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Your Connection to Teen Reads
Updated: 14 hours 41 min ago

The Monday Poll: Your Favorite Assigned Summer Reading

Sun, 07/20/2014 - 23:22

photo by flickr user Patrick Gage Kelley

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, we asked which fictional summer camp you’d like to attend. Most of you are packing your bags for Camp Half-Blood as featured in Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books, which captured a whopping 66% of the vote. You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted!

This week, we are still on our summer-themed kick, and we want to know about your favorite assigned summer reading from high school. Whether you’re still in high school or simply reliving fond memories, what assigned books stood out to you over those long, lazy summers? Did you grimace and groan at the thought of reading something for school even though class wasn’t in session, or did you welcome the chance to have your eyes opened to a book you might not have otherwise chosen? I admit, I was never very pleased to interrupt my avid pleasure reading with assigned titles, but there were a few pleasant surprises along the way. We’ve supplied some common assigned summer reading titles in the poll below, but please add your choice in the comments if we missed it!

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.

Cool Comics Picks (and Zombies!)

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 07:00

Hello again, my dear Hubbers!  I’m back again for a round-up of my favorite new-ish comics to share with you!  Yes, I know, I was supposed to do a post on the newest topic in my SuperMOOC comics series, but to tell you the truth, I am super behind on my MOOC.  Who knew that this “Summer Reading” thing would take up so much of my time?  Ha!  So, instead, I’m happy to give you a list of a few of my new favorite titles that will definitely appeal to a whole gamut of comics readers.  From weird Guardians to zombies to our (well, my, I guess) favorite, Mr. Batman, himself, I hope that you’ll be excited to jump into the deep end of the comics pool.  Join me, won’t you?  As always, we start with Batman!

Batman, Volume 4:  Zero Year – Secret City by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo & Danny Miki:  Zero Year is a fun place for both Batman fans and non-fans alike to jump into the current story line that Scott & Greg have created.  Zero Year is going way, way back to how poor little rich boy, Bruce Wayne, not only became Batman, but what that first year was like for him after he decided to don the cape and cowl.  A nefarious group calling themselves the Red Hood Gang have descended on Gotham, determined to take the city down, no matter what it takes.  They also wear these red cone like things on their heads – very amusing, if you ask me.  But they are deadly and will stop at nothing to bring the city to its knees.  However, one thing they didn’t count on was Batman – well, he isn’t known as Batman yet.  So, they weren’t counting on a guy in a suit that looks like a bat.  A fun and fast paced story that readers can jump right into and get hooked – and, trust me, they will get hooked.  Plus – bonus!  Early Edward Nygma, and we all know who he turns in to, right?  (It’s the Riddler, by the way!).

Afterlife with Archie:  Book One by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa & Francesco Francavilla:  If you’re anything like me, you love zombies.  Zombies are the best!  Hilarious and sad and utterly terrifying.  Now imagine if two award-winning comics people took your favorite kids from Riverdale and zombified them!  Well, your dreams have come true.  Unfortunately, the zombie plague has hit Riverdale after some sorcery involving Jughead and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.  Also, unfortunately, Archie and his pals have had to escape for their lives all the way to Veronica’s house.  The 3rd unfortunately is that Jughead is the new leader of the zombie army, and he and his zombie followers know just where to go for maximum brain consumption – yup, you guessed it – Veronica’s house.  This is a wonderfully creepy take on our favorite teens.  I loved it, and I don’t even like Archie!

Avengers Assemble by Brian Michael Bendis & Mark Bagley:  So, I guess I kind of like the Avengers.  I mean, I really liked the movie, and all, but I haven’t taken a lot of time to read the associated comics.  I decided to pick up this new-ish title because I heard it was good.  And, it is – it’s funny and action packed and it has a guest appearance by the newest (or soon to be, at least) Marvel movie stars – the Guardians of the Galaxy!  This is basically a star filled mash-up of the Avengers and Guardians trying to defeat the dreaded Thanos.  For fans of the Avengers, this is the perfect book that displays the same sort of hilarious hijinks and Hulk/Iron Man bromance that the movie fans will love.  For readers who’d like to get some Guardians of the Galaxy action, this book brings them to hilarious life on Earth and beyond.  C’mon – it’s got a talking raccoon in it.  What more do I have to say?

Mara by Brian Wood, Ming Doyle & Jordie Bellaire:  In a future where sports and war are what is most important in the society, volleyball player, Mara, is the star that shines the brightest.  She’s beautiful, plays an awesome game and inspires her country and teammates alike.  She is beloved throughout the world until, one day, the world gets a look at superpowers that she would rather stay hidden.  With her brother off fighting in dangerous war zones and those who once embraced her now pushing her away, Mara is isolated and alone.  But, she won’t let them forget who she is.  She’ll make the world notice her now, and if they thought she was powerful before, the world is in for a big surprise.  A great futuristic read with an interesting and intriguing main character, Brian Wood really brings Mara to life, and readers will root for her every step of the way.

Well, I hope this list of my new faves will whet your appetite for graphic literature.  And, don’t give up hope – I might catch up on my SuperMOOC in the time being so as to get back on track with my examination of those themes.  But… I might not!  That doesn’t mean that I won’t be back to give you more of my comics and graphic novel recommendations, though, whether you want them or not!  See you next time – same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel!

P.S. For more graphic novel reading pleasure, check out YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens lists.

–Traci Glass, currently reading The Perfectionists by Sara Shepard

Tweets of the Week: July 18th

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 07:00

Summer is in full force. If you’re a public library, your Summer Reading Program is probably in full swing: programs, readers look for books, and readers picking up reading incentives.  If you’re a school librarian, I hope that you’re having a great summer. Either way, if you’re crazy busy this summer, here are some tweets you might have missed this week.

Upcoming Event:  @sljournal Hottest books, coolest authors. SummerTeen is next week! Register FREE today:  #sljst


Cover Reveals




Just for Fun

~ Jennifer Rummel, currently reading Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

Popular Paperbacks: Movies, Mysteries and More

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 07:00

The excitement this summer for YA books turned blockbusters like The Fault in Our Stars is only just beginning. The If I Stay (2010 Best Books for Young Adults) and The Giver movies both come out this August, with many, many more of our favorite YA titles being optioned for films or currently in development.  Which makes this the perfect time to check out YALSA’s Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults nominees for its 2015 list Books to Movies: Ripped from the Pages. You’ll probably find your favorite titles that have already been adapted for the silver screen (or will be soon).

Each year YALSA’s Popular Paperbacks committee creates lists filled with books that are in paperback (important for those budget conscious) and are interesting and engaging reads on a broad range of themes and genres. We also strive for our lists to have diverse characters and authors that reflect the different background and experiences of the teens we serve. The other 2015 lists are Mysteries: Murder, Mayhem, and Other Adventures (for the whodunit fans), Lock Up: Teens Behind Bars (for contemporary fiction fans) and Narrative Non-Fiction: Inspired by Actual Events (for history buffs and biography fans).

