke Gladstone and illustrated by Josh Neufeld, this book traces the history of the media across the millennia. It is an informative and fascinating read that will give you a whole new appreciation for journalism. It definitely doesn’t sugar-coat this history, but by the time you finish the book, you will be able to place the current issues in journalism and media into a more complete context. Moreover, it will demonstrate that while the media has changed over time, it was never perfect and many of the same problems have persisted throughout history. This is a great read for fans of history and those who are interested in journalism.

Out On The Wire: The Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio by Jessica Abel – Another great read for media and journalism fans, this new book from the author of La Perdida delves into the work that goes into creating some of the best current narrative radio shows and podcasts. Fans of Serial, This American Life, Radiolab, and Planet Money, to name just a few, will get a behind-the-scenes look at their favorite media and its creators. If you have ever wondered how these programs make it to the airwaves, this is the book for you.

Human Body Theater by Maris Wicks – Presented as a theatrical review, this book moves through the systems of the body describing each of them through cartoon personifications. Though this approach makes the book more engaging than a dry biology text would be for many, this is not at the expense of actual facts. It presents an overview of the real science behind the parts of the human body with only minor simplifications to keep the book from becoming too difficult for the average reader. Both biology fans and those with only a limited knowledge of how their body works will enjoy this comic. The book includes a glossary and a list of recommended readings that is geared towards approachable sources for more information on the human body.

Ink For Beginners: A Comic Guide To Getting Tattooed by Kate Leth – This relatively short work offers the author’s tips and advice on getting tattoos. Ranging from practical tips such as waiting a year on any design you aren’t sure of to specific stories about her own experiences, this is a good book for anyone who is interested in what it is like to get a tattoo. While it isn’t specifically aimed at teens, the author does talk about her own experience getting tattoos starting at 14 and her process of covering up some of her early tattoos. The art style is influenced by traditional tattoo styles, which works well for the subject matter. This is a nice option for tattoo enthusiasts and newbies alike.

Neurocomic by Dr. Matteo Farinella and Dr. Hana Roš – Take a trip into the brain to learn more about how it works from the key figures in the history of neuroscience. Written and illustrated by two neuroscientists, this book nevertheless makes this complicated topic accessible to those who do not have a background in the field. It is a fascinating read that will likely inspire you to learn more about the science of the brain and the figures who helped us to understand it better.

Abina and the Important Men: A Graphic History by Trevor R. Getz with art by Liz Clarke – This is a fascinating book that offers a graphic interpretation of a trial that took place in the Gold Coast of West Africa in the late 1870’s. While the idea of illustrating a trial transcript may seem dry, the case brought to life in this book is that of Abina, a young woman who has been enslaved by a local “important man” even though slavery has been abolished in her country. The story is emotional and powerful, leaving readers with an understanding of the factors that led to Abina’s enslavement and a sense of the grave injustice she faced. This book will prompt readers to want to discuss what they have read and learn more about this period, and, luckily, it includes resources to support this. In addition to the graphic history itself, the book includes the trial transcript, a chapter of additional historical context, a reading guide, a timeline, a glossary, resources for additional reading, and a guide for teachers using this book in their classroom. This is an impressive book about a frequently overlooked aspect of history and is a great addition to any collection.

Thunder & Lightning: Weather Past, Present, Future by Lauren Redniss – This new book is one that I am looking forward to reading. Written by the author of the National Book Award finalist graphic novel, Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout, it delves into all aspects of the science and history of weather. In depth research combined with Redniss’ artwork makes for an impressive and unique volume that is a great option for anyone with an interest in climatology.

Have I missed your favorite nonfiction graphic novel by a woman? Let me know in the comments!

– Carli Spina, currently reading The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

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Remember, Remember the Fifth of November!: Historical Fiction Booklist

Thu, 11/05/2015 - 07:00
“Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.”

~John Milton, 1626

Today is known as Guy Fawkes day in Britain, a well-known and celebrated holiday in the country. On November 5th, 1605, Guy Fawkes aimed to blow up London’s House of Parliament and restore Britain’s Catholic monarchy, removing King James I from the throne. Guy Fawkes is a figure known for his actions, and he inspired stories, such as Alan Moores’s comic V for Vendetta, and even appeared on television in a Dr. Who episode.

Guy Fawkes is not the only figure who has influenced stories. Many young adult stories today are riddled with historical figures and events, which may be loosely based and inspired or set in historical time periods. Let’s take a look at a few new and exciting titles that may appeal to historical fiction readers.

A Madness So Discreet
by Mindy McGinnis

Grace Mae lives with madness. She knows how to keep it and her family secrets buried inside her body. She cannot escape them as they trap her in a Boston insane asylum. Exiled to dark cellars and alone with her troubled mind, a visiting doctor recruits her for the new study of criminal psychology, as an assistant at crime scenes. She flees from Boston to an asylum in Ohio, where she finds a chance at friendship and hope. Not only that, she and the doctor discover a killer stalking young women. Grace must find the killer and her sanity, as she wrangles with past secrets.

