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Morris Award Finalist: Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian

Fri, 01/24/2014 - 07:00

Carrie Mesrobian is a finalist for the 2014 William C. Morris Award for her debut novel, Sex & Violence.  The award honors previously unpublished authors with the year’s best books for young adults.

Evan Carter has moved around from one town to another his entire teenaged life. His father, a Ph.D in math and computer science, is hired by clients all over the country and he drags Evan along. Not since Evan’s mom died when Evan was 11 has his dad really been present in Evan’s life in any sense. Evan, nearly 18, is used to his dad’s distance because he’s got other preoccupations – girls. Even though he might be the new guy at all his schools, he’s never had any trouble meeting and hooking up with them. He even has a strategy and can profile a girl as “The Girl Who Would Say Yes.” That’s worked well for him until he hooks up with the wrong girl named Collette at his Charlotte, NC school and finds himself nearly killed after her ex-boyfriend and another guy savagely assault him in the school’s communal showers. Afterward, Evan and his father move to the family lake in rural Pearl Lake, Minnesota so Evan can recover from a multitude of injuries, including a broken nose & ribs, hearing loss in his left ear and the removal of his ruptured spleen.

During the spring and summer at the lake he has the chance to hang out with other local teens his age. They are celebrating their last summer before college doing “last things” they haven’t done before. Evan tries to fit in with them and pretend everything’s okay but he’s quiet and withdrawn and is suffering from PTSD. Therapy helps but he’s still unable to shower inside so the lake becomes his nightly bathtub. He’s also obsessed with having short hair since when he was beaten up it was long and easy for his attackers to grab.

Evan narrates his story in the first person and it’s through the letters he writes but doesn’t send that we get a sense of what’s he’s really like. He writes to Collette that he knows that he’s been “a dick” and “a slutty seventeen-year-old” who didn’t care what it cost others – especially her – until it cost him something – and that’s a key to the book’s title. Given the subject matter, you’d think the book would be grim and depressing but there’s also a lot of humor in Evan’s self reflection too. He’s spent so much time with girls he knows them and his observations about them are wryly funny – as are some of the situations he finds himself in  – such as his hilarious attempt to install a lock on the bathroom door.

He becomes interested in his cute next-door neighbor Baker, despite the fact she has a boyfriend. She’s not like the other girls he’s known and has a mind of her own. By getting to know her she helps Evan begin to understand what having an emotional relationship with another person means. Some of what Evan learns about his father, mother and uncle also give the reader more insight into what’s shaped him. He also gets involved with another girl who has a boyfriend with a bad temper. Will he find himself in the same situation as before? Can Evan learn to make a real connection with a girl and really get to know her before sleeping with her?

The story’s plot meanders a bit and the ending was a bit rushed but it’s still a compelling read. The fact that Evan doesn’t have all the answers but realizes he can and wants to change even if there’s no guarantee that it will be a quick or easy process is what made the book feel real to me. That and Evan’s character. Despite his behavior, Evan isn’t a bad guy, but a typical teen guy who thinks about sex a lot and acts upon it maybe more than most.  Kudos to Mesrobian for getting into a guy’s head as well as she does. If you want to know more about the author, see Hub blogger Molly Wetta’s interview with Mesrobian from December 19th.

-Sharon Rawlins, currently reading Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos


Nonfiction Award Finalist: The President Has Been Shot by James Swanson

Fri, 01/24/2014 - 07:00

James Swanson, author of the highly acclaimed Chasing Lincoln’s Killer, has done it again with this gripping account of another assassination that also altered the trajectory of history and changed America forever.

Swanson presents the assassination of President John F. Kennedy to young readers in this 2014 Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults finalist a way that is accessible but never condescending. The first part of the book is called “Introduction to John F. Kennedy,” and that is exactly what it provides—a brief outline of Kennedy’s life, the circumstances of his election, and his major accomplishments in office. This section portrays Kennedy in a mostly positive light, perhaps glossing over some of his personal flaws, but in this particular book, I think that decision works. It is not a biography, and readers do not necessarily need to know all the lurid details of Kennedy’s personal life to understand the kind of leader he was and what he represented to the American people. The other thing the book does exceptionally well in those initial chapters is to build a historical context for the events. Swanson condenses the complex climate of world affairs in the early sixties into a few succinct pages, helping readers understand the times without bogging down the narrative in a glut of unnecessary information.