The other great thing about Popular Paperbacks is that this committee accepts and loves to receive field suggestions for any of our lists. We want our lists to be as inclusive and exhaustive as possible so the more nominations we receive the better our list will be. Popular Paperback’s nomination criteria is simple too, be currently available in paperback, have appeal to teens 12-18, not on a previous Popular Paperback list in the last five years and fit the theme of the list being nominating for. The most exciting part is anyone can put forth suggestions for the committee to consider– non-YALSA members or librarians, teen readers, parents, grandparents, anyone! Head to YALSA’s Popular Paperbacks page to get more information or to start suggesting your favorite book to movie or mystery titles.

- Amanda Margis, currently reading Design, Make, Play, edited by Margaret Honey and David E. Kanter and listening to Rebel Heart by Moria Young

Jukebooks: When Mr. Dog Bites by Brian Conaghan

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 07:00

It can be hard to make friends when you have Tourette’s Syndrome. Filthy words explode from your mouth, unbidden. But Dylan Mist is lucky in that respect. His best friend, Amir, accepts and understands his outbursts. So when Dylan comes to believe he has only a few months to live, he makes a bucket list:

1. Have real sexual intercourse with a girl.

2. Fight heaven and earth, tooth and nail, dungeons and dragons, for my mate Amir to stop getting called names about the color of his skin. Stop people slagging him all the time because he smells like a big pot of curry. And help him find a new best friend.

3. Get Dad back from the war before…you-know-what happens.

Many adventures take place in pursuit of these goals. For one, Dylan and Amir go to the school’s Halloween party (as characters from the Reservoir Dogs). It’s not exactly their scene. As they sip warm, carbonated drinks, the boys survey the dance floor. Dylan notes:

The Beyonce song where she talks about having a rock the size of a grape on her finger was playing. This was a song all the girls seem to love; they loved it so much that they all pointed to their ring fingers when they were dancing as if all the men should go out and spend their hard-earned cash on a bloody silly sparkle ring. Stupid song. Stupid dance. Stupid message. And, as I expected, all the dudes and walking wounded hovered around the edges of the dance floor/gym hall with nothing to do. p253

The girls do love that song! “All the Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” struck a nerve with its saucy lyrics and punchy, upbeat melody. Released in 2008, Rolling Stone magazine named it the best song of the year. The recording below is from the 2011 Glastonbury Festival.

Summer Reading: Vacation Destination Books

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 07:00

Photo by flickr user george.bremer

It’s summertime! And if you’re anything like me, that means finding a spot to curl up with a cool breeze, a tall glass of something iced, and a stack of good books. Now, I don’t always match my reading to the season, but sometimes I like my books to feel like an extension of the atmosphere I’m experiencing, rather than an escape from it. Especially if I’m lucky enough to be on vacation (or happily anticipating one); sometimes I want to read all about other people having the same disruption to routine that vacations bring, living outside of their regular schedules. And sometimes, y’know, I just want to savor the season as much as possible: sun, sand, water, just-picked fruits and veggies – celebrate the many incarnations of a summer vacation with the following vacation-themed reading.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Destination: Private island estate

This is the book that prompted  the whole list of summer destination-themed titles; I devoured it in a single sitting (with a pitcher of iced tea, natch) and upon finishing was, a) blown away by the plotting – avoid spoilers!- and b) immediately ready for absolutely everything in my life to be summer-themed, because the setting was so deliciously drawn. Cady, our protagonist, is returning to her family’s summer retreat on a private island after spending the last two years away. She is suffering from excruciating migraines and trying to reclaim the easy, uncomplicated rhythms of the vacations she shared with her cousins in summers past, but she’s hindered by memory loss. As the incomplete flashbacks of previous years on the island draw the mystery closer to the dormant truth, the pages go by faster and faster until the truly shocking finale.


This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

Destination: Lakeside cottage

This is the first collaboration between cousins Mariko and Jillian Tamaki since 2008’s much-lauded Skim (a personal favorite and a 2009 Best Books for Young Adults top ten selection), and like that nuanced, thoughtful graphic novel, this nuanced, thoughtful graphic novel is equally beautiful, with pitch-perfect dialogue and a subdued palette awash in blues and purples. The fully-realized characters are visibly bubbling over with complex, rich emotions, their relationships displayed with all the hesitations and missteps of real life. The gorgeously rendered scenes are alive with all the details of small beach town life; the magnificence of plunging into the water on a warm day, the lazy delights of an afternoon indoors after too much sun, the importance of marshmallows at a bonfire. I swear I could hear the gulls while I read.


Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

Destination: Private estate (non-island variety)

Bittersweet is an adult-market title told entirely from the point of view of nineteen year-old Mabel, who has been invited to spend the summer at the vacation compound (it’s like We Were Liars; everyone gets their own cottage) of her roommate from freshmen year of college, the unbelievably named Genevra Winslow. She then proceeds to unearth some fairly juicy details about the various members of her host family, and the book picks up steam as a veritable soap opera of bad behavior and buried secrets, all the while dispensing summer picnics, swimming sessions, and sudden rainstorms amidst all the drama.


Summer of Firsts and Lasts by Terra Elan McVoy

Destination: Camp

If you’ve ever been to camp, you undoubtedly have your own specific, nostalgia-drenched memories of exactly how things were done, and if you haven’t, The Summer of Firsts and Lasts will paint a vivid picture for you, from three distinct perspectives. Calla, Violet, and Daisy are sisters all attending camp together, Calla as an administrative assistant, and Violet and Daisy as campers, Daisy for the first time. As the three navigate their own summer experiences (Calla is trying to work up the nerve to tell another long-time camper about her feelings for him, Violet is taking the camp’s rules more as suggested guidelines than hard and fast rules), their stories intertwine and overlap, and the smell of a campfire practically wafts off the page.


The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani

Destination: Camp (with horses!)

Another adult-market title with a teen protagonist, this one shipped off to the titular riding camp after she does something decidedly unapproved of at home. Only, where most of the girls at camp are just there for the summer, Thea has been informed by her father that it’s unclear when she’ll be “ready” to come home (this one does meander off-list a bit, as it includes seasons other than summer, but the primary atmosphere is definitely summertime). Set in the 1930s southeast, this is a historical fiction novel and a coming of age novel all in one, with some school story elements thrown in for good measure. Thea is determined to experience the fullness of life but confused about the best way to go about it; the resulting story is both tender and occasionally provocative.


What are your favorite books set in a summertime vacation destination? Let me know in the comments your picks for warm weather reads; happy summertime reading!