Wolf By Wolf by Ryan Graudin

In the year 1956, the Axis powers won the world. To celebrate and establish their Great Victory over Britain and Russia, Hilter and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour, an annual motorcycle race across the lands. The winner is awarded an audience with Adolf Hilter at the honorary Victor’s ball. An escaped captive from a death camp, Yael, is determined to win the race and kill Hilter in a plot of revenge. Impersonating last year’s victor, Adele Wolfe, she gets closer and closer to winning the ruthless competition. She only needs to keep the wolves, the other competitors, at bay.

Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

Jess Brightwell believes in the value of the Great Library, a ruthless and powerful presence in every major city, guarding access to knowledge and information. Alchemy allows the Library to provide access to the greatest works of the world instantly; however, owning books is illegal, even if Jess’s family owns many, many copies obtained in the black market. As a family spy, his values are questioned as he enters the Library’s service and invents a device that changes the world. He uncovers the Great Library’s secrets and realizes the true value of human life and knowledge.

The Wrath and the Dawn
by Renee Ahdieh

Khalid, the eighteen-year-old king of Khorasan, is a monster who takes a new bride each night, only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat in the morning. In the land ruled by this merciless king, each dawn brings another family heartbreak. When Shahrzad’s best friend dies at Khalid’s hand, Shahrzad vows revenge and volunteers to be Khalid’s next bride in order to end his reign of terror. Night after night, Shahrzad tells stories to Khalid to ensure her survival. Night after night, she discovers a wounded man within the monster and begins to find herself falling in love with the king. Exchanging revenge for renewed resolve to discover his secrets, Shahrzad is determined to find the ending to their story.

— Heather Johnson, currently reading The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins


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Options for Fashion-Forward Readers

Thu, 11/05/2015 - 07:00

I love fashion design. From checking out fashion show photos to watching the red carpet of the Oscar’s at least as avidly as the show itself, I find fashion trends and design choices fascinating. And, clearly I’m not the only one because there are plenty of great books that feature characters that share this interest. Characters are designers, models, and trendsetters throughout young adult literature and this list features a few fun examples of just this. So, whether you have already designed your first collection or you plan to watch tonight’s Project Runway season finale while yelling at your television, check out these books to get your fashion fix.


Paradise Kiss by Ai Yazawa – Yukari Hayasaka is on the standard path through school, exams, college, and on to a successful life. She may not know what she wants to do with her life, but she knows that for now she has time for nothing but her studies. That is, until, one day, she catches the attention of an ambitious group of fashion design students who want her to be their model. The series follows Yukari as she becomes increasingly immersed in these designers’ work and it is a funny and engaging look at fashion design from a student perspective. This book is also delightfully meta with references to the author peppered throughout. A cute read for fashion and manga fans alike.

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins – Lola might not actually like being included in this list, since she says “I don’t believe in fashion. I believe in costume. Life is too short to be the same person every day.” But, even if she doesn’t think of her outfits as fashion, they will appeal to readers who love fashion. Throughout the book, there are plenty of great descriptions of her outfits and the costumes she creates for herself. All of this is, of course, happening in a book that also includes a great romance story and a host of relatable family members and side characters.

Girl in Dior by Annie Goetzinger – After first seeing this book, I could not wait to read it and it definitely did not disappoint. Focusing on the period of Dior’s life when he built his fashion house, this book brings to life an important figure in fashion history through the eyes of a fictional character. Best of all, Goetzinger uses an art style that is very reminiscent of classic fashion illustrations, which complements her subject matter perfectly and will appeal to fashion fans.

Gorgeous by Paul Rudnick – With this book, Rudnick uses the fashion world as a setting for a story that is really about what true happiness and success are. It follows Becky who leaves her small town life after her mother’s death to follow the promise of a famed, yet mysterious, fashion designer who offers to make her the most beautiful woman in the world. More social commentary than a story about the fashion industry, this is nevertheless an interesting read for those who want to contemplate questions of beauty, happiness, success, and finding real meaning in life.

So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld – In a world full of Innovators, Trendsetters, and Early Adopters, Hunter works helping to find new examples of “coolness” (though he hates the word cool) for marketers. This job garners him tons of freebies, from phones, to shoes, to clothes. But, it isn’t all fun and games when one of the people he works with disappears under mysterious circumstances. As he and his new friend, an Innovator named Jen, try to figure out what is going on, they will find out that there is much more going on in the world of marketing than they ever realized.

Tori by Design by Colleen Nelson – This book is the next one on my to-be-read list and it sounds very interesting. Tori is a young girl with a talent for fashion design. Her supportive parents decide to move to New York City so that she can go to a high school with connections to the Fashion Institute of Technology. The book follows her after this move as she works to achieve her dream.

