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Throwback Thursday: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Thu, 03/10/2016 - 07:00


You may feel like you just finished reading The Graceling Realm series, but the current reader who is 16 years old was 8 when this book was published.  Some young adult literature has a short shelf-life; pop culture references, trends, technology, even the language teens use to communicate, evolves. Fantasy is often more enduring because the worlds are entirely different from our own, yet the conflicts and themes are universal.

Katsa lives in a world where Gracelings are commonplace.  Gracelings are noted by the fact that they have two different colored eyes and a special skill or ability.  The skill may be as simple as being an excellent baker or climber, or an excellent swordsman or archer, but it can also be more complicated than that.  Katsa’s grace is unique;  Her ability is to kill.  It does not matter the size or strength of her opponent, Kasha will kill them before they even have time to register what is happening.

However, even with this remarkable power, Katsa is being used by the king, her uncle, as nothing more than muscle.  Katsa hates this, but even though she is secretly fighting back and trying to undo the evil her uncle has created, she is still scared to stand up to him.  Until she meets Po.  Running into Po was an accident.  They were both on a mission to save a former king, now known as Prince Tealiff, who was kidnapped.  Kasha is doing this undercover as her way to give back for the cruel services performed through her uncle.  Po is doing this because this former king is his grandfather.  Who kidnapped Prince Tealiff?  Why would he matter now?  Po plans on finding out and asks Kasha to assist him, which her uncle refuses.  Can Katsa find her inner strength to leave the kingdom she has grown up in and help Po and his family?  This fantasy novel will keep you on your feet as you go through the multiple layers of deception, danger, and depth.  The guarded romance adds to the complicated relationship between Katsa and Po.

#TBT Graceling by Kristin Cashore, published in 2008

2009 Morris finalist

2009 Best Books for Young Adults

2012 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults

Readers who enjoy Graceling have more adventures in the Seven Realms to explore: the story continues in companion novels Fire and Bitterblue.

Fire by Kristin Cashore, published in 2009


2013 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore, published in 2012

2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults


Hand Graceling to readers who loved

-A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Mass, published in 2015

2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults

-Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin Trilogy) by Robin LaFevers, published in 2012

2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults

-Shadow and Bone (Grisha Trilogy) by Leigh Bardugo, published in 2012

2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults

— Mariela Siegert, currently reading Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway

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Engaging English Language Learners

Tue, 03/08/2016 - 08:00

At a conference in the fall, a presenter from the marketing world talked about how the old adage of America as a melting pot can be improved. Instead, we should look at America as a salad: the lettuce cannot be the tomato, nor can the tomato be the cucumber. Combining each ingredient adds flavors, textures, and colors that can be appreciated separately, but also together. I love that.

Books, like people, are all a little different, and there should be something for everyone in each library collection. English as a New Language (ENL) learners may not appreciate all flavors of stories— some may be too rich in idioms. The vocabulary may be too advanced in others, making the book unpalatable. But one thing I do know is that we must keep trying, testing, tasting. For others, the symbolism is incomprehensible and therefore the significance of the book is not understood. Many books that ENL students contain the familiar flavor of their own language, culture, or have characters that look like them. Some are just plain funny. Others have pictures. Here is a taste of some titles that will engage those still learning English.

Ask Me No Questions by Marina Budhos

At an AR level of 4.8 and Lexile of 790, students from middle eastern and Asian countries can relate to Nadira, a Muslim from Bangladesh whose family came to New York City before 9/11. But after, they fear for their safety both as Muslims but also as illegal aliens.

Breadwinner series (The Breadwinner, Parvana’s Journey, Mud City, My Name is Parvana)  by Deborah Ellis

With an AR level of 4.5 and Lexile of 640, this series will draw students in. Just like the phenomenon of trilogies and series that focus on quantity to increase readership by following Parvana’s Afghani family, students won’t need a recommendation after finishing the first, instead they can move through the rest in the series.

Anahita’s Woven Riddle by Meghan Nuttall Sayres

Increasing both stamina and readability, Sayres’ story hearkens to The Thousand and One Nights with storytelling of fables, folklore, legends, and parables. With an AR level of 6 and Lexile of 900, Iranian Anahita has permission to weave a riddle into her wedding rug to challenge her future betrothed to solve it and provide a suitable match for the cunning Anahita.  

Lunch Lady series by Jarrett Krosoczka

A set of graphic novels with an average AR level of about 2.5 and a Lexile of 450, students will go straight for the outlandish and silly simplicity of each book while practicing visual literacy. Vivid and colorful illustrations provide a punch and the uncomplicated plot is surmountable.  


I am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World by Malala Yousafzai and Patricia McCormick

The young readers edition has an AR of 5.9 and a Lexile of 830, but with the popularity and notoriety of the Nobel Peace Prize winner, it’s an easy option to share.

Outcasts United: The Story of a Refugee Soccer Team that Changed a Town by Warren St. John

Sports is universal and soccer is arguably the most popular sport worldwide, so St. John’s story about the Fugee’s female soccer coach, Luma Mufleh, and their team of diverse refugees living in Georgia, is appealing. With an AR of 6.7 and an Lexile of 980, the language becomes more difficult but understanding the intricacies of the team sport aids understanding.

No matter the reading levels or topics, often it boils down to first understanding who your ENL students are, where they come from, and what their stories are. Then you learn about abilities and personal reading interests to develop a collection that better serves them along with the rest of your population. To return to the analogy of the salad: be sure that the salad bar is fully stocked that way you won’t have trouble building your salad.

— Alicia Abdul, currently between books

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True Crime: Books, Podcasts, and Documentaries

Mon, 03/07/2016 - 07:00

With Season 2 of the popular podcast Serial nearing the end of this current season, the FX original limited series, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, and the runaway Netflix hit Making a Murderer, our fascination with crime stories doesn’t seem to wane. Maybe the draw is that we want to see justice served, or we want to know if we could spot the true crime in a situation, or maybe it has something to do with the fact that, as one of the lawyers in Making a Murderer says, “We could all say that we’re never going to commit a crime. But we can never guarantee that someone else won’t accuse us of a crime.” Whatever the reason, one thing it does is challenge our worldview.

CC image via Flickr user Tony Webster


For readers that enjoy a suspenseful or thriller type mystery, true crime can be a great nonfiction option. True crime can also be a great gateway to other narrative nonfiction for readers that don’t see themselves as nonfiction readers; through it they might find themselves spellbound. Here is a list of heart-pounding true crime books and other media.


The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden & the Trial of the Century by Sarah Elizabeth Miller

One of the most followed crime cases of the late 1800s, Miller reexamines the brutal crime that left Lizzie Borden’s father and step-mother hacked to death with an ax, and why so many thought it was Lizzie’s doing.

Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson (2010 Best Books for Young Adults)

Relive the heart-racing account of the twelve-day chase and capture of John Wilkes Booth and his accomplices in this historical thriller.

Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos (2003 Printz Honor Book, Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults 2006, 2003 Best Books for Young Adults, 2004 Selected Audiobooks for Young Adults)

Shortly after graduating from high school, Gantos accepted an offer of $10,000 to help sail a boat full of hash from St. Croix to New York, eventually landing him in prison.


The Nazi Hunters: How A Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb (2014 Award for Excellence in Nonfiction)

What does it take to catch a Nazi war criminal in hiding? Sixteen years after the end of World War II, a team of undercover Israeli agents hunt and capture Adolf Eichmann, who was hiding  in a remote area of Argentina, bringing him to justice.

No Choirboy: Murder, Violence, and Teenagers on Death Row by Susan Kuklin (2009 Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers and 2009 Best Books for Young Adults)

Examines life in incarceration and the death penalty with in-depth interviews of teenage prisoners convicted of murder and awaiting execution.

Spies of the Mississippi: The True Story of the Spy Network That Tried to Destroy the Civil Rights Movement by Rick Bowers (2011 Finalist for Award for Excellence in Nonfiction)

Documents the activities of the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission that compiled secret files on more than 87,000 private citizens with the mission of maintaining white supremacy.


Can I See your I.D.?: True Stories of False Identities by Chris Barton (2012 Nonfiction Award Nomination)

A collection of ten stories of con artists, hoaxers and fugitives living under a false identity either for criminal purposes or for self-preservation.

Bad Girls: Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, Thieves, & Other Female Villains by Jane Yolen

Revisit the lives and legendary misdeeds of 26 notorious women. From Delilah to Calamity Jane to gangster moll Virginia Hill, Bad Girls asks if we would still consider some of these women bad, or just a part of bad circumstances.

The Year We Disappeared: A Father-Daughter Memoir by Cylin Busby

After being shot at close range, a police officer and his family run for their lives leaving everything they know behind. A shocking and unrelenting memoir told by both the officer and his daughter as they recount the year that everything changed.


Lucky by Alice Sebold (2009 Outstanding Books for the College Bound and Lifelong Learners and 2007 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults)

Unflinching memoir of the aftermath of being raped on a college campus, that follows the investigation and prosecution of the author’s attacker, as well as her own struggles dealing with life “after.”

In Cold Blood: A True Account of A Multiple Murder and Its Consequences by Truman Capote (2007 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults)

One of the top-selling true crime novels in the U.S. reconstructs a senseless murder of a Kansas farm family. With precision and empathy, Capote follows the crime that shocked a small community through its investigation to the capture, sentencing and execution of the murderers.

