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2016 Hub Challenge Check-in #10

Sun, 04/03/2016 - 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, and the challenge runs until 11:59pm on June 23, so sign up now!

My Challenge reading has slowed down in recent weeks due to other titles demanding my attention (book club picks, adult nonfiction, and recommendations from patrons), but we’ve got over two months still to read, so I’m feeling good about my progress. The most recent titles I’ve finished are Mike Mullin’s Ashfall, and Lumberjanes, Vol. 2: Friendship to the Max.

Ashfall, from the 2016 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults Top Ten list, is an awesome example of how the Challenge helps me improve my Reader’s Advisory game. The first in a completed trilogy, Ashfall is a survival thriller, told in first-person by regular-guy Alex. It opens with the first fiery indications of the eruption of the super-volcano under Yellowstone and continues in an unrelenting march of action and human ingenuity – and desperation – in the face of drastically altered and unpredictable circumstances. This book is all about what happens next, with the answers generally including some suspense, some gore (probably not a great match for anyone uncomfortable with butchering scenes), and some seriously ethically-appalling human behavior. Stylistically, this was pretty far from my personal reading preferences. But it’s a perfect match for tons of my students who want to read about stuff happening, and it’s always exciting to know I’ve added another title to my arsenal of recommendations for patrons whose reading tastes are really different from my own. And it’s always great to have a completed series to recommend, especially with summer vacation for students just visible on the horizon.

I’d read the first collected Lumberjanes volume before the Challenge started, so I already knew I loved the world and its characters when I picked up volume two (Volumes 1 & 2 are on the 2016 Great Graphic Novels for Teens Top Ten list). Summer camp stories will always have a strong appeal for this former Girl Scout, and I have been thoroughly enjoying the multi-faceted characterizations of each Lumberjane. The series pokes gentle fun at its own strong-role-model presentation with earnest excerpts from the Lumberjane Handbook opening each chapter/issue, and then delivers honest-to-goodness role models in hilarious, high-action scenarios, all without getting too preachy in tone. Several of the panels have made me laugh out loud, and I am always grateful for storytelling that celebrates a broad spectrum of ways to be a brave, caring, conscientious person in our world while challenging the notion that certain attributes or skills are inherently gendered. The Lumberjanes are exactly the sort of girls I wish I’d had more representations of in the media when I was still an adolescent.

Next up for me will probably be Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the YA titles from the Amelia Bloomer Project’s 2016 Top Ten list. I’m always looking to add in some nonfiction, and this looks fun and inspiring.

What have you been reading for the Challenge lately? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, and join the conversation on social media; look for the #hubchallenge on Instagram, Twitter, and our Goodreads group. If you’ve finished the Challenge, a) bravo! and b) fill out this form.

-Carly Pansulla, currently reading SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard

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Booklist: New 2016 YA Fairytales with Fierce Female Main Characters

Fri, 04/01/2016 - 07:00

In the past, a common argument against traditional fairytales has been the detrimental stereotypes of women that they portray. Over the years, fairytales have been reinvented to reflect our current society, as evidenced by the change from Grimm’s or Perrault’s versions to Disney’s iconic films.

Still, women’s roles have changed drastically from those seen in the 17th and 19th centuries, and even the 1950’s! Today’s girls and young women are now highly encouraged to stand up for themselves, speak out and break patriarchal barriers. This trend has translated into traditional fairytales and folktales being spun with stronger female protagonists.

The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine

First in a planned trilogy, the story of Snow White loosely frames a gripping fantasy. After Queen Irina steals both the throne and her father’s life, Crown Princess Lorelai is a fugitive in her own country and hunted by a shape-shifting prince desperately trying to save his kingdom. However, Lorelai is determined to win back her crown, and despite the danger to herself, allies with the dragon prince to kill Queen Irina. This battle for a birthright is complete with love, magic, poisoned apples, and a princess who develops into a fiery, determined heroine.

Once Upon a Dream by Liz Braswell

The second book in Liz Braswell’s Twisted Tales series and beginning after the end of the Disney film version, Princess Aurora is stuck in her own dreams in a world turned on its head. Maleficent is the benevolent, caring ruler of a terrifying kingdom. Meeting Prince Philip on her journey through the kingdom, Aurora comes to realize that her reality is magically hijacked by Maleficent’s power. Only Aurora has the courage and power to save her kingdom from this coldly calculating evil.

Everland by Wendy Spinale

A bombed and disease-ridden World War II London is overshadowed by the deadly German army known as the Marauders under Captain Hans Otto Oswald Kretschmer. Since most if not all the adults are dead from illness, Gwen Darling tries to protect her two siblings from being kidnapped by the Marauders but fails when Joanna is taken. Together with new allies Pete, Bella, and Pete’s gang of Lost Boys, Gwen is determined to face Hook and save her sister in this first novel of a trilogy.

The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

Enslaved Jinni Zahra and her lamp are discovered by a roguish thief who bargains her freedom with his own wish for retribution. Cunning and powerful, Zahra helps Aladdin but is also under a vow to save the jinni prince in a month’s time or be responsible for thousands of deaths. To her surprise, her feelings for Aladdin mean she must choose between compromising her mission or her heart.

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

In a new interpretation of A Thousand and One Nights with a blend of Middle Eastern culture and an old western, Amani longs to leave her hometown of Dustwalk and enters herself as a boy in a shooting competition. During the competition, she meets an intriguing stranger, Jin, and is caught up in a rebellion, forcing her to flee into the desert. Readers will love Amani and her feisty attitude but also discover a rich, addicting story.

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

With her country embroiled in a stalemate war, Princess Maya is promised in marriage to appease their enemies, except Maya’s wedding has always carried a deadly prediction. In a sudden twist of fate, Maya becomes queen of an unknown country filled with strange magic. Her new role leads her into a search for truth where she might discover love and the depth of her inner strength.

Which fairy tale retelling are you most looking forward to? Are your teens excited about any of these new releases? 

— Kara Hunter, currently reading Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman

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Month in Review: March 2016

Thu, 03/31/2016 - 07:00

Here at The Hub we hope you all are getting in the swing of spring! Here are some highlights of posts at The Hub and around the web of interest to library workers serving teens.

At The Hub: 

Books and Reading: 

Teens and Librarianship:

— Molly Wetta, currently reading The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi and Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

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Is This Just Fantasy?: Adult Fantasy Fiction with Teen Appeal

Wed, 03/30/2016 - 07:00
As a librarian, I love providing reader’s advisory help to teens with all different interests and preferences. However, I must admit that I especially love helping a fellow fantasy fan discover a new title or author.  And as many of our library’s most devoted high school readers remain especially loyal to this genre, I have the opportunity to do this on a regular basis.  These voracious readers are constantly looking for new books and they’ve often exhausted the young adult offerings of the moment.  And that’s where having a healthy collection of fantasy published for adult fiction market comes in! Last spring, I shared several adult fantasy authors and titles popular with my students but it seemed about time to provide an update! Here are some adult fiction titles likely to please a variety of eager fantasy readers. The trend of historical fantasy continues to grow in both young adult and adult fiction.  These first two titles would be excellent recommendations for teens who favor fantasy and historical fiction or Jane Austen novels.
Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho 
(2016 Alex Award nominee) As the Napoleonic Wars rage abroad, Britain struggles at home as the Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers grows increasingly dissatisfied with the newly elected Sorcerer Royal, Zacharias Wythe.  Although he was raised and trained by his predecessor Sir Stephen, Zacharias’ dark skin and past as a slave have always barred him from gaining true acceptance in society and the continued magical draught provides the perfect excuse for the Society to oust him.  But when Zacharias journeys north to inspect the border with Fairyland, he meets Prunella Gentleman, an orphan whose remarkable magical ability might be wasted in a world where women are not permitted to practice magic.  Together, Zacharias and Prunella set out on a quest that will alter the state of sorcery in Britain irrevocably.
Shades of Milk & Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
In another magical alternative version of Regency England, gentlewoman Jane Ellsworth and her sister Melody practice delicate glamour magic and circulate through polite society, all for the purpose of making a good marriage.  But while Melody’s beauty attracts suitors easily, Jane is 28 years old, unmarried, and possibly more talented at glamour than a lady should be.  The arrivals of the wealthy young Mr. Dunkirk and the gruff glamourist Mr. Vincent to the neighborhood set into a series of unforeseen events that will push Jane’s talents and strength to new limits.   The Glamourist Histories series continues in several more novels.
If your readers would prefer a gritty steampunk setting to a Regency drawing room, this next title might be the perfect pick–especially if they like a good murder mystery! Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear (2016 Alex Award nominee)
In Rapid City, airships buzz through the air as hopeful miners travel through on their way to Alaskan gold fields and steam-powered robots work the waterfront. And at Madame Damnable’s high quality bordello, a young prostitute named Karen Memery is just trying to make her way through this unforgiving world.  Then one night, a pair of injured and abused young women end up on their doorstep, on the run from brutal gangster and brothel owner Peter Bantle.  In the days that follow, Karen and the other girls at Madame Damnable’s become involved in horrific murder mystery, tracking down a serial killer slaughtering prostitutes around the city.


Jo Walton has become a recent favorite of mine and her books would be great to share with a reader open to complex, thoughtful fantasy and willing sink into a story with a more internal and less action-heavy plot.

Among Others by Jo Walton (2012 Alex Award nominee)

After her abusive and magically ambitious mother’s spells left Morwenna badly injured and her twin sister dead, Mori fled their home in Wales and ends up in boarding school in England.  Lonely, hurt, and grieving, Mori finds comfort in science fiction and fantasy novels and slowly finds friends through a book group at the local library.  But Mori can’t escape her mother forever and her return to Wales must bring an inevitable confrontation.