Do you prefer to check out pictures and videos of actual fashions? There are a lot of great websites specializing in just these sorts of items. Here are a few to get you started:

These are just a few options for all the fashion fans out there, but I am sure that there are plenty more. Let me know your own favorites in the comments!

– Carli Spina, currently reading The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

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Fandom 101: YouTube Musicians

Wed, 11/04/2015 - 07:00

I think we can all agree that YouTube is so popular because it fosters a sense of community and togetherness that sometimes feels unprecedented and impossible. Since its arrival on the scene in 2005, YouTube has made it possible for anyone to create an account and post original content, making it easier to disseminate information and connect with like-minded viewers than ever before. It’s the perfect site for entertainment, hosting content relating to gaming, fashion, news, comedy, education, and more.

YouTube also has the peculiar reputation of being able to launch talented content creators into stardom…and ultimately a lucrative career. In particular, talented musicians can connect with and grow their fan bases, offer insight into their creation processes, and receive immediate feedback that shapes their music. In some cases, viewers financially support the music creation process, leading to album releases and tour dates for their favorite stars.

Many musicians begin by producing cover videos, in which they play music, often popular, that has already been created. They may do a straight cover or switch up the arrangement and add their own flair. Musicians typically grow their fan bases through a range of covers, anything from movie themes to pop songs to video game arrangements. Then they often move on to producing their own original music.

When working with teens in a library setting, it’s important to stay on top of popular trends and provide relevant information. And while times certainly do change, music is a universal language that can offer a quick connection. So here are just a few YouTube musicians with very passionate fan bases and very relevant and popular content.

Lindsey Stirling – Violinist and Motivational Speaker

Lindsey Stirling was raised in a Mormon community in Arizona and studied classical music as a teenager. She struggled with an eating disorder as a young adult, and cites music as having comforted her throughout her life. In 2010, she appeared on America’s Got Talent, where she was promptly voted out during the quarterfinals. She was told by Piers Morgan that there was no place in the music industry for a “dancing dubstep violinist”. But instead of giving up, she turned to YouTube. Famous for covers of themes such as Pokemon, Skyrim, and Zelda, she then released two albums of original music, which topped Billboard charts. She also tours worldwide to sold-out venues, collaborates with other artists, and shares her story to encourage others to follow their own dreams.

Peter Hollens – A Cappella Artist and Advisor

In 1999, Peter Hollens co-founded an all-male a cappella group at the University of Oregon. Later, he began to experiment with one-man a cappella. While he does a lot of amazing covers, his best content is his range of medleys. Hollens is known for singing all parts of each song he covers, then blending all of those layers together before uploading them to YouTube. He has collaborated not only with other YouTube artists, but also big artists such as Jason Mraz. He recently released his first album and he serves as an advisor to other artists, as well as bigger companies like Patreon, which is a platform that allows viewers to fund the artists they love.

Salome Scheidegger – Pianist and Innovator

Born in Japan in 1987 to Swiss parents, Scheidegger began to cultivate a love of music early in her life. She started studying classical Japanese dance at age 3, gave her first performance at age 4, and began playing piano at age 5. She studied with master musicians worldwide, and began competing in prestigious music events at age 11, routinely ranking high and winning prizes and scholarships. She’s performed in orchestras and on worldwide stages, but she still envisioned more. So she created “Envisage”, a multimedia project intended to integrate elements of lighting, scenery, art, and video to classic music programs. In 2013, she joined the video game music band Critical Hit and began to cover popular themes. She regularly tours and releases albums and is planning to release her first game album in the near future.

Taylor Davis – Violinist and Cosplayer

Taylor Davis is a classically trained violinist, arranger, and composer, but her passion is video game and film music. She launched her YouTube channel in 2011, regularly releasing high-quality cover videos and original content. Davis is known for getting in character for her videos, often cosplaying as popular characters from whatever she is covering. She has also recorded video game scores for games such as The Banner Saga. She often appears at events such as E3 and other pop culture conferences, where she’s no stranger to the stage. So far, she has released 7 albums – 5 game, anime, and film albums, 1 Christmas album, and an original album. She is currently on her first tour in the US, with a European tour planned for 2016.

The Piano Guys – Piano/Cellist Group

The origin of The Piano Guys lies in an innocent piano shop in southern Utah. Paul Anderson, store owner, was looking for a marketing ploy to increase sales and bring attention to the shop. He was interested in the idea that videos uploaded to YouTube could go viral and reach an astounding number of people, so he decided that it would be fun to make some promotional music videos for the store. When Jon Schmidt entered the store later to use a piano to practice for a gig, the two collaborated and The Piano Guys were born. Later, Steven Sharp Nelson and Al van der Beek joined the duo, as well as a host of people that made the magic behind the scenes happen. The Piano Guys are known for filming in nature, as well as for their mashups of classical and popular music. And don’t forget that one time when they had a Star Wars cello duel interrupted by Darth Vader.

Whether you’re looking for music to play at an event or connecting with a music-loving teen patron, these artists provide a great selection and range of music that is culturally relevant as well as high-quality!