-Carly Pansulla, currently reading One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson

ALA Annual 2014: Stranger Than Fiction: Reader’s Advisory for Nonfiction

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 07:00

One of best programs I attended at the recent ALA Annual Conference in Vegas was the very popular session on Monday afternoon presented by Jennie Rothschild and Angela Frederick called Stranger Than Fiction: Reader’s Advisory for Nonfiction.

It seems like everyone’s talking about nonfiction these days because of the emphasis on the Common Core. Rothschild and Frederick suggested a large number of interesting and appealing nonfiction titles for teens, many from YALSA’s award and selection lists like the Alex Award, Excellence in Nonfiction Award, Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, and Outstanding Books for the College Bound. They also had a lot of suggestions for great nonfiction read-alikes for popular fiction titles.

The books they recommended are notable for their interesting subject areas that can be read for pleasure, not just for assignments; have appealing layout/style or design, and, despite that so many are published for adults, still have great teen appeal. Rothschild noted that since there isn’t a lot of teen nonfiction published compared to children’s and adult, teens are used to reading up or down. Many of the nonfiction titles are notable for their narrative style that reads like fiction and the fact that they complement so many popular fiction books.

Here are some of the highlights:

Subject read-alikes for Bomb: The Race to Build –And Steal –The World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin (YALSA 2013 Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, 2013 Sibert Award Winner, 2013 Newbery Honor Winner; National-book-award-finalist for Young People’s Literature):



  • The Ultimate Weapon: The Race to Develop the Atomic Bomb by Edward T. Sullivan (YA)
  • Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm, graphic novel (adults and older teens)
  • The Radioactive Boy Scout by Ken Silverstein (adult)
  • The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Keiran (adult)

Narrative-style read-alikes:

Subject read-alikes for Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach (adult), YALSA’s 2014 Outstanding Books for the College Bound (OBCB):




  • How I Killed Pluto: And Why it Had it Coming by Mike Brown (adult) YALSA’s 2014 OBCB list
  • The Mighty Mars Rovers: the Incredible Adventures of Spirit and Opportunity by Elizabeth Rusch (Middle Grade)

Narrative style read-alikes:

Subject read-alikes for Scandalous! 50 Shocking Events You Should Know About (So You Can Impress Your Friends) by Hallie Fryd




  • Jim Thorp by Joseph Bruchac (Middle Grade)
  • Eight Men Out: the Black Sox and the 1919 World Series by Eliot Asinof (adult)
  • All the President’s Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (adult)
  • Bullets, Bombs and Fast Talk: 25 Years of FBI War Stories by James Botting (adult) (Includes two scandals from Scandalous: Patty Hearst & Branch Davidians cult)
  • Leaving Glorytown: One Boy’s Struggle Under Castro by Eduardo F. Calcines (Middle Grade)
  • The World of Gloria Vanderbilt by Wendy Goodman (adult)

Narrative Reads-alikes for Scandalous:

  • Math Doesn’t Suck: How to Survive Middle School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail by Danica McKellar (Middle Grade)
  • Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon (Adult) YALSA’s 2014 OBCB list
  • Historical Heartthrobs: 50 Timeless Crushes from Cleopatra to Camus by Kelly Murphy & Hallie Fryd (YA)
  • The Economics Book Explained (DK) (adult)
  • Can I See Your ID?: True Stories of False Identities by Chris Barton  (Middle Grade)
  • Big Ideas Simply Explained (series) by various authors from DK publishers (adult)

Readalikes for The Fault in Our Stars by John Green:

Rothschild and Frederick presented a lot more great books than I have space to list here. To see their entire list, including references to other places to find lists of great nonfiction for teens, see their handout on their website.

I guarantee teens (and adults) who think they don’t like nonfiction will find something on this extensive list that will appeal to them. Thank you, Jennie and Angela, for your fun and informative presentation!

-Sharon Rawlins, currently reading The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

Bastille Day 2014

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 07:00

photo by Flickr user Yann Caradec

Today is Bastille Day – a French holiday commemorating the beginning of the French Revolution in the late eighteenth century. On this date in 1789, crowds stormed a prison known as the Bastille, broke it open, and released the prisoners inside. Since the prison was symbolic of the powers of the king, its fall marked the beginning of the revolution, and the downfall of the monarchy.

If you are interested in viewing this part of French history through fiction, or if you are simply a Francophile and enjoy any stories set in “Marianne,” there are many wonderful books to choose from. Grab a café au lait and a croissant, get comfortable, and consider any of these half dozen titles to get you started.

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly (2011 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults)
Andi is a modern day New York teen, forced to spend her winter break in Paris with her father. She’s angry at the world after the death of her little brother, and nothing seems to be able to get her to care about anything. While in Paris, Andi finds a journal belonging to a young actress named Alexandrine and finds comfort in its words. Alexandrine won’t mind her privacy being invaded – she lived more than 200 years ago, during the French Revolution. As Andi reads about Alexandrine’s struggles, she feels herself growing closer to the actress until one night, their two personalities seem to merge. Has Andi traveled through time?

Just One Day by Gayle Forman
Allyson is at the end of her three week, post-graduation trip in Europe. She’s a meticulous, careful, thoughtful person and her trip has been the same – well planned, not a detail left to chance. When she meets Willem, a lively, itinerant actor, and he invites her to spend a day with him in Paris, she should say no. This is not on her itinerary! But Allyson says yes, and has an amazing 24 hour adventure with Willem in the City of Lights; romantic, risky, fun, exciting, and challenging. Maybe breaking out of her careful plans is the best thing that could happen to her.

The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner
An unusual group of people band together during the French Revolution. Yann, a young, gypsy orphan works for a magician, along with Tetu, a dwarf who is Yann’s guardian. When the magician is murdered, and Yann’s life is threatened, Tetu and Yann should flee France. But the Revolution is beginning, and a lovely young noble woman to whom Yann is attached, Sido, is in danger, precluding his escape from the Terror.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults)
A fun love-story that includes wonderful descriptions of the City Of Lights and life within it. Anna is very upset at her father for sending her to a Parisian boarding school for her senior year. But after she meets the charming Etienne, she thinks life in Paris might not be so bad after all. It’s a pity Etienne has a girlfriend… 

The Ruby Notebook by Laura Resau
Zeeta and her mother travel the world, settling in a different country every year. This year they are in France, and while her mother teaches English, sixteen year old Zeeta studies, writes in her notebook, makes friends with a group of street performers, and finds she has a secret admirer (whom she calls her fantôme). While on a quest for a mysterious, underground spring that is said to give immortal life, Zeeta and her love Wendell question their own relationship, try to discover the nature of love itself, and get an enormous surprise when they discover Zeeta’s fantôme’s identity.

Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross (2014 Morris Award finalist)
Maude, like many teens, dreams of a glamorous life in the big city. She runs away from home to Paris, where she quickly runs out of money. But in the late nineteenth century, when this story is set, plain-looking girls could get jobs as repoussoirs, beauty foils, girls who accompany young nobles to make the nobles look more beautiful in contrast. Maude’s young noble, Isabelle, has no idea Maude is her foil. She enjoys Maude’s company and a real friendship grows. Should Maude come clean to Isabelle? If she does, her job will certainly end, and she’ll be out on the streets. But if she continues the charade, she’ll be lying to a girl who has come to mean a lot to her.

~ Geri Diorio, currently reading Neuromancer by William Gibson

The Monday Poll: Let’s Go to Summer Camp

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 00:28

photo by flickr user cheeseslave

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, we asked about your favorite summer romance in YA lit. 32% of you chose The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen, 23% are partial to Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson, and 20% are swooning over This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith. You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted!

This week, we’re sticking with the summer theme, but taking our questions to the great outdoors. There are lots of amazing summer camps depicted in YA lit. Which one would you pack your bags for? Vote in the poll below or add your choice in the comments!

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.

On Walter Dean Myers

Sun, 07/13/2014 - 07:00

On July 2, the world lost a visionary, revolutionary, and influential member of the YA community: Walter Dean Myers (1994 Edwards Award). His death at 76 has affected the whole field, but more importantly, his body of work impacted all who read his books.

Some Hub bloggers have fond memories of reading or teaching his books:

Becky O’Neil
I really liked Lockdown (2011 YALSA Quick Pick) by Walter Dean Myers. It’s a good book for a guy reluctant reader (the language and tone are simple and straightforward), especially one who romanticizes a life of crime. The book’s greatest strength is its unblinking look at how hard it can be to get back on the right track once you have a record and not much hope of a better life on the outside…even if you’re only in juvie. I really liked this quote: “Every time [the other inmates] see somebody who looks like he might break the cycle and do something with his life, they want to pull him back in. Especially if you look like them, if you come from the same environment they come from. If you turn your life around, you’re putting the blame on them for not turning theirs around.”

Brandi Smits
I remember reading The Glory Field and Fallen Angels (1989 YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, 1998 Popular Paperbacks, Quick Picks) when I was younger. I was so inspired by the complexity of the stories and being surprised that they were written for my age group. These two titles awakened my need to read books that make you think long after you close the cover. Thank you, Mr. Myers.

Libby Gorman
When I read (actually, listened to) Monster (2000 Printz Award, 2000 YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, 2000 YALSA Quick Pick) during library school, it was an eye-opening experience. I’ve since thought back to that book when a good friend was charged with a crime. People are so multi-faceted that any crime committed is going to have many angles–but the media (and people with a particular agenda) often don’t want us to examine all the angles. I think showing us different angles of the human experience was one of Mr. Myers’ gifts.

Hannah Gómez
While I can appreciate many of Myers’ books, the one that spoke to me most when I was young was Brown Angels (ALSC Notable Book), his collection of poems set to accompany vintage photographs. It was a simple idea, but what made it fresh and validating was that all the children were black or brown, and instead of being posed-for, retouched, shopping mall photo studio portraits, the children in them look real, messy, diverse, and alive. And the poems are just beautiful. I also loved At Her Majesty’s Request, which shone a light on an unknown African princess who was received at Queen Victoria’s court.

Diane Colson
Walter Dean Myers’ novel Scorpions transformed my understanding of what it means to grow up in a poor, urban neighborhood. The story focuses on twelve-year-old Jamal, who lives in Harlem with his mother and younger sister. His older brother, Randy, is in prison, but still trying mastermind his gang, the Scorpions. Jamal wants nothing to do with the Scorpions, but he gets thrust forward as the possible leader in Randy’s absence. He starts to carry a gun. From the outside, Jamal appears to be headed for violence, crime, and a prison stay of his own.

But this story is not about a gang-banger. It’s about a confused boy who wants to do the right thing. His dreams have nothing to do with gang life. He and his best friend, Tito, like to walk down to the boat basin and imagine owning one of the boats. Even as Jamal is on his way to confront one of the scariest Scorpion members, Tito asks if they are going to let girls come on their boat. “Only movie stars,” Jamal replies.

I love the way that Jamal was a twelve-year-old boy FIRST. However frightening his life becomes, he still thinks like a twelve-year-old. This opened my heart in a place that I hadn’t even realized was closed. Kids are kids are kids. That was the gift I received from Scorpions.

What are your favorite Walter Dean Myers books?

–Hannah Gómez, currently reading Blessing’s Bead by Debby Dahl Edwardson

ALA Annual 2014: Odyssey Awards Presentation

Fri, 07/11/2014 - 07:00

The seventh annual Odyssey award presentation was held at the ALA Annual Conference on Monday, June 30, 2014.

The Odyssey Awards are the awards for the best audiobook of the year produced for children and/or teens in English and available in the United States.  It is a joint award presented by ALSC and YALSA.

The room was packed full of librarians and audiobook fans.  It was definitely exciting to see all the honorees that were able to make the presentation of awards.  Here is a slightly blurry photo of the awards winners that were present:

From left to right:

  • Booklist consultant, Rebecca Vnuk
  • 2014 Odyssey Chair, Ellen Rix Spring
  • Daniel Kraus (author of Scowler, 2014 Odyssey Winner)
  • Timothy Federle (author/narrator of Better Nate Than Never, 2014 Odyssey Honor Audiobook)
  • Kirby Heyborne (narrator of Scowler, 2014 Odyssey Winner)
  • Kelly Gildea (producer of Scowler, 2014 Odyssey Winner)
  • Sunil Malhotra (narrator of Eleanor & Park, 2014 Odyssey Honor Audiobook)
  • Rebecca Lowman (narrator of Eleanor & Park, 2014 Odyssey Honor Audiobook) 

Ellen Rix Spring, this year’s Odyssey Award Committee chair, began the presentation with a short introduction of thanks for her committee’s hard work, and gave us a brief insight on what the committee accomplished last year.

The committee worked tirelessly through the year to whittle down 550 submissions to just one winner and four honor titles!!!

Below is a snapshot of what happens in a year of an Odyssey committee member.

Ellen Rix Spring then began the awards presentation with the four honor books.

2014 Odyssey Honors

First up, Better Nate Than Ever, written and narrated by Tim Federle.

For each title, Rix Spring, gave a brief summary about the audiobook and why it was honored.  We were all then treated to an audio clip that exemplified why the audiobook was honored.  The clip that was shared for Better Nate Than Ever, definitely got lots of laughs out of the audience!

We were also treated to a reading by the winning author/narrator, Tim Federle, which you can hear via the video below (sorry all my filming was done on an iPhone, so it is not the best, but it gives you an idea of the treat you get in hearing and seeing the narrators perform in front of your eyes at the presentation of awards).

Chris Lynch, the producer of Better Nate than Ever, and Tim Federle then accepted the award.

The next honor title was Creepy Carrots, written by Aaron Reynolds and narrated by James Naughton.

