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2017 Nonfiction Award Finalists: An Interview with Pamela S. Turner and Gareth Hinds on Samurai Rising

Wed, 02/08/2017 - 07:00

Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune is the true story of one of Japan’s greatest samurai warriors and a finalist for YALSA’s 2017 Nonfiction Award. Today I’m thrilled to have the book’s author Pamela S. Turner and illustrator Gareth Hinds here to answer some questions about the book.

Congratulations on Samurai Rising‘s selection as a 2017 Nonfiction Award finalist! Where were each of you when you heard the news? Who was the first person you told about the big news?

Pamela S. Turner (PST): The big news (yay!) arrived one morning via an email from Donna Spurlock, the marketing director at Charlesbridge Publishing. I told my dogs right away but they were notably unimpressed.

Gareth Hinds (GH): I was at a school visit in Vermont when I got the news. They let us know a couple of days before the public announcement, so I was only allowed to tell my wife.

Pamela, what was the inspiration for Samurai Rising? In some ways this story could have focused on numerous samurai, including several of Yoshitsune’s relatives, how did you know you had found your next protagonist in Yoshitsune?

PST: The Tale of the Heike. Yoshitsune impressed me because his tale is so much like King Arthur’s or Luke Skywalker’s: all are heirs to a great tradition, yet raised in obscurity; all become  a hero, yet discover that their greatest enemy is a member of their own family. But Yoshitsune’s story is true.

I never considered writing about anyone else from that time period. Despite Yoshitsune’s faults I find him a deeply sympathetic character. According to the standards of his time and culture Yoshitsune did everything he was supposed to do and yet was betrayed in the most cynical fashion. His military accomplishments had a deep and lasting impact on Japanese history; his personal tragedy had a deep and lasting impact on Japanese art and literature. If you go to my website at, you can see some examples of how Yoshitsune’s life has inspired generation after generation of writers and artists.

Gareth, illustrating Samurai Rising is not the first time you’ve created artwork about Yoshitsune. On your blog you mention that you have an intense interest in Japan and Japanese culture. You even did an illustration project in college about Yoshitsune. What was it like returning to Yoshitsune? How did your past experience influence the choices you made in illustrating this newer book?

GH: Yoshitsune is a legendary figure in Japan, which is to say that many legends have grown up around his life, especially the parts that are a bit mysterious, like how he became such a great warrior when he didn’t go through samurai training as a child. Those legends are what I first encountered and illustrated in college. Returning to illustrate the story of his real life was a fun process of (re)discovery. One thing that stayed the same was my desire to bring Asian influences into the style of the art. I used brush painting with stark silhouettes and strong gestural poses to evoke Sumi-e brush painting — though my materials and process were not exactly traditional.

Yoshitsune’s story begins with the years-long battle between his family (the Minamoto) and the rival Taira samurai. In Samurai Rising, the Minamoto are the heroes of the story but things could easily be flipped to see the Taira as the more heroic (or even “good”) clan. How did you choose how to frame this battle and rivalry, Pamela?

PST: Since I was writing about Yoshitsune, I wanted to show how the conflict looked from his side. But I don’t let anyone off the hook. I point out the stupidity and recklessness of Yoshitsune’s father. I note that this was a struggle between the elites, and that none of the samurai cared much about the sufferings they inflicted on common people. I suggest that Yoshitsune’s loyalty in his clan was misplaced because the ones who stood by him at the very end were not  Minamoto. And I don’t pull any punches when describing the many cruel acts of Yoshitsune’s half-brother Yoritomo, leader of the Minamoto samurai. I don’t view one clan as “good” and the other as “bad.” That would not be a) interesting or b) historically accurate. In the end, an off-shoot of the Taira ends up ruling Japan. Oh, the exquisite irony!

Gareth, on your blog you give a great explanation of the process involved in illustrating Samurai Rising from the initial assignment through your sketches and digital work for each illustration or map. How did creating these illustrations for Pamela’s existing manuscript compare to illustrating and writing your own graphic novels?

GH: The process is sort of similar, but graphic novels are much larger and more complex. For those I do rough sketches of the whole book digitally, arranging pictures and type exactly the way I want them. Then I get feedback from my editors, make revisions, and then do the final art with a combination of digital and traditional materials. For Samurai Rising, I didn’t have to arrange as many elements, I just had to come up with sketches that conveyed the feeling of each chapter, and compose them so they worked opposite the chapter headings. I would do a detailed sketch, make any revisions based on Alyssa (the editor), Susan (the designer) and Pam’s feedback, then do a loose brush painting based on the sketch.

What was the most interesting text you encountered while researching this book, Pamela? What is one fact you were excited to share with readers?

PST: There wasn’t one text that was the most interesting. What was interesting to me was the work of examining the source material against academic sources and making sense of why things happened the way they did. For instance: the period source material describes how the Taira retreat to the fortress of Ichi-no-Tani and the barricades of Ikuta-no-Mori. Why didn’t the Taira defend Kyoto? Why not meet the Minamoto on open ground, especially since they had the advantage of numbers? To understand why they did things the way they did, you have to understand the advantages and disadvantages of mounted archery as a military tactic. None of that is explained in the source documents.

But I confess that as someone who practices kendo (Japanese sword fighting) my favorite set of facts to share involved the classic katana blade: why it’s curved, why it’s sheathed edge-up, why it’s a certain length, why it’s made using two different kinds of steel. None of those things are obvious but when explained make perfect sense.

Gareth, did you have a favorite illustration to make for Samurai Rising? Is there any artwork in the book that you are especially excited for readers to see?

GH: The cover is probably my favorite piece. Of the interiors, one of the hardest pieces was the ship in a storm for chapter 8, but in the end I think it’s one of my favorites. It’s hard to compare them, though, because each piece (hopefully) hits a very different emotional note.

Can you tell us anything about your next projects?

PST: I have a picture book biography, COMET CHASER, coming from Chronicle Books. It’s a Cinderella-like story about Caroline Herschel, the first professional woman astronomer. We are working on finding an illustrator so I’m guessing it won’t be out until 2019.

GH: I have a collection of Edgar Allan Poe stories and poems coming out in August, and I am currently hard at work on The Iliad, which will come out in fall 2018.

Thank you to Pamela and Gareth for taking the time to answer my questions about Samurai Rising!

— Emma Carbone, currently reading Wildlife by Fiona Wood

The post 2017 Nonfiction Award Finalists: An Interview with Pamela S. Turner and Gareth Hinds on Samurai Rising appeared first on The Hub.

Women in Comics: Let The Music Play

Tue, 02/07/2017 - 07:00

Comics may not necessarily seem like a natural fit for music fans, but in reality there are a number of great (and in some cases, even iconic) bands in comics. Best of all, many of these comics feature female musicians and are written or illustrated by women. This list collects a few of the best of these and offers a little something for everyone.

Jem and the Holograms Volume 1: Showtime by Kelly Thompson with art by Sophie Campbell – Jerrica is a skilled singer but she also has a serious case of stage fright. When the band that she and her sisters have formed has an opportunity to play as part of a video contest, she finds that she can’t even record their song due to her shyness. While struggling to live up to her sisters’ expectations, she discovers that her father has left her the technology to create a hologram to sing in her place. This is all just the background though for a story that is really about relationships of all kinds including fans, friendship, family, and romance. The story features a great and diverse cast and it will please both readers who are fans of the 1980’s Jem cartoon series and those who have never met these characters before.