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YA Literary Trope: The Repressed Protagonist

Wed, 11/04/2015 - 07:00

Welcome back readers, to another exploration of literary tropes in Young Adult fiction.  We have covered a lot of ground in our examination of common recurring themes including; The Old Clunker I Drive, The I Already Know you Introduction, The I Have to Take Care of my Parent(s), The Manic Pixie Dream Girl (and Boy), the A-Hole Friends, and the Awesome Outfit.  Now let’s have some fun with some repressed protagonists.  Here are some main characters that do not know how to have fun, are too afraid to try anything new, or need to come out of their shells.

  • Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2002 Best Books forYoung Adults, 2002 Top Ten Books for Young Adults, 2009 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, Teen’s Top Ten: 2003 & 2005) by Ann Brashares: Lena.  Brashares does a suburb job of fully developing all four of the girls who wear the magic pants.  No girl is an afterthought, no girl is a clone, and no girl is without her issues.  Lena’s deal is that she is repressed.  All of her friends describe Lena as beautiful but withdrawn.  Lena’s reluctance to go anywhere new is first challenged when she is forced to spend the summer in Greece with her grandparents.  One repressed protagonist plus a cute Greek guy plus a pair of magic jeans equals… lots of personal growth for Lena!


  • Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson: Emily.  Introverted Emily’s best friend Sloane disappears mysteriously at the start of summer.  Without Sloane’s fun-machine personality, Emily does not know what to do with herself.  Luckily, Sloane leaves Emily a to-do list for the summer.  And following the list, Emily embarks on her own journey to open up and stop being a shadow of the more vibrant girl.  Repression: overcome.


  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell: Cather.  Cather has always done everything with her more outgoing twin Wren.  But when the twins embark on freshman year of college, Wren announces she does not want to room together.   Awkward Cather is left to fend for herself and the raunchy party culture of the freshman dorms leave her stymied.  Living with a stranger?  Dining in a hall full of people?  Strange boys in her room?  No thanks.  Cather would rather stay home and pen her popular fan fiction book “Carry On, Simon.”  But eventually, Cather’s roommate, a cute boy, and number of funny situations help the repressed girl open up.


  • All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven: Violet.  At the start of this tender tale, Violet is not over the death of her sister the year before and is contemplating suicide.  But on top of a bell tower, thinking of jumping, Violet bumps into fellow suicidal classmate Finch. The two become friends and embark on a timely school project to “discover” their state.  This opens Violet up to a world beyond her grief and to a friend who, though he dances with death, is full of life for her.


  • And We Stay (2015 Printz Honor Award Winner) by Jennifer Hubbard: Emily.  After her boyfriend shoots himself in front of her, Emily leaves for boarding school to try to move on.  But the poor girl is so damaged by what happened she finds herself fixating on Emily Dickinson; the famous poet who lived in the town where her new school is located.  Our modern Emily feels a strong connection to Dickinson. Instead of hanging out with potential new friends at her school she sneaks out and visits the childhood home of the poet.   It is through new friends, supportive teachers, and lot of writing that Emily is able to come back to life.


  • Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King: Glory.  When Glory was only four years old, her mother committed suicide.  Now a teenager, Glory has but one friend (a self-centered girl whom she hangs out with mostly for convenience), her reclusive morbidly obese father, and her camera.  High School graduation is approaching and Glory does not care.  The girl has no plans, but the future comes crashing her way anyway.  In this unique tale told across time, Glory wakes up to a life she is letting pass her by.  Opportunities, love, and some very weird situations help Glory grow and learn to have fun while still being true to herself.

Well, we sure hope these characters continue to be brave and live a little.  Do you know of any more wallflowers in YA literature who might fit this trope characterization?  And check out next week’s literary trope du jour: the Goofy Best Friend!

— Tara Kehoe, currently reading Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

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Booklist: If You Like Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Tue, 11/03/2015 - 07:00

Love Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell? We’ve got your next favorite book. Whether you liked the retro setting, the opposites attract romance, or comics & mix tapes, there’s something here for you. If you’re a librarian or library worker looking for suggestions to offer readers, this list includes both older and new titles. 

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Readers won’t be able to help but cheer for Willowdean, an overweight teen who loves Dolly Parton and enters a local beauty pageant to prove a point to her mom, her town, and herself. Funny and moving, this is just a delight to read. The small town Texas town comes alive, the complicated friendship dynamics are nuanced, and the complications of feeling of first love ring true. This is a fun, feel good novel that’s the perfect antidote to Eleanor & Park’s heart-wrenching story.

Love is Mixtape by Rob Sheffield

While this is a memoir written for adults rather than a YA novel, fans of Eleanor and Park may enjoy Rolling Stone editor and rock critic Sheffield’s story of life, love, and mix tapes.

Tape by Steve Camden

Amelia finds a tape in her mother’s belongings, which turns out to be a recorded diary of Ryan, who lived 20 years ago. This well-structured and emotional novel weaves both stories together with plenty of twists and turns.