Creepy Carrots is a picture book, and unfortunately the short video supplied by narrator James Naughton would not play at the time of the presentation, but we did get a chance to see it at the end of the presentation.  The audio clip that was provided also produced lots of laughs, and had a very comically haunting style to it. Paul R. Gagne, one of the producers of Creepy Carrots,  was in attendance to accept the award.

The third honor award presented was to Eleanor & Park, written by Rainbow Rowell and narrated by Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra.

For this title we were lucky enough to hear a dual narration performance by Rebecca Lowman (Eleanor) and Sunil Malhotra (Park).  They both gave a compassionate and emotive reading,  that was received with lengthy applause from those of us in attendance. Orli Moscowitz, producer of Eleanor & Park then accepted the award with the narrators.

Finally, the last honor award was presented to Matilda, written by Roald Dahl and narrated by Kate Winslet.

The clip that was shared generated a lot of laughs, and it was clear that Winslet’s distinctive voice easily took on the wide cast of characters in this beloved children’s novel.  Dan Zitt, the producer of Matilda, shared a written speech that Kate Winslet sent to be given at the presentation.  Winslet spoke of how much of a joy it was for her to go into the studio everyday and play the cast of characters of Matilda and that she was honored to be asked to bring Dahl’s story to life. Her speech ended with a quote from Roald Dahl, speaking to the importance of books and reading:

So Matilda’s strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.

 2014 Odyssey Winner

This year’s 2014 winning Odyssey audiobook is Scowler, written by Daniel Kraus and narrated by Kirby Heyborne.

This was the moment we were all waiting for: the presentation of the 2014 winning Odyssey audiobook.  Scowler is by no means a book that will generate a lot of laughs.  It is a heavy listen, but is done justice by Heyborne’s amazing narration.  If nothing else, the absolute silence during the haunting clip that was played exemplifies the excellence of this production.  Daniel Kraus was first to speak, and he gave much thanks but also talked about how hard it was to write Scowler; he even abandoned the book for some time.  Following Daniel Kraus,  the producer, Kelly Gildea, gave a beautiful speech of thanks, which you can listen to below:

Last up was Kirby Heyborne, who surprisingly got a little emotional at the podium, but after Gildea’s speech you can understand why.  You can listen to his speech and narration performance in the video below.  Once again, when Heyborne narrated the character of Scowler, you could hear a pin drop– and what a performance it was to see in person!

Finally, you may have heard buzz about Kiby Heyborne’s rap for librarians called, “Ain’t Nobody Change the World Like a Librarian”.  Check out my recording below:

You can see a better recording from Random House Audio’s YouTube channel below:

–Colleen Seisser, currently reading Me Before You by Jojo Moyes


Tweets of the Week: July 11th

Fri, 07/11/2014 - 07:00

Greetings, Hub readers!  I have slowly been coming down from the high that was attending my very first ALA Annual Conference!  Luckily, there have been some super fun tweets that I’ve been enjoying this past week!  Get ready for some Sarah Dessen bookshelf love, some awesome comics news and don’t worry – I’ll work some Batman in there for you, too!  And, new Harry Potter, too?!  Yowza!






-Traci Glass, currently reading Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King


Reading the Book before the Movie or Show: Pros, Cons, & Bragging Rights

Thu, 07/10/2014 - 07:00

by flickr user o5com

Young adult and adult novels make it to the big (and little) screen fairly often these days.  So, just how smug should you feel when you have already read the book? There is no easy answer – so to tackle this issue I have broken down the movie/show tie-ins into categories.

The Book Series Made into a Show

You can feel superior, but do tread lightly as you enter this murky zone.   When translating a series of novels into a series of shows major plot elements are likely to be changed to allow for the continuity of the show.  Examples of the book series made into a show include Pretty Little Liars (based on the series by Sara Shepard), Gossip Girl (based on the series by Cecily Von Ziegesar; a 2003 Quick Pick & 2009 Popular Paperback for Young Adults), The Walking Dead (based on the graphic novel series by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Cliff Rathburn and Tony Moore), and Game of Thrones (Based on the “Song of Fire and Ice” books by George R.R. Martin.)

walking dead

  • Pros of pre-reading the book series made into a show:

1) You read the books, you loved them…you watch the show and get more!  You can translate your book reading experience into an on-going show and keep the story alive after the series is over and/or whilst you await (impatiently) for the next book.

2) Deviations from the book make for some fun and unexpected surprises.  You thought you knew all there was to know about white walkers in George RR Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice series… but after watching the HBO show– what?!

  • Cons of pre-reading the book series made into a show:

1) Deviations from the book make for some shocking unexpected surprises.  Yes, this is both a pro and a con.  These changes may call into question your precognitive skills.  For example AMC’s Walking Dead’s many plot changes as compared to the graphic novel series.

  • Bragging rights earned from pre-reading the book series made into a show:

Monday morning talk when there was a Sunday night cliffhanger: does <insert character name> die?  Then they look your way: do you know?  Oh, yeah. 

The Stand Alone Adaptation

Many stand-alone YA books have been adapted into movies which are quite fantastic; often they are independent productions.  Some examples are Stephen Chbosky’s Perks of Being a Wallflower (2000 Best Book for Young Adults, 2002 Popular Paperback for Young Adults, and a 2000 Quick Pick for Young Adults), John Green’s The Fault in Our Star and Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (2006 Alex Award).  Some stand-alone novels adapt well into a series such as Orange is the New Black (based on the memoir by Piper Kerman) and Hemlock Grove (based on the novel by Brian McGreevy).

never let me go kazuo ishiguro cover

  • Pros of pre-reading the stand alone book made into a film or series:

1) A great book turned into a spectacular film with no over-saturation.

2) An added sense of “legitimacy” to the YA book and film world.

  • Cons of pre-reading the stand alone book made into a film or series:

1) The real dud of a film – when a beloved book turns into a seriously craptastic movie.

  • Bragging Rights earned from pre-reading the stand alone book made into a film or series:

OK, I admit in these cases there is not much of a smugness-factor.  But since often times these quality stand-alone books make really fine films or series, that’s really the point, right?

The Uber-popular Movie Tie-in of the Mega-seller Series

 You know the ones… here we are talking about books like J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series (Best Books for Young Adults 1999 2000, 2004, 2006, 2008 & Teens Top Ten 2004, 2006, 2008), Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight saga (Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers 2006, 2007, Best Books for Young Adults 2009, Teens Top Ten 2006, 2007, 2008 & 2009), and Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy (Teens Top Ten 2009, 2010, 2011 & Best Books for Young Adults 2010, 2009, Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers 2009).

In this case you will typically not be special for very long just because you read the book; once the craze hits, many viewers will also become readers.   Often it is the case that moderately popular titles such as these become mega-sellers after the release of a first successful movie.   Typically with this kind of movie tie in, the movie versions follow the books very accurately with no huge plot deviations.