Josie and the Pussycats by Marguerite Bennett and Cameron Deordio with art by Audrey Mok – Starting in the Fall of 2016, Marguerite Bennett, Cameron Deordio, and Audrey Mok reinvented the classic story of Josie and the Pussycats. Built on the same foundation as the classic comics, this new incarnation has a brand new origin and a great focus on the importance of friendship to the band’s success or failure. This is a great read for musicians, Archie fans, and those who want to read a great story about fame and friendship. The first volume won’t be out until August, but you can start catching up on individual issues now.

Zebrafish by Peter H. Reynolds and Sharon Emerson with illustrations by Renee Kurilla – This comic, which is perfect for younger fans, tells a cute story about a bunch of friends who want to launch a band. Unfortunately, only one of them can play an instrument. They’re hardly going to let that stop them though! The book incorporates a message through a discovery that the band members make about one of their new friends, but this isn’t presented in a heavy-handed manner and doesn’t limit the focus of the story. The cartoon-inspired drawing style is engaging and entertaining. Readers will really enjoy this lighthearted book, which also has a sequel entitled SPF 40.

Black Canary Volume 1: Kicking and Screaming by Brenden Fletcher with art by Annie Wu, Pia Guerra, and Sandy Jarrell – Most comics fans may know Dinah Lance as a superhero, but that isn’t her only talent. In this series, Dinah is going by D.D. as the lead singer in the band Black Canary. Along the way, she is protecting her bandmates and particularly their tween guitarist Ditto who may have some powers of her own. With such a great roster of artists, it should come as no surprise that the artwork is distinctive and really pulls the story together, helping to convey not only Dinah’s personality but also the world that the band inhabits. This is a great read for both superhero fans and music fans.

KISS by Amy Chu with art by Kewber Baal – This fall the band KISS is back in comics once again in a new series written by Amy Chu. In it, four friends must join forces to try to solve the mystery of the Council of Elders with a bit of help. Amy Chu has said that the series will appeal to fans of science fiction and fantasy as well as KISS’ existing fan base, so this should be an interesting title to watch.

Who are your favorite bands in comics? Let us know in the comments!

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Monthly Monday Poll: February – Adaptations + Circulation

Mon, 02/06/2017 - 14:30

Hello Hub Readers, and Happy February!

Last month, we asked about your reading goals and priorities for 2017, and a whopping 43% of you responded that your priority this year is to read more content that diversifies your reading list by choosing titles by and/or about people who are different from you in physical or experiential ways. Not far behind, with 38% of the responses, were readers committed to reading more titles in 2017, amassing more options to your arsenal of completed texts. 10% are prioritizing the social connections reading can foster, 5% are focused on reading the most critically-celebrated books on offer, and 4% are focusing their reading efforts beyond the offerings of the Big 5 publishers to seek out indie gems. Just the idea of all these fired up readers applying energy and resolve to the act of absorbing narratives, with all the impacts that can have, makes me more hopeful about the year ahead. If you’re looking to quantify some of these goals, we invite you to join the 2017 Hub Reading Challenge, which offers up titles to fit every one of these priorities!

This month, we’re returning to a favorite theme: page-to-screen adaptations, and their effect on circulation in your library (if your library is anything like mine, it’s considerable!). Have you seen measurable changes in the demand for the book editions of these recent and soon-to-be-released screen adaptations?

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

As always, let us know in the comments if we’ve left off a title that’s flying off your library’s shelves!

— Carly Pansulla, currently reading The Reader by Traci Chee

The post Monthly Monday Poll: February – Adaptations + Circulation appeared first on The Hub.

Announcing the 2017 Hub Reading Challenge!

Sat, 02/04/2017 - 18:44

It’s time to kickoff the 2017 Hub reading challenge! This challenge is intended to encourage librarians, library workers, and YA lit enthusiasts to dive into the award winner and honor books and YALSA selected lists with the hope of providing excellent readers’ advisory and even discovering a new favorite title or exploring a genre outside of your comfort zone.

Eligible books are the YA titles that were named winners or honor titles the following award and selected lists:

How to Participate

  • The goal is to read any 25 books of the titles from the above lists and awards—find the list of 98 unique titles here!

  • Let us know you’re participating by commenting on this post below.
  • If you’re going to be tracking what you read/listen to on your blog or on Goodreads, LibraryThing, YouTube or some other site, include a link to your blog/shelf/channel/profile in your comment. If you’re not tracking your reading online, keep a list some other way.
  • Make it a social experience! Share your challenge progress and get to know other participants by using the hashtag #hubchallenge on Twitter and Instagram.
  • Once a month, we’ll publish a check-in post. Leave a comment to talk about what you’re reading for the challenge. If you’ve reviewed those titles somewhere online, include links to those reviews! Otherwise, let us know what you thought of the books in the comments.
  • There will be an finisher form embedded in each check-in post, so once you’re done with the challenge, fill out the form with your name and contact information.

Challenge rewards

Beyond experiencing the best of the best that YA lit has to offer, everyone who finishes the challenge will be invited to submit a response to a book they read for the challenge. The response can be text, graphics, audio, video and will be published on The Hub. Furthermore, everyone who finishes the challenge will be entered into a random drawing for our grand prize: a YALSA tote bag full of 2015 and 2016 YA lit! (If the winner is a teacher or librarian or something similar, we’ll also include a few professional development titles.)


  • Format matters: a title that has been recognized for both the print version and the audiobook version can be both read and listened to and count as two books, but a book that has won multiple awards or appears on multiple lists in the same format only counts as one title.
  • Books must be read/listened to (both begun and finished) since the award winners and selected lists have been released and 11:59pm EST on June 22. If you’ve already read/listened to a title, you must re-read/listen to it for it to count.
  • Just about everyone who doesn’t work for ALA is eligible to participate. Non-ALA/YALSA members are eligible. Teens are eligible. Non-US residents/citizens are eligible. (More eligibility questions? Leave a comment or email us.)
  • Once you finish the challenge, we’ll contact you with details about creating and publishing your response.
  • The grand prize winner will be selected by 11:59pm EST on June 23. The winner will be notified via email.

If you have any questions or problems, let us know in the comments or via email. Happy reading! 

The post Announcing the 2017 Hub Reading Challenge! appeared first on The Hub.

Amazing Audiobooks and Quick Picks Lists are Moving to The Hub, and You’re Invited to Be a Part of the Team!

Thu, 02/02/2017 - 07:00

As many of you know, the YALSA board voted to change the way selected lists committees operate and share their picks for the best books for teens. You can find all the details on the change in Board Member Franklin Escobedo’s blog post on the YALSAblog.

Rather than repeat Franklin’s detailed explanation of the rationale for the change, I wanted to offer my own reasons for why I am excited about this process and invite you, Hub readers, to be a part of it!

The Hub has always been a collection development resource, highlighting books and other materials and helping librarians and library workers connect the teens they serve with resources that meet their needs and support their interests. We cover everything from podcasts and YouTube videos to manga, anime, and of course, books! But we’ve never really done straight reviews of titles. 

Likewise, the Selected Lists are great tools for collection development, but in today’s world, many library users expect to have access to materials as soon as they’re released, so waiting for the publication of a final list after the year’s already done and librarians and library workers have spent their budgets and are now looking at next year’s releases isn’t as practical as it once was.

Additionally, Selected List Committees have always deliberated and discussed the merits of various titles, but there wasn’t a mechanism for sharing those perspectives with librarians and library workers beyond the final list with very brief annotations. Now, the public will have access to some of the behind the scenes action! The system will be more transparent. Blog posts that feature nominated titles will provide more detail and context to why the YALSA members vetting these titles feel that it is a strong contender and how it fulfills the list’s criteria. Discussion of each book will emphasis its suitability for lists, but also discuss the appeal factors for each book.  This information can help librarians and library workers not only decide if it’s right for their library’s collection, but will also help librarians and library workers match books to readers. More than just collection development recommendations, the discussion of nominations on The Hub will serve as a more in depth readers’ advisory tool.