Like No Other by Una LaMarche

This story of star-crossed interracial love in NYC has rich cultural details and makes you believe in fate.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han (2015 Teens’ Top Ten)

This novel and its sequel offers a lighter realistic romance that features a half-Korean family and a cute, awkward romance.

How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Staniford

This story of two misfits who bond over a shared love of a quirky call-in radio show is full of wonder. The amazing voice of the characters will captivate fans of Eleanor & Park.

The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

This summer romance between an interracial couple is inspired by The Little Mermaid and is a truly unique love story.

Guy in Real Life by Steve Brezenoff

Eleanor and Park bonded over comic books and mix tapes; Lesh and Svetlana meet because of their interest in role-playing games. Both are complicated, realistic romances.

Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo (2013 Morris Award Finalist)

When Amelia begins working at a grocery store, she falls head over heels for Chris, fellow cashier and college student. The two become close, but is their age difference too big for them to move beyond friendship? This story, told in alternative perspectives of both Amelia and Chris, captures that bittersweet first love found in Eleanor & Park.

Girl Defective by Simmone Howell

Of course a novel set in a record store will have a great soundtrack – this one also has a lot of heart, a mystery, a bit of weirdness, a lot of grief, and a little bit of love. For readers who love Aussie YA and summertime adventure.

Tales of a Madman Underground by John Barnes (2010 Printz Honor Award)

This novel is an accurate look at the life of a teen struggling to cope with a drunk mother while working several after-school jobs and being forced to go to group therapy. What makes this a standout is Karl’s voice.

Anatomy of a Misfit by Andrea Porter

For readers looking for a more light-hearted opposites attract romance, this is the perfect fit. Popular Anika has a crush on loner Logan – but will she sacrifice her social status for a chance at romance?

Althea & Oliver by Cristina Moracho (2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults)

Althea and Oliver are lifelong best friends struggling with an unrequited crush and a health issue against the backdrop of 1990s mix tape and zine culture.

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isobel Quintero (2015 Morris Award Winner)

Gabi struggles with lots of issues her senior year of high school – a pregnant friend, a friend who comes out, a drug addicted father, and her own crushes on boys and feelings of insecurity over her weight. She handles it all through writing poetry and journal entries. Readers who loved Eleanor will relate to Gabi.

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

This insightful novel details the cruel politics of high school, but also the power of music to bring people together. The protagonist’s voice is charming and her journey is one many teens will relate to.

Do you have a favorite book that’s perfect for fans of Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell? Please share in the comments! 

— Molly Wetta, currently reading What We Left Behind by Robin Talley


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For the Love of the Game

Tue, 11/03/2015 - 07:00

I live in Northwest Missouri and, as such, frenetically watch the Kansas City Royals at any and all opportunities. It’s a little easier thing to claim than it was ten years ago. You’re probably thinking “Oh how easy it must be to love the Royals these days!”

Okay. Yeah. It’s really easy. But it hasn’t always been that way. I still remember dark and terrible things. Jimmy Gobble giving up ten runs in one inning. Our lone all star in 2006 being a pitcher who had an ERA over 5.00. Losing so, so many games. Having people laugh at you and tell you to defect to the Cardin-NO! I’M NOT GOING TO!

Anyways, the Royals just won the World Series and I’m still recovering from the aftereffects. I mean, I would have been in shock just based on the fact that I got to go to Game 1. Then it ended up being an instant extra-innings classic that I will never forget. Never.

I love baseball. I’ve loved it since I was in high school and really started following the Royals. My school didn’t have a baseball team and I’d stopped playing in third grade, but that didn’t matter. I fell utterly and hopelessly in love. Suddenly watching my team actually compete after so many years of punchline-worthy play causes my stomach and emotions to dance around throughout the season much in the same way that happens every time I watch one of the trailers for the new Star Wars movie.

The connection between sports and storytelling is ageless and the most successful writers can look at a player, a game, a sport and seamlessly weave stories as affecting as those of any other genre. The best can even make game recaps poetic.

Two of my favorite online sports storytellers are Rany Jazayerli (Rany on the Royals) and Joe Posnanski (NBC SportsWorld). I suppose it’s somewhat telling that they both love and write about the Royals, but they also tackle other matters and, regardless of the team they love, they write about sports in ways that move me. Joe posted an amazing article about the Royals yesterday. You should totally read it.

Baseball novels had a big role in my reading development and I think it’s interesting to hear about the different titles that affect various readers throughout their childhood. In the glow of a championship I never thought would happen, I’m going to list a few of my favorite sports books.

Baseball Flyhawk by Matt Christopher – I probably read this over 30 times growing up. I devoured any Matt Christopher books but something about this one made me read it over and over. It might have had something to do with the fact that the book’s protagonist, Chico, played for a team called the Royals. But it also had something to do with me wanting Chico’s teammates to like him.