Columbine by David Cullen (2010 Alex Award Nomination)

A myth-busting examination of the 1999 Colorado high-school shooting massacre. Through extensive interviews and police reports, explores the big question with no easy answers, “Why did this happen?”



By the creators of This American Life, tells an investigative story throughout an entire twelve episode season.


You Must Remember This: Charlie Manson’s Hollywood

This storytelling podcast about the secret and/or forgotten histories of Hollywood’s first century. Their twelve-part series “Charlie Manson’s Hollywood” explores the murders committed in the summer of 1969 by followers of Charles Manson and the events leading up to them, and the effects they had bringing the 60’s to an end.

This American Life; The House on Loon Lake

As kids, Adam Beckman and his friends broke into an abandoned house in the 1970s to find everything perfectly preserved, creating a mystery around the family who once lived there but seemed to disappear without a trace. Later as an adult, Beckman returns to find out more about the family, only to discover he is not the only one seeking answers.

True Murder: The Most Shocking Killers in True Crime History and the Authors That Have Written About Them

Host Dan Zupansky interviews authors that have written about the most shocking killers of all time in this weekly series.


Stories about people who have done crimes or had crimes done to them and everything crime-y in between.


Sword and Scale

True crime narratives that seeks to explore the human elements of some of the greatest horrors of our time.


Documentaries and Miniseries:


Making a Murderer

This ten-part Netflix original series follows Steven Avery, a DNA exoneree. While trying to expose inept and corrupt local law enforcement, finds himself accused of a new crime.

The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst

This six-part HBO original series examines New York real estate mogul Robert Durst, who is at the heart of three killings spanning four decades.

Capturing the Friedmans

2003 Documentary about a father and son, who seemingly typical, are  then charged with a series of horrible and shocking crimes.


The Central Park Five

Filmmaker Ken Burns chronicles The Central Park Jogger case through the perspective of the five black and Latino teenagers from Harlem who were wrongly convicted of raping a white woman in New York City’s Central Park in 1989.

West of Memphis

With dubious lack of proof, three nonconformist teenage boys are convicted of horrendous murders. Evidence surrounding the murders is exposed showing the wrongful conviction of three boys who lost eighteen years of their lives imprisoned for crimes they did not commit.

Also see the 1996 documentary about the case Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills.

The Imposter

After disappearing without a trace in 1994, a thirteen-year-old boy is found three-and-a-half years later, thousands of miles away in Europe. The boy tells a story of kidnap and torture when he returns, but everything  is not as it seems. Is this the the boy that disappeared or an imposter?

— Danielle Jones, currently reading Unbecoming by Jenny Downham

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2016 Hub Challenge Check-In #6

Sun, 03/06/2016 - 07:00

Not signed up yet for YALSA’s 2016 Hub Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post. Anything you’ve read since the awards were announced counts, and the challenge runs until 11:59pm EST on June 23, so sign up now!

We are six weeks into the 2016 Hub Reading Challenge, with over 150 (and counting!) participants. I have already had some really satisfying reading experiences from the list of eligible titles. If you, like me, are still only a few titles in, do not fret! We have fifteen weeks left to read, so it’s definitely not too late to jump on board if you’re just joining us! Let us know what you’ve been reading or listening to in the comments below, and find us with the #hubchallenge hashtag on Instagram, Twitter, and the 2016 Hub Challenge Goodreads group.



This past week I finally tackled a title that’s been on my to-read list for months; Laura Ruby’s mesmerizing Bone Gap, winner of this year’s Printz Award. I’d heard only awesome things about it from sources I totally trust, but I’d been putting off reading it – something about the jacket blurb wasn’t quite hooking me, and it just never seemed like exactly what I was in the mood for. My to-read list (like yours, I’m sure!) is long enough that it can take months – or years – for me to get to those books. But this is why I love the Hub Challenge; it’s that extra little incentive to pick up a title I’ve been intending to get to but haven’t started yet. And once I did start reading Bone Gap, it only took a page for the writing to reel me in, and I couldn’t put it down, so I’m grateful for the extra push to read it now.

Also this week, I read the first three volumes of A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Oima, the only manga on the 2016 Great Graphic Novels for Teens Top Ten list. I promptly brought it back to work the following day, book-talked it, and had a student take it immediately. The premise has strong appeal for a lot of my students – one main character on the margins, another lashing out, the long-lasting repercussions of bullying and ugly behavior, the question of redemption, and motive, and forgiveness. I found myself troubled by the pivotal role suicide plays in the plot (both in the volumes recognized for the list, and later volumes), and curious to see what other readers thought of how that was portrayed. Even though I was frequently quite frustrated by many of the characters’ behavior, it’s really stayed on my mind since I finished reading, and I’m planning on finishing the series.

What have you been reading for the challenge this week?

If you’ve completed or conquered the challenge, fill out the form. Happy reading, everyone!

-Carly Pansulla, currently (re)reading A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

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Learn From Their Mistakes: Drugs and Alcohol in YA Literature

Fri, 03/04/2016 - 07:00

Teens are growing up, learning who they are, and developing their beliefs. Some teens, or their friends and family seek alcohol or drugs to numb themselves, push down a secret, because of peer pressure, or to avoid conflict. In these YA novels, teens cope with their own addiction or the drug and alcohol abuse of family and friends. 


Other Broken Things by C. Desir

After doing a stint in rehab, Nat is in AA. Feel good friends and an ex-boyfriend all want her to go back to being the drunk party girl, but meeting an older man, Joe, in her meetings along with confronting turmoil at home, Nat doesn’t think she wants to go back to being the drunk, but not before she also opens up about a big secret. Desir’s novel that confronts who you were before and who you want to be after a life-altering incident.

Pearl by Deirdre Riordan Hall

This novel focuses on how substance abuse of a loved one effects the protagonist. Pearl’s mother is a drug-addicted former rock star whose biting words have hurt Pearl and poor money management has led to their homelessness. The ramifications of drug or alcohol abuse are felt emotionally and in Pearl’s case even affects her physical safety, so the far-reaching effects can connect teen readers.

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

When siblings do wrong, usually the others are inadvertently or intentionally punished for their mistakes. Peyton drives drunk and puts their family into a tailspin, so Sydney must explore who she is when all of the focus is on her ‘perfect’ brother.

Finding Hope by Colleen Nelson

Hope continues to leave notes and money for her brother Eric who has been kicked out of the house because of his meth addiction. After heading to boarding school, she works through her issues while the dual narrative uncovers that Eric is hiding a dark, explosive secret. Meth and heroin addiction are fast-moving and all-encompassing drugs so Nelson’s realistic approach to the destruction of the person and their family is moving.

Juvie by Steve Watkins

Sadie has taken the fall for her older sister, Carla, on a drug charge. But the consequences are very real and spending time in juvie challenges Sadie’s views on family, loyalty, and relationships, especially when Carla’s drug abuse got her mixed up in this. This look at the judicial system’s treatment of illegal drug activity is informative and thoughtful.

The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith

Eden’s world has been upended after her brother’s best friend rapes her. She turns inward, unable to tell anyone and becomes reckless, with her body and alcohol as readers follow her freshman through senior year. With an expected publication date at the end of this month, Smith’s book will be integral in showcasing the dangers of not speaking out.

Far From You by Tess Sharpe

Taking a different angle, this debut novel is more mystery than problem novel. Sophie is a recovering drug addict who was sent away to heal, but when a murder puts her sobriety into question, she’ll fight for the truth and her exoneration. Drugs are just one element of this complex story that makes readers sympathetic to a girl trying to get on track.

Whether the protagonists, parents, or siblings are struggling with addiction, it’s no secret that there is collateral damage. Exploring each character’s situation is part of the process of understanding. Each of these books can be used in reading circles to discuss the what ifs and what would you do or as a parent/teen reading group to open up a line of communication about tough issues. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has resources specifically for teens to learn about the dangers of substance abuse and how to get help. 

— Alicia Abdul, currently between books

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What Would They Read? Temperance Brennen from Bones

Wed, 03/02/2016 - 07:00

It was just announced that the procedural drama Bones will be entering its final season this fall. I have been keeping up with Dr. Brennan and her gang of “squints” since the beginning, and although I think it would be difficult to convince her to read any young adult fiction, if she were to ask me for suggestions, these are books I think she would enjoy:

Ask the Dark by Henry Turner. There are boys missing in Billy’s neighborhood, and Billy wants to earn the reward for finding them, which will help his family keep their home. He may be in for more than he bargained, however.

Confessions of a Murder Suspect by James Patterson. Tandy wakes up to find police in her home and her parents dead. She was the last one to see them alive. If no one entered their apartment in the night, she or one of her siblings must be the murderer.

Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa. Selby, Mira, and Jeremy are thrown together and attempt to survive high school as Jeremy discovers that Mira and Selby are keeping things hidden. Can they overcome their secrets together?

Guy Langman, Crime Scene Procrastinator by Josh Berk. No one is more surprised than Guy when his high school forensics club encounters a genuine corpse, but when Guy realizes his father’s mysterious past may have something to do with his current case, he might be in over his head.

Oblivion by Sasha Dawn. Callie was found in an apartment, writing I KILLED HIM over and over on the wall. Her father is missing, as is her memories of that day and the hours before it. She is convinced she has something to do with it, but she’s not sure what.

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary Schmidt. Jack’s parents become foster parents for Joseph, a boy who has left behind an abusive father, a sordid past, and a son. All Joseph wants is to find his son and care for him.