Does this sound like something you’d be interested in being a part of? Do you love not only discussing books with colleagues, but listening to audiobooks or thinking about what books can best reach reluctant readers? Would you like to grow as a reader and a writer while networking with other professionals? This is the YALSA volunteer opportunity for you!

Ready to submit your volunteer form? Do it here! Have questions or want to talk about it? Feel free to reach out to me at

— Molly Wetta, currently reading Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin

The post Amazing Audiobooks and Quick Picks Lists are Moving to The Hub, and You’re Invited to Be a Part of the Team! appeared first on The Hub.

BFYA Teen Feedback Session at ALA Midwinter 2017

Mon, 01/30/2017 - 10:06

On Saturday, January 21st, in the room as far as you can possibly get from the exhibit hall, a crowd of teen librarians anxiously awaited for the BFYA Teen Feedback Session to begin. Unfortunately, we were missing a key component–the teens!  But they finally made their way down the long hall, loaded with bags of books and swag.

The titles under consideration filled 10 full pages. So the moderator went page by page, inviting teens to step up to the mic and express their feelings about any of the books that were on the page. The teens responses were eloquent and insightful. And they did not hold back at all, for better (or worse). Leave it to teens to be completely and unabashedly honest.

The overall theme of the day: The books that came out this year caused them to have a lot of “compassion fatigue” — too many characters died this year! Also, teens are seeking out diverse stories–they recognize the importance and want to see themselves or others they know represented in the books they read.

The links to the long list and top ten Best Fiction for Young Adult lists are here. Below are the highlights from the feedback session!

Teen Favorites

Kids of Appetite by David Arnold

“Great characters that are fully developed. That matters.”

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

“The best Cassandra Clare novel yet!”

Most popular sentiment about this book: “Loved it!”

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova

“YES! It is a sweet story. I really loved the great family relationships portrayed.”

The Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse

“This story felt very realistic with the way it approached this period of history.”

Even though this story took place during World War II, Hanneke felt “real and relatable” to teen readers.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

This was an agreed upon favorite with many of the teens present.

The Sun is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon

“[Nicola Yoon] is ON POINT!”

One girl talked about how the romances that Ms. Yoon writes are so fantastic and realistic.

One teen approached to express her love for this book: “1. The main girl is black. 2. The guy is Korean, and that’s my ideal kind of guy!”

She later came back up to the mic to make sure we knew this: “The fact that the main character is black is so awesome and means a lot to me.”

Other Positive Feedback

Where You’ll Find Me by Natasha Friend

“The characters in this story were redeemable. I really liked that.”

Unbecoming by Jenny Downham

“This was a breath of fresh air. This story was only kind of a dramatic teen tragedy. Also, the characters all speak in described accents–I could hear them in my head while I was reading. It made it more fun!”

Another teen said: “It taught me that the most stony people are made out of flesh.”

Still Life with Tornado by A.S. King

“The surrealism of this story makes it relatable. Because life as a teen is complex.”

This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

“One of the best books I have ever read!” She really liked how it showed different sides of what goes on at school.

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

“So authentic! In fact, I wanted her to be at lunch with us so I could tell her how AWESOME she is!”

Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick

One teen admitted she “threw it at someone’s head so she would read it!” It was THAT good.

As I Descended by Robin Talley

“I can never read it again because IT WAS JUST THAT AMAZING!”

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

“This had the best-handled death I have ever read.”

Mixed Reviews

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

“Good power of suspense, but sometimes it was really frustrating.”

“It needed to get to the action sooner, but it was still good.”

“This book felt more like a prologue than a first book.”

Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown

“I really liked it! But it may have had a little too much religion for me.”

The Reader by Traci Chee

“It took a while for me to get into it. But once I got into it I was glad I read it!”

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

One teen expressed excitement: “Me and Jane–we are LITERALLY THE SAME PERSON!”

Another teen expressed her dislike for inaccuracy: “If you have taken AP Euro[pean history] you probably aren’t going to like My Lady Jane. The fantastical elements (like the animorphs) really mess with the history.”

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

“I felt that this book was too long. Some parts just dragged on. I still liked it, but it just went on too long.”

“I appreciate the subject matter addressed in this story. It is really important.”

The Monster in the Road is Me by J.P. Romney

“I shouldn’t have to use Google Translate THAT much to understand what is going on.”

“I watch Japanese TV shows so I got it.”

The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork

One teen mentioned how it felt a little slow because it focused so much on mental health, but mentioned that it would probably be really helpful for teens who struggled with their mental health.

Another teen reflected on how “the connections between the characters were important.”

Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace

Teen was “a little confused” by how the story was developing, but by the end she would read the sequel.

Thanks for the Trouble by Tommy Wallach

“Getting the perspective of Ivy League schools was really cool to read about.”

Hard Passes and Critical Analyses

The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry


Up to This Point by Jennifer Longo

A couple of teens described it at a “niche” read. For those that read it, it was a little too specific in audience, which made it a little harder to get through.

Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland

“I didn’t like how [Grace] dragged [Henry] through the mud.”

The Humor

The Call by Peadar Ó Guilín

One teen boy asked his fellow teens: “Was I the only one who felt like I was reading the script to a Predator movie?”

Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer

“These authors are coming up with more and more creative ways to die! Spontaneous combustion! I laughed a lot while reading this!”

This is a guest post from Jennifer Powell, who is the School Library Media Specialist at Tarrant High School in Birmingham, AL. She is passionate about transforming the library into a place her 7th-12th grade students can find themselves in. She loves all things YA, anything with elephants on it, and Harry Potter Pops. You can find her blogging at and tweeting @Powells_Library.

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Promoting Reading and Reading Diversely in High School Libraries

Fri, 01/20/2017 - 07:00

As high school librarians who value diverse voices, we have always been sure to have and feature books by people of color and other under-represented groups. Like many in our field, we create monthly, thematic displays and reading lists, one example being those that highlight books by and about African-Americans during Black History Month.   Similarly, when we create our list of selected readings for our yearly summer reading program, we have been very thoughtful about being sure that there is something for everyone in terms of demographic representation and genres.

While all these actions are steps in the right direction, this school year we decided to be even more intentional about encouraging our students and staff to read more diversely. By introducing the Raptor Reading Bingo challenge, we have taken our focus on social justice and multicultural literacies to the next level. We created a bingo board that gives students and staff choice in their readings, but is designed to get them to read books by authors of color and featuring other under-represented groups like LGBTQ.

As part of introducing this initiative to students and staff, we have asked all faculty to prominently display their in-progress bingo boards in classrooms, and staff without traditional classrooms, like deans, counselors, and administration, received poster-sized versions that the entire department can contribute to. It has been especially rewarding to hear about teachers asking students for book recommendations that would qualify for a particular square, and the resulting conversations that invite discussion of race and equity within the context of pleasure reading.

As the year progresses, we will continue to promote the Raptor Reading Bingo Challenge within our school by inviting students and staff to share what books they’ve been reading on our giant bingo board (pictured), and we also plan to promote it to the parents and feeder area schools in our community.