  • Pros of pre-reading the uber-popular movie tie-in of the mega-sellers:

1) The addition of a soundtrack to enhance your love of a good book.  (See the end of this post for some of my favorites).

2) Being able to see what you envisioned come to life in a real way (Diagon Alley: how did they get it so darn right?)  This phenomenon really helps one appreciate the shared human experience aspect of reading.

  • Cons of pre-reading the uber-popular movie tie-in of the mega-sellers:

1) Watching a movie that is SO like the book you just read it can actually turn into a huge snooze fest.

2) The play-out factor of something being ubiquitous and then you start to kind of hate it.

  • Bragging rights of pre-reading the uber-popular movie tie-in of the mega-sellers:

In cases such as this you could build up your ego in a respectable and subdued manner about having been one of the early fans.

Forthcoming and Rumor Mill

Sometimes the most exciting aspect of the pre-reading phenomenon is the anticipation of forthcoming films and shows:  who will be cast?  where will they film it? will anything change?   Some of the following films have a definite release date we can be excited for and some have been “optioned” for a film adaptation but it is not certain when or if they will actually be made.

if i stay poster

The GiverLois Lowry was the 2007 Margaret E. Edwards award recipient and the title was a Popular Paperback for Young Adults in 2010 —the movie adaptation is due to be released August 15, 2014.

If I Stay by Gail Forman.  The title was a Quick Pick For Reluctant Young Adult Reader in 2010)– the movie adaptation is due to be released on August 22, 2014.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner.  The title was a Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers in 2011 and a Best Book For Young Adults in 2011 –the movie adaptation is due to be released on September 19, 2014

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn– a movie adaptation due to be released on October 3, 2014.

Down a Dark Hall by  Lois Duncan, who was the 1992 Margaret E. Edwards award recipient.  The movie adaptation is currently in production with no release date.

Daughter of Smoke and Bones by Laini Taylor.  A movie adaptation is currently in development with no release date.

Legend by Marie Lu.  A movie adaptation is currently in development with no release date.

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld  (2006 Best Book for Young Adults).  A movie adaptation is currently in development with no release date.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (a 2008 Best Book for Young Adults and a 2008 Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers). A movie adaptation is currently in development with no release date.

Forest of Teeth and Hands by Carrie Ryan (a 2010 Best Book for Young Adults).  A movie adaptation is currently in development with no release date.

Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness (The Knife of Never Letting Go was a 2009 Best Book for Young Adults).  A movie adaptation is currently in development with no release date.

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley (the 2012 Morris award winner and the 2012 Micheal L. Printz award winner).  A movie adaptation is currently in development with no release date.

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (the 2009 Micheal L. Printz award winner).  The book is being adapted into a film titled “On the Jellicoe Road” tentatively scheduled for a 2015 release in Australia.

This one is rechnically already released but included here since it’s under the radarDelirium by Lauren Oliver has been made into a pilot but the series was not picked up.  Therefore, no more episodes will be made at this time.  It is now possible to watch the pilot on WIGS and HULU.

There are TON more on the horizon…

What are some of your favorite book to film or show adaptations?

Some Favorite Soundtracks


Twilight and The Twilight Saga: New Moon

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Iron Man 3

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist


-Tara Keho, currently Reading: Stray by Elissa Sussman


ALA Annual 2014: The Margaret A. Edwards Award Brunch

Thu, 07/10/2014 - 07:00

The Margaret A. Edwards Award, sponsored by School Library Journal,  is presented annually to an author whose works are deemed ”a significant and long lasting contribution to young adult literature.” Previous winners include Lois Lowry (2007), Chris Crutcher (2000) and Gary Paulsen (1997). On June 28th, at the ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas, YALSA presented the 2014 Margaret A. Edwards Award to Markus Zusak specifically for his novels The Book Thief, Fighting Ruben Wolfe, Getting the Girl, and I Am the Messenger.

I was really excited about this year’s presentation for two reasons: 1. I Am the Messenger is one of the best books I have ever read and 2. the ceremony was being held on my birthday. There was also an extra added bonus- I’m a native Las Vegan, so I didn’t have to travel to ALA this year. Instead, it came to me!

The Edwards Award ceremony was a brunch this year instead of the traditional lunch, which appealed to me because I’m a big fan of breakfast at any time.  When I arrived at the Las Vegas Hotel there were already people in line waiting to get in and the ballroom was all set up and ready for us. In addition to coffee, quiche and other sundries attendees also received copies of two of  Markus Zusak’s books. The Book Thief and I Am the Messenger, and reading group guides for both books. Attendees eagerly anticipated the presentation of the award and the acceptance speech and chatted throughout brunch until the presentation started.

For those of you who may not know, Markus Zusak hails from Sydney, Australia, so he came from the other side of the world to accept this award (and he has a lovely accent.) He  listed Chris Crutcher, Gary Paulsen and Lois Lowry as heroes, and expressed some awe at being given an award that they had all previously won. After putting aside his speech and telling us he was going to keep it for reference, he told us that his writing career started in the backyard where he grew up, and shared some of the hijinks he and his siblings would get into, including setting up a tennis court in the house, boxing with one glove, and  finding new ways of getting his mother to swear, like ruining her garden playing football (or soccer, for those of us who live here in the U.S.), because when she swore in her  non-Australian accent it was hilarious.

Of course, there was also that pivotal moment when he discovered S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders when he was fourteen, and realized he wanted to be a writer, too. When Markus started to talk about writing the whole room was mesmerized. As a writer myself I find it fascinating how other writers go about crafting their stories. One way in which Markus does this is by pulling things that hadn’t worked from other stories into others, which is how some of the character building for I Am the Messenger was done.  A long overdue trip to the dentist gave him the inspiration for some of the Wolfe brothers’ antics in the Wolfe Brothers series.  ”I’ve always had this thing with stealing,” he said,  and claimed even the most angelic person we know steals at some point- “Think about your mum-I’m telling you, she steals.” When talking about The Book Thief, the title for which he is most well-known, he said he wanted “to write a book that only I could have written,” and that in the end this is his goal with everything that he writes. He also said that even though many readers come to him lamenting that he made them cry when they read it, he points out to them that, “You think that’s bad? I had to write it!”

Here’s a glimpse at part of Markus Zusak’s excellent speech:


After the ceremony ended many of us stood in a long line patiently waiting to get one of our books signed. Even though it was announced that we wouldn’t be able to have books  personalized due to time constraints, Markus was taking the time to personalize and chat with everyone. He was gracious and pleasant with everyone, and I was excited to get my copy of I Am the Messenger signed and get a chance to congratulate him.