Peas and Carrots by Tanita Davis. Hope’s family takes in Dessa as a foster child, and Hope and Dessa immediately begin butting heads. How can two people who are so different ever learn to live together?

Rules for Disappearing by Ashley Elston. Megan has had a score of different identities in the past year as her family moves through the Witness Protection Program. She is fed up with moving and doesn’t understand why they are in witness protection in the first place, until she realizes it’s because of her.

Truth and Lies by Norah McClintock. Mike is the perfect suspect for the murder of his friend Robbie. He was at the park where Robbie was killed and he’s covered in bruises and scratches. Mike insists, though, that he’s innocent, but can he prove it?

Vitro by Jessica Khoury. Sophie is searching for her mother, a scientist who is working on a remote island in the Pacific. What she finds defies description. Genetically engineered super humans aid her as she attempts to both find her mother and escape those who want to erase her.

What if I’m an Atheist? A Teen’s Guide to Exploring Life without Religion by David Seidman. This nonfiction work explains atheism and how to explore what you believe or don’t believe, as well as how to handle friends and family who may disagree with you.

I might not be able to convince Dr. Brennan to pick up any of these books, but I might be able to entice her to read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. Many people relate to Harry’s outsider status, and Temperance would be no exception to this. She may also appreciate his excitement about getting real presents once he’s away from the Dursleys. If nothing else, she might be convinced to read this book so she can discuss it with her daughter, and the fantastical world Harry lives in would be a great break from the reality she faces every day.

Jenni Frencham, currently reading The Copper Gauntlet by Holly Black

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Women in Comics: Even More Superheroes

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 07:00
Image by ErikaWittlieb. CC0.

Shortly after I first started writing this series of posts on female-created comics, I wrote a post that highlighted some of the best superhero comics created by women, but since that time some great new comics have debuted featuring female superheroes written and/or drawn by female creators. This post will help you find a brand new superhero for all your reading (and maybe even cosplaying!) needs.

Captain Marvel by Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters with art by Kris Anka – With Kelly DeConnick no longer writing for Captain Marvel, many fans were a bit nervous what the newest series about this iconic character would bring. But, thankfully, Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters, both writers and producers for the hit Marvel show Agent Carter, have managed to create a compelling new story worthy of Carol Danvers. This latest arc finds Carol moving to a state-of-the-art space station to take charge of Alpha Flight. Though the first issue was just released in January, the series is already off to an action-packed start that will help members of the Carol Corp. to recover from DeConnick’s departure.

Faith by Jody Houser with art by Francis Portela and Marguerite Sauvage – This new series from Valiant focuses on Faith Herbert, a.k.a. Zephyr, and allows her to have solo adventures and serve as the backbone of her own series for the first time. Faith is a standout character for several reasons, but one of the most talked about is the fact that she defies expectations about a female superhero’s build. Instead of featuring completely unrealistic art that gives her an idealized or even stylized body, Faith is depicted here as a plus-sized woman in a way that never shies away from showing her realistically. This makes the series an important addition to the world of female superheroes, but beyond this, the series also tells a great story that is sure to earn Faith a legion of her own fans.

Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat by Kate Leth with art by Brittney L. Williams – Diehard Jessica Jones fans may recognize Patsy Walker as Trish Walker from that show, but the character has a much longer history than that, appearing originally in romance comics starting in the 1940’s. This new series references her origin story while creating a modern and light-hearted world for the modern day Hellcat to inhabit. Williams’ art beautifully complements the tone of Leth’s story, making this a very engaging new series that is perfect for fans of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and anyone who wants more humor than violence in their superhero stories.

Bombshells by Marguerite Bennett with art by Marguerite Sauvage – In this entertaining reimagining of history, powerful female characters from the DC universe lend their strength to the armies fighting World War II. The series includes an array of popular characters, including Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batwoman, Commander Waller, and Harlequin. The artwork for the series complements its historical setting through its 1940’s pin-up style and portrays these characters as strong, dynamic heroes. It is a great option for readers who love alternate histories or fans of these characters’ other story arcs.

Runaways: Battleworld by Noelle Stevenson with art by Sanford Greene – Runaways has a history of having some great creative teams affiliated with it, including Brian K. Vaughan, Adrian Alphona, Joss Whedon, Michael Ryan, Kathryn Immonen, and Sara Pichelli, but notwithstanding this illustrious history, fans were still extremely excited when it was announced that Noelle Stevenson and Sanford Greene were taking over for the series’ Battleworld arc. In this iteration, the teenage runaways are students at a fancy and selective school. As they begin to question the motives of the school’s principal, they uncover secrets that will change them forever. Whether you have read Runaways in the past or not, this is a great miniseries to check out.

Did I miss any of your favorite new female-created superheroes? Want to discuss these comics more? Let me know in the comments!

– Carli Spina, currently reading Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout

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The Age of the Retelling

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 07:00

Aliens. Vampires. Ghosts. Dystopians. These are some huge themes that pop culture has gone through in the past decade. From YA novels, to movies, to television shows there is always a theme that prevails for a period of time. Our current theme? Retellings.

The current line up of new movies are either remakes and reboots of originals or books and comics turned into movies, with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Revenant, and Deadpool leading the way. Current popular TV shows are either retellings or revivals of past shows, with the masses being particularly excited about Fuller House and X-Files.

Retellings abound in YA literature as well, not only in rewriting classics, such as Marta Acosta’s retelling of Jane Eyre entitled Dark Companion, but many retellings of fairy tales. What is it about retellings that catch our attention? Is it the themes that we know and love? Is it the comfort of the familiar, like we are coming home? I am sure the answer is different for everyone, but there is no doubt that retellings are taking the pop culture world by storm.

As with many themes, certain books quickly take the spotlight, while some others quietly gain attention. The same goes with retellings. Below are some books that all your friends may have been telling you about, books you haven’t heard of, and new books to keep an eye out for.


Cinder by Marissa Meyer (2015 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults)

This is the start of a sci-fi series, The Lunar Chronicles, based on traditional fairy tales. Cinder, a retelling of Cinderella, is about a half cyborg girl that is mistreated by her family. She does meet a handsome prince and falls in “like”, but she is most certainly not a damsel in distress. She is smart, resourceful, and a leader. The series continues with Scarlet, a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood; Cress, a retelling of Rapunzel; Fairest: Levana’s Story, essentially a retelling of the backstory of the evil queen; and Winter, a retelling of Snow White. Marissa Meyer also recently published Stars Above, a short story anthology set in the world of The Lunar Chronicles, including a retelling of The Little Mermaid.

The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

This book is the first in a trilogy of retellings of classic horror/sci-fi novels. The Madman’s Daughter is a retelling of The Island of Doctor Moreau. The main character, Juliet, is abandoned after her father is banished from London society and her mother passes away. She goes from living a life of privilege to being a maid for a university. Suddenly a figure from her past appears again and thus begins a journey she did not anticipate, including discovering a curiosity as mad as her father’s. The story continues with Her Dark Curiosity, a retelling of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; and A Cold Legacy, a retelling of Frankenstein.

The Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins

Keep an eye out for this new release, coming out on March 8th. The Great Hunt is a retelling of a lesser known Grimm Brothers’ story entitled The Singing Bone; it is also reminiscent of the European folktale of The Wild Hunt. In this novel Princess Aerity’s hand in marriage is the prize to the man that can kill the creature terrorizing the surrounding towns. Aerity does not want to be handed off as a prize, and Paxton, a huntsman, wants nothing to do with the royal family. When they meet they find that they, and the beast, are more than they bargained for.


A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas

In this story we find a retelling of Sleeping Beauty and what happens after her happy ending. Aurora’s “happy ending” is not like the storybook tells you. The man that wakes Aurora is not her prince, but a stranger. Her kingdom has been taken over and ruled not by her allies, but by her enemies. Can she navigate her way in a kingdom she doesn’t know, or should she find a way out? The story continues with the sequel, Kingdom of Ashes.

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

In this new YA novel, coming out tomorrow, March 1st, we get an exciting new reboot of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. This story takes the great-great-grandson of John Watson and the great-great-granddaughter of Sherlock Holmes and puts them as classmates at a private school in modern day Connecticut. Their story takes on a life much like their great-great-grandfathers’. They must solve the murder of a fellow student, after they are both framed as the killers. While doing this they must also learn to work together without butting heads, as their great-great-grandfathers did before them.

Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan

In this retelling of Rapunzel, Sophie Jordan writes a new twist on an old classic. After her parents are murdered, Luna is hidden away in a tower, with everyone thinking that she is dead. After meeting an archer in the woods, she decides to escape, but does not realize what awaits her out in the real world. Together they must navigate a
treacherous journey, while still learning secrets the other has been unwilling to tell.

In this current age of retellings, I hope that these have caught your attention and made it onto your reading lists! Let me know in the comments if you’ve read them, what you thought, or if there are some other retellings that you would love to share!

— Tegan Anclade, currently reading Winter by Marissa Meyer

The post The Age of the Retelling appeared first on The Hub.

Redefining Storytelling: A Wattpad Primer

Mon, 02/29/2016 - 07:00

I have to admit it — I’m a Wattpad newbie. Even though this online story-sharing community has been around since 2006, it’s stayed on the edge of my radar, something I’d always planned to investigate further if I met a lot of teens who were into it. Then, I heard about Anna Todd’s After series and its beginnings as a Wattpad story with one billion — billion! — reads on the site. Clearly, readers were into Wattpad, and I needed to find out more.