Chip Hilton Series by Clair Bee – This is a series that may be a little dated, but I read so many of these books growing up. It kind of became a joke how great Chip was at every sport. He played so many different positions and was never bad. But despite that, he and his supporting cast were interesting and I really enjoyed the books. I still read them now and again. Even as something of an adult.



The Brothers K by David James Duncan – I’m beginning to make this an annual summer read. It’s one of my favorite books. Baseball weaves its way in and out of a story of a broken family trying trying to understand and love one another.




Give me some recommendations if you’ve got any you think I should know about. I’ll check them out as soon as I get back from the World Series parade!

— Ethan Evans, currently recovering from late nights watching the World Series

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Take Five: Favorite Books for Reluctant Readers

Mon, 11/02/2015 - 07:00

It happens to all of us. We’re trying to help someone find a book, but they’re not interested in anything and say they hate reading. That’s when we pull out the big guns: the books that even the most reluctant of readers might give a try.

What’s your favorite book to recommend to a reluctant reader?

Unwind by Neil Shusterman.  I read this book when I worked as a middle school librarian and the eighth graders were reading it for class.  I became obsessed with this book and thought it was completely amazing.  I remember making a book trailer to go with the book and thought it fit perfectly with Linkin Parks’ song Leave Out All The Rest.  I always recommend this book to reluctant readers because it has a fast pace and is very exciting. Unwind has an awesome storyline with amazing characters. – Kimberli Buckley

I have a handful, because I there are so many reasons that readers might be reluctant to read. I try to first get a hint of what they like, whether it’s movies, TV, or hobbies. I’ll often ask them what books they’ve hated the most, just to get a sense of what they don’t like.

But I do find myself reaching for several books over and over. I love Scott Westerfeld, and both the Leviathan and Uglies series have been hits with a wide range of readers.

I also like to try different formats to see what might click with a certain reader. Something like Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral which is told in a mix of artifacts, images, and text, and lots of teens who aren’t big readers have really been intrigued after booktalking it.

Books with images, like Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, have also piqued the interest of reluctant readers.

Books that can be summed up in one sentence that have a good “hook” are often my go-to recommendations. For I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga, I might say, “what if you were the son of the world’s most notorious serial killer?” For All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, I’ll say, “what if the only way to save the world was to go back in time to kill your best friend?” I’ve found that keeping it short and simple is the best way to entice readers. – Molly Wetta

This is a book that’s been around for a long time, but I still recommend Graham McNamee’s  Acceleration to anyone who says they’re not really into reading. It’s set in Toronto but has a universal feel to it and it’s a mixture of a mystery/thriller that’s action-packed and a thrill ride of a read.  – Sharon Rawlins

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson. I love this book because of the way Nelson incorporates poetry into this heartbreaking story about how people deal with grief. It’s one of those books that I recommend to everyone because of its quotable lines. – Ethan Evans

Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman.  This book has two things boys and girls like: horror and technology.  I booktalked this book 3 years ago at several schools and this series is still one the highest circed books in my collection. – Dawn Abron

What’s your go-to recommendation for reluctant readers? I’m sure everyone reading would love more ideas! 

— Molly Wetta, currently reading What We Left Behind by Robin Talley

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Media Crossovers and Fandom: Beyond the Book-to-Movie Pipeline

Mon, 11/02/2015 - 07:00

I’m a big series fan. I always have been, since way back in my Babysitter’s Club days. Books, tv, movies, comics; I’m not particular about format, I just love to get to know a group of characters and then follow them through their ups and downs. Whether that means high-stakes urban fantasy, or an emotionally-gripping mirror of the landscape we’re all navigating out here in the real world, I want to get invested. I want to laugh at jokes that are only funny to insiders, and cry at slights that hit deep because they’re drawing on the hundred interactions that led up to them. When I become attached to any imagined world, and all of that world’s quirks and characters, whether as a reader, listener, or viewer (or, for many people, though admittedly not me, gamer), I just want more; any medium will do, just let me stay immersed in that delightful world a little longer.

Fan-based contributions can help to fill the void while we’re waiting impatiently for a next installment, and certainly shared work from fans can create a wonderful sense of community, but I’ll be honest – I generally want more of the world’s creator’s vision. I want canon storytelling.

Media crossovers are often how I can get more, and they can take the storytelling into the expansive new territory a format switch offers. The tv-to-book direction is a popular (and production-budget-friendly) one for series with dedicated fanbases, as it offers a much cheaper way to get more stories out there (think: Dr. Who novels and their audiobooks, especially, ahem, the David Tennant-narrated ones, the recent Veronica Mars novels headed by show creator Rob Thomas , the Buffy and Firefly comic continuations, which brought back writers from the tv staffs). There’s no denying some of the paranormal happenings allowed for in print (illustrated or not) can eclipse what’s possible to film convincingly with a tv (or even movie) budget and human actors, and when these print projects are headed by folks who worked on the original series, it can be a magical opportunity for more – more of the tone fans are after, more of seeing what happens to beloved characters, more Official Plot Progression.