The thing about I Am the Messenger that resonated so much with me was how real the characters felt. I like character driven stories, and I enjoyed watching Ed grow as each ace showed up at his door, pushing him closer and closer to finding out who it was that was sending him on his journey. The ability to make a character on the page seem like a real person is a gift that Markus Zusak definitely has!


-Carla Land, currently sifting through all the Advanced Reader Copies she picked up at ALA and trying to figure out what to read next!


Jukebooks: The War Novels of Walter Dean Myers

Wed, 07/09/2014 - 07:00

As you may already know, the world lost a literary hero on July 1 with the passing of Walter Dean Myers, winner of the very first Printz Award, as well as so many other awards and honors.

Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers is one of the most powerful, gut-wrenching novels on war ever written for a young adult audience. Since its publication in 1988, readers have vicariously lived the harrowing experiences of Richie, a bookish high school graduate from Harlem, in the jungles of Vietnam. The story portrays not only the dangers of deadly warfare in a foreign environment but also the incompetence and racism of commanders. It has been challenged many times because of its realistic use of language and violence.

There are many great protest songs from the Vietnam Era, but the one I chose to accompany Fallen Angels is “Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival. The lyrics speak for the thousands of young men who, like Richie, were thrust into this nightmarish war.

Yeah, some folks inherit star spangled eyes
Ooh, they send you down to war, Lord
And when you ask them, “How much should we give?”
Oh, they only answer, more, more, more, oh

Twenty years later, Myers returns to war with Sunrise Over Fallujah, which follows Richie’s nephew, “Birdy’, through his service during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Birdy’s unit is part of the Civilian Affairs team, charged with helping people living in a war zone. Working closely with Iraqis is both dangerous and enlightening, as Birdy struggles to understand how they are meant to help. Again, Myers does not shy away from the harsh realities of IEDs, tribal warfare, and rape. Like its predecessor a generation earlier, Sunrise Over Fallujah also faced many challenges over content.

In the book, Birdy’s closest friend is Jonesy, a blues guitarist with the ambition of opening a blues club after the war. Jonesy’s outlook on the world is filtered through his immersion in the blues, as when he says about Saddam Hussein: “…Saddam got a tune in his head and he wants to play it real bad. And when it don’t go right he just play it louder. A lot of dudes do that. They call it music, but it could just be war.” (p15) 

American band Green Day released “21 Guns” in 2009, after establishing a role as blunt, outspoken patriots with their award-winning album, American Idiots. The lyrics express anger at wars that have lost a clear objective, and yet continue killing thousands of soldiers and civilians.

Do you know what’s worth fighting for?
When it’s not worth dying for?
Does it take your breath away and you feel yourself suffocating?
Does the pain weigh out the pride?
And you look for a place to hide?
Did someone break your heart inside,you’re in ruins

In 2013, Myers stepped back in time to the battlefields of World War II. This time our narrator is  a young white soldier from Virginia named “Woody” Wedgewood.  The Perry family is not excluded from the story, however, as Woody knows Marcus Perry, father of Richie from Fallen Angels, from their shared home town. But the army is segregated in this time period. Woody and Marcus serve separately. Their paths meet coincidentally in France.

Woody becomes part of the D-Day invasion that signaled U.S. military involvement in World War II. It is a gruesome slaughter, as American troops land on the beach while German snipers mow them down. As Woody describes, “I hadn’t yet seen my first live German. The dead and the wounded, twisted and still in the wet sand, said they were there. We had run onto a great invisible death machine.” (p50)

World War II is frequently remember as a “just war.” There was a clear wrong, a defined enemy that had transgressed both political boundaries and human decency. Even still, as Myers demonstrates, it was a war that left its soldiers wounded in their hearts and minds, if not their bodies. To accompany this book is Muse’s “Soldier Poem,” written by Matthew Bellamy. The song does not specifically apply to World War II, but it captures the emotions of Myers’s soldiers as they face death so far from home.

How could you send us so far away from home
When you know damn well that this is wrong
I would still lay down my life for you
And do you think you deserve your freedom

Walter Dean Myers himself served in Vietnam. His younger brother was killed there. His war novels offer a perspective that does not refute the bravery or patriotism of American soldiers. His characters are ordinary teenagers who believed that military service would be a good option for them. All of them came to ponder that decision in the heat of battle.

In A Conversation with Walter Dean Myers about Sunrise Over Fallujahthe Scholastic interviewer asks what Myers hopes readers of his war novels will take away with them. “I want young people to be hesitant to glorify war and to demand of their leaders justification for the sacrifices they ask of our citizens,” he responds. “The young people who read Fallen Angels some twenty years ago are the same ones who are the senior officers in today’s military. I hope that reading Fallen Angels has made them prudent leaders. And when they progress to becoming decision makers, I hope that the earnest literature they have encountered, including Fallen Angels and Sunrise Over Fallujah will cause them to deliberate wisely.”

-Diane Colson

ALA Annual 2014: Sci Fi on the Fly

Tue, 07/08/2014 - 07:00

My science fiction knowledge extends to Star Wars, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and the new Star Trek movies. That’s about it– so I was excited to attend the session at ALA Annual that was all about science fiction for people like me: who know very little about the genre.

The program was presented by Dr. Karin Perry, Assistant Professor of Library Science at Sam Houston State University in Texas. She expertly went through a variety of books (some I had actually read!) and broke them down in the subcategories: Apocalyptic/Post-Apocolypic, Steampunk/Biopunk/Cyberpunk, Robots/Androids/Cyborgs/Artificial Intelligence, Space/Aliens/Extra-Terrestrials, Time Travel/Parallel Universe, and Virtual Reality/Gaming.

She covered so many books that it would be impossible to list here, but Karin put her slideshow online which I know I will be referring to for reader’s advisory.

Be sure to check it out if you struggle with science fiction like I do!


Sci Fi on the Fly from Karin Perry

-Faythe Arredondo

ALA 2014: The Alex Awards Presentation

Tue, 07/08/2014 - 07:00

Following the fabulous YALSA Coffee Klatch that Lalitha Nataraj wrote about, several of my tablemates and I needed to get the 2014 Alex Awards presentation. The trek, like the layout of the Vegas strip, seemed walkable and relatively close by on paper, but ended up being at the very end of the convention center. Thankfully, all the caffeine that we had just consumed while meeting fabulous YA authors allowed us to powerwalk and arrive on time for the session.

Danielle Dreger-Babbitt, chair of the 2014 Alex Awards committee, got things started by reminding the audience of how the Alex Awards were first given out in 1998, became an official ALA award in 2002, and honor the work of Margaret A. Edwards, who was called “Alex” by her friends. Book jackets of the ten winning titles were shown along with short descriptions.

John Searles signs books for April Witteveen and Sarah Levin at the 2014 Alex Awards presentation

Typically, three to four winning authors attend the award presentation at ALA Annual. This year, only one author was able to make it – John Searles, who won for his book Help for the Haunted. As John began his presentation, he joked that when he heard there were nine other winning authors he killed them all and buried them in the backyard (a nice tip of the hat to 2014 winner The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell).