My Real Children by Jo Walton

The year is 2015 and Patricia Cowan stares out the window from her small room at a nursing home in England. Patricia’s memory is full of confusion and contradictions.  She seems to be remembering two lives–two different paths she might have taken.  Did she marry Mark, have four children, and eventually escape an unhappy marriage to find joy as an older woman?  Or did she fall in love with Bee and raise three children with her while working as a successful travel writer with homes in Britain and Italy?

These titles are rooted in some version of our world but these next few books would be good picks for fans of high fantasy authors like Kristin Cashore, Tamora Pierce, or Malinda Lo.
The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen 
(2015 Alex Award nominee)  In the far future, following a cataclysmic event, humans have returned to a pseudo-medieval way of life without modern technology but with a buzz of magic underlying the world.  Since her mother the queen’s death, Princess Kelsea Glynn has been raised in hiding, waiting to come of age and return to the Tearling to claim her throne.  Now, the moment has come and Kelsea will need all her bravery and her years of careful study to survive and shape her nation’s precarious future.  This epic adventure continues in two more novels.
The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan

In a world divided between landlockers and damplings, loneliness and fear can become a way of life. Haunted by a single horrific mistake, Callanish has exiled herself to a solitary life as a Gracekeeper, living alone on her island station and administers shoreside burials for those who die aboard the many ships criss-crossing the watery globe.  On one such ship, North makes her life as a member of the traveling circus Excalibur, where she and her bear are frequent stars of the show.  When the tides bring the two young women together, they discover an unexpected connection and new vision for the future.

— Kelly Dickinson, currently listening to Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho and reading Peas and Carrots by Tanita Davis

The post Is This Just Fantasy?: Adult Fantasy Fiction with Teen Appeal appeared first on The Hub.

Magical Realism as Metaphor

Mon, 03/28/2016 - 07:00

Magical realism is a genre that is permeating contemporary YA novels. Its subtlety, however, makes it difficult to pinpoint. The setting and characters are generally realistic, but there is a layer of surrealism that makes the genre separate from realistic fiction. The concept of “magical realism” may conjure twee images and descriptions. If anything, the “magical” parts of magical realism serve as powerful metaphors on reality that set apart the concept from dystopian or supernatural genres. Some of these metaphors illuminate aspects of the human condition. Other metaphors are twists on day-to-day life, when others are genuinely terrifying.

Below is a look at some recent YA novels that incorporate magical realism.

Bone Gap by: Laura Ruby 

This book reads as if the town of Bone Gap is in the middle of nowhere, a place that no one can find except the characters within the story. The imagery in this story is lush and equal parts magical and chilling. Finn has “face blindness” and cannot recognize even those close to him. This is a problem when he is the only person that witnessed the kidnapping of his brother’s girlfriend, Roza. “A tall man with cold eyes” holds Roza against her will, which is the extent that Finn can remember of the captor. He realizes that his mission is to battle the tall man to free Roza. The local beekeeper’s daughter, Petey, who is considered ugly by everyone in the town, except Finn, also helps with the mission. They both witness a mysterious black horse appear that seemingly merges between worlds.

The concept of face blindness acts as a metaphor of how Finn may feel disconnected from his surroundings. The settings change for Roza’s imprisonment based on her requests and the tall man comes off as creepily manipulative. However, the unsettling nature of Roza’s imprisonment makes readers wonder what exactly would define personal hell. This story makes you think and re-think about what separates magic from reality.

Note: This book also won the 2016 Printz Award and you can read an interview with Laura Ruby here.

Boxers & Saints by: Gene Luen Yang

Based on the historical Boxer Rebellion that occurred in China during the year 1900, these two graphic novels explore opposing perceptions. The first graphic novel, Boxers, is shown from the perspective of Little Bao, who becomes a leader in the rebellion. The second graphic novel, Saints, follows a girl from the same village as Little Bao. The girl later adopts the Catholic religion and changes her name to Vibiana. She intends to follow in the footsteps of Joan of Arc. The end of Saints leads to a dramatic conclusion.

The magical realism aspect in these two graphic novels is within the perceptions each side has of the other and of themselves. As a reader armed with basic historical context, it is easy to see how each side was swayed by generalizations and stereotypes of the opposing group. Little Bao acts in ways that could be considered cruel; he is protecting his region and feels that the foreigners threaten his livelihood. Little Bao helps create a ritualistic organization of mysticism and martial arts. Vibiana sees Joan of Arc everywhere she goes and her devotion to Christianity is boundless. In the end, the graphic novel set shows that strongly held beliefs can change the outcomes of world events.

Read an interview with Gene Luen Yang here.

The Cure for Dreaming by: Cat Black 

This story may also be classified as historical fiction, but Cat Black has taken historical fiction further by adding aspects of magical realism. The women’s suffrage movement in the early 1900s is the predominant topic in this story. Olivia Mead sneaks off to rallies and refuses to live life as a “proper woman.” When she is invited to see a performance by an up-and-coming hypnotist named Henri, she is called to the stage. She is hypnotized and easily manipulated in the process. Olivia’s father is tired of her feminist antics and cruelly decides to hire the hypnotist to ensure that Olivia will never be able to speak her mind and see the world only “as it is.”

The plan backfires; instead, in her hypnotized state, she sees everything with a distorted worldview. Haughty men seeking her company appear almost two-faced to her: evil one moment, and deceptively charming the next. Olivia is terrified of her newfound knowledge, but it also acts as a powerful metaphor of truth within woman’s suffrage in this era.

Love in the Time of Global Warming by: Lia Francesca Block 

This story parallels the classic tale of The Odyssey by Homer and could easily be categorized as dystopian. However, the reliance of using The Odyssey as the structure for this story acts as its own magical realism. The world presented in this story is both familiar and unfamiliar. It is a surrealistic version of the classic tale coupled with dystopian elements.

In this story, an “earth shaker” has practically leveled southern California due to global warming. The main protagonist, Pen, is alone and does not know where the rest of her family ended up. She believes they are alive and begins a journey to find them. Pen calls herself “Nobody” in order to escape a troll-like Cyclops, naming her alienation in the journey. However, in the process, she comes across little orange butterflies that she interprets as symbolic. The butterflies lead her to three other teens that are as lost and unsure about how to survive. A dream-like sequence of people addicted to flower juice in a desert hotel appears like a break from the harsh realities of the world outside. Once torn away from the euphoria, the teens all embark on Pen’s journey to find her family in the southwest.

Note: There is also a sequel to this novel, The Island of Excess Love.

The Riverman by: Aaron Starmer 

Alistair Cleary knows that his neighbor, Fiona, is not considered the most normal person at school. Fiona, however, does not seem to care until she asks Alistair to write her biography because he is trustworthy. He takes on the project reluctantly but in the process of documenting the biography, Fiona decides to tell Alistair a secret: in the basement of her house, there is a gateway to the world of Aquavania. Time almost stops in Aquavania and the rules are within the mind of the individual that enters there. When Fiona comes across other children and teens about her age in Aquavania, she begins to make friends. Slowly, her friends begin to disappear since a mysterious monster called the Riverman has been stealing the souls of children.

The story may be categorized more generally in the realm of fantasy. However, Fiona’s story about Aquavania concerns Alistair in the beginning. As Alistair considers Fiona’s puzzling story about the Riverman stealing the souls of children, it appears as a metaphor for something truly troubling. Is Fiona telling the truth about the Riverman or is something serious happening to her in real-life? It is a fascinating debate that occurs when reading this coming-of-age story.

Note: This is the first novel in a trilogy. The second novel is called The Whisper and the last novel in the trilogy is called The Storyteller.

Don’t forget to check out this previous post about magical realism for more reads.

— Diana Slavinsky, current reading the Y: The Last Man series by Brian K. Vaughn

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2016 Hub Challenge Check-In #9

Sun, 03/27/2016 - 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!

This has not been my most successful Hub Challenge year, due a lot to the 500+ page adult book I’m working on and my discovery that I like video games, but I am trying! I’m a little behind but the two most recent titles that I’ve read I have really enjoyed. First was Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I actually started it in February and then put it down. At the time, I wasn’t able to commit my full attention to is and I felt like the book –  which is a letter to his son about police violence, institutional racism, and the joy and pain of African American and black cultures –  deserved more. So I waited a week or two and started again when I had fewer distractions. It’s a very interesting and different for me since I have very little experience with the situations that Coates describes: I’m white and from a relatively privileged background. But I think it’s so important to read outside your experience in order to have empathy, compassion, and just plain knowledge of people different from you. Coates’ writing is lyrical and moving and worth taking time to digest. I hope this book is required reading while also hoping that someday our lives will be such that African American sons won’t need books like this from their fathers.

On a slightly different track, I also listened to Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan on audiobook and can highly recommend it. It makes sense that this was an Odyssey Honor title since I can’t imagine reading this without musical excerpts. The audiobook includes different readers and harmonica music to make the story of three lives changed by one magical harmonica during WWII come to life! The book made me tear up multiple times and the story and production are amazing. If you’re looking for a great family listen for a road trip this summer, I would start here.

Next up for me is another audio, this time from the Top Ten Amazing Audiobooks list: Randall Munroe’s What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions. Munroe’s webcomic xkcd is a favorite and I’m looking forward to his blend of science and humor. Plus, Wil Wheaton, nerd spokesmen and former U.S.S. Enterprise crewmember narrates so it’s sure to be fun!

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’ve completed the Challenge, be sure to fill out this form.

— Anna Tschetter, currently reading Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee

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Booklist: Shakespeare-inspired YA Fiction

Fri, 03/25/2016 - 07:00

If you haven’t already heard 2016 is a big year for Shakespeare and his famous First Folio! His First Folio will be going on a tour across all 50 states for the rest of the year. Check out more about it here

If you’re like me, you read Shakespeare in school and even on your own, and fell in love with his plays.