In perfect timing, I read on the Hub about YALSA’s Twist Fate Challenge, a partnership with the Connected Learning Alliance, DeviantArt, National Writing Project, and Wattpad. The Feb. 18 webinar, “Storytelling and Making Redefined: Get to Know the Wattpad Community,” is available to view online, and features input from Jing Jing Tan, the Community Engagement Lead at Wattpad, as well as Kassandra Tate, a teen Wattpad user with over 21K readers.

The video is long, but an excellent overview of Wattpad’s features and teen appeal: storytelling that is multi-format, multimedia, and social. (In-line comments and chatty author’s notes erase any space between writer and reader, and comments often influence the direction of a serialized piece.) At 18:43, host (and YALSA president!) Candice Mack asks what type of support educators and libraries can provide to Wattpad users. Kassandra notes Wattpad’s ease of providing feedback and challenge exercises, and Jing Jing points out Wattpad’s untapped potential by educators as a network for consumption, collaboration, and creation.

From Wattpad for Business

Wattpad’s founders, Allen Lau and Ivan Yuen, don’t believe that teenagers are reading less — just differently. “We just have to make sure reading and writing can adapt to the current culture,” Lau says in this 2014 HuffPost Tech interview. He and Lau seem to have found a winner in the app version: 90% of Wattpad’s activity is on mobile. Publisher’s Weekly took note as recently as January: “Designed for a generation that does most of its reading on a smartphone or tablet, [Wattpad] has become a petri dish for studying the new habits of mobile readers. [It] attracts more than 40 million unique visitors each month—visitors who are overwhelmingly young, international (50% of users are from outside of North America), and love to both read and write on their devices. Interestingly, Ashleigh Gardner, head of content for Wattpad, says that while Wattpad members read stories on their phones, they ‘don’t see themselves as reading e-books—they’re following social media.’”

Wattpad’s embrace of fanfiction, too, is important. “It’s…arguably the most important thing Wattpad has done to boost its visibility and stature among the mass of online teen readers,” writes The Daily Dot. “Those same readers have boosted site engagement to nearly 30 minutes a session. Wattpad’s userbase is massive and highly engaged: any random work, be it original or fanfiction, may have more comments than the top reads on Movellas, Quotev,, and AO3 combined.”

TeenInk columnist HeisAidanD writes, “Due to the highest percentage of Wattpad members being teenagers and young adults in high school and college, it’s consistently growing to be both a reading and writing haven as well as a social network to compete with major powers in social networking such as Facebook and Twitter.” Ali Novak, the young Wattpadder interviewed in this video, takes the sentiment even further, having abandoned Facebook altogether: “Wattpad is my Facebook.”

So…what is Wattpad’s impact on teen collections? Well, there’s the obvious incubator for print books. After is more new adult than teen, but having begun on Wattpad, will have its share of teen readers. (Its Wattpad version remains freely available, while its print version has been released in “an extremely fast publishing cycle aimed at fostering binge reading” — something else that will appeal to teen series readers.) Ali Novak’s My Life with the Walter Boys (a Teens’ Top Ten of 2015 — coincidence?) began as a Wattpad book, as did Lailah by Nikki Kelly and UnSlut:A Diary and a Memoir by Emily Lindin. Some efforts aren’t in print, but their impact as teen creations is notable.

The annual Wattys Awards celebrate the best in digital storytelling.

YA authors have taken notice of Wattpad’s social capabilities, too, joining to add bonus content or host contents, from Jennifer L. Armentrout to Maureen Johnson to Lisa McMann to Rainbow Rowell. The Wattys are Wattpad’s own contest and awards, leading to extra recognition for Wattpad books and e-books that you may see elsewhere on the Internet. If your teens are author superfans OR budding writers, you’ll want to know about Wattpad. “A lot of people are lamenting the end of the novel, but I think it’s simply evolving,” explains Charles Melcher, a publishing consultant who hosts the annual Future of StoryTelling conference.

Wattpad is certainly a teen-dominated platform, and one that I’m glad I researched. What angles have I missed? Are your teens into it? How do they use it? Share your thoughts in the comments!

–Rebecca O’Neil, currently listening to Furiously Happy, by Jenny Lawson

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2016 Hub Challenge Check-In #5

Sat, 02/27/2016 - 07:00

Not signed up for YALSA’s 2016 Hub Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post. Anything you’ve read since the awards were announced counts, so sign up now!

It’s hard to believe it is already week five of the 2016 Hub Reading Challenge, but it’s true! Has everyone been catching up on the great books that are eligible this year? I know for me this year’s Challenge is giving me an opportunity to revisit a bunch of favorites. Since I rarely reread books, it has been great to look back on books that I have enjoyed.

This week, my reread of choice is Cinder by Marissa Meyer, which appears on this year’s Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults Top Ten list. For me, this book has a bit of everything – it is a fairytale retelling with a disabled protagonist, robots, royalty, and an epic plot. Really, it is like it was written just for me. But, this doesn’t mean that other readers won’t love it! I can say from experience that this is a great option for book clubs because it offers so many avenues for discussion and because every reader seems to focus on different elements of the story. If you fall in love with the writing and the characters, there are three other books and several shorter works that Meyer has written in the same universe, though you may want to wait until after the end of the Challenge to delve into the rest of the series. Have you read Cinder, either for the Challenge or previously? Share your thoughts about it and any of the other books in the Lunar Chronicles series in the comments!

Even if you haven’t read Cinder, be sure to let us know what books you have been reading this week in the comments below, on Twitter or Instagram, or at the 2016 Hub Challenge Goodreads group. And, when you’ve completed the Challenge, be sure to complete this form to let us know that you’re all done!

– Carli Spina, currently reading A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab.

The post 2016 Hub Challenge Check-In #5 appeared first on The Hub.

Month in Review: February 2016

Fri, 02/26/2016 - 07:00

I hope you had a great month and bonus extra day coming up! So, we’re changing things up at The Hub based on your feedback.  One of those changes is now a monthly review instead of one each week. I hope you like the new format. Add in any new items we missed in the comments!

At The Hub:

Books and Reading:

Movies and TV:


Just for Fun:

The Hub Challenge:

We’re about a month into The Hub challenge! Here are some features posts from participants reviewing books or discussing the challenge. Keep sharing your progress on social media with #hubchallenge, in the comments on our weekly check-in posts, or in our Goodreads group!

Honest, insightful, often funny, and ultimately empowering, I loved this 2015 Morris Award winner in print last year and I’m finding that I love it even more read aloud by Kyla Garcia. Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero is a 2016 Top Ten Amazing Audiobook for Young Adults. #gabiagirlinpieces #isabelquintero #kylagarcia #audiobook #yalit #amlistening #hubchallenge #iloveaudiobooks #librarybook

A photo posted by Karen (@ireadrosies) on Feb 21, 2016 at 12:57pm PST

— Jennifer Rummel, currently reading Midnight Bites by Rachel Caine

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Hub Bloggers Love: Young Adult Fiction Without Romance

Thu, 02/25/2016 - 07:00

While many people might wish to continue celebrating Valentine’s Day with romantic reads, there are plenty of readers who prefer their fiction fairly romance-free.  If librarian listservs and Twitter conversations are anything to go by, “books with little to no romance” are a common but surprisingly challenging readers’ advisory request in libraries across the country and all year round.  Again, the Hub bloggers are here to help!

This week we gathered together showcase some of our favorite young adult fiction where romance is either absent or plays a minor role in the story.  Through the combined efforts of the Hub blogging team, we’ve collected a varied list of primarily recent titles that should provide books with appeal for a wide range of readers.  Hopefully, you will spot something to please your readers on a quest for literature with a more platonic focus.

Science Fiction/Fantasy

The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E. K. Johnston (2015 Morris Award Finalist; 2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults)

Owen is training to be a dragon slayer, a crucial job in a world where dragons bring death and destruction. With help from their friends and family, Owen and his female bard Siobhan seek the source of a growing dragon threat. Siobhan and Owen’s strong bond is based on their friendship and common goal, but there’s no romance involved.   – Sharon R.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults)

Kaz, a member of the Dregs gang, has scored a big heist but he needs help.  He enlists five others to help him break into the unbreakable Ice Court to steal some precious cargo.   – Dawn A.

Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge 

Ever since she fell into a nearby pond, Triss has been horribly aware that something is wrong.  She’s suddenly developed an insatiable appetite, her little sister seems afraid of her and inanimate objects like dolls not only speak–they scream.  To discover what’s happened to her and her family, Triss must journey into strange and bizarre worlds within, beyond, and beneath her world.      – Kelly D.

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (1997 Best Books for Young Adults; 2003 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults; 1997 Newbery Honor)

Gen is the best thief in the world and can do whatever he wants to do. At least that is what he claims before he is caught and imprisoned by the King of Sounis. The king’s main advisor soon hatches a plan to harness Gen’s skills in order to steal a holy relic and conquer Sounis’ enemies. An adventure full of unusual characters, storytelling, and mythology.   – Miriam W.

Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

In a different world, the library of Alexandria survived. The library governs the people, selecting knowledge to filter to the people. Jess’s father works as a book smuggler. He decides that Jess’s value lies in his future – at the library as a spy. He forces Jess to take the entrance exam. Jess passes the exam and heads off for basic training.   – Jennifer R.

Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac

Lozen grew up in a divided world—there were the Ones, whose genetic and technological augmentation set them apart, and the mere humans who served them.  Then the Cloud came. Digital technology stopped working and much of the world is a wasteland, peppered with monsters—the Ones’ genetically engineered pets gone wild.  Now, Lozen hunts down these creatures, serving the remaining Ones in exchange for her family’s safety.  But Lozen is more than a monster exterminator—she’s destined to be a hero.  – Kelly D.

Realistic Fiction

Paper Hearts by Meg Wiviott (2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults)

In the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz, bartering for paper or borrowing scissors could mean death.  But in the brutal winter of 1944, Zlatka risks everything to secretly craft an origami heart filled with birthday messages for her best friend Fania.  Amidst the horrors of daily life in the camp, Zlaka, Fania, and the other prisoners in their unit protect each other and find hope in small rebellions.  Based on a true story, this novel in verse gives voice to a group of young women who banded together to survive and reclaim their personhood in the face of dehumanizing cruelty.  – Kelly D.

The Emperor of Any Place by Tim Wynne-Jones (2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults)

After his father’s death, Evan picks up the book his father was reading and discovers it to be the memoir of a Japanese soldier stranded on an island in WWII.  Between the pages, Evan finds a letter revealing a sinister connection between the narrative recounted in the book and Evan’s stern grandfather, a former Marine whom he has never met.  Soon Evan finds himself journeying through the mysterious book, seeking to unravel this strange family mystery and come to grips with his loss.  – Miriam W.

A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis 

To hide a disgraceful pregnancy, Grace Mae is sent to a Boston asylum where she chooses silence.  There she meets a doctor who helps her escape to an ethical asylum in Ohio.  The doctor uses Grace’s keen perception in his studies as a criminal profiler as the two try to solve a series of murders.  – Stacy H.

Untwine by Edwidge Danticat 

Giselle and her twin sister Isabelle were born holding hands.  At sixteen, their lives remain intertwined and harmonious–even in the face of their parents’ seemingly sudden decision to divorce.  But now Giselle lies in a hospital bed, unable to move or speak or truly wake up but keenly aware that her last memory is of sitting in the back seat of their family car, gripping Iz’s hands as a red minivan careened into them. And Giz feels truly alone for the first time.  Would life without her other half be worth waking up for?

– Kelly D. and Sarah C.

Infinite in Between by Carolyn Mackler (2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults)

Five teens meet at freshman orientation. For their project, they decide to write letters to themselves to open in four years – after graduation. After writing the letters, they go their separate ways, but their paths wind together. Through the next four years, we witness their heartaches, romances, hopes and dreams. ~ Jennifer R.

Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu

Rachel tries hard to be a good, obedient Christian daughter and sister.  She goes to church regularly and helps her mother run the house and homeschool her younger siblings–all preparation for her future role as a faithful wife and helpmeet for her future husband.  But despite all her efforts, Rachel doesn’t feel comforted by this destiny; instead, she feels trapped.  When she learns a former member of their church community has come back into town after a scandalous departure, Rachel contacts her, setting into motion a chain of events that will challenge everything she’s been taught to believe.  -Kelly D.

What are some of your favorite ‘romance-free’ or ‘romance-light’ books?

– Kelly Dickinson, currently reading Batgirl Vol. 1: The Batgirl of Burnside written by Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher and illustrated by Babs Tarr with Maris Wicks

The post Hub Bloggers Love: Young Adult Fiction Without Romance appeared first on The Hub.

Apps Teens Love

Tue, 02/23/2016 - 07:00
photo courtesy of Flickr user William Hook

We all have our favorite social media apps. According to the 2015 Pew Center report on teens and technology, 72% of all teens spend time with friends on social media.  Of these teens, 23% do it daily.  Texting is still the top activity for teens, but messaging apps are also popular with 42% of teens using apps such as Kik and WhatsApp and 14% use these types of app every day.

Since Teen Tech Week will be celebrated March 6-12, I asked some of the youth services librarians in my area what apps the teens in their libraries are currently obsessed with. I know their tastes change pretty quickly so what’s popular now may not be popular in six months. Therefore, I was a bit surprised to find that they are using a lot of the same apps that have been popular for a while now but I also learned about some new ones too.

In my request from my colleagues, I didn’t specify what kind of app suggestions I wanted so, unsurprisingly, more of the answers fell into the texting or micro-blogging category, when what I really wanted was gaming apps. I admit I haven’t spent as much time as I probably should playing gaming apps so, a number of these were new to me, although they may not be to you.

Gaming Apps

The most frequently mentioned gaming app that seems to be all the rage right now is Stop. It’s a fun categories word game app you can play against others. You randomly select a letter to start and type a word for each of the 5 different categories that start with that letter. The player that gets most correct words wins. There are categories for Star Wars, superheroes and many others.

A number of librarians said that they and their teens were obsessed with Neko Atsume: Kitty Collector, the Japanese cat collecting game. The game’s very simple. The goal is to leave food and toys in your virtual backyard to attract cats – over 40 of them – all with their own unique looks and personality. Most of the cats are ordinary cats, but there are some rare cats too, but in order to get them to come, you need to lure them with special items. I first saw a colleague playing it last year and, although I prefer dogs to cats, it looked so adorable that I began playing it too. It’s quite addictive. In Japan they’ve had live-action recreations of the game that you can watch on YouTube.

Another popular Japanese game is the free Alpaca Evolution app. I’ve never played it but it sounds fun, although very strange. You are an alpaca that mutates and consumes other alpacas. As you consume other alpacas you evolve and mutate into something stronger and stranger. Every time you evolve you get a new description of your new form. It doesn’t require a lot of skill, but it’s a lot of fun seeing what disturbing alpaca monstrosity you evolve into next. An in-game encyclopedia explains each of your new forms in bizarre detail, rating your strength and giving you a bunch of useless vital statistics.

Math Apps

Teens seem to love solving math puzzles as well. Some of the most popular are:

  • 2048 is a free puzzle game app for a single-player who must try to slide numbered tiles on a grid to combine them and create a tile with the number 2048.
  • 1010! is an engaging free puzzle game app for a single player with a simple but distinctive gameplay. It gets its name from its 10×10 grid and is reminiscent of Tetris.

Even though the Temple Run app isn’t new, and isn’t free, the teens are still addicted to it. You’ve stolen the cursed idol from the temple, and now you have to run for your life to escape the Evil Demon Monkeys close on your heels. You’ll be testing your reflexes as you race down ancient temple walls and along sheer cliffs. Swipe to turn, jump and slide to avoid obstacles, collect coins and buy power ups, unlock new characters, and see how far you can run. You can compete against other players and are ranked according to how well you’ve done.

Another older, but still popular app is The Room, that costs .99 to download. It’s a physical puzzler, wrapped in a mystery game, inside a beautifully tactile 3D world. You have a beautifully ornate box with levers, dials and locks and keys. The object is to unlock them as you’re led deeper inside. You begin by putting together an eyepiece that helps you to solve the many puzzles found within.

News Apps

BuzzFeed’s app advertises that it has it all: “the news you want now, the stories and quizzes that will be buzzing on the social networks tomorrow, and the recipes and life tips you didn’t know you needed.” So of course it’s going to be popular with teens. I personally love the quizzes. An example of one of them is “We Know Your Favorite Animal Based On Your Favorite Actor” (I chose Chris Hemsworth so my favorite animal is a dog. Perfect!) Why do I like doing these quizzes? Maybe it’s a way to find out about myself and let others know about what I like without revealing too much about myself. These quizzes can be great ice-breakers if you find yourself having to interact with people you don’t know.

Micro-blogging Apps

The most popular apps that teens in libraries were using in my informal survey was, not surprisingly, Instagram. The fact that they rely on getting the most likes for the photos or 15-second-videos they take, edit and share, make it a really popular way to validate their status. I’m not on Instagram myself, but I’m going to try it because I have used Vine, and only having 6 seconds to create a video is really hard for me. Teens don’t have any problems with the shorter time limit, though.

Facebook might not be as popular with teens these days, but they are using the Messenger function for instant messaging, sharing photos, videos, audio recordings and for group chats, according to the teen librarians.

Self-Destructing/Secret Apps

Snapchat was reported to be equally as popular as Instagram. I get why it would be really popular since any text, or photos or videos you post disappears after a few seconds so teens probably think what they’re sharing isn’t permanent. But, I doubt that anything posted is ever really gone.

Texting Apps

The teen librarians said another popular app being used by teens was ooVoo. I can understand why because it’s a free video, voice, and messaging app. You can chat for free with up to 12 other users at the same time. I doubt that teens are working on projects together using it, but it might be a good way to have a small book club discussion, especially since you can only communicate with those you’ve approved first.

Another texting app that I wasn’t too familiar with is Kik Messenger. I know it’s popular because the basic features are free, and doesn’t have any message or character limits. I’d read about it but I’ve been hearing it mentioned a lot more recently in several TV news stories involving a VA girl’s murder and a MD child pornography case. We all know that there are security risks involved when using these apps and we all, especially teens, need to remember this.

Image courtesy of flickr user Michael Casey

I find myself spending hours I never intend to watching YouTube videos, and it seems teens do too. I don’t stay up to watch James Cordon’s late late night show but I do watch his carpool karaoke videos on YouTube. You can find out something about anything on it. Spotify is also still popular with teens too.

These are just some of the apps that I was told were the most popular right now with teens. What are some other ones that you know teens are playing? I’d love to know.

For program ideas for Teen Tech Week, check out this post at the YALSAblog.