We believe there are intrinsic rewards to reading initiatives like this, and we also know that some prizes and extra credit options never hurt. Beginning next semester, we will enter the names of students who complete a bingo into a monthly drawing. The confirming of these books is usually done in a brief conversation with teachers or librarians, and we’re hoping that as the program develops, we can have students film quick and informal “60 Second Booktalks” that can then be posted on social media with the hashtag #rrchallenge. In a school our size, approximately 2700 students, it can be difficult to get full buy-in, but when we approached our English department about offering extra credit to students for completing a bingo, they all agreed.

In addition to the value of modeling a school culture that supports and encourages potentially life-long habit of reading for pleasure, this initiative also intentionally demonstrates a value for books by people of color and other societal minorities. By emphasizing the value of these books, we invite students who are of these minority groups to experience these books as a “mirror” of their own experience, while these same books serve as a “window” into another’s experience for many others.

Raptor Reading Challenge BINGO

Example of suggested reading list: Book with a character or by an author with a disability

Kristin McKeown and Hollie Hawkins are teacher librarians at Eaglecrest High School inCentennial, CO and are the recipients of the 2014 National School Library Program of the Year award from AASL. In addition to a passion for teaching educators about mindfulness through, Kristin is also trying to figure out how many fantasy books she can get to qualify for the bingo squares. Hollie is a dedicated champion of all things YA and promotes it to teens and adults alike.

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An Interview With 2017 Morris Award Finalist, Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

Thu, 01/19/2017 - 05:00

Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock is a finalist for the 2017 William C. Morris award. Her book, The Smell Of Other People’s Houses, is told in four points of view of teens living in Alaska in the 1970s. Their individual stories weave together in a satisfying ending that will give readers a sense of another time and culture.

Your background is writing news for radio.  How is your writing process different than when you wrote for news? The biggest difference is not having a daily deadline. Working on something for years rather than days is a totally different thing and I think it takes practice transitioning from one to the other. I still write though, as if each chapter is its own story and use a lot of the skills I used when writing a four minute radio piece. I miss interviewing people and using their own voices, which now feels like cheating after having to create characters out of thin air. (Although I did mine some of my past interviewees for personality traits for my characters.)

It feels like the four point of view characters each represent a different feel or culture of Alaska.  What do you want the reader to learn from this? Yes, I think you’re right about that. Alaska is a huge place and each region has its own feel, including differences in climate and culture, so it’s difficult for any one book about Alaska to portray the entire state. I chose to focus on the places that I lived throughout my life and depict those places through the kinds of people I knew and had close experiences with. I’ve heard so many different takeaways from readers about what they got (or didn’t get) from this way of telling the story. I just wanted to show how hard it is to generalize the Alaska way of life. Alaska is many things to many people and all of it is true.

How did the idea of smell and association become such a prominent theme to the book?  Was this always the idea or did it evolve? It totally evolved. I wasn’t even going in that direction until a friend and I wrote together and she came up with the idea for the title. After that, it just kept popping up.


Where did you get the idea for Crazy Dancing Guy? Oh, thank you for asking! I love him and he is based on someone that actually did dance on the street corner every single morning. One day while I was working as a reporter we decided to interview him and ask why he did that. He said, “I just think it makes people feel good when they’re driving to work. It makes people happy.” He did that for so many years that when he died, there was a huge tribute to him. I never forgot him, so was happy to give him a street corner in my story as well.

Where did the story about the red slip come from?  I’m not even sure where that came from. I guess that bit was total fiction. The original story collection was all going to center around a red rubber band and show how one insignificant thing can often connect people. The rubber band became a red ribbon and I guess I just needed a point of origin for the ribbon. So many things did not just miraculously appear, but are a result of many many re-writes, which I think is how writing is supposed to work.

What do you want readers to take away from the experience of this book? If someone isn’t familiar with Alaska I hope they might realize that no matter where we live, we all desperately want to feel that we are safe and loved and that we have something in life to look forward to. For Alaskans, I hope it will resonate and feel authentic.

Who are the authors that influence you? Young Adult authors that I particularly like are Margo Lanagan and A.S. King. I love short stories by Alice Munro and Maile Meloy. But I love the classics and am a huge fan of Tolstoy and Virginia Woolf as well.

What is your next project? Something that is NOT set in Alaska, with a little magical realism thrown in.

What are some of your favorite reads of the past year? I loved Denton Little’s Deathdate by Lance Rubin, The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood, When the World Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore, Riverkeep by Martin Stewart and The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas, just to name a few. There are SO MANY!

Kris Hickey is currently reading 18 And Life On Skid Row by Sebastian Bach.




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Using History to Understand Current Social Issues

Wed, 01/18/2017 - 07:00

Many current social issues have long histories, and many teens are expressing interest in understanding the historical context of contemporary politics. To become better informed, teens might want to revisit these issues as they played out in history to gain a deeper understanding of modern day events and attitudes. As teens learn more and judge for themselves how the past compares to attitudes today, it could also inspire a deeper understanding of human rights and our responsibilities as humans in today’s modern society.

While this author is not an expert on these topics, she hopes it will encourage teens and teen advocates to understand the past and how this could foster discussion on our current societal issues.

Nazi Party Rally Grounds (1934) – Wikimedia Commons

Rise of Nationalism vs. Rise of the Nazis

A number of countries have seen an emerging rise in nationalism, including the U.S for 2016. A quick search will sport numerous news articles on the topic. In some cases of both past and recent years, this nationalism has resulted in revolutions and independence for countries, for example, Great Britain’s “Brexit” decision to remove itself from the European Union. However, in the 1920’s through 1930’s, nationalism paired with discrimination and xenophobia resulted in the National Socialist German Worker’s Party and the rise of the Nazis. For more understanding about German nationalism during the Nazi era and those searching for social justice during that time, here are a few online and print resources to give a brief view into available information and viewpoints during that period.

Online Resources:

YA Nonfiction:

We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler by Russell Freedman

Two siblings formerly part of the Hitler Youth form a secret resistance group called the White Rose and distribute anti-Nazi materials.

Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust by Doreen Rappaport (YALSA’s Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults – 2015)

A variety of profiles of Jewish people who defied the current climate to save others and are remembered in this detailed look, including some teens.

Branded by the Pink Triangle by Ken Setterington (YALSA Nonfiction Award nomination 2014)

This overview documents changes in society with the rise of the Nazi Party, paying specific attention to treatment of homosexuals.

YA/Middle Grade Fiction:

The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti (Best Books for Young Adults 2009, Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults 2014)

A teen joins Hitler Youth but questions his teachings with those of his youth and comes to rebel by distributing underground information of news reports.

Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

A close look at the rise of Adolf Hitler in the eyes of his niece who befriends a young reporter who transforms her views.

Projekt 1065 by Alan Gratz

An Irish/British spy masquerades as a Hitler youth in this high stakes thriller.

Adult Nonfiction for further research:

Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazis Rise to Power by Andrew Nagorski

American journalists living in Germany gained a first-hand account of the Nazis rise to power.

The Third Reich in History and Memory by Richard J. Evans

An overview of the rise to power, height of dominance, and postwar era in history and memories.

Japanese Internment vs. Anti-Islam

A number of reports have been in the news lately both for the US and other countries against Muslims, especially Muslim refugees. Some reports have related a comparison of the Anti-Islam sentiment and the future possibility of a Muslim registry to the attitude against Japanese Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor during World War II. At that time, West Coast Japanese Americans were considered potential enemies of the military and were sent through an executive order by then President Franklin Delano Roosevelt into internment camps. Later this period was defined as a human rights violation and some reparations were made towards Japanese American survivors. A few resources following Japanese Americans during this period in history are found below.

Online Resources: 

YA Nonfiction:

Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans During World War II written by Martin W. Sandler (YALSA Nonfiction Award finalist 2014)

Sandler introduces evacuees and their families and documents their experiences, including those Japanese Americans who served in the U.S. military.