“What more is there to love?” you might ask. Well there is more than one way to love reading Shakespeare! These authors have retold some of Shakespeare’s biggest stories and some have set him center stage in the tale they have to tell. These stories are great for the most well versed Shakespeare fan, and for those that are new to the Bard.

Still Star-Crossed by Melinda Taub

This is the story of what happens after Romeo & Juliet. Their families are still fighting and no one seems to know how to end their feud. Then the prince comes up with a plan. One member of each family must marry, ending the rivalry. When Romeo’s best friend, Benvolio, and Juliet’s cousin, Rosaline, are chosen they are quite skeptical. Can they save Verona and their families?

Confessions of a Triple Shot Betty by Jody Gehrman

A contemporary spin on Shakespeare’s tale, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, this story takes place over summer break. Geena thinks her break spent with her cousin and her best friend will be one for the ages, but unfortunately things do not go as planned. This tale is full of mistaken identities, romance, and crazy schemes, making it a fun, modern day equivalent to Shakespeare’s famous play.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Another contemporary story with parallels to Shakespeare’s work, this time being King Lear. Cady comes from a privileged family, the Sinclairs. They have their own island where they summer, but one year everything changes and Cady is trying to figure out what truly happened to her that previous summer. E. Lockhart writes a twisting tale that would make the Bard proud.

Loving Will Shakespeare by Carolyn Meyer

This is the fictionalized story of how Shakespeare met his real life wife, Anne Hathaway. Anne is a simple farmer’s daughter and is quickly becoming distressed about her marriage prospects. When the much younger Will Shakespeare kisses her, their lives change forever. Read how Shakespeare’s own love story was fit for a play!

The Fool’s Girl by Celia Rees

Part retelling, part period piece, The Fool’s Girl is quite an interesting novel! Taking themes and ideas from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, this story is a grand adventure. Violetta, from a crumbling kingdom, finds her way to London on a mysterious quest. She is not sure where she is being led until she meets William Shakespeare, who just might have the answers that she is looking for…

Enter Three Witches by Caroline B. Cooney

This tale, from one of YA’s most popular authors, is a take on Macbeth that you have not seen before. Lady Mary, a ward of Lord and Lady Macbeth, tells the infamous story while being trapped inside their castle. Amidst violence and bloodshed, can Mary save not only herself, but everyone else?

Prince of Shadows by Rachel Caine

This retelling of Romeo & Juliet is from the perspective of Romeo’s cousin, Benvolio, the great thief of Verona. With the focus on supporting characters from the play as well as language and setting of the original, this will please fans of Shakespeare’s version.

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

This recent release reimagines The Winter’s Tale in a contemporary setting with cheerleaders. Hermione is drugged and raped while at cheer camp, and with the help of her supportive best friend, parents, and law enforcement, works to uncover her rapist’s identity in this thought-provoking, character driven novel.

A Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters

Set in the 1920s, this Hamlet retelling centers around the daughter of an interracial couple whose father was murdered. With all the intrigue and even the ghosts of the original, this is an update fans should check out.

I hope these books have sparked your interest and have you wanting to pick up something related to the Bard! This theme would be perfect for a Shakespeare-themed book display to celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday and the anniversary of his death in April. Get more ideas from the Shakespeare section of this Epic Reads retelling flowchart

Please let me know in the comments if there is a favorite of yours that I might have missed!

— Tegan Anclade, currently reading Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis

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Reality Scoop: Importance of Sleep for Teens

Thu, 03/24/2016 - 08:30

Sleep is so important for teens because they are always on the go with school, sports, projects, and the many activities in their lives.  Ever notice how sleepy they are too?  It’s almost as though they are going through life clamoring for more sleep.  Research from the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center shows that most teens can’t get enough sleep.  They are at an important stage in their growth and development and they need more sleep than grown ups.  According to the Sleep Disorder Center, the average teen should get at least nine of hours of sleep to feel sharp and rested the next day.  Take into consideration that there are different factors that can keep teens from having ample time for sleeping.  Some causes that may cause teens to lose sleep are:

  • Changes in their bodies
  • Overloaded schedules
  • Exertive social lives
  • Confused perspective of sleep

The Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences & Medicine has done extensive evaluations of teens with sleep problems.  Their conclusion is that teens that have issues with sleep have had these problems long before they were teens.  Unfortunately, the sleep patterns of teens are usually very set and it is hard for them to increase sleep.  Therefore, these issues with sleep can progress into their adulthood.

CC image via Flickr user Lucas Arrrrgh


Statistics from the National Sleep Foundation show surprising information on teens:

  • Teens need at least 8 to 10 hours of sleep every night to function best during the day.  Only 15% of teens reported sleeping at least 8 hours on school nights.
  • Teens tend to have irregular sleep patterns and typically stay up late and sleep in late on weekends, which can damage the quality of their sleep patterns.
  • Many teens suffer from treatable sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, insomnia, or sleep apnea.

Here are a few things that can help teens to try and fit in a bit more sleep into their schedules:

  • Turn off all electronic devices before going to sleep Electronic screens emit a glow called “blue light” at a particular frequency that sends “a signal to the brain which suppresses the production of melatonin and keeps teens from feeling tired.
  • Stay away from caffeine and snacks before bedtime.  These can harmfully postpone sleep.
  • Relieve pressure by reducing daily activities.
  • Streamline morning schedule to allow for more sleep time.
  • Work on assignments more productively by taking breaks and cut work into smaller pieces.

Here are a few realistic young adult fiction books that focus on teens with sleep disorders or problems with sleep and how it affects their lives and the people around them.

Althea & Oliver by Christina Moracho 2015 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults

Althea and Oliver have been best friends since they were six years old.  She’s the rowdy one and he’s the peaceful mediator and the only one who can calm her down.  As their junior year is wrapping up, Althea decides she wants to make their relationship more than just friends.  Oliver is fine with things the way they are, which leaves them in sort of a strange vortex.  Suddenly, Oliver is plagued with a sleeping problem and has to face the fact that something is very wrong.  He takes off to go to a clinical sleep study in New York and Althea chases after him in her beat up Camry.  Together again they must face their future together and take a chance on what might or might not be true love.  Set in the mid-1990’s, this witty coming of age story will bend your heart with the surprising realness that it releases.

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen  2012 Teens’ Top Ten award

Mclean Sweet has moved around a lot since her parents bitter divorce.  She says she doesn’t mind the moves, she thinks of it as a chance to reinvent herself each time she goes to a new school.  She can be a peppy cheerleader, serious drama student, and even the girl next door.  That is until she meets Dave.  He’s got something that she thinks is worth putting down roots for.  Both Mclean and Dave have a hard time sleeping at night.  They have so much on their minds, Mclean her parents problems and Dave his studies and the pressure his parents put on him to be smart and overachieve.  Mclean is scared that she is falling for Dave, but after everything she’s been through watching her parents marriage crumble, she’s seriously afraid to find out for real.  Sarah Dessen does a wonderful job portraying teens that face the realistic pressures of family pressures and love.

What We Saw At Night by Jacqueline Mitchard 

They stay up all night long, catching up on fun games and playing outside in the dark.  They must avoid the sun at all costs.  Sleep is not something they are used to. They must navigate their way around in the shadows and avoid the light.  If you are thinking this is another young adult book about teen vampires you guessed wrong. What We Saw At Night is about a group of teenagers who suffer from the real world genetic disorder Xeroderma Pigmentosum. Allie Kim and her friends all have a rare allergy that keeps them confined during the day.  Because of this they let loose at night until one of them sees something that looks very much like a murder.  Allie worries that because of her lack of sleep she may have been seeing things that weren’t really there.  She decides to look into the mystery further and as she navigates through the nighttime shadows to uncover the secret she shakes up her whole life and ends up trusting no one.

Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff

Waverly is an insomniac over-achiever, part of the popular crowd who hides her true feelings during the day and runs until she can’t think at night. One night she falls asleep and dreams herself into the life of Marshall, a slacker nobody to whom she’s inexplicably drawn. Narrated from both character’s point of view, this compelling, fast-paced novel is tinged with magic.


— Kimberli Buckley, currently reading Solitaire by Alice Oseman


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Crafty and Creative YA Characters

Wed, 03/23/2016 - 07:00

March isn’t all about St. Patrick’s Day and shamrocks, it is also National Craft Month! Other than reading, crafts are one of my favorite past times. From crocheting to cross stitching to painting, I will try them all! Crafts are one of my favorite ways to bring books to life as well. After finishing The Hunger Games I made a cross stitch of one of my favorite Katniss and Peeta quotes. I have also crocheted a Golden Snitch from Harry Potter. Crafts can span all interests and are a great outlet for one’s creativity. After realizing how much I enjoyed creating projects based on novels, I thought “Why not find some crafty characters to write about?” Here are some creative YA characters that create works of art in some form.

Crafty YA Characters

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

Lara Jean is a very creative 16-year-old girl. She not only crafts regularly with her two sisters, but bakes and writes as well. While those two things might not be stereotypically “crafty”, they are an art form and two that Lara Jean excels at. Her writings take on a life of their own after she writes love letters to all her past boyfriends and relationships. She hides them under a hat box under her bed, but after they mysteriously get sent out, she has to deal with the outcome of her words. Writing, whether it is non-fiction, fiction, or simply musings is a fantastic way to express one’s self. By writing and letting her true feelings show, Lara Jean is able to discover more about herself in a way she might not have without a creative outlet. Want to channel your inner Lara Jean? Try this fun hat box craft or this delicious cupcake recipe.

Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison

Our creative MC, Georgia Nicolson, is not your stereotypical crafter or artist. Not only does she create some very unique viking disco bison horn headbands (made out of things ranging from bison horns, to twigs attached to a hair band), but a dance routine to go along with it! While out with her best mates, and potential boyfriends, she often uses her creativity to help her in crazy situations. The Viking Disco Bison Inferno dance (updated in the book Stop in the Name of Pants!) is more than just a creative outlet, it is a solution to getting oneself out of a tricky spot. Georgia is also often finding crafty and creative ways to occupy her little sister and fix her favorite doll. No matter where she finds herself, Georgia is using her creativity. In case you want to try The Viking Disco Bison Inferno yourself, here are instructions and a video.

Boys Don’t Knit by T.S. Easton

Ben is your stereotypical boy, raised by a father that is a huge sports fan and surrounded by friends that do not enjoy anything “girly.” After getting in trouble for theft, to avoid being lumped into a unit of juvenile offenders, he must find away to give back and conform to society. When he discovers the local knitting group (which also happens to be lead by a hot teacher) he decides to give it a whirl, not expecting to enjoy it. Suddenly Ben is learning and enjoying his new hobby, while also having to keep it a secret from his dad, his friends, and a possible new love interest, because remember…boys don’t knit. It is an important lesson that Ben learns from knitting. It does not matter who you are, if you enjoy something, do not let anyone stifle your passion and creativity. If you, boy or girl, are interested in knitting, check it out here. Also check out crocheting, it might be more your bag.

Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar

For a book series about rich Upper East Side private school kids, this series is full of creatives! One particularly creative and crafty character is Vanessa. She comes from a long line of artists, including two hippie parents. For most of the series she can be found working on her passion, film making. She can often be found making dark films about everyday life. As the character progresses throughout the series, she also starts to channel her creativity into tying together her fashion choices, with those of the Upper East Side. By viewing this unique world through her camera Vanessa is able to see things that an insider, or even an outsider, might miss. If you are interested in viewing the world in a different and creative way, learn more about film making here.

As Dead as It Gets by Katie Alender

This is not the first novel we meet our MC, Alexis, in (the first is Bad Girls Don’t Die) but it is the first one where we really see her bring her passion to life. Alexis is a photographer and most often can be seen taking pictures for her high school’s newspaper and yearbook. In this third novel in the series she is taking photographs for a competition. She soon discovers that she is seeing ghosts in her pictures. At first she abandons her creativity in order to avoid her problems, but learns that only makes the situation worse. This is a great story of learning that your creativity often helps you through the worst of times, even when it seems like it is not going anywhere. By continuing with her craft, Alexis is able to solve her problem, and still be true to herself. Want to see what you can capture in pictures? Learn more about photography here.

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt

Set in 1968 this story is about Doug, an eighth grader forced to move to a new town. He hates everything about little Marysville, New York, until he discovers the library. While there he finds artwork drawn by John James Audubon and is instantly entranced. One of the librarians spies Doug’s potential and starts to teach him how to draw. At first Doug is apprehensive and convinced that he does not have a creative bone in his body, but discovers he is, in fact, more crafty than he thinks. As Doug starts drawing the birds he learns more about not only drawing, but art and what it represents. He must find a way to be true to himself, without having to hide his creativity from his dad or his brother. Along the way he meets other fellow artists, and discovers what it means to find your craft. Want to channel your inner Doug? Check out some guides to drawing here.

I hope these characters have inspired you to craft, create, and follow your passions! Are there any creative YA characters that have inspired you?

— Tegan Anclade, currently reading The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

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Booklist: “Strong” Female Characters Who Also Embrace Aspects of Femininity

Tue, 03/22/2016 - 07:00

Female characters are getting stronger, wiser, and braver in young adult literature and while many are picking up weapons and symbolically wearing pants to counter the male characters’ image, elements of femininity remain in these evolved female heroines. This is a shift from strong female characters cutting their hair, changing their wardrobe, or going by a less feminine name.

A female can maintain aspects of femininity and still be seen as a strong and important major character. This redefines the stereotypical “strong female character” by offering female characters that are fearless, intelligent, flawed, and courageous – all while wearing dresses and exhibiting female pride. Wardrobe may not seem an important literary element, but it is important for authors to show not only a range of femininity in characters, but to show the struggles and strength of the protagonists. The topic of the variety of ways to be a “strong” female characters has been discussed before  here at The Hub, and it certainly is related to other topics such as gendered booklists.  March is Women’s History Month – let’s celebrate the strong and diverse females in our literary world!

Strength sometimes comes after a struggle. The phrase “rising from the ashes” exists to show that after a fall or hardship, we can survive and rise, whether in pants, a dress, with special powers, scarred, or rising to simply get out of bed the next morning. Strength means something different to everyone and we should encourage teens to read about strong female characters just as they read about strong male characters. People vary in personalities and society is motley. Let’s support authors who portray a full range of strong characters, a variety of femininity, and encourage readers to look outside of their world. Let’s enjoy the freedoms reading allows to see past definitions, stereotypes, and expected character development. Female protagonists exhibit a variety of traits, such as authenticity, accepting responsibility, helpfulness, and courage.  By showing honest emotions, these characters help portray empathy, that one can be brave, and that there is pride in all aspects of femininity.

cc image via Flickr user Chris Alcoran A Variety of Strong Female Characters from Recent Young Adult Fiction

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (series 2012-present) Celaena is a fighter who must battle for a King she knows to be evil. She does his bidding to earn her own freedom and must eventually decide what is more important: her life or doing what is right. She is a strong assassin who also loves to buy dresses – a killer fashionista with intense fighting skills!

The Rose Society by Marie Lu (2015)

In this second novel of the Young Elite series (2014-present), many different people are fighting for power and two of the strongest contenders are Adelina and Maeve who both try to survive as Malfettos (people with special powers who the Queen and Inquisitor are trying to assassinate) and claim power. Important topics like discrimination, disappointments in life, and heartache are addressed. Not a sappy teen romance, but more mature heartaches from being responsible for a friend’s death to overcoming such obvious hatred and abandonment from a parent. I often recommend this series for bold characters like Lady MacBeth (William Shakespeare) or power hungry characters like in Game of Thrones (R.R. Martin). Lu covers loss, greed, and power struggles very well with the added maturity of the negative side of love and how a sense of revenge can lead to isolation and possibly madness.

Untwine: A Novel by Edwidge Danticat (2015)

Identical Haitian twin sisters and one of them dies. The other must heal not only physically, but emotionally after the death of her other half. There is even a little mystery to this story. It is beautifully written about the love between sisters and worth a few tears readers will shed. Overall, the family comes together among many generations and it is a lovely story of family, love, and surviving loss.

Ask the Passengers by A.S. King (2012)

Astrid is a 17 year old girl dealing with a judgmental mother, pot smoking father, and questioning her sexuality. The beauty to this story is how Astrid lays on the picnic table in her yard looking up at the airplanes as they fly by and sends love to the strangers. She also uses a school project to discuss placing people in boxes and how no one is perfect. In the end, she is courageous and kind as she sends love to strangers and finally finds some acceptance and peace for herself.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes (2015)

Minnow overcomes two very unusual and harming events: moving to a cult where women have no power (aren’t taught to read) and are forced to become child brides and later having her hands chopped off at the wrists for trying to run away. Oh, and she’s now in juvenile detention, but the positive side of this story is her curiosity, her will power (she both dresses herself and learns how to read) and a nice friendship with her cell mate, who helps Minnow in many ways. William C. Morris YA Debute Award Nominee (2016).

All The Truth That’s In Me by Julie Berry (2014)

This novel begins with loss and a sense of sadness. Judith has returned after being kidnapped two years ago. Besides losing her innocence, she also lost half of her tongue. Her family treats her like a servant, her community doesn’t trust her, but with the help of a few friends she eventually finds her voice (figuratively and literally) and provides closure to another family and her town. 

Breathe by Sarah Crossan (2012)

In a world that survives in a pod because oxygen is no longer in the atmosphere, Alina is determined that breathing is a right, not a privilege and that all people should have enough oxygen, not just the wealthy. She is one of the characters more focused on social justice than other dystopian novels, she is amazingly brave and fair. Readers who love Katniss and Tris will certainly find a hero in Alina and this climate-based dystopian is full of environmentalism and action. (sequel: Resist) YALSA Best Fiction for YA.

All the Rage by Courtney Summers (2015)

Romy not only survives a rape, but survives being called a liar and overcomes the bullying inflicted upon her by accusing the popular, Sheriff’s son. When a girl goes missing Romy questions her worth and must face her past.  She struggles with “what ifs” and learns both to let her guard down and offer forgiveness to herself and a few bullies, but most importantly she finds her inner strength to seek justice.  This is a harsh telling of a culture that blames the victim and discredits young females when they go against a boys-club, small town mentality; however, Summers’ honest portrayal of sexism reads true for any town or city. Romy is a flawed, honest, and strong teen in this realistic fiction story of how our culture is so quick to label girls sluts and liars – a worthy read that can certainly lead to a worthy discussion.

Changeling by Phillipa Gregory (2012)

Gregory’s first YA novel, and the first in the Order of Darkness series (2012-present) takes on Gregory’s skilled research with her adult historical fictions, only these characters are not based on any real people. Thus, it’s not a true historical fiction, but it certainly fits into the genre with amazing detail. There are numerous portrayals of strong women, born in time period where women were not seen as equals, and also male characters who support and respect these characters.  (Series titles: Stormbringers, Fools’ Gold, and an untitled fourth).