— Sharon Rawlins, currently reading Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard and listening to Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar

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Kwame Alexander’s Picks

Mon, 02/22/2016 - 07:00

Newbery award winner, Kwame Alexander visited my school, Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, Arkansas, this month. His novel The Crossover (2014) has received recognition and numerous awards: the Newbery Medal (2015), NCTE Charlotte Huck Award Honor for Outstanding Fiction for Children (2015), Coretta Scott King Author Honor (2015). Penn State/Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award (2015), and Paterson Poetry Prize for Young People’s Literature (2015).

The appeal of The Crossover stretches beyond age and gender of the reader – and reading level as many reluctant readers have enjoyed the focus on basketball in this story. It focuses on fourteen-year-old twin basketball stars Josh and Jordan who wrestle with the highs and lows of high school (on and off the court) while their father ignores his declining health. The “Basketball Rules” mentioned throughout The Crossover are inspiring rules that can be incorporated in life, not just basketball.




After a very engaging talk to middle school students, I was able to sit down with Mr. Alexander and ask what were his 5 good picks for (older) teens.

Kwame’s Picks:

  • Boy in the Black Suit (2015) by Jason Reynolds

Coretta Scott King Award Book Honor Award (2016)

Soon after his mother’s death, Matt takes a job at a funeral home in his tough Brooklyn neighborhood and, while attending and assisting with funerals, begins to accept her death and his responsibilities as a man. (The plot contains profanity.)

  • The Game of Love and Death (2015) by Martha Brockenbrough

Kirkus Prize Nominee for Young Readers Literature (Finalist, 2015)

In Seattle in 1937, two 17-year-olds, Henry, who is white, and Flora, who is African American, become the unwitting pawns in a game played by two immortal figures, during which Hendry and Flora must choose each other at the end, or one of them will die.

  • Brown Girl Dreaming (2014) by Jacqueline Woodson

National Book Award for Young People’s Literature (2014)
Newbery Honor (2015)
Siebert Honor (2015)
Coretta Scott King Award for Author (2015)
Claudia Lewis Award for Older Readers (2015)

Raised in South Caroline and New York, author Jacqueline Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. Through vivid free verse, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s.

  • 4. Out of the Dust (1997) by Karen Hesse

Newbery Medal (1998)
Scott O’Dell Award (1998)

In a series of poems, fourteen-year-old Billy Jo relates the hardships of living on her family’s wheat farm. It is set during the Great Depression and focuses on the family’s hardships during the Dust Bowl.

  • 5. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (1976) by Mildred D. Taylor

Newbery Medal (1977), Buxtehuder Bulle (1984), George C. Stone Center for Children’s Books Recognition of Merit Award (1991), Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Nominee (1977),Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Young Adult Fiction (2001), Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award Nominee (1978),Coretta Scott King Award for Author Honor (1977), Pacific Northwest Library Association Young Reader’s Choice Award (1979), Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Nominee for Fiction (1977), National Book Award Finalist for Children’s Literature (1977)

A black family living in the South during the 1930’s is faced with prejudice and discrimination which their children don’t understand.

(Summaries provided by AR Book Finder,

— Sarah Carnahan, currently reading The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

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Booklist: Schooled Unexpectedly, or Talking with Teens about Tough Issues

Mon, 02/22/2016 - 07:00

Just like food, variety seems to be the spice of life in reading. Yes, there are genres that you will always be current on because they’re dependable, but there’s something to be said for trying new formats or genres- sneaking them into to be read piles like a form of exposure therapy. Because of this, I’ve discovered so much and learned so much. I’m the first to share it with others too, especially the teens I work with in the high school library. Here are a few of my recent favorites and why they became other’s favorites too.

All American Boys by Brendan Kiely and Jason Reynolds

Hashtags are powerful tools and the conversation around social justice is far from over. Teens need to be sharing and talking about both, making up their minds about how they feel and what they can do to contribute to society.

In Reynolds’ recent visit to our high school, he asked the teen audience how many had seen posts on social media about police brutality and racial violence. They all raised their hands. He then asked how many of them reposted, re-tweeted, and shared those posts. Many raised their hands, but when he asked how many of them actually had a conversation with their friends face-to-face about it, sharing their thoughts and feelings about these incidents, to their peers, almost no one raised their hand. The take-away is that we need to encourage conversation and action– it’s not enough to know, you must act to make a difference.

First Bite: How We Learn to Eat by Bee Wilson

This is an adult title with YA appeal. So many teens are exploring their food preferences, likes and dislikes, or when eating disorders may develop, so Wilson’s position is that how we learn to eat can be unlearned. Retraining is possible and thinking about your eating can have a positive impact on your health and well-being.

As I was sharing this title with a teen who shares my love of quirky books, but also appreciates learning something from one too (we share a love for Diane Ackerman’s A Natural History of the Senses), she replied that she could use the book as evidence that “going vegetarian” can be a conscious choice. Sometimes it’s a moral issue and other times it’s about learning how food affects your body and adapting for it. A tenet of Wilson’s book is about training yourself, even though there are caveats like scientific proof that some will just always dislike the taste of Brussels sprouts.

Dime by E.R. Frank (2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults)

We want to think that sex trafficking is a taboo topic in the United States, but the truth is that we need to have more open and frank conversations with teens about facts such as an estimated 1 in 6 runaways were likely victims of sex trafficking. Frank shares intimate details of how young girls are groomed for this trade through the eyes of a fictional character that could partner well with so many documentaries about the subject like Playground produced in 2009 and Chosen produced by Shared Hope International. Teens of any background, whether privileged or disadvantaged, can sympathize with Dime, the main character while providing opportunities for empathy or action.

Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings by Margarita Engle (2016 Excellence in Nonfiction Finalist)

This memoir covers a time period about which we that doesn’t have a lot of first-hand accounts, so Engle’s story is a breath of fresh air, especially when it discusses cultural divides, traditions, and family dynamics. I learned about the terrain of Cuba and the hopes and dreams of a girl in the 1950s and 60s.

This time period,  as with anything that is not contemporary, provides an avenue for comparison and contrast to personal experiences. Many readers will relate because Engle never feels like she belongs in the United States, always being referred to as Cuban, and when in Cuba, is always referred to as American by family and friends. Identity is Engle’s constant struggle.

These influential books are highly capable of sparking conversations by introducing teens to relevant topics worth investigating more deeply.

Alicia Abdul, currently reading The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

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Booklist: Recent YA Fiction about Technology for Teen Tech Week

Mon, 02/22/2016 - 07:00

Teen Tech Week begins March 6th and runs through the time to showcase all of the great digital resources and services that are available to help teens succeed in school and prepare for college and 21st century careers as well as to highlight programs that emphasize science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. For programming ideas, see this post at the YALSAblog

It’s also a great time to highlight YA fiction that deals with technology issues. From steampunk to science fiction to thrillers, the theme of technology in the lives of humans cuts a across genres and can spark interesting conversations about the use and limits of technology. These 2015 and 2016 titles are great to highlight in a display in the library. Consider adding flyers that also remind patrons of the availability of digital books and audiobooks or sharing a “virtual” display on social media. Later this week, we’ll feature nonfiction resources on technology and science. 

Science and Technology in YA Fiction

Willful Machines by Tim Floreen

In this near future thriller, scientists have created Charlotte an artificial human with intelligence, who has uploaded her consciousness to the Internet and started terrorizing the American people—including the son of the president, Lee, who already has enough problems, like trying to keep the Secret Service off his back and figuring out what to do about his crush on new guy, Nico.

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

This is the story of a young Hispanic boy from the Bronx dealing with grief and identity and just wanting to forget who he is — in a world where there’s a company whose offering a mind-altering procedure that can do just that.

Where Future’s End by Parker Peevyhouse

Interconnected stories of five teens from two different worlds, one of of which is coming to an end, examine the way that technology and social media impact our lives in this new release for fans of Ghosts of Heaven or Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick.

The Rule of Three by Eric Walters

Adam fights to survive after a catastrophe knocks out power, utilities, and computer access in this thriller.

Six by Mark Alpert

A teenager with muscular dystrophy whose main outlet is virtual reality video games is tapped to save the world from a rogue artificial intelligence program that threatens the world.

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

The daughter of physicists who have invented an apparatus that allows travel through dimensions seeks to avenge her father’s killer this this sci-fi adventure full of romance and adventure.

Steampunk and Technology in YA Fiction

Illusionarium by Heather Dixon

During research for a cure for a deadly plague, a new chemical that allows for shared hallucinations is discovered. So begins a story of adventure in parallel worlds in this richly imagined historical fantasy.

Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson

In this alternate history, the British control with magic, but an underground society of mechanics and engineers hope to gain freedom through innovation in technology.

Mechanica by Betsy Cornwall 

This Cinderella re-telling imagines Mechanica, a girl with an evil stepmother, winning her independence with her inventions at a technology fair. With hints of magic and themes of social justice, this is a captivating story — with a surprise twist.



Forthcoming Releases about Science and Technology in YA Fiction

Future Shock by Elizabeth Briggs

A team of teens with special abilities are recruited by a tech corporation to travel to the future to bring back data in this science fiction thriller.

My Brilliant Idea by Stuart David

While Jack is daydreaming in class, he comes up with a brilliant idea: an app that makes it impossible to daydream in class. Are money and fame in his future, or is reality more complicated than that?

What are some recent releases that focus on science and technology that you would recommend to teen readers? 