What follows is a painstakingly researched and richly detailed account of the assassination and its aftermath. We are introduced to Lee Harvey Oswald, a lifelong loser with delusions of grandeur who decides—on a whim, and probably for no better reason than frustration with his own insignificance—to kill the President of the United States. We see the series of extraordinary coincidences in the days leading up to November 22, 1963 that made the unthinkable possible.  We experience, minute by minute, the assassination itself and the events that followed—the search for the killer, the long journey back to Washington, and the first lady’s preparations for the funeral of the century as a family and a nation grieved. One of my favorite aspects of the book was its portrayal of Jackie Kennedy and the grace and strength she displayed in the face of tragedy.  The book ends as it began, returning the focus from Kennedy’s death to his life.

To say that The President Has Been Shot reads like a novel does not really do it justice. I have never been one of those people who is particularly fascinated with the Kennedy assassination, but this book completely sucked me in. I feverishly flipped the pages like I was reading a fast-paced crime thriller. I shed tears a couple of times, over events that took place twenty years before I was born. This book holds its own with anything for any age group I have read on the subject. No matter how much you think you know about the Kennedy assassination, you will learn something. I drove my husband crazy when I was reading it because kept interrupting whatever he was doing to say, “Hey, did you know…?”

The visual layout of the book also enhances its appeal. The ample photographs bring history to life, including still frames from the Zapruder film that break down the assassination second by second. Original diagrams, some of them also based on the Zapruder film, help readers to visualize Dealy plaza. Over fifty pages of back matter support the text.

This book should find an audience with readers of all ages, whether they are researching the Kennedy assassination or just looking for a good read.

–Wendy Daughdrill, currently reading One Year in Coal Harbor by Polly Horvath

Tweets of the Week: January 24

Fri, 01/24/2014 - 07:00

Here are some bookish news, you might have missed this week





Librarianship and Programming:

Just for Fun:

~ Jennifer Rummel currently reading Summer State of Mind by Jen Calonita

What Would They Read?: Glee

Thu, 01/23/2014 - 07:00

Glee is a wonderful show that comprises a plethora of teen issues portrayed in both dramatic and comedic ways.  I’ve watched the show for years, but there is one thing that has always bothered me.  Why don’t any of the Glee kids read?  There is not one member who discusses a favorite book comments on what he or she is currently reading.  One of the few times the library gets any attention is when a small group of the Glee members sing M.C. Hammer’s “You Can’t Touch This” in the library in hopes of getting into trouble.  Sure, Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight Saga” is mentioned, but only in reference to Tina’s clothes and Principle Figgins’s fear of vampires.  So I’ve decided to take it upon myself to educate the Glee club on books.  They’ve been taught about acting, dental hygiene, Spanish, and several other topics.  It’s about time that they opened a book.

Finn Hudson – I understand that due to devastating real-life circumstances (the tragic death of actor Cory Monteith), Finn is no longer on the show.  However, I would still like to include the character in this experiment of Reader’s Advisory because the character is still important to the show.  Finn is an interesting character to analyze.  He was the first of the jock/popular crowd to join the Glee club.  While at first, viewers may see him as a dumb jock, a deeper, more thoughtful Finn has been revealed over the course of the show.  I would recommend Knights of Hill Country by Tim Tharp.  The plot of this title can be compared to the relationship between Finn and Rachel.  Knights of Hill Country tells the story of a football hero, Hampton, who begins to see more than the football in a town that eats, sleeps, and breathes football.  He begins to notice Sara, a girl who usually would not speak to and would definitely not consider dating.  Knights of Hill Country is a thought-provoking story about creating your own identity instead of living the character created by others.  The death of his father has always been something on Finn’s mind.  He might be interested in reading a book about war and the effect it has on those left at home.  For a fiction title, I would recommend Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie, which discusses a teen whose brother died in Iraq.  If Finn preferred something from the non-fiction shelf, I would give him Ghosts of War: The True Story of a 19-year-old GI by Ryan Smithson.  In Ghosts of War, Smithson talks about his experiences in Iraq.

Rachel  Berry – Rachel is probably one of the easiest to read when it comes to book recommendations.  Rachel wears her opinions and interests on her sleeve.  Anything involving becoming a star on Broadway would definitely be a contender.  Dramarama by E. Lockhart is one of the first books that come to my mind.  In fact, I can see Rachel and Kurt passing this back and forth as it would appeal greatly to each of them.  Dramarama  (2008 Best Books for Young Adults) is the story of two friends who were accepted to Wildewood Academy for a summer of performing arts classes.  The characters of Sadye and Demi are very similar to Rachel and Kurt which would allow them to identify with the story.  Keeping with the E. Lockhart recommendations, I would also give her 2009 Printz Honor book, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau- BanksIt’s true that is does not include singing and theater, Rachel’s passions, I do believe that she would truly enjoy the character of Frankie.  Rachel would admire Frankie’s determination as she often uses a high level of resolve to accomplish her goals as well.  While most of Jen Calonita’s series, “Secrets of my Hollywood Life” take place in California, there is one title, Secrets of my Hollywood Life: Broadway Lights, that takes Kaitlin to New York to perform on the stage rather than in front of a camera.  In addition to all the fiction titles, I’m sure Rachel would also fill her bookshelf with biographies of past Broadway stars such as Barbara Streisand, Liza Minnelli, and Patty LuPone.