A Girl Called Fearless by Catherine Linka (2014)

This is exactly as it sounds – Fearless. A regular girl finds herself in a horrible situation and survives. She also is physically strong and literally carries a male character when he is injured. Facing becoming a teen-bride, she decides to run and take care of herself. Sequel: A Girl Undone

The Archived by Victoria Schwab (2013)

Mackenzie is recovering from the death of her little brother in her life, but she also is a Keeper in an alternate world where she walks around the Narrows searching for recently deceased people who are stuck between this world and the next. Part fantasy and part realistic fiction, she struggles with learning how to grieve and resisting the temptation to going to The Archives to see or ‘wake up’ her brother. With an unrealistic temptation of course, how many people haven’t wished to see a deceased family member one more time? Full of mystery both in this world with a murder in her apartment building decades ago and a conspiracy within her own company of The Archives, she is emotional in her grief, brave, strong, and loyal. All qualities of a strong female character (Series titles: The Unbound, The Returned)

Lost Girl Found by Leah Bassoff and Laura Deluca (2014)

Poni lives in Sudan and this is a story full of struggle both as she walks to a refugee camp and then trying to survive in a refugee camp. This is for a mature reader as it is a real example of historic hardships and unlike dystopian when the fear is far-fetched, the issues of war and refugees is very current and Poni is a brave survivalist who wants a better future, one in which she does not fear for her life but also one where she gets to go to school. Such topics as rape, a child bride who dies in childbirth, and many deaths along the walk to the refugee camp are included. Still she is driven.  Poni finds a convent and not only proves herself as a hard worker in school, but eventually is sent to America for her education.   Unfortunately she lost her family, her village, and her innocence along the way.

Darkness Rising Series by Kelley Armstrong (2011)

Maya, a Native American, not only faces the typical drama of high school and typical topic of adoption, but she also faces the realization she is a shapeshifter and learns her biological parents kept her twin. Oh, and her best friend died the year before and company that runs their town is not entirely honest. (Series titles: The Calling, The Rising).

— Sarah Carnahan, currently reading Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard and This is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

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Fun and Informative Science-Themed Graphic Novels

Mon, 03/21/2016 - 15:00

Who hasn’t turned to David Macaulay’s original The Way Things Work (1988) or The New Way Things Work (1998) to understand how something works by seeing it explained using illustrations, instead of just text? His books are standard reference sources in many libraries where I’ve worked. I’m really happy to know that an even newer revised and updated edition called The Way Things Work Now will be published in October 2016.

I’m a visual learner and it really helps to see how something works with images, as opposed to just with text. Many teens learn visually as well. Science concepts that are hard to imagine are much easier for teens (and adults) to grasp if we can visualize them. So much of what we are familiar with can be explained using science. Kids on a playground may not realize that everything they’re playing on uses physics: a swing is a pendulum, a see-saw is a basic lever and a slide is friction and gravity.

To accompany some of the other recent posts relating to science books for teens, here are just a few graphic novels where science is made more fun, interactive and understandable for teens in a graphic novel format. The books listed range from middle grade books with appeal to older readers, to those published for adults with teen appeal.

In 2016, First Second will begin publishing its Science Comics series. Coral Reefs written and illustrated by Maris Wicks and Dinosaurs by MK Reed and Joe Flood are both being published May, 2016. Volcanoes, written and illustrated by Jon Chad will be published in October 2016. (all Gr. 4 & up)

Every volume of Science Comics offers a complete introduction to a particular topic. Coral Reefs examines the biology of coral reefs as well as their ecological importance using Wicks’ signature appealing and accurate illustrations.

Human Body Theater: A Nonfiction Revue written and illustrated by Maris Wicks. (2015) (Gr 4-8)

A talking skeleton tells all about the human body as part of its “all- singing, all-dancing” stage show. The skeleton entertainingly but accurately explains how each body system works, what can go wrong with it, and how to care for it. Lots of humor is reflected in Wicks’ colorful and detailed illustrations. (2016 Great Graphic Novels for Teens)

Jay Hosler’s The Last of the Sandwalkers (2015) written and illustrated by the author. (Gr. 5 & up)

In this fun and informative graphic novel, Lucy is a tiny field scientist who is also a beetle. She lives in a beetle civilization where beetles write books, run restaurants, and even do scientific research. But, the powerful elders don’t want too much research to be done because they guard a terrible secret about the world outside the shadow of the palm tree. Lucy defies them to lead a team of researchers into the desert to discover more of the wider world…but what lies in wait for them is going to change everything Lucy thought she knew.

Howtoons: Tools of Mass Construction by Dr. Saul Griffith, illustrated by Nick Dragotta (2015) (Gr. 4-8)

This 360 page part graphic novel, part instruction manual, features siblings Tuck and Celine who are urged to make something out of household treasures to keep them out of trouble. Howtoons was originally created by scientists Saul Griffith, Joost Bonsen and artist Nick Dragotta from MIT. Just a few of the science projects here include ice cream in a bag, an electric motor, bugeye lens, an underwater scope, a terrarium, a mini-submarine, spring-loaded chopsticks, pneumatic muscles, and rockets.

Howtoons: [Re]ignition by Fred Van Lente, illustrated by Tom Fowler. (2015) (Gr. 4 – 8)

Part graphic novel story, part science/energy instruction manual and energy history lesson, in which siblings Celine and Tuck and their parents are in suspended animation riding out an energy crisis. When the kids wake up, and find their parents gone, they must try to find them. As they cross a strange new world, they have to rely on their science knowledge to save them – and the world. Along the way, they learn to build such projects as a wind turbine, a solar cooker, and a go-kart.

Jim Ottaviani and illustrator Maris Wicks’ Primates: Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas (2013) (Gr. 6-9)

Science writer Jim Ottaviani explains the personalities and scientific breakthroughs, of these three women scientists, accompanied by the appealing illustrations by Maris Wicks. Their stories are enlightening and very entertaining.(2014 Great Graphic Novel for Teens)


World without Fish by Mark Kurlansky and Frank Stockton (2011) (Gr. 5 & up)

This is a graphic novel hybrid that combines text, sometimes in huge font and in caps, with illustrations that exposes the alarming depletion of our planet’s oceans. Kurlansky explains how as the planet’s temperature, food sources, and weather patterns change, certain species (such as the jellyfish) will begin to flourish even as other animals (like the fish that feed on jellyfish) die out – and how these processes are occurring more quickly than scientists have predicted. The text is accompanied by comic book panels that tell the story of Kram, a fictional scientist, and his daughter, Ailat, who witness the very destruction Kurlansky describes. It’s a dire vision, but Kurlansky also offers specific things that readers can do to help restore the planet’s oceans.

Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth by Jay Hosler, illustrated by Kevin Cannon and Zander Cannon (2011) (Gr. 9 & up)

This fun history of evolution takes the reader on a tour with an alien over 4.5 billion years from earth’s beginnings when it was a primordial soup up to evolved humans. The award-winning illustrators render the complex clear and everything cleverly comedic.(2012 Great Graphic Novel for Teens)

Charles Darwin’s on the Origin of the Species: a Graphic Adaption by Michael Keller, illustrated by Nicolle Rager Fuller (2009) (Gr. 9 & up)

This graphic novel translation of Darwin’s original text includes sections about his pioneering research, the book’s initial public reception, his correspondence with other leading scientists, as well as the most recent breakthroughs in evolutionary theory, beautifully rendered in color. It breathes new life into Darwin’s classic work.

Jay Hosler’s The Sandwalk Adventures: An Adventure in Evolution Told in Five Chapters (2003) (Gr. 4-8)

In this entertaining graphic novel, Darwin engages in discussion with follicle mites that live in his left eyebrow. The mites believe Darwin is a god, one of the myths they have handed down from generation to generation. Darwin sets them straight about that and other mite fables as well, the result being lessons in natural selection.

Clan Apis by Jay Hosler (2000) (Gr. 5-7)

Biology professor and entomologist Jay Hosler tells the story of a honeybee Nyuki (the Swahili word for “bee”) from birth to death in this black & white graphic novel. It’s an often moving tale that also includes a lot of action, as well as the explanation of swarm behavior, the metamorphosis process of bee larvae, and a fascinating look at the steps of a honeybee dance, among other things.

Who knew there were so many ways to present information in graphic novel format about bees, mites, the way the human body works, how to make a rocket or evolution? These are only a few examples of the many science-themed graphic novels out there. If you’ve read one I missed, please share!

— Sharon Rawlins, currently reading Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys and listening to Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics



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2016 Hub Challenge Check-In #8

Sun, 03/20/2016 - 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!

I can’t believe how this winter flew by! Today is officially the first day of spring and, at least here, it has been feeling more like spring every day. If winter has had you feeling cooped up and not in the mood to read, now is the perfect time to grab one of the Challenge books and take it outside to read in the fresh spring air!

Recently, I’ve been rereading another favorite from last year that made more than one of the lists, Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson. This graphic novel not only made the 2016 Great Graphic Novels for Teens Top Ten but also found its way onto the 2016 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults Top Ten. And, to top it off, it was also a Newbery Honor Award winner. The story follows 12-year old Astrid as she signs up for a roller derby summer camp and comes to terms with changes in her friendship with her closest friend as their interests and passions start to diverge. This book has the potential to appeal to a wide range of age groups and reading styles. Best of all, it has great tie-in potential with the fitness/sports theme that many summer reading programs are adopting this year. I highly recommend reading this book; not only am I sure that you will enjoy it, but I am guessing that you will end up recommending it to friends and patrons alike.

In addition to Roller Girl, I’ve also read The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geeks by Sam Maggs, which is on the 2016 Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. This book might seem quite a bit different than Roller Girl, but what they both share is a focus on encouraging girls to find and follow their passions. In the case of The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy, this means making a dive into fandoms and their related social spaces more approachable for female fans of all ages. This book has lots of fun tips as well as input from a wide range of female fans who can help readers to feel like they are part of a community as they venture into their chosen fandom. It is a great reader for those who are new to fandom but will also be enjoyable for those who have been participants for years.