Fighting for Honor: Japanese Americans and World War II by Michael L. Cooper

A more extensive look at Japanese Americans in the military fighting during World War II.

Dear Miss Breed: True Stories of the Japanese American Incarceration During World War II and a Librarian Who Made a Difference by Joanne Oppenheim

 A San Diego children’s librarian writes to her child-age and teenage patrons who were taken into Japanese American internment camps.

YA Fiction:

Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata

A Japanese American girl is sent to an internment camp on the Mojave Indian Reservation and finds that she and a Native American boy share some things in common.

Farewell to Manzanar: A True Story of Japanese American Experience During and After the World War II Internment by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston

A brief story about a teen girl sent to Manzanar internment camp and its effect on her family.

Adult Nonfiction for further research:

Infamy: The Shocking Story of the Japanese American Internment in World War II by Richard Reeves

A journalist traces a detailed and comprehensive history of Japanese American internment camps and the events by political leaders that led to the decision.

Silver Like Dust: One Family’s Story of America’s Japanese Internment by Kimi Cunningham Grant

Author learns and recounts her grandmother’s experience in a Japanese internment camp and comes to accept her heritage.

Latin American Politics

The recent death of Fidel Castro, leader/dictator of Cuba, has spurred talk of the era of Latin American dictators, whose practices and policies are still ongoing since Cuba still has a one-party dictatorship under Raul Castro with no opposition permitted. Additionally, recent news articles have compared certain political leaders to Latin American dictators in possessing a similar style in address and authority. Though there is less material published overall on these specific topics, especially in young adult literature, here are a few sources to explore.

Online Resources:

  • Encyclopaedia Britannica – Challenges to the Political Order and Latin American Since the Mid-Twentieth Century covers an overview of developments in Latin America from revolutions and military regimes to political changes and populism
  • The Mapping History Project by the University of Oregon and Universitat Munster records the changes in the Caribbean, Central and South America from the end of the 19th century and the predominant oligarchies and flows into the late 20th century with notes about military regimes, juntas, and one-party states.

YA Nonfiction:

Leaving Glorytown: One Boy’s Struggle under Castro by Eduardo F. Calcines (YALSA Nonfiction Award nominee 2010)

A memoir about life in Cuba at the beginning of the Communist revolution and immigrating to the United States as a teen.

Che Guevara: You Win or You Die by Stuart A. Kallen

A revolutionary who became friends with Castro and together they overthrew the dictator in Cuba but Guevara was assassinated.

Augusto Pinochet’s Chile by Diana Childress

Covers military leader Pinochet’s rise to power in a military coup and his control through a junta and naming himself president of Chile and becoming a dictator despite trying to save his country from Communism.

Note: Readers might find this particularly interesting as the president Pinochet overthrew was Salvador Allende, the uncle of author Isabel Allende, found below.

Latin American Fiction

In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

Three sisters are murdered and the fourth is left to tell their stories of life under the horrors of dictator’s rule in the Dominican Republic

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

A history of Latin America and Chile as seen through the tragic lives of the Truebas family.

The Autumn of the Patriarch by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The investigation into the murder of a South American dictator reveals his evolution from leader to dictator.

Adult Nonfiction for further research:

Red Heat: Conspiracy, Murder, and the Cold War in the Caribbean by Alex von Tunzelmann

A history of three dictators of the Caribbean during the Cold War.

Looking for History: Dispatches from Latin America by Alma Guillermoprieto

A series of essays in which the author describes Latin American politics and society of Colombia, Cuba and Mexico as well as references to Argentina and Peru.

Gringo: Coming-of-Age in Latin America by Chesa Boudin

A man travels through Latin America recounting his experiences in history and local political views.

Additional note:

Readers might be interested to know educational database JSTOR publishes some so-termed ‘scholarly news’ articles that relate history to current events; however, articles are written by a variety of authors with many points of view.

We welcome any informational contributions to these resource lists by commenting below!

—Kara Hunter, currently reading The Midnight Star by Marie Lu

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2017 Morris Award Finalists: An Interview with Jeff Zentner

Wed, 01/18/2017 - 07:00

Jeff Zentner is a finalist for the 2017 William C. Morris Award YA Debut Award, which will be presented at the ALA Midwinter Youth Media Awards on Monday, January 23, 2017.

The Serpent King is about three teenaged outcasts in the small town of Forrestville, Tennessee, who are seniors  in high school trying to overcome their family’s histories and expectations to make their own choices for how they want to live their lives.

Congratulations on being a Morris Award finalist. What was your reaction when you got the news?

Great surprise! I actually found out on twitter from a librarian who’s totally unconnected with my publishing network (editor, agent, etc.) from whom I normally learn information like this. And my first reaction was “oh man, I hope this guy isn’t pulling my chain.

The difficult relationships between fathers and sons and the sins of the fathers being visited on the sons is a major part of the book. Did you have a difficult relationship with your father? How autobiographical is your book?

I had and have a great relationship with my dad, so those parts of the story aren’t autobiographical. I did grow up in a strict religious faith that often left me feeling alienated and isolated from my peers at school, like Dill. But, like Dill, I managed to make a few very great friends who were my lifeline.

I was heartbroken over the fate of one of the characters and actually burst into tears while reading your book on a train. You didn’t pull any punches here and it’s an honest and sometimes unflinching look at these three characters’ lives. Were you worried that readers would be angry about what happens to one of the characters?

I honestly didn’t think beforehand that I was capable of writing a character that people would feel deeply enough to be angry with me about. I discovered that I was from my first reader, my buddy Jarrod. I gave him my manuscript to read and sort of forgot that he was reading it until one day I got a text from him that simply said: “You [expletive] [expletive].” I was like “??????” and he texted back “[Character name].” It makes me very happy that readers are forging a connection with these characters, even if I have to endure occasional wrath.

Religion, especially Pentecostalism isn’t a religion that I’m very familiar with – especially the unusual practice of snake handling. It’s certainly not something that’s explored in YA fiction very often. What made you include this? Do you have personal experience with unusual worship practices?

I wanted to explore the effects of struggling inside with a strange faith that outsiders don’t understand—a faith that isolates you socially to begin with and even more when decide you have to find your own. I also wanted to include a religious tradition specific to the American South, which is the place I write about. Finally, I loved how the practices of snake handling and drinking poisonous things functioned on a metaphorical and symbolic level in my main character’s story arc. I do have personal experience with unusual worship practices, so I was on comfortable ground.

The expectations of parents and how children are burdened by trying to live up to those expectations or obey their parents is a huge part of this book. His mother, especially, is putting Dill, in an impossible position. How were you able to write such an uncompromising and unflinching portrayal of her?

I’m very familiar with the thinking of religious fundamentalists who may have little to hope for or little to rejoice in in this earthly life, so they orient their life and thinking toward the next life and the hope that lies there. And when that’s your only hope, you develop a certain rigidity of thought and behavior designed to keep you on the path to that hope. I believe, sadly, that there are many parents who love God more than they love their own children, so I wrote Dill’s mother as someone who put her son second in her life after God. From there, it was simple to intuit her choices.

Dill, Lydia and Travis feel like they’re outcasts. Did you feel like you were too as a teen?

Absolutely. I felt very isolated and alone. I was a weird, angsty kid.

There’s a beautiful sense of place in this book. Like most teens, Lydia just wants to escape her small town for the big city but her father says some really thoughtful things about why their small southern town isn’t so bad. Did you grow up on a similar type of community?