My favorite example of this happening right now is Welcome to Night Vale. I’m a big fan (and, full disclosure, one of the authors is a friend, so I’m not exactly an unbiased observer). The book came out (finally!) last week, but the world originated as a bi-monthly podcast, itself fashioned as a old-school community radio bulletin, and then expanded into touring, live theater performances. There’s also an active Twitter account, @NightValeRadio, which manages to serve up both practical updates bulletin for the real world and continued snippets of wisdom/terror from Night Vale itself. That’s a lot of entry points, and a lot of ways to attract fans across formats, but I think the reason they’re all working is that the tone is pitch-perfect across them all; every format is simply more, in a different container.

Kind of like Maggie Stiefvater’s (labor-intensive!) Raven Cycle tarot set, which isn’t propelling the plot forward in Henrietta, but is giving fans a tactile, hyper-visual new way to interact with what’s going with the raven crew while we wait (impatiently) for the fourth and final volume (March!).

The book adapted to movie or television pipeline is obviously a tried-and-true system for expanding the audience for a world and interpreting it in new ways. But I’m excited by these other options; new formats, and creative interpretations of how to communicate the tone of a beloved series in different spaces, especially when it remains entirely in the creative control of the original artist(s). I also see how strongly the teens I serve respond to the opportunity to interact with a world that speaks to them across multiple platforms. They want to follow a Tumblr for their favorite character and download the playlist an author built to demonstrate the atmosphere of an upcoming novel. As fans, we all just want to discover more about the fictional worlds we’ve fallen in love with. In whatever format it’s offered up in. 

What media crossovers are causing a stir in your library? Please share in the comments!

-Carly Pansulla, currently re-reading The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater


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Teen Perspective: A Trio of Tales about Dragons

Mon, 11/02/2015 - 07:00

The amazing thing about fiction is that it allows us to use our imaginations to come up with whatever our heart desires. From giant rock monsters to hedgehogs that ‘gotta go faster’, modern media has proven how simple it is to take a pre-existing creature and modify it to be more entertaining to the masses.

Yet, out of all the creatures out there that mankind has devised for modern media, the dragon seems to be the most popular among boys and girls of all ages. What is it about them that makes them so appealing? Well, I would say that it’s how each creative mind in the world is able to interpret them in their own personal way. Some people see them as mindless beasts that only want to destroy mankind, while others see them as wise and cunning creatures of the land, sea and sky!

…and then there are the people that think dragons are shaped like the letter ‘S’, have beefy arms coming out of their necks, and prey on thatch-roofed cottages. But we don’t bother with the people that think that gibberish.

Trogdor from Homestar Runner

Today, I’ll be taking a look at 3 different titles that feature these magnificent beasts!

The first one to cover is Dealing With Dragons by Patricia Wrede. Unlike most fairy tale stories, Dealing With Dragons is more like a parody of the genre, rather than a traditional story in said genre. The tale follows Cimorene, a young princess who is getting fed up with the gentle lifestyle of royalty, so she runs off to live a life of adventure with a dragon named Kazul. You see, the world of Dealing With Dragons plays around the trope of princesses being kidnapped by dragons, so there’s plenty of conflict revolving around the different knights who attempt to ‘rescue’ (and I use that term loosely) Cimorene from Kazul.

The story is lighthearted and comical, but still provides an intricate plot that will keep you attached to what’s going on between Cimorene and the rest of the cast. There are also sequels to this title, which I have heard equally good reviews for, so you should check those out as well.

Next is one that I just finished recently, which is A Dragon’s Guide To The Care and Feeding of Humans by Laurence Yep and Joanne Ryder. Just like our previous title, this one takes the dragon story and mixes it up with a very comical flavor. Our story is about Miss Drake, an old dragon living in the modern world, and Winnie, a 10-year-old girl who visits Miss Drake after hearing about her from her mother. Miss Drake isn’t too happy about her new guest at first, but the two eventually settle their differences.

As for the details of the story itself, it has a very distinct flair to it, with Miss Drake acting like a mentor figure to Winnie. The story also mixes in modern details in contrast to other dragon stories. For example, Miss Drake owns a Smartphone. Strange, huh?

The last title for now is How To Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell. Most of you know this franchise for the popular Dreamworks movie of the same name, but you should ignore that fact for now. The How To Train Your Dragon movie series has little-to-nothing in common with the original source material, so it should not be consulted when discussing the book series.

Anyway, onto the book itself. This is a more traditional dragon story, as it follows the story of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III trying to pass Viking Training by capturing and raising a dragon of his own. There’s not much comedy in this tale in comparison to the other 2 dragon books I discussed, but How To Train Your Dragon makes up for it with a stellar story. The conflicts between Hiccup and the rest of his Viking companions are realistic and really make you feel bad for their struggles, especially in the later books.