Quinn Fabrey – Quinn was known in McKinley High as the head cheerleader and the girl who got pregnant.  Quinn had to make a difficult decision in regards to her pregnancy.  Dancing Naked by Shelley Hrdlitschka would be my first choice for Quinn.  The plot mirrors Quinn’s life in that the main character, Kia, loses her virginity to a popular bad boy at school.  After she discovers she is pregnant, Kia must make difficult decisions.  Also, Kia and Quinn experience similar circumstances in which they uncover who their true friends really are.  The Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez (2013 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Readers) is a great non-fiction choice about a girl who fakes being pregnant to see how her high school life would change.  Quinn could relate to this situation and compare her own experiences with Rodriguez’s story.  Finally, I’m sure Quinn would like a more upbeat choice as well.  How (not) to Find a Boyfriend by Allyson Valentine is the story of a popular cheerleader, Nora, who falls for the smartypants new student Adam.  Nora was trying to hide her intelligence in order to be viewed as popular, but is now reconsidering her choice in order to get close to Adam.  Quinn could find common ground with Nora as she proved to secretly be a good student by getting into Yale.  Finally, I would recommend Zombie Blondes by Brian James which is a story of a town in which all the cheerleaders look the same and act like mindless zombies.  This choice has no bearing on Quinn’s behavior, but I do believe she would find it enjoyable.


That’s it for the first installment of “What Would They Read?: Glee.”  Check out next month when I choose a few more crooners and recommend more titles.

-Brandi Smits, currently reading Unbreakable by Kami Garcia

Morris Award Finalist: In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

Thu, 01/23/2014 - 07:00

In 1918, in the heart of World War I and the influenza epidemic, sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black finds herself living in San Diego in the care of her widowed aunt, a woman only ten years her senior. All around her, the world is responding to the tragedies occurring overseas and at home by seeking answers in the paranormal. Mary Shelley, a scientist and skeptic, does not buy into the concept of “spirit photographers” and seances, believing that these are ways for people to take advantage of the grief of others. However, a personal loss leaves her with experiences that cannot be explained through her normal scientific mind.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds is Cat Winters’ debut novel. It is historical fiction built on an intriguing tale that is part mystery, part ghost story. The book is full of beautiful prose with vivid descriptions. As I read, I felt as if I could taste, see, and feel the scenes playing out on the pages. With the theme of spirit photography running through the plot, Winters’ storytelling mimics the creepy, yet beautiful feel of this art. While many novels use World War I as a backdrop, Winters has added a layer of threat by placing her characters in the middle of the influenza epidemic. Mary Shelley’s world is a very real, very frightening one. Far from the battlefields, she has to arm herself with a gauze mask before leaving her home. With doors and windows kept shut tight, her world is both literally and figuratively stifling.

Mary Shelley serves as a strong female lead with a fascinating perspective. She has a strong scientific mind and views the world through a critical eye. As the daughter of a deceased female doctor- an unusual profession for a woman at this time- and a a war critic under arrest for suspicion of being a traitor, she believes in the importance of questioning everything and standing up for what she believes. All of this creates a strong contrast of scientific exploration and spiritualism. She is a woman of science who cannot deny the otherworldly experiences that are occurring.

I found In the Shadow of Blackbirds to be a unique story, but it has many of the themes common to YA. There is a love story there, although it is rather non-traditional. Much of the story focuses on Mary Shelley’s affections for a childhood friend turned love, Stephen, who enlisted and was shipped off to France months earlier. It is her concern for Stephen that leads to her paranormal explorations. This relationship also highlights the coming-of-age theme within the book: Mary Shelley is faced with the reality that her childhood friend has made a very adult decision with very serious consequences. The importance of family plays out through Mary Shelley’s concern for her aunt’s well-being, as well as the fate of her father. Though deceased, her mother’s life had a big impact on Mary Shelley and has shaped the young woman that she is, as well.

While the themes and setting on In the Shadow of Blackbirds seem quite heavy, Winters’ writing is lovely and makes for a very easy read. I was sad to see it end and have found myself recommending it a number of times since I finished reading. I look forward to reading her next novel, The Cure of Dreaming, scheduled to be released in fall of this year.