Even if you haven’t started the Challenge yet, you still have three months to finish all the books, so there is plenty of time to jump in now! Be sure to sign up in the original post if you haven’t already. On the other hand, if you’ve already completed the challenge, don’t forget to fill out this form!

– Carli Spina, currently reading Lucky Penny by Ananth Hirsh and Yuko Ota

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2016 Alex Award Winner: An Interview with Liz Suburbia

Fri, 03/18/2016 - 08:06

Liz Suburbia’s debut graphic novel, Sacred Heart, was selected for the Top Ten lists for both the  Alex Award and Great Graphic Novels for Teens, presented as part of the ALA’s 2016 Youth Media Awards.  A full list of all the authors and titles honored at the 2016 YMAs can be found here.

Sacred Heart follows Ben Schiller, who is trying to navigate high school in Alexandria, a town where all the adults have gone away.  As the teens attend school purely to socialize and local punk band the Crotchmen rock the nights away in an abandoned church, Ben juggles her changing relationship with her best friend and her newfound role as a parental figure to her younger sister, Empathy.  But no one knows when or if the parents are coming back, and a string of deaths may mean that even more sinister things are coming.

Congratulations on your Alex Award win!  What was your reaction to winning?

Thank you!  I was surprised and humbled. My mom is an elementary school librarian who follows ALA news closely, so when she texted me about it I felt pretty good.

Was there something in particular that inspired you to write Sacred Heart?

I didn’t really know where I was going with it when I started; at the time I had just started working at a comic shop and was suddenly completely immersed in comics, so I was inspired to make one of my own. I started with the kind of generic “young girl coming of age” template and it grew from there.

Sacred Heart is about a town that is completely devoid of adults.  Did you know at the beginning where all the grown-ups had gone, or did that revelation come later in the writing process?  

At first I was having trouble writing adults into the story, and it occurred to me that I could just not include them. It took me awhile to come up with a good reason for their absence though. I had a kind of lightbulb moment out of nowhere when I went to see the band Shannon and the Clams, and they sang a song from the perspective of a kid who doesn’t want to be in their parents’ cult anymore.

Your main character, Ben, is on the outside of a lot of cliques.  Mostly, she seems to go unnoticed except when she’s working on a tattoo for one of her friends.  I could really relate to that, and I know many teens do, as well.  Is this reflective of your own experience?  

A little, yeah. My family was military so we moved around a lot, and I spent most of my life being the new kid. I think for some people, trying to find a group to belong to gets exhausting after awhile. It makes you hesitant at first with the people who reach out in genuine friendship, like Jenna does in the book.

I really love the relationship between Ben and her sister, Empathy.  Ben seems easily adaptable to being both the parent and the older sibling/friend as Empathy needs it.  Was this inspired by a particular relationship that you had as a teen?  

A lot of that relationship is fiction extrapolated from reality, haha. I’m the oldest of three but my brother and sister never needed me to take care of them or look out for them like that. If anything I kind of clung to the illusion that they needed me, because I didn’t have a really strong sense of identity at that age, and telling myself I was responsible for someone made me feel like I mattered a little more than I would have otherwise. I think older siblings like Ben are very aware of the archetypical “big sister” role and kind of cling to it in a vacuum.

Sacred Heart was originally published as a webcomic.  What was the process of turning it into a print book like?  

I started putting it online as I went along because I didn’t want to wait until it was done to show my friends—I was anticipating the story taking a long time to finish. Neil Bramlette, who runs the Out of Step Arts collective, liked my work and approached me at the Small Press Expo about joining. He came up with the idea of shopping it around to publishers, and did the bulk of that legwork for me, which was how I ended up with the Fantagraphics deal. Once I signed the contract I started redrawing the whole comic from scratch, which was a pretty hefty effort considering I was working around a 40+ hour workweek for my day job.

Do you have any plans for a Sacred Heart prequel or sequel?

I plan to continue the story until Ben is in her 80s. The next part will pick up about ten years after the events of this book, but I don’t have a concrete start date for drawing and publishing that yet. Everything’s outlined but scripting and drawing can take awhile, and I have other projects and a day job as well.

What comics did you read when you were growing up?  Were there any particular stories or creators that inspired you to get into making your own comics?

I started with newspaper comics, and had a kind of standard journey from those to Marvel stuff and Hellboy, and then to Love & Rockets and other more indie and literary work. I’ve got about 10 million influences but I don’t think anything ever made me really want to make something myself that I could hold in my hands more than a zine my best friend gave me our senior year of high school. They made it with their older brother, hand-printed and hand-stapled, and I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. I still have it.

What comics or creators are you really enjoying right now? 

I’m not as in touch with a lot of what’s out there currently since I left my job at the comic shop (and moved to a town with almost no places to buy comics), but my friends are putting out some of the best work out there right now and I feel really lucky to have access to it through them. Fütchi Perf by Kevin Czapiewski was the best comic that came out last year, hands down. Laura Knetzger’s Bug Boys gives me such warm and peaceful feelings- I’m planning on donating a copy to my mom’s school library. I’ve also been studying a lot of Kyoko Okazaki’s manga, trying to learn how to draw with a looser, cooler-looking style.

Sacred Heart contains a lot of elements of punk culture, including a significant storyline about a band.  Who are some of your favorite musicians or bands, punk or otherwise?  

Bands like Priests and Downtown Boys are putting out some of the best and most vital stuff right now.  I’m not as connected to current punk since I moved away from the East Coast and stopped going to shows as much, though; these days I mostly just listen to Void. And Bruce Springsteen.

What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?

Vanilla bourbon!

Is there anything else you would like to share, or anything I didn’t ask about that you wish I had?  

I think the best thing about comics is how easy they are to make, and how empowering it can be to hold something you made yourself in your hands and share it with your friends. I hope as the comics medium becomes more popular, especially with younger readers, people will realize just how much they can do to take part in something they love. It’s very accessible.

— Elizabeth Norton, currently reading Daredevil Volume 1: Devil at Bay by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

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Blinded by Science: Youtubers and Podcasts to Follow

Thu, 03/17/2016 - 09:30

It’s Science Week!  Some feel science should just be left for homework, and for others it can totally be your jam, but science surrounds us, and it can be fascinating. Podcasts and videos can be a great way to explore your burning inquiries  whether you have just a few minutes or a whole hour to delve into a topic.



YouTube has some entertaining and engrossing science channels that are worthy of note, whether it be for entertainment, education, or news. Here are some channels you should know about:


SciShow is a series of science-related videos on YouTube. The program is hosted by Hank Green of the VlogBrothers along with Michael Aranda, and has four new episodes per  week. Their weekly lineup includes (channel’s descriptions):

  • Mondays – Tune in for a short Dose about our weird world.
  • Tuesdays – Find answers to our most asked Quick Questions.
  • Wednesdays – Hank or Michael dives deep into a long-form Infusion episode, or an unscripted talk show or quiz show with a guest!
  • Fridays – Learn the latest in science News.

Also check out their sister channels SciShow Space, which posts every Tuesday and Thursday, to explore the universe and beyond.

Crash Course

This has multiple “courses” in one channel. Again, you can learn from Hank Green as he teaches the Anatomy & Physiology, and Phil Plait teaches you Astronomy. There are past playlist that cover Biology, Ecology, and Chemistry.


Minute Physics

From gravity, to dark matter, how lasers work, tidal and sonar waves, to the big bang and more this has, as they describe it, “Cool physics and other sweet science.”


Many interesting videos and features on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) YouTube channel. Explore NASA’s recent expeditions, history and future as well as people profiles.

Sick Science!

A channel full of science experiments that you can do at home. Hosted by Steve Spangler, who might be best known for his Mentos and Diet Coke geyser experiment that went viral w while back.


Podcasts are growing in popularity with teens. Some seek them out for the storytelling, and some enjoy a few minutes of information they can ingest  while on a device. Here are a few podcasts worthy of note and that have teen appeal whether they are seeking them for interest, or needing to explore something for an assignment:


Radiolab explores the spark of interests that lead to study and learning. Loosely based on science, it follows hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich’s particular curiosities.

Stuff You Should Know

Hosted by Chuck Bryant and Josh Clark, this podcast covers the science behind a variety of fascinating queries such as how El Niño works, renewable energy, nitrous oxide, and the deal with poop.


Bytesize Science

Short snippets in video podcast format about specific science queries such as, “Why does stepping on a lego hurt so bad?” or “Why is chocolate bad for dogs?” Some topics can be very timely like recent post on the Zika virus, and how not to get bitten by mosquitos that carry it, as well as Star Wars’ science.

Naked Scientist

Created by the University of Cambridge, and similar to Bytesize Science, very short episodes answering science questions. This is as great for interest and entertainment as it would be for homework support.

Flash Forward

This takes a look into the future and applies science to “what if” situations. Hosted by Rose Eveleth, and produced by Boing Boing, it tackles possible future problems like what would it take to make mosquitoes go extinct, and what would the world be like if everyone was face blind.

For information on STEAM vs. STEM programming, check out this post on the YALSAblog, or for more inspiration on science programming, check out Anyone Can Do Science!.

— Danielle Jones, currently between books

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Booklist: New Nonfiction Science

Wed, 03/16/2016 - 07:00

It’s been a very science-y week so far! The Hub kicked off Monday with funny science books for teens, and yesterday was the delicious Pi Day (not to mention Einstein’s birthday). Today I’ve got a sampling of some new nonfiction science books available for teen readers. Put on your lab coats and take a look — and don’t miss a PDF of this list at the end.


The Story of Seeds: From Mendel’s Garden to Your Plate, and How There’s More of Less to Eat Around the World, by Nancy F. Castaldo

Discusses the impact of seeds on food supply, and their importance in everything from biodiversity to the global economy.