So, that’s it for dragon books. In general, fantasy books are great because they allow authors to express themselves from their own perspective. I’ll be sure to cover other titles in relation to these in the future. Who knows, maybe someday, I’ll be the one who is writing the New York Times ]best-selling dragon title! (Hey, as long as the movie adaptation for it isn’t ruined, I’d be down with that.)  

David Peters is one of the founding members of the Teen Advisory Board at the Highland Branch of the Lake County Public Library, IN. He also reviews video games under the name GadgetJax.

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What’s In a (Book) Name?

Mon, 11/02/2015 - 07:00

It was Wild Bill Shakespeare himself who once penned the words “What’s in a name. That which we call a rose/By any other name should smell as sweet.” The words are spoken by one of the Bard’s more famous female characters, Juliet of House Capulet. She’s telling the hours-old love of her life that she doesn’t care that his last name of Montague brands him an enemy of her house. Whatever his name was, she would love him anyways.

CC v. 2.0 image via Flickr User Leeds Museums and Galleries

Once you’re able to part the curtain of deep sighs and introspective smiles at this grand romantic gesture, however, you find that you can’t count on Juliet’s statement as book recommendation advice. And really, shouldn’t that be what’s most important here? I mean, that play would be even better if it was about Juliet recommending books to Romeo rather than “falling in love” in the course of three days and faking her own death and being dumb and…and…and…

Well, that’s probably a blog post for another day. But those words are still poignant because, while we shouldn’t decide not to marry someone based on his or her name, titles are important in other instances.

When I used to teach creative writing, it seemed like I had one or two students each year who would persistently turn in stories without names. “So and So’s Short Story” one would read. “So and So’s Creative Nonfiction Piece” would be the title of another.

I’d try to get them to see that the title was even more important than your opening line. It’s the hook BEFORE the hook. If they still didn’t seem to understand, I’d tell them this story:

There’s a paper I wrote in college that sticks out in my mind because it was the only “A” paper I ever received from a particular professor. I don’t say that with annoyance. Every grade she gave me was deserved. I was just really proud of finally getting an “A” from her. My paper focused on comparing Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Nature” with Ernest Hemingway’s “Big Two-hearted River.”

A few years ago, I pulled this paper out of a big stack of stuff I’d saved. Before I had a chance to revel in my old glory, I noticed the title. “Take a Hike and Find Yourself.”


It makes me cringe to even type that. Unoriginal and uninspiring. I’d tell my students that story and they’d laugh and shake their heads. Most of the time they’d even start getting more creative with their titles.

There are two things that cause me to pull a book off a library shelf when I’m searching for a new novel to consume. An interesting title and/or cool cover art. I know, I know. “Don’t judge a book by its cover blah blah blah.” There’s something to that of course. Many great books have been housed in uninteresting covers. But a story’s title is a huge selling point. Authors and their publishers should be putting some thought into these words. They may be the only words a potential reader sees.

Here are some titles that got me to pull books off the shelf and read them:

Seth Baumgartner’s Love Manifesto by Eric Luper – I picked this up because it seemed like a funny sort of grand gesture and I enjoy grand gestures in YA books. I wasn’t wrong. This book is hilarious. A guy gets dumped at an Applebee’s and decides to podcast about love. Highly recommended.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (2012 Alex Awards) – This title was obviously chosen to hook gamers and that’s how it got me. A book about playing in a massive role-playing-game with dozens of classic video game references throughout? I was totally in for that. It definitely delivered too.

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (2009 Best Books for Young Adults2011 Odyssey Honor Book, 2011 Amazing Audiobooks) – Just a weird assortment of words for a title that drew me in from the shelf. Then I started reading the book and it’s actually about aliens. And other things. First book in a trilogy and really, really good.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – Seemed too innocent for a Gaiman story. It turned out delightfully creepy while somewhat heartwarming. Gaiman has a knack for that. There’s also this evil, scary flying blanket thing.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick – Anyone who claims any sort of love for science fiction will likely attest a love for Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner movie. That movie is based on this novel by Philip K. Dick. Look at that title. It’s beautiful and weird and strange and you know if you saw it on a shelf, you wouldn’t be able to help but grab it. The book is good too, dealing with that age-old issue: At what point do androids become sentient beings? Speaking of titles. Philip K. Dick was a master. Just check out some of these other winners:

We Can Remember It For You Wholesale


Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said

Foster, You’re Dead!

The Eyes Have It

Granted, most of those are short stories, but still, those titles are amazing.

No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy – I love McCarthy’s novels but I especially love the title of this book. It’s a sort of harsh poetry. His novels aren’t for everyone, particularly if you like quotation marks, but I adore his books.

I’m not telling you that you should pick a book based simply on a title. I AM postulating that when a brief snatch of words on the front of a book catches your eye, it’s a definite possibility that the author’s got a good story to back up a good title.

What are some titles that have caught your eye as you’ve browsed?

— Ethan Evans, currently reading The Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. Carleson

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