I did. The town I grew up in was substantially larger than Forrestville, but definitely not a big city. I grew thinking that driving an hour to the nearest city with a mall was the height of cosmopolitanism. That’s a hard place for a kid, but as I get older, I find myself viewing that place with a certain nostalgia and wistfulness, so I understand both Lydia and her father.

Music is also a huge part of the plot. I know you’re a musician too. How did that influence your decision to write a YA book? Did you listen to music to inspire you to write? If so what? If you had to associate a song with each of the main characters, what would they be?

It was my music career that led me to volunteer at Tennessee Teen Rock Camp and Southern Girls Rock Camp, which is where I really fell in love with young people and wanted to create art for them. The problem being, of course, that I was about 15 years too old to make the kind of music marketed to young adults. Plus, I had no idea how to make it. So I knew that I needed to switch horses. Publishing is much more forgiving age wise, as in you don’t have to have made it big before you’re 30, like in music. I’d always loved reading; I’d worked at bookstores; so I thought maybe I’d try my hand at writing books for young adults. And here we are.

I knew I would love this book right from the beginning when you mention that there’s a copy of The Secret History by Donna Tartt in Lydia’s car, What authors and/or books have influenced you? (Besides the obvious references to George R. R. Martin, that is!).

I love southern lit: Jesmyn Ward, Cormac McCarthy, and Charles Frazier are my favorites. I love deeply lyrical writing like Leslie Marmon Silko, Michael Ondaatje, Donna Tartt, Joan Didion, Anthony Doerr, Emily St. John Mandel, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Patti Smith. I loved funny writers like David Sedaris and David Rakoff.  I have always deeply loved Stephen King, and The Body and It were big influences on how I wrote the friendship in The Serpent King. I had not read tons of YA before I wrote it, but I had read and loved John Green, David Levithan, Sherman Alexie, John Corey Whaley, Benjamin Alire Saenz, Rainbow Rowell, and Jenny Downham.

What’s one surprising thing that you want readers to know about you?

I’m related to Wilford Brimley by marriage.

Jeff, thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions and for writing such a beautiful book.

-Interviewed by Sharon Rawlins, currently reading the galley of Empress of a Thousands Skies by Rhoda Belleza

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2017 Morris Award Finalists: An Interview with Sonia Patel

Tue, 01/17/2017 - 07:00

Sonia Patel is a finalist for the 2017 William C. Morris YA Debut Award for her novel Rani Patel in Full Effect. The award winner will be announced at the ALA Midwinter Meeting Youth Media (YMA) Awards on Monday, Jan. 23, 2017.

Rani Patel in Full Effect grabs the mic to tell a story of hip hop, healing, and the path to self-understanding. Set in the 1990s, Rani, a 16-year-old Gujarati Indian teenager, is growing up on the remote Hawaiian island of Moloka’i and is isolated from her peers. She also has a very complicated relationship with her parents to say the least. Her mother doesn’t seem to see her, and when her father gets a new girlfriend, things come out for Rani about her relationship with him that she hasn’t been to admit to herself. Her father’s betrayal has her feeling like widow, in a bold stroke, and like widows in India are often made to do, she shaves off her hair. Rani finds solace and power in writing slam poetry taking on the patriarchy in the island’s underground hip-hop scene as MC Sutra. She soon attracts the attention of the swoony Mark, who is much older than Rani. Even though there is plenty to warn her against him, she falls head over heels. This could easily be the undoing of Rani, but through pain and art, Rani is able to connect with parts of herself lost and unknown.

Sonia Patel is a Gujarati American and the daughter of immigrant parents. She lives in Hawaii where she works as a psychiatrist working mainly with teens and their families. You can follow her on her website, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.

Congratulations on your first novel and being selected as a Finalist for the William C. Morris Award for debut authors!

Thank you so much for reaching out! I am honored and grateful for being a Morris Award finalist and for the opportunity to be interviewed for the YALSA Hub!

You are a psychiatrist with a busy career as a therapist working predominately with teen girls and families, what drew you to writing books for teens?

When I provide psychotherapy to a teen in my child & adolescent psychiatry practice, the teen is often not the only patient. It is not uncommon for the teen’s family to have dynamics that are dysfunctional. And it is this unbalanced family system that is many times my real “patient.” In cases like this I provide family psychotherapy. This can be a hard sell if the family does not accept that the system is flawed and needs work. I try to help them understand that treating the teen alone will not entirely address the problems. Knowing this from my medical training as well as from my own dysfunctional family experiences growing up, I am always thinking about ways to facilitate positive family system change. During many family therapy sessions I want to tell the families about my own experiences in hopes of giving a real life example of why my recommendations might be helpful. But there are reasons psychiatrists generally steer clear of self-revelation in direct patient care. So of course I mostly bite my tongue.

Meanwhile I had a binder full of rap I’d written over the years. My own therapy for my personal struggles. One day flipping through the binder, it hit me. I could write a teen novel highlighting family dysfunction and how it can affect a teen. I could base it on a combination of my real life family experiences and those of some of patients and my imagination. That was how Rani Patel In Full Effect was born.

Once I started writing I knew I was onto something unique, especially given my perspective as a psychiatrist. A perspective that isn’t represented in the YA world as far as I’ve seen. I think of it as diversity in diversity. In Rani I can best describe it as this: Rani is a POC. She’s growing up disconnected from two diverse cultures, Gujarati Indian and Native Hawaiian. She doesn’t have the luxury to cope only with normal teen developmental issues. She’s been her father’s object her entire life. She has to gain insight into the impact of the abuse on how she thinks, feels, and acts before she can even begin to make positive changes in her life and get back to normal teen developmental issues.

There seems to be some similarities with you and Rani, you are both first generation Gujarati American that spent their youth in Connecticut and Hawaii. What was the transition like for you to move to Hawaii as child? What drew you back to Hawaii after leaving to attend college at Stanford?

The transition to Hawaii was difficult. First, it was a decision my father unilaterally made without input from my mother or I. Second, I had to watch my mother cope with being torn away from the Gujarati immigrant family and friends with whom she was so close. Third, the island my father picked wasn’t Oahu. That island might have been a bit easier for my mother since there were other Indians there. But my father picked Moloka’i. It’s a beautiful island with a strong Native Hawaiian activist movement. But it was difficult for my mother to fit in there since she was completely cut off from her Indian roots. For me, it wasn’t as bad because I did whatever my dad wanted anyway. For a number of reasons similar to Rani, I didn’t have my own identity separate from him. Looking back, it’s clear that the move destroyed our already dysfunctional family.

I grew to love Hawaii. Especially the cultural diversity, weather, and chill vibe. For my own reasons, I always knew I’d return to live and work in Hawaii.  That wasn’t a questions for me even when I was at Stanford. I’d made my own connections to the islands, apart from my father’s influence. And this time when I moved to Hawaii it would be on my terms. I chose to live on Oahu. For a number of years I also flew over to Moloka’i to provide child & adolescent psychiatry services at the public schools. Today, I count my blessings that I get to wake up everyday in such a lovely place.

One of the most rewarding transformations of the book is Rani’s relationship with her mother. As a reader we see Rani’s mother through Rani’s eyes, and we are allowed to see the shifts as Rani starts to see her differently. Are there similarities to your relationship with to your mother?