It’s Getting Hot in Here: The Past, Present, and Future of Climate Change, by Bridget Heos

Examines the history of climate change on our planet, including humanity’s role and current politics, and how young readers can take action. To add to an environmental discussion, pair with Fuel Under Fire: Petroleum and Its Perils, by Margaret J. Goldstein.

The Ebola Epidemic: The Fight, the Future, by Connie Goldsmith

An up-to-date look at the history and treatment of this virus, including the 2014 outbreak in Liberia and surrounding countries. For slightly younger readers, also try Ebola: Fears and Facts, by Patricia Newman.

Inside Biosphere 2: Earth Science Under Glass, by Mary Kay Carson

This is the latest book in the Scientists in the Field series, which presents the firsthand experiences of contemporary scientists at work. I’ve found this series to be great for booktalking to teens, especially reluctant readers. And if you’re like me and remember Biosphere 2 as a 1990s science experiment with humans living inside, you’ll love reading about its continuing work as a research lab.

Smart and Spineless: Exploring Invertebrate Intelligence, by Ann Downer

Animals don’t have to have a huge brain, or even a spine, to do some pretty smart things. Read about jumping spiders, octopuses, and worms doing more than we usually give them credit for. For more cool animal science, check out Bioluminescence: Nature and Science at Work, by Marc Zimmer, which discusses living creatures that create their own light.

The Manga Guide to Physiology, by Etsuro Tanaka

This is the newest title (2015) in the science and math offerings from No Starch Press’s Manga Guides. Student Kumiko and professor Kaisei go over each human body system in a chapter, illustrated with manga-style comic panels. For younger readers, try the graphic novel Human Body Theater, by Maris Wicks.

Bubonic Panic: When Plague Invaded America, by Gail Jarrow

No, it’s not medieval Europe — it’s 1900s San Francisco! Read about America’s experience with a resurgence of the bubonic plague, from racial discrimination, to rats and fleas, to gruesome photos. Preceded by two other titles in the “Deadly Diseases” trilogy: Red Madness and Fatal Fever.

Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know: Young Readers Edition, by Alexandra Horowitz

Teens have the option of reading this middle-school-level adaptation, or the original text. Both detail what cognitive scientist Horowitz has found in her research about what dogs are really thinking and feeling.

There you have it — some new titles to appease the science readers in your life! Grab a copy of this list here. Let me know in the comments if you’ve come across any others to share.

— Rebecca O’Neil, currently reading The Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler

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Crossovers: Call Me Unreliable

Tue, 03/15/2016 - 07:00

At first, there is a sense of, “what?…wait!” Something a character says, perhaps, that contradicts the words of the narrator. Maybe you suddenly realize that the narrator has never actually been in the green bedroom, or that she doesn’t speak unless her husband is there. Out of loyalty or expediency, we readers tend to accept our narrator’s version of events. But sometimes the author reveals hints that the narrator’s perspective may be a little…off. Once the suspicion is planted, the story becomes a wild thing, just as likely to conjure psychic terror as it is to end in benign misunderstanding. Here are three adult books with unreliable narrator that will appeal to teen readers.

One of the most popular books of 2015 was Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train. What begins as a tale about a lonely woman who is mesmerized by young lovers seen daily as she passes by on her commuter train grows into an impossible series of coincidences and misunderstandings. Every character in the book is suspect. Readers come to realize that at least one person is lying, at least one person is delusional, and at least a couple of characters are dangerously violent. Hawkins deftly twists the readers’ loyalties, alternating between three unreliable narrators.

Paul Tremblay’s A Head Full Of Ghosts is another 2015 thriller that plays with multiple versions of reality. As the book begins, eight year-old Merry tells of the gradual deterioration of her older sister, Marjorie. As Marjorie’s actions become dangerous, her father calls in an exorcist. And the whole sordid experience is being recorded for a reality television show. Readers have no reason to doubt Merry, but a grand twist in time allows us to meet the future Merry, a blogger specializing in the canon of the supernatural. We realize that something doesn’t jive here.

Another skillful use of the unreliable narrator is found in Jennifer duBois’s 2013 novel, Cartwheel. The events of the book are tightly parallel with the story of Amanda Knox, an American girl accused of killing her roommate in Italy in 2007. Most unsettling about the true case is the disconnect between Amanda’s wholesome demeanor and the horrible details of the murder. This is captured by duBois in Cartwheel, in which the fictitious Lily Hayes turns a cartwheel while being held for questioning.

Along the same lines, the 2016 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults Committee created an excellent list entitled, “Unreliable Narrators: Don’t Believe a Word.” Some highlights, with annotations from the committee:

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Lia and Cassie have been friends and competitors over who can be the skinniest.  Cassie wins the contest, but now Lia has to find her way without losing her own life. Wintergirls also appeared on the 2010 Best Books for Young Adults, Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers, and the Teen Top Ten.

Invisible by Pete Hautman
Doug and his best friend Andy are an unlikely pair – Doug is a loner and Andy is a popular football player – but as long as they don’t talk about what happened at the Tuttle Place, their friendship will remain intact.

Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn
Andrew Winston Winters feels as though his life is torn in two. Is he rage filled Drew or lonely quiet Win? Which part of him will win? Charm & Strange is also the winner of the 2014 Morris Award.


— Diane Colson, currently reading an advanced readers’ copy of Whisper to Me by Nick Lake

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Booklist: Scientifically Funny Nonfiction

Mon, 03/14/2016 - 07:00

The best kind of science books are the one that share information without getting too technical, are not monotonous, and have a unique angle: that it factor that makes it special. Humor is a draw, especially in nonfiction and, double-points if the book reads like fiction, too. So set aside the baking soda volcanoes and egg drop tests to read some of these humorous science books.

collage photos CC via Flickr user hine

Guinea Pig Scientists : Bold Self-Experimenters in Science and Medicine by Mel Boring, Leslie Dendy, and C.B. Mordan 

This book showcases a handful of scientists who advanced medicine by first starting with themselves, then others, then animals, until their theories were proved. Tenacity was the key for all of these innovators of such things as laughing gas or what caused yellow fever. Now we know!  

How to Fake a Moon Landing: Exposing the Myths of Science Denial by Darryl Cunningham

Useful for any STEM curriculum this graphic novel is for conspiracy theorists, science buffs, and graphic novel fans. It discusses topics like autism and vaccines to fracking. For many teens, some of the topics will build new knowledge.

Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers and Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach

Roach has a talent for incorporating solid research, witty observations, and her own brand of intrigue on life, death, and the gastrointestinal system. Written for adults, her books are the kind that are entertaining to any reader not wanting to break out Grey’s Anatomy of the Human Body.  

Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks (YALSA’s Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults) 

Genius, fun, and empowering, Ottaviani and Wicks teach readers to follow their passions by sharing the stories of Goodall, Fossey, and Galdikas without glorifying their adventures. It’s arduous and difficult working tirelessly in the jungles. Coupled with the vivid colors of the graphic novel, no one would think their work was easy. It’s fighting against politics and civil war and their own critics and bosses that made their work so rewarding and renown.

The Killer Book Of… series by Tom Philbin

  • Serial Killers: Incredible Stories, Facts, and Trivia from the World of Serial Killers
  • True Crime: Incredible Stories, Facts and Trivia from the World of Murder and Mayhem
  • Cold Cases: Incredible Stories, Facts, and Trivia from the Most Baffling True Crime Cases of All Time
  • Infamous Murders: Incredible Stories, Facts, and Trivia from the World’s Most Notorious Murders

Each of the books written by Philbin, and sometimes co-written with his brother Michael, seem like odd titles to be in a post about humorous science books but the dose of light-heartedness through which they share the worst about humanity is necessary. Reading it myself, I sometimes stopped to ponder the downfall of humanity and question everyone from my co-worker to my own husband and the possibility that they were serial killers, murderers, or arsonists. Yet, presenting the facts as Q&As, guessing “who is this?”, and providing definitions and examples of all types of crimes showcase the literary versions of some of the best crime show dramas on television like Dexter and Bones, and reality shows like Dr. G.: Medical Examiner and Cold Case Files.

How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgie Bragg and Kevin O’Malley (Illustrator)

This collective biography is just as scientific as it is biographical, detailing the ways in which historical figures died. Yes, death is not necessarily funny, but knowing how preventable many of their deaths were based on 21st century science and medicine makes them seems outlandish. Hence, the humor.  Bragg combines facts and quotes, but scientific discoveries, odd illustrations, and easily read chapters.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t throw a children’s book in here for good measure. Let’s all remember 1991 when Shinta Cho and Amanda Mayer Stinchecum wrote Gas We Pass: The Story of Farts. Everyone does it but rare is the person who admits it, so we all are fascinated by the story of how gas works and that many an animal deals with it. So here’s to the writers and illustrators that teach us with a side of laughter. They say it is the best medicine.

— Alicia Abdul, currently between books

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An Introduction to Sports Anime

Mon, 03/14/2016 - 07:00

Full disclosure:  I am not a fan of sports by any stretch of the imagination. After a brief (and fairly disastrous) bout with middle school basketball I have studiously avoided athletics of all flavors, even as a spectator, but I LOVE Sports Anime!

This genre tends to focus on character driven stories with boatloads of delicious drama. The four series featured below don’t assume that you have a great deal of prior knowledge about the athletic activities that they focus on and each does a great job of deftly integrating necessary information into the narrative without over explaining or talking down to their audience.

Volleyball: Haikyu!!

Since he was young, Shoyo Hinata’s dream has been to play volleyball. His middle school didn’t have enough players to form an official team and the only time he was able to gather together enough friends to plan in a tournament, they were immediately pitted against the super driven “King of the Court” Tobio Kageyama. Hinata vows to defeat Kageyama, but then they end up at the same High School!