— Molly Wetta, currently reading Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

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2016 Hub Challenge Check-In #4

Sun, 02/21/2016 - 07:00

Not signed up for YALSA’s 2016 Hub Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post. Anything you’ve read since the awards were announced counts, so sign up now!

Hey Hub Challengers, we’re at week four, how are you doing? I’ve gotten a slow start to my reading but I feel it picking up now.


This week I finished The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten. I had a bit of trouble getting into it at first but I’m glad that I stuck it out. It’s the story of Adam, a teen with OCD who has been in treatment and going to group therapy for a little bit when Robyn shows up. He is instantly smitten with her and decides that he must “get better” for her. Apart from his OCD, Adam has a lot more going on in his life: family stress between his mom and stepmom, the threatening letters that his mom is receiving but can’t seem to talk about, plus school and friends. I appreciated learning more about OCD and seeing Adam and his friends getting help when they needed it. Not to be too spoiler-y, but I’m glad that Adam and Robyn’s relationship developed to where it did by the end, and I thought they both acted really maturely.

I also read The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant. This book had been on my to-read list for a while so I was so happy to see it on the Amelia Bloomer list. I unabashedly love the Amelia Bloomer list and am excited about feminist books in general, so I pounced on the opportunity to read this. The book reads as a slice of life narrative of Addie Baum, the daughter of Jewish immigrants in Boston at the beginning of the 20th century. Addie narrates the earlier years of her life to her granddaughter telling her story and dispensing advice along the way. It’s a sweet story and as a Massachusetts resident, it was fun to recognize places around Boston and Cape Ann!

In the next week, I’ve got three books lined up and waiting for me: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Sacred Heart by Liz Suburbia, and Zeroboxer by Fonda Lee. They are all really different titles, but a great thing about the Hub Challenge is that it can push you to read books you might not usually pick up.

What are you reading? Add your thoughts in the comment below and join in the conversation on social media, too! We’re chatting on Instagram, Twitter, and the 2016 Hub Challenge Goodreads group. When you’re done, be sure to fill out this form.

-Anna Tschetter, currently reading Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

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Booklist: Realistic Romance

Fri, 02/19/2016 - 07:00

If you’re searching for romantic novels in the young adult genre, you will only have to look for approximately ten seconds before being buried beneath an annal of books. Just recently, Hub bloggers have compiled a great list of interracial romances and a list of their favorite recent releases in YA contemporary romances. 

This makes sense, as romance tends to be an important part of people’s lives and everyone remembers the relationships they either had or wanted to have in high school. Older adults read these books to reminisce about their own experiences. Young adults may read these books because they are interested in stories that align with their experiences or what they wish their experiences had been.

One of the complaints I’ve heard (and made) about a lot of young adult romance novels is that they’re not always very realistic and are oftentimes cliche-ridden and predictable. The awkward and/or quirky girl or boy meets up with the girl or boy who is popular but really has these hidden depths that only the quirky unpopular person can truly understand. These may be fun, escapist, well-written, and engrossing stories. They just maybe don’t reflect the reality of most teen relationships. 

Many readers like a little romance now and again, but still want some romance that didn’t follow tropes or ended with the ambiguity that often occurs in real life. 

These are books that do a good job of tackling romance in more realistic ways.


The Big Crunch by Pete Hautman

This is a book about a boy named Wes and a girl named June who meet and do not immediately fall in love with each other. They also don’t hate each other and then come together a lá Pride and Prejudice. They meet each other and exist. Eventually June starts pity-dating one of Wes’ friends but even then, he isn’t overwhelmed with a jealous desire for her. Eventually they just start spending time together and before you know it, they’ve got some hard decisions to make about the future.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (2014 Michael L. Printz Honor Book) 

Eleanor and Park meet and bond over her needing somewhere to sit on the bus. Park reads comic books every day and she secretly reads along with him. They start to hang out with each other even though they don’t have a lot of opportunity and they seem to be total opposites. That mantra might sound familiar but this is “opposites attract” without the requisite clichés.

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider

Ezra has to reinvent himself when an injury during a car crash robs him of his identity as a tennis star. He tries new things, reconnects with old friends along the way, and meets a girl who seems like the perfect manic-pixie dream girl. But is she the reason he’s changing? Is she perfect for him? Does she have to be?

Paper Towns by John Green (2009 Best Books for Young Adults)

I know the movie came out this past summer so it’s not like this is some diamond in the rough I’ve unearthed for you, but this has one of my favorite endings ever for a book. There’s a lot to digest about putting people on pedestals and finding out whether people can ever live up to the expectations we set for them.

Empire State: A Love Story (or Not) by Jason Shiga

Jimmy’s friend Sara goes to live in New York. Jimmy has feelings for her and writes her a letter asking her to meet him at the top of the Empire State Building before heading for New York himself. He finds himself surprised by both Sara and the city itself.

If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan

This is a heart-breaking love story, and I honestly don’t think there are enough of these in YA. Because sometimes you fall in love and it is so, so terrible and it definitely isn’t going to work out. While this book is amazing because it offers a global perspective on LGBTQ rights, anyone who has every felt the heartache of a love that doesn’t work out can relate to this story.


So if you’re not always looking for that typical romantic comedy formula,* you should check some of these books out. They’ll get you thinking about whether soul mates and “love at first sight” actually exist.

*You know, boy or girl likes someone/feeling is reciprocated/one person does something stupid to make other person mad/first person has to get other person back and (often) inexplicably does/cue tears and roll credits.

I think this is important as I’ve had plenty of students who believe you can find love while in high school as well as others who scoff at the idea of wasting time with relationships and think teen relationships end up failing more than they end up working out. I like to see types of both stories available to meet the needs of all readers.


What books have you read that chose to switch things up from the typical way romantic seasons are portrayed within young adult novels?

— Ethan Evans, currently reading The Hunted by Matt de la Peña and listening to The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien whenever he’s driving somewhere, with contributions from Hub Manager Molly Wetta

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Hub Bloggers Love: Recent Young Adult Romances

Thu, 02/18/2016 - 07:00

Valentine’s Day might be over but that doesn’t mean some readers aren’t still in the mood to fall in love with a good love story!  If you’re looking for some recent titles to spice up a suddenly sparse book display or you’re in need of some new recommendations for your eager romantic readers, the Hub bloggers are here for you!

This week we’ve gathered together to showcase just a few of our recent favorite young adult romances.  Some of our picks are well-known titles while others might have slipped under the radar.  Either way, we hope you’ll find something new and exciting to read or share.  Want even more romantic reading inspiration? Check out Dawn Abron’s latest Diversify YA Life post highlighting interracial couples in young adult fiction or search our tags for past romance book lists.

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (2016 Morris Award Winner; 2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults)

After several months anonymously corresponding with a classmate he knows only as Blue, Simon Spier is sure of several facts: he is definitely gay, he is falling in love with Blue, and he does not want to share either of these realities with anyone else–at least, not yet.  But then Simon’s emails fall into the wrong hands and suddenly, his–and Blue’s–secrets are in serious danger of being revealed.  Can Simon find a way to come out on his own terms, without causing even more drama amidst his increasingly complicated group of friends, becoming the center of unwanted attention at school, or–worst of all–losing his chances with Blue, the perfect boy he’s never met? -Kelly D.

What We Left Behind by Robin Talley

In high school, Gretchen and Toni were that couple.  They prided themselves on the fact that they never fought and their friends all joked that they were already practically married.  Gretchen and Toni had the kind of love everyone else envied.  Then Gretchen decides that she’s not coming to Boston with Toni in the fall–she’s going to try out NYU for at least a semester instead, abandoning the plan the two have carefully constructed.  Toni is angry and Gretchen is guilty but still they’re convinced that they’re going to make it.  But while Toni, who’s quietly identified as genderqueer for about a year, finds a new sense of belonging with a group of older transgender students, Gretchen struggles to redefine herself as someone other than Toni’s girlfriend.  Is love enough or is the distance between more than mere geography?  – Kelly D.

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Sandwiched between the dependable Margot and mischievous Kitty, Lara Jean feels secure as the shy and quirky middle Song sister. She’s content being the one who stays home to scrapbook or bake on Friday night and she finds expression for her unrequited crushes in writing letters that she hides in a hatbox under her bed. But then Margot is heading off to Scotland for college and within weeks, disaster strikes when Lara Jean’s secret letters are mistakenly mailed out.   Now all her past crushes are coming back to haunt her as her first kiss, her camp crush, and the boy next door ( also Margot’s ex-boyfriend) each confront her about the letters.  And suddenly Lara Jean’s dependable and tidy life is spinning out of control.  -Kelly D.


Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon (2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults)

Sharing in witty banter whether in instant messaging or miming from separate windows across the street, Maddy and Olly are two oddballs for different reasons who find a friendship which later deepens. Maddy is a “bubble girl” locked in the sterilized safety of her house and she and Olly are awkward in their cuteness as they focus on the restrictions and the joys of life. –  Sarah C.

Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne

Kate’s been sleep walking through her life since her mom died. One day she comes home from school to find the press camped out on her aunt and uncle’s lawn – waiting for her. Kate walks in the house and meets the man running for President – and her father. – Jennifer R.

Wild Hearts by Jessica Burkhart

Usually settling into a new town and seeing the sights is fun, but not when the whole town hates your father without meeting him. They think Mr. Carter’s going to destroy the town with his development, including destroying the land where the wild mustangs roam. Brie starts talking to Logan, he’s a protester, but he’s not the jerk she imagined him to be.  As they get closer, the tension between their fathers heats up. How can think about a possible romance when their families are enemies? – Jennifer R.