Absolutely. In fact, I modeled Rani’s relationship with her mother on my own relationship with my mother. My mother is my rock. She always has been. And I have an amazing relationship with her now. But it took years to get there. With time I’ve come to understand why it took so long. It wasn’t that I was a bad daughter, which I used to think. Or that she was a cold mother. She was reacting to her circumstances. Though she’d immigrated to America with my father after their arranged marriage, she never fully acculturated. She loved India and her connections to India (Gujarati family & friends in America). She was raised with a confusing blend of progressive “don’t get married-be a doctor instead” and “get married-do what your husband says.” My mother really was told that “husband is god.” So unlike some of her Gujarati female friends and family, she couldn’t stand up to her husband. Like Rani, I watched her do my father’s bidding while suffering inside and growing increasingly emotionally distant from me. Like Rani, my distant relationship with my mother and my observations with how she handled her life unconsciously affected my own life—I couldn’t be assertive with my thoughts and feelings, I hated myself, and I had a difficult time in female friendships. The one major difference between Rani’s relationship with her mother and mine is that it took years for my mother and I to heal our relationship. And it started with insight. Insight usually takes a long time, rarely does it occur over the course of a school year. I talk about this in my author’s note. But in the novel I wanted to show the progression within a shorter timespan that teens could perhaps relate more to. I wanted to show teens what a healed relationship can look like. I wanted to show teens that it’s worth it to work towards healing relationships that will ultimately be a source of strength, nurturance and love.

Much of Rani’s experience and coming of age has a timelessness about it. What drew you setting her story in the early 1990’s?

That was the time of my own coming of age. It seemed perfect because it was the golden age of hip hop (late 80s-early 90s). It was a time of tremendous innovation, diversity, and quality in the hip hop culture. It was kind of like hip hop formed its true identity, just like Rani formed hers. Also, it was a time before cell phones and social media dominated teen life. Without the distraction of all that I was hoping to show that Rani was alone in her head most of the time. And this reinforced her one sided perspective on and expectations of relationships. She wasn’t getting much input from outside sources so it was difficult for her to see that it was a problem that she only had guy friends and no female friendships. I intentionally tried to present the other characters in the book with not as much change or depth as perhaps people want to see in novels. This is realistic in terms of how an incest survivor might view relationships—only from the point of view of how the relationship can serve them. So all the characters are from Rani’s one sided, narrow perspective. Until she gains insight into how her trauma affected her, she can only relate to people in her life in terms of how they “serve” her needs. That’s how she learned to have relationships being her father’s “object.”

Rani finds an outlet through hip hop and poetry. What is your relationship to both, and why did you choose that medium for Rani? (Also, you have great videos posted of you doing some of the poems from the book, is there one we can share on the blog?)

Rani Patel In Full Effect was a product of my love of hip hop and rap. The way hip hop and rap gave Rani a positive way to cope with her family’s dysfunction is also what it did for me. By writing rap Rani could fake her self-worth until it became real.  Something I did as well. Hip hop was Rani’s culture when she couldn’t find solace in her own Gujarati culture. Same for me. Once I found hip hop and rap as a child there was no going back. Nothing else could give me that same healthy comfort. The lyrics and beat of rap let me express my thoughts and feelings in a way I couldn’t in real life. Later I also found the same healing quality in poetry.

(Thanks for the props on the videos! Please feel free to share one on the blog.)

I appreciated the authenticity of Rani’s struggle to work through the issues surrounding her abuse. Often times in young adult literature the path presented to healing is more linear.  Reading this book I felt that readers got a more realistic perspective of how hard it is to work through the issues, how it is anything but linear, and how humans are more complex and can be a lot of things at once. Have you read a lot of other YA that look at issues of incest and abuse, and are their some authors you think do it well?

I am glad you took that away from the book. It was my intention to show how difficult, repetitive, and frustrating healing from sexual trauma can be. I’ve read other YA novels that look at issues of rape. I really like Christa Desir’s Fault Line. I think she does an amazing job of discussing the complexities of the aftermath of sexual assault. In terms of books with incest themes, I like Because I Am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas, Identical by Ellen Hopkins, and Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma. Each of these books offers interesting, unique ways to tell such stories.

Layered into this book are some environmental and social issues around water rights and Native sovereignty on Moloka’i during the early 1990s. This brings in the setting of the island and the community into focus and also is a place where Rani intersects with her father. How have things progressed in regards to these issues since that time?

The EPA designation of Moloka’i as a sole source aquifer was huge for the island. In the end, Moloka’i Ranch did not get the access to the water they wanted for their west end condo and golf course. Also in the 2000s the Ranch wanted more water to build a luxury development on some sacred land on the dry west end, La’au Point. Moloka’i people resisted and the Ranch lost their bid on the development project.  Moloka’i continues to resist unnecessary development to this day. The high percentage of Native Hawaiians on the island continue to work towards preserving their culture and traditions. Current issues on Moloka’i include water access for Hawaiian Homestead lands, farming, and unemployment. There is conflict in terms of GMO vs. non-GMO farming. Many islanders prefer non-GMO farming because it is more in line with ancient Hawaiian ways. But there are also many islanders who fear job loss if GMO farming is restricted.

Can you talk a little about your upcoming project The Calamitous Love of Jaya and Rasa?

I am very excited about this YA novel (the title will be shorter)! I present the lives of two teens from opposite sides of the track—a transgender Gujarati boy from a wealthy family and a mixed ethnicity girl from a poor, broken family. The characters and their stories are based on a blend of real patients I’ve worked with over the years. I try to present various themes, including depression, sex trafficking, LGBTQ issues, alcoholism, and bulimia in a way that patients I’ve treated experienced. I also try to present some of the social issues on Oahu as I’ve experienced and as described to me by patients. Things like wealth, elitism, privilege, private vs. public school differences. Then there’s the sweet love story. That’s where I hope readers will see Jaya and Rasa’s true colors. Away from the challenges that life throws them. I’m working on edits now and it’s so much fun. I love Jaya and Rasa and I hope teens will too!

— Danielle Jone currently reading The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

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Reading Across Borders: Translated YA Titles for the New Year

Wed, 01/11/2017 - 10:35

In search of fresh new titles to expand the diversity of your YA collection in the new year? Challenge your teens (and yourself!) to read widely across borders this year.

Reading international literature exposes readers to fresh perspectives; it challenges us, and like any good literature, it entertains. While international adult hits such as Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels and Fredrik Backman’s books have enjoyed tremendous success in recent years, translated YA titles remain under the radar of most readers and librarians. In future posts, the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative will recommend tips and resources for discovering recently published international YA books. For now, here is a taste of what’s hitting shelves this month.

In this post we highlight a few of the exciting international titles being published in January. This selection includes books from Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Germany, running the gamut from fantasy to adventure and historical fiction to satisfy readers of all stripes. By including these books in our collections, we can help expose teen readers to a diversity of perspectives outside of our own borders, and give them a taste of what teens across the world are reading.

Maresi: the Red Abbey chronicles by Maria Turtschaninoff; translated by Annie Prime (Finland)

This trilogy opener from Finland tells the story of Maresi, a 13-year-old novice in the Red Abbey on the island of Menos, a safe haven for women. Her idyllic existence is shaken when a new girl, Jai, arrives with a  dark past not far behind her. When the island is invaded by men bent on violence and revenge, Maresi must take all the knowledge she has learned during her time at the Abbey and act.

Booklist (starred review): “It’s rare to find a YA fantasy with such polished writing, and almost impossible to find a YA title so committed to a sympathetic portrayal of a matriarchy…Utterly satisfying and completely different from standard YA fantasy, this Finnish import seems primed to win over American readers.”

The Murderer’s Ape by Jakob Wegelius; translated by Peter Graves (Sweden)

When her best friend, the sailor Henry Koskela, is falsely accused of murder, a gorilla named Sally Jones visits the run-down docks of Lisbon, embarks on a dizzying journey across the seven seas, and calls on the Maharaja of Bhapur’s magnificent court–all in an attempt to clear Henry’s name. This mystery adventure story from Sweden has garnered multiple starred reviews.