A fast paced slice-of-life sports anime, this show has a solid ensemble. The puppy levels of enthusiasm and excitement that Hinata throws at the uber intense Kageyama makes for entertaining interactions and this duo is complemented by the strong set of adorable upperclassmen on the Volleyball team as well as fully fleshed out antagonists. Multiple  characters get their own time in the spotlight complete with angst ridden flashbacks!

Swim Team: Free! Iwatobi Swim Club

In elementary school, Nanase Haruka, Tachibana Makoto, Matsuoka Rin, and Hazuki Nagisa attended the same swimming school together. When three of the four swimmers start attending high school together they attempt to resurrect their school’s abandoned swim team. They plan to compete against their old teammate Rin’s High School in the regional competition so will need to work together to make it happen.

Free! is a newer show, so the animation is really splendid, with underwater sequences that have a hyper saturated color palette of blues and aquas, but the tempestuous interplay between Rin and his former teammates is why you will keep watching these episodes. The major conflict of the first season revolves around the team while they recruit a fourth member, convince a teacher to work as their staff advisor, and train for competition and Rin’s interactions with Haruka are particularly intense.  Since the main characters are on a swim team they spend most of their time in swimsuits and the series’ visuals are obviously aimed at folks attracted to male bodies. This series checks all of the boxes that make for a beautiful Sports Anime: Teamwork. Friendships. DRAMA. *sigh*

Baseball: Princess Nine (Kisaragi Joshikou Yakyuubu)

The Kisuragi School for Girls is trying to put together an all-female baseball team. That’s right, not softball, baseball! This new team is lead by the extraordinarily talented rookie pitcher, Ryo Hayakawa. She is struggling to recruit at least eight other players so that  Kisuragi can qualify to compete as the first girls team in the National High School Baseball Championship at Koshien Stadium. The girls will have to overcome many obstacles on their journey including  a tennis star straight out of Mean Girls, disapproving family members, and a love triangle or two.

Princess Nine is the oldest title on this list and while the 1998 art style (and some of the content) is slightly dated, some issues clearly never go out of style.  This female focused, feminist leaning show has structural similarities to a Magical Girl anime. Similar to Sailor Moon, each member of the roster has either a featured introduction episode or mini storyline. The series methodically builds up their viewers attachment to each character so that by the time you get to the extreme melodrama at the end of the season, you are solidly invested in these girls. Sadly, the end of the series is extremely abrupt and there is no second season. I’m sorry. This is why fanfiction exists.

Basketball: Kuroko’s Basketball (Kuroko no Basuke)

The “Generation of Miracles” was the nickname given to a group of five extraordinary  middle school basketball stars. This series starts off after this group has started attending separate high schools.  Kuroko Tetsuya was the best kept secret of this middle school team. His special skills combined with the raw power of US transfer student Taiga Kagami make Seirin High a force to be reckoned with, but can they really stand up to Kuroko’s former middle school teammates?

The players from the “Generation of Miracles” function as a villains of the week for the first few episodes, but as line between allies and enemies blurs the emotional stakes skyrocket with each chapter. This show is the most gameplay heavy of the titles on this list, but the larger than life court time drama is riveting and features, I kid you not, basketball special attacks. At one point a character punches a basketball to pass it more quickly to a teammate:

Kuroko’s Ignite Pass Gif by Takazuki10 on Deviant Art

He punches it.

It is called an “ignite pass” and it is beautiful.

Do you have any other sports anime that you think we should cover? Comment below!

— Jennifer Billingsley,  currently reading Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell.

Goggles “Old Blue Eyes” ©Martin Kenny, edited by Jennifer Billingsley

Swimming pool background image used with permission: ©Diane Crispell, edited by Jennifer Billingsley

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2016 Hub Challenge Check-In #7

Sun, 03/13/2016 - 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!

Here we are at week seven of the 2016 Hub Reading Challenge, which means we are somehow a third of the way through already.  There’s still plenty of time to dive in, however, even if you’re in my boat, with only a handful of titles read so far.


Like many of you who are bouncing between eligible challenge books and keeping up with current titles for work, I’m zipping back and forth between books I need to read for interviews and Hub Reading Challenge titles.  Fortunately, I’ve just finished the amazing Award for Excellence in Nonfiction finalist Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson, a double duty pick and a fantastic reading experience.

Symphony for the City of the Dead is narrative nonfiction at its best.  The story of composer Dmitri Shostakovich and how he came to produce his Leningrad Symphony, written during the three year siege of Leningrad during WWII, is riveting, horrifying, and ultimately life-affirming.  Anderson provides historical context and a whole lot of excruciating detail, as well as musical insight and appreciation.  He also invites readers into the research process itself, identifying questions and unknowns along the way.

I’m not sure if it’s possible to finish this book without listening to the Leningrad Symphony, and I’m not sure why you’d want to, frankly.  (You can listen to it here if you’re curious.)  As usual, Anderson challenges me, forcing me to stretch not only my attention and critical thinking, but my imagination and empathy as well, and, as usual, I come away from the experience feeling exhilarated, smarter, kinder, and curious.

Nonfiction is often my Achilles heel during these challenges, but this year I’m determined to broaden my reading experience (which should be crazy enjoyable given the caliber of work on the list) and what better way to start?  What about you?  Are you tackling a particular list or do you have a micro-goal in mind such as reading from every list or reading only new-to-you authors?  Let us know what approach you’re taking and what you’ve been reading or listening to in the comments below, and look for the #hubchallenge hashtag on Instagram, Twitter, and the 2016 Hub Challenge Goodreads group.

And if you’ve completed or conquered the challenge, be sure to fill out the form.

-Julie Bartel, currently reading An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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Diversity YA Life: Urban Fiction

Fri, 03/11/2016 - 07:00

If you work in a diverse library district, you probably have adult patrons asking for books by Zane or Sistar Souljah.  Chances are you begin blushing or lowing your already hushed voice as you read some of the urban fiction titles out loud to patrons.

We know that it’s great for adults to read in front of their teens but when a parent is reading about hustling, their teens might be reading the same books and we aren’t always comfortable while we are directing teens to the adult urban fiction section/books.

A great alternative is urban fiction for teens or books that feature teens of color.  Below you’ll find a list of urban fiction and books with teens of color.

First things first, the technical definition of urban fiction is:

Urban fiction, also known as street lit or street fiction is a literary genre set, as the name implies, in a city landscape; however, the genre is as much defined by the socio-economic realities and culture of its characters as the urban setting.-Wikipedia

Urban Fiction Series Kimani Tru Series by Various Authors Kimani Tru books from Harlequin follow African American teens as they deal with school, dating, and friendships.

Hollywood High Series by Ni-Ni Simone and Amir Abrams

The Hollywood High Series follow teens of celebrities as they deal with money, fame, and relationships.

Charly’s Epic Fiasco Series by Kelli London

The Epic Fiasco Series follows Charly a teen who grew up on the streets but has dreams of becoming an actress.

Urban Fiction Authors

If you are trying to bulk up your urban fiction collection, one of the easiest ways to do so is to search by author.  Below is a list of urban fiction authors.

Earl Sewell

Angela Johnson

Sharon G. Flake

Dream Johnson

Amir Abrams

Ni-Ni Simone

Monica McKayhan

Cassandra Carter

L. Divine

Denene Miller

Hi Lo Books

Saddleback Education Publishing publishes Hi-Lo urban fiction. Hi-Lo simply means high interest, low readability.  This books are about 150-200 pages and have easier vocabulary than a traditional YA book.  The great thing about these books is that the covers look like traditional YA so the teen reading them won’t feel bad.

Books Featuring a Person of Color

Because teens like to judge books by their cover, it’s important to purchase and display books with a person of color on the cover.  Below is a list of books that not only feature Black protagonists but a person of color is on the cover.  Please note that the following books are not necessarily urban fiction.

Panda (Lauren) is a photographer whose mission is to expose the secrets of the assholes at her school. It’s initially fun until a mysterious classmate exposes Panda’s secrets.

After a serious accident left singer Elyse mute, she decides to live a life of solitude.  During a party Elyse meets Christian, a playboy who doesn’t treat her like glass.  Will Elyse give her heart to a boy who steals many hearts?

Etta isn’t gay enough for The Dykes, her old clique, and she’s not skinny or white enough to be a ballerina.  Etta begins to feel alone when she meets Bianca, a straight white Christian.

Latoya Williams is a black girl in an all white school and makes a wish to make her life easier and to be white.  Find out what happens when Latoya’s wish comes true.

Set in 1920’s Oregon, this Hamlet reimagining features Hanalee the daughter of a white woman and black man.  When her father’s accidental death is rumored to be a murder, Hanalee seeks answers even though the main suspect is her step father.

Ryan loves the rush of sky diving but after a near death experience, Ryan changes.  Will she regain her passion for adventure and loose herself in her own head?

Following the death of his mother, Matt takes a job at a funeral home to help take care of the bills and his alcoholic father.  Lost in loneliness, Matt meets Lovey, a confident girl who drives Matt to be tougher person.

Identical twins Nikki and Maya are inseparable and agreeable. When their tough neighborhood becomes trendy, Nikki is excited while Maya is opposes to the change.  Will this difference of opinions about their home and culture cause a rift in their sisterhood?

Scarlett is a kick butt detective who’s vowed to tackle the crime in her city.  When a new crime ring comes to town, Scarlett discovers her family might be involved.

Holly’s mother works at a retirement home for wealthy people and when the grandson of a wealthy resident mistakes Holly for a relative of a resident, Holly decides to continue the ruse. Will Malik end the relationship when he finds out Holly is the daughter of the help?

Here’s a PDF of the books and authors listed above. Urban YA Fiction

— Dawn Abron, currently reading Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

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