What followed was a truly delightful, heartfelt presentation that included home movies (cinematic proof that from an early age John wanted to be an author as the super 8 pans his childhood living room and we see him writing away in a mini steno pad); a picture from high school (with John writing, of course); a scan of a truly scathing rejection note for an early manuscript submission, and photos of John’s hometown library (where he has been immortalized on a quilt featuring local authors). 

Danielle Dreger-Babbitt, 2014 Alex Awards chair, and John Searles

Books read during adolescence directly informed John’s writing. He pointed out that Help for the Haunted was a combination of Sidney Sheldon plot twists, Stephen King eeriness, and quirky John Irving characters.One of my favorite stories that John told related to his first published book. As a young boy, John would take pages from his mother’ s book of wallpaper samples which he would use to cover pieces of cardboard and then sandwich in construction paper to make books that he would sell to his family members for 25 cents. He sold his first volume, Stories and Stories and Stories, which included “Over the Rainbow” and “Behind the Rainbow,” to his grandma.

As the presentation came to a close, John told some insider stories from his job as a correspondent with The Today Show – the funniest relating to a book giveaway of Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations with a manic audience member first demanding a copy and then insisting that John sign it. Not knowing what else to do, he wrote “Best of luck, Chuck” and handed the book back.

Me with John Searles

Audience members were treated to copies of Help for the Haunted (generously donated by HarperCollins and handed out by the awesome Virginia Stanley). The epitome of graciousness, John stayed for over an hour after the event had ended – taking the time to talk at length to every person who had waited to meet him, listen to their stories, and sign his book.

 While I am sure conference attendees and my fellow members of the 2014 Alex Awards committee would have enjoyed getting to fete the other winning authors as well, I felt with John’s presentation we got an extra special treat by getting to learn so much about the development of his writing career from childhood to adulthood and the work that went into the creation of a truly haunting tale.

-Paige Battle, currently reading a very large stack of books for the 2015 Alex Awards committee

Librarians Love: Books for Young Black Male Readers

Tue, 07/08/2014 - 07:00

by the Allen County (IN) Public Library

YALSA-bk is a listserv with lively discussions among librarians, educators, and beyond about all things YA lit. Sometimes one listserv member will ask for help finding books around a certain theme or readalikes for a particular title. This post is a compilation of responses for one such request.

The original request
A year ago I asked the group a question about books for black MG and YA boys, especially those who were reluctant readers. The response was Bluford High and Walter Dean Myers, and not much else. In the light of the recent loss of Myers, I wanted to pose the question again. Who do you guys see as the next go to author for books to suck in black male readers? Do you know of any such books you would recommend. I was at a session a few years ago where Matt de la Pena spoke and said a young hispanic male had told him “that’s my life in your book.” Who do you see as the authors who could wring a response like that from today’s (and future) black teens?

Suggested titles

  • Sasquatch in the Paint by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
  • Death of Jayson Porter by Jaime Adoff
  • The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
  • He Said, She Said by Kwame Alexander
  • How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy by Crystal Allen
  • Kinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth
  • Brendan Buckley’s 6th Grade Experiment by Sundee T. Frazier
  • Brendan Buckley’s Universe and Everything In It by Sundee T. Frazier
  • Nowhere to Run by Claire Griffin
  • The Great Green Heist by Varian Johnson
  • Secret Saturdays by Torrey Maldonado
  • When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds
  • 8th Grade Superzero by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
  • Saving Baby Doe by Danette Vigilante
  • Eddie Red Undercover by Marcia Wells
  • Ultimate Comics Spider-Man trade paperback series

Suggested authors

  • Barbara Binns

  • Christopher Paul Curtis
  • G. Neri

Suggested resources

Have more titles you think should belong on these lists? Add them on the YALSA wiki or leave a comment! Looking for more compiled booklists? Check out the YALSA wiki or other booklists here at The Hub.

– Gretchen Kolderup, currently reading The Riverman by Aaron Starmer

YA Lit Gone Country

Mon, 07/07/2014 - 07:00

I love the twang of country music, the songs about trucks, independence, and falling in love. I think I fell in love with country music because most of the songs seem to tell a story, and being a bookish nerd, I loved that.

Here’s a video from Trace Atkins explaining why he sings Country in Songs About Me.

July 4th was National County Music Day and in celebration, I’ve created a list of YA books featuring country music.

Wildflower by Alicia Whitaker
Bird’s family play together with her Dad as the front man, but when he’s sick, he asks Bird to step in a lead the band. At first, Bird’s nervous, but then she finds her groove and starts to shine in the spotlight. There’s a talent scout in the crowd and he requests a meeting with her father.  Everyone’s excited about the possibility of being signed – but it turns out he just wants Bird. It’s too good of an opportunity for her to pass up, but is she ready for the hard work and fame?

Somebody Everybody Listens To by Suzanne Supplee (2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults)
Retta Lee Jones takes the advice from her best friend and, after high school graduation, leaves her small town behind in hopes of making it in Nashville. After a string of bad luck, she meets a friend who helps her out. Can she survive and strike it big?

Paradise by Jill S. Alexander
Paisley Tillery lives and breathes drums. They could be her ticket out of small town Texas. Her dreams might be able to come true now that the band has a hot new lead singer. When Paisley falls for him, she can’t help wondering if he could help her soar or hold her back. Paisley’s mother doesn’t know about the band because she wouldn’t approve. How can her dreams come true if she can’t tell her family and have their support?

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord
Reagan lives life on the edge, while her BFF maintains a clean image. Lilah’s a country music star and when her long term relationship ends, she invites Reagan on tour. When a scandal erupts about Lilah, her management brings in a star for the opening act that can help with damage control. Only Regan falls for Matt and he seems to like her too.

Love Struck Summer by Melissa Walker
Quinn just graduated high school. Since she lives for music, she decides to call up her favorite record label and ask for an internship. She’s surprised enough to have someone answer the phone at 3 a.m., let alone an affirmative answer to her question. She heads for Texas to stay with her cousin where she’s excited about her job and can’t wait to find the perfect boyfriend. Her summer doesn’t go exactly as planned.

~ Jennifer Rummel Currently Reading: The Year of Luminous Love by Lurlene McDaniel

The Monday Poll: Summer Lovin’ YA Lit Style

Sun, 07/06/2014 - 23:32

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, in honor of the World Cup, we asked your opinion on which YA book features the best soccer game. The top choice was Akata Witch by Nnedi  Okorafor with a whopping 40% of the vote, and close behind was The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares with 32% of the vote. You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted!

This week, as summer is in full force, we’re longing to know your favorite YA summer romance. Choose from the following options, or leave a comment to tell us which summer love story makes you swoon!

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.