Booklist (starred review): “This story was originally published in Sweden to great critical acclaim, and numerous black-and-white drawings throughout add to its unusual appeal. For American readers, this will have a distinctly old-fashioned feel. While the sheer length and thoughtful pace of Sally Jones’ journey might discourage some, those who persevere will have a richly imagined and thoroughly unique adventure in store.”

Almost Autumn by Marianne Kaurin; translated by Rosie Hedger (Norway)

It’s October 1942, in Oslo, Norway. Fifteen-year-old Ilse Stern has had a crush on boy-next-door Hermann for as long as she can remember, but what Ilse doesn’t know is that Hermann is secretly working in the Resistance, helping Norwegian Jews flee the country to escape the Nazis. As life under German occupation becomes even more difficult, particularly for Jewish families like the Sterns, the choices made become more important by the hour. In this internationally acclaimed debut, Marianne Kaurin recreates the atmosphere of secrecy and uncertainty in World War II Norway in a moving story of sorrow, chance, and first love.

Kirkus:  “The spare, lovely prose, translated from Norwegian and shifting narrative perspective from character to character, is wrenching for readers with context to extrapolate all that’s unsaid… a subtle, hard-hitting book for readers who have the background to understand its oblique approach.”

The Book Jumper by Mechthild Gläser; translated by Romy Fursland (Germany)

A teen girl discovers she is a book jumper –  she can leap directly into books, meet the characters, and experience the world of the book – in this fantasy import from Germany. Amy Lennox doesn’t know what to expect when she and her mother pick up and leave Germany for Scotland, heading to her mother’s childhood home of Lennox House on the island of Stormsay. Amy’s grandmother, Lady Mairead, insists that Amy must read while she resides at Lennox House―but not in the usual way. It turns out that Amy is a book jumper, able to leap into a story and interact with the world inside. As thrilling as Amy’s new power is, it also brings danger: someone is stealing from the books she visits, and that person may be after her life. Teaming up with fellow book jumper Will, Amy vows to get to the bottom of the thefts―at whatever cost.

Publishers Weekly: “The lore of the two families and German author Gläser’s descriptions of Stormsay and the library are meticulous and moody, creating a gothic atmosphere that serves this star-crossed love story well. Meetings with book characters, like Kipling’s Shere Khan and Dickens’s Oliver Twist, offer entertaining moments that balance the grimmer elements of the story as it builds to a bittersweet ending.”

— Jenny Zbrizher, currently reading The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

Jenny is a Reference and YA librarian at the Morris County Library in New Jersey. She is a member of the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative (GLLI), a group whose aim is to promote international youth literature in libraries. Follow her on Twitter @JennywithaZ, or GLLI on Twitter @GlobalLitinLibs

The post Reading Across Borders: Translated YA Titles for the New Year appeared first on The Hub.

Booklist: Books with Bakers, Chefs, and Other Food Enthusiasts

Mon, 01/09/2017 - 10:06

Everyone has to do it eventually but surprisingly few YA fiction books have any reference to it. I’m talking about cooking and baking, of course. When I started thinking about read-a-likes for Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, I knew I wanted to feature some books with bakers like Lara Jean. That wound up being harder to find than I expected which also made me think that others might be interested in a more exhaustive list of books for teens with bakers, chefs, and foodies. For other books with teen chefs, be sure to check out the 2011 Popular Paperbacks “What’s Cooking?” List!

  • Suffer Love by Ashley Herring Blake: Hadley and Sam are both hurting. They’re feeling abandoned and maybe even betrayed by their parents’ choices. Neither of them expects to find comfort or connection with the other–especially Sam who knows exactly how ludicrous their mutual attraction really is–but then they find exactly that. And maybe more

  • A La Carte by Tanita S. Davis: Lainey dreams of becoming a chef and having her own cooking show one day. With the lack of African American female chefs–not to mention vegetarian ones–she figures her odds of hitting it big are excellent. When her best friend (and crush) moves away, Lainey finds comfort in the kitchen as she works through new recipes and makes peace with the past.


  • Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen (2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults): Sydney is used to living in her older brother Peyton’s shadow. When Peyton is sent to jail for drunk driving, Sydney tracks down the victim of the accident and finds herself drawn into the warm and chaotic world of the Chathams and the pizza parlor they run.


  • Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg: Both Macallan and Levi are pretty sure they’re better as friends than anything else. Except they can’t help wondering if the complications that come with being more than friends might just be worth it.


  • Taste Test by Kelly Fiore: As accidents mount in the kitchen arena of Taste Test, a new televised cooking competition, Nora has to try to find the culprit while proving she has what it takes to win.


  • Stir It Up! by Ramin Ganeshram: Anjali dreams of hosting a cooking show where she can showcase dishes inspired by her Hindu and Trinidadian heritage. When she has the chance to compete in a cooking show will she be able to defy her family and attend the audition?


  • The Cupcake Queen by Heather Hepler (2011 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults): Penny’s life is far from sweet when her mother moves them from the big city to Hog’s Hollow so that she can open a cupcake bakery.


  • The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil, illustrated by Mike Lawrence: Alba loves living behind the bakery, drawing comics, and watching bad TV with her friends. Unfortunately Alba’s comfortable life is thrown into chaos by the return of a boy she used to know, complications with her best friend, and the flock of doomsday enthusiasts coming to Eden Valley for the end of the world.


  • Sunshine by Robin McKinley: Baker Rae “Sunshine” Seddon’s life takes a dramatic turn when she is abducted by a gang of vampires. And survives.


  • Heartless by Marissa Meyer: Catherine is more interested in baking than the attentions of Wonderland’s unmarried King–especially when she has big plans to open her own shop and is secretly courting Jest. Cath wants to choose her own path but in a land filled with madness and magic, she may not get the chance.


  • Cake Pop Crush by Suzanne Nelson: Alice Ramirez loves baking and helping at her father’s bakery, Say It With Flour. When a rival coffee shop opens across the street, Ali tries to give her family an edge with trendy cake pops.


  • The Keeper of the Mist by Rachel Neumeier: Keri has her hands running her bakery when she is unexpectedly chosen as the next Lady of Nimmera. Only time will tell if one inexperienced and unexpected heir will be enough to repair Nimmera’s quickly fading boundary magic and help the small country thrive even in the face of imminent invasion.


  • Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler: Hudson gave up her ice skates for baking cupcakes at her mom’s diner after a betrayal completely altered her plans for her future. When she has a chance to start coaching the boys hockey team, Hudson will also haveto decide if she wants to start skating again on her own terms.


  • The Prank List by Anna Staniszewski: Rachel Lee will do anything to save her mother’s cleaning business if it means not moving to Connecticut and losing her new best friend, almost-boyfriend, and her pastry classes.



  • Pizza, Love & Other Stuff That Made Me Famous by Kathryn Williams: Sophie Nicolaides grew up in her family’s Italian-Greek restaurant. But is that enough to prepare her to compete on the Teen Test Kitchen reality show?


  • Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood: Between moving, having no money, changing schools, and his father suddenly revealing that he’s gay Dan has more than enough issues without an impossible crush on the girl next door. Dan narrows all of his problems to six impossible things. With a penchant for making lists and following through, Dan is optimistic about fixing at least some of them–maybe even his mom’s wedding cake business that seems to result in more cancelled weddings than actual cakes.

— Emma Carbone, currently reading The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti

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