A Matter of Heart by Amy Fellner Dominy

Abby’s amazing at swimming. So amazing that at age 16, she’s hoping to qualify for the Olympic team. She’s on track. Until she faints after a race. Her coach makes her get checked out by a doctor before she’s back in the pool. Abby assumes that she’ll be back swimming before the end of the week, but the doctor hears something with her heart. Abby goes for more tests, not believing that her dreams could come crashing down. Who is she without swimming? – Jennifer R.

Jesse’s Girl by Miranda Kenneally

Maya longs to become a musician. For her Career Shadow Day, she’s paired with country superstar Jesse Scott. Their first meeting went terribly wrong. Jesse’s ego can barely fit through the door; it’s clear he’d rather be anywhere but spending time with her. Still, she gives it her best shot. Before long, defenses are broken down on both sides. What starts off as a nightmare could turn into a daydream. Can they help each other achieve their dreams? – Jennifer R.

I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios (2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults)

Skylar has grown up poor, but her artistic ability and hard work have won her a scholarship to art school in San Francisco, if she can just survive the summer in her small town. But when her single mom loses her job and falls apart, and Josh, a former co-worker and crush, comes back from Afghanistan missing a leg, she struggles with leaving everyone behind. This is a a stunning, gripping coming-of-age story that is as much about family and friendship as first love. – Molly W.

What are some of your favorite young adult romances from the last couple years? 

— Kelly Dickinson, currently The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

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Fiction and Non-Fiction for fans of The Emperor of Any Place by Tim Wynne-Jones

Wed, 02/17/2016 - 07:00

Tim Wynne-Jones’ latest work The Emperor of Any Place, has popped up on a lot of recommendation lists recently. It is one of YALSA’s 2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults, is one of School Library Journal’s best books of 2015, and is on Horn Books fanfare list. Any Place has a great deal to recommend it and, like many works with an historic element, has the potential to awaken a desire to learn more in its readers.

In Any Place Wynne-Jones delves into such topics as the Pacific Theater in World War II, the mythology of Japan, the experience of that war from the viewpoint of both Japanese and American soldiers, and relationships ranging from those of enemies in battle to beloved family members. It will appeal to those with an interest in history,  as well to those who enjoy both realistic dramas, mysteries, and magic realism.

The Emperor of Any Place tells the story of a 16-year-old boy named Evan whose father has very unexpectedly passed away.  With little other choice, he contacts his estranged grandfather for help. At the same time he discovers a copy of the diary of a Japanese soldier stranded on a mysterious island in the Pacific during WWII, which Evan’s father was reading just before his death. The diary’s prologue, as well as some of Evan’s father’s last words, hint that his grandfather may have played a sinister role in the author’s life. Evan makes the decision to hide the diary and read it in secret while at the same time clashing dramatically with his militaristic grandfather and dealing with his grief.

The vivid and exciting diary that comprises at least half of the novel grabs a reader’s attention and makes them wonder about what is happening beyond the purview of the story. Was the battle of Tinian really as it was described? Did Japanese civilians and soldiers really believe that the Americans would commit horrible acts of savagery, such as eating babies? And are the strange and terrible creatures that haunt the island made up just for this novel, or do they have a basis in Japanese mythology?

To answer these questions, readers may consult a number of non-fiction resources that can help to answer these questions and more. While the uniqueness of the story makes it hard to find solid read-alikes, I have also included a few fiction novels that might be good follow-ups for fans of Wynne-Jones’ compelling story.

Non-Fiction Resources on WWII in the Pacific

More than half of Any Place is composed of diary accounts of the lives of Isamu Oshiro and Derwood Kraft, both of whom are stranded on the same island in the Marianas. For those students who fall in love with this more personal and individual approach to history, there are a number of other accounts, both in print and available online, with which they might like to follow up.

Breaking the Code: A Father’s Secret a Daughter’s Journey, and the Question That Changed Everything by Karen Fisher-Alaniz is an ideal non-fiction companion to Any Place. While it doesn’t delve into fantastical islands and mythological creatures, it is the story of a younger generation uncovering their forefathers actions in WWII through their own writing. In this case it is Karen Fisher-Alaniz seeking to help her aging father come to terms with his experiences in WWII by reading, researching and discussing his letters from that time. The books is an easy and compelling read cutting between Fisher-Alaniz’s account of her discussions with her father, her family, and others as she researches WWII and transcribed copies of her father’s letters.

Eyewitness accounts can be a powerful tool for learning about historical events. In Eyewitness Pacific Theater: Firsthand Accounts of the War in the Pacific from Pearl Harbor to the Atomic Bombs by John T Kuehn and D.M. Giangreco, readers are provided with not only chapters providing general overviews of events leading up to war with Japan and many of the battles throughout the war, but also personal statements from individuals in the US and Japanese forces who took part in the events described. Eyewitness also includes a CD of selected interviews and explanatory narrations, providing another option for those who prefer to listen to their history.

If your library doesn’t own a copy of Eyewitness, there are a number of online collections of WWII accounts that will work as great alternatives. The National World War Two Museum, for example, has a video oral history collection. These videos cut between the individual who is telling about their experience and archived footage from the war.

While the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are only mentioned in passing in Any Place, any study of WWII should include information about both. First published in 1946, John Hersey’s Hiroshima tells the true and truly horrifying personal accounts of six survivors of the atomic bomb dropped by the United States on August 6, 1945. Hersey records the experiences of a clerk, a widow, a Methodist minister, a Jesuit, a doctor and a surgeon for up to a year after the bombing, and in an additional chapter (first published in 1985) he includes an account of what happened to these and other hibakusha (explosion-affected people) forty years later. The 1985 Kirkus review describes this book beautifully calling it “A truly disquieting work of human journalism, which still has the capacity to stun and shock.”

For visual learners, Ken Burns’ The War provides an overview of WWII as told from the perspectives of several American soldiers. The 7 part series looks at the European, African and Pacific fronts. While not all teens will be up for the full 14 hour presentation, episode 4. “Pride of our Nation” includes the battles mentioned at the beginning of Oshiro’s journal.

Japanese Culture and Mythology

In one amazingly effective sequence, Wynne-Jones recounts part of the battle of Tinian through Oshiro’s eyes. He envisions the battle as a Banraku puppet production in a vivid hallucination. While I’m sure there are print resources where Banraku can be read about, a visual example may be more engaging.

The Japan Foundation has published several youtube videos of Banraku performances. One interesting example is an excerpt from The Sonezaki Love Suicides. Love Suicides is a by the famous playwright Chikamatsu Monzaemon and was first published in 1703. The work has been equated by some with Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare.

For those who are ready for a little more in-depth information including Banraku history and details about the puppets and stage construction, the Japan Arts Council has put together a pretty friendly website with some general information and great pictures.

The bizarre creatures that haunt Kokoro-Jima, the heart-shaped island on which Oshiro and Kraft are marooned, are another potential area of interest for readers.

Checking my own library’s shelves I wasn’t able to find many with references to the Jikininki, the horrible creatures that seek to eat the dead bodies of the soldiers who wash up on the island. One collection of Japanese ghost stories, Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things by Lafcadio Hearn, does include a story about Jikininki haunting a mountain village. This work is available online for free through Project Gutenberg if it is not found in your library.

Tales of Tengu, the bird-faced monster that attacks Oshiro and Kraft, can be found in a number of different places. One good example is a collection of folktales entitled Japanese Tales, edited and translated by Royall Tyler.  Among the over 200 Japanese tales are several stories about Tengu. Each one is short, easy to read, and a great choice for any fan of myths, legends, and folktales.

YA WWII Fiction in the Pacific

While nonfiction resources like those mentioned above can help enrich a reader’s understanding of Any Place, for others, a fiction read-alike will always be the preferred choice.

For younger readers, Photographs in the Mud by Dianne Wolfer provides a stark view on the cost of war and particularly the hand-to-hand combat during WWII battles on Papaua New Guiniea. As in Any Place two young soldiers, one Australian, one Japanese, are wounded and find themselves spending time in each other’s company. Over a single long night, the two men share images of their families left behind, but only one of them survives his wounds.

Manga, and it’s ability to examine important historical and social topics, plays important role in Any Place. Barefoot Gen: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima by Keiji Nakazawa is for this reason a fantastic choice to read alongside the novel. In Barefoot Gen Nakazawa, a survivor of the 1945 bombing himself, recounts the experiences of a young boy directly before and after the bombing. Meryl Jaffe, writing for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund website, calls this work “a strong anti-war piece that cannot and should not be silenced.”

Eyes of the Emperor by Graham Salisbury is the tale of a 16-year-old Hawaiian boy of Japanese descent who lies about his age in order to join the U.S. Army. While he and his friends were driven by patriotism and the desire to defend their country, the army isn’t convinced. What follows is a disturbing and haunting look at WWII and the racism faced by Japanese-American citizens.

Finally, the graphic novel The Faceless Ghost and Other Macabre Tales from Japan by Sean Michael Wilson and Michiru Morikawa provides another take on some of the traditional ghost stories that are featured in Kwaidan which is mentioned above. Wilson and Morikawa depict six of these stories and allows readers to imagine yet another way that Oshiro and Kraft’s stories could have been told.

— Miriam Wallen, currently reading Assassin’s Heart by Sarah Ahiers

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