- Jessica Lind, currently reading Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Gearing up for the YMAs: a group post

Thu, 01/23/2014 - 07:00

Are you ready? The ALA Youth Media Awards will be presented in Philadelphia at the ALA Midwinter Meeting on Monday, January 27, starting at 8 am Eastern! With this exciting event just around the corner, the Hub bloggers thought it would be fun to share how we celebrate these prestigious awards.

Mia Cabana: This year I am getting ready for the YMAs by helping some friends (Lori Ess and Betsy Bird) make graphs and charts for the live YMA pre-show they will be hosting through School Library Journal.

Cara Land: The past few years I’ve been at the ALA Midwinter Meeting, so I try to always attend the awards ceremony in person. There’s something really exciting about actually being there when you can be. In the past I’ve tried to livetweet the event, but my fingers aren’t nimble enough to catch all the honorees and I get way too distracted amidst the cheering!

Becky O’Neil: Last year was the first time I did two new things: watched the livestream and watched Twitter. It was so fun! I had a couple co-workers with me, and we were geeking out over both. It was fun to watch some of the tweets actually get ahead of the livestream, and send out our own excited tweets, feeling like we were part of the fun, even from a library workroom in Ohio. :)

Sharon Rawlins: For the past 10 years I’ve been lucky enough to actually be at the awards in person – sometimes as part of an award committee sitting in the front – and in-between committees – in the audience. Either way, being there in person is an amazing and unforgettable experience. But, if I wasn’t able to be there live, the next best thing would be to watch the livestream of the event. Since I’m the only youth services person in my department, I would go to another library where there’s a group of youth services librarians just as interested in the event as I am and make a party of it! I try to tweet the winners as they are announced and afterward, frantically ILL any of the winners I haven’t read (usually more than I’d like).

Jennifer Rummel: I love how it’s one big book party. I watch the livestream and then broadcast the news live via our library Twitter feed, and this year I’ll add a post afterwards to our Facebook page.

Join in: Please comment and tell us how you celebrate!

~ Jennifer Rummel, currently Reading Murder with Ganache by Lucy Burdette

Morris Award Finalist: Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn

Wed, 01/22/2014 - 07:00

Stephanie Kuehn is a finalist for the 2014 William C. Morris Award with her debut novel, Charm & Strange.  The award honors previously unpublished authors with the year’s best books for young adults.

This story is about the struggle of Andrew Winston Winters and will keep you guessing to the end.  We know his family suffered a tragedy and that he was somehow involved.  His brother and sister are dead and he was shipped off to a boarding school.  Before the traumatic event he was known as Drew.  After that he goes by his middle name, Win.  Win excels in science.  The title gets its name from both the names of quarks and how people see Win.  Some find him charming, but most will agree he is strange.

The story is told in alternating chapters in the present and the past.  The present is “matter” and the past is “anti-matter.”  Kuehn does an excellent job weaving the details of Win’s current war within himself while giving us clues to his past.  Win has some serious anger issues and is prone to violence.  In one instance, he takes it out on a boy who beats him at tennis.  Win’s family is full of secrets that will have the reader wondering whether they have supernatural powers or issues with abuse.  Win has problems with his roommate.  Kuehn weaves the details of their relationship as she develops both characters.

It is too simple to call this a werewolf book.  The book is beautifully written.  I read through the book quickly because I had to know what happens next.  Readers who like more cerebral supernatural fantasy will eat this one up.

-Kris Hickey, currently reading Labor Day by Joyce Maynard

Jukebooks: Carter Finally Gets It by Brent Crawford

Wed, 01/22/2014 - 07:00

Brent Crawford is a very funny guy who writes the kind of YA novels that leave ninth graders howling with laughter. We’re talking humor that features boobs, dildos, diarrhea, and other verboten topics, all covered in Carter’s ADD-tinged stream of conscious narration. Hapless Carter seems an unlikely candidate to star in his high school production of Guys and Dollsand yet there he is; forgetting dance steps, zoning out on his lines, and gawking at the Hot Box Girls. The crazy thing is, Carter’s trying to pull off this whole “starring in a musical” gig without letting his guys find out. And he’s kind of in love with his leading lady. Hilarity ensues.

Carter’s big number in the musical is Luck Be A Lady. In MGM’s 1955 film version of Guys and Dolls, Marlon Brando sings this song. Didn’t know Brando could sing? Well, the clip below will not convince anyone otherwise. You will spot a young Frank Sinatra in the background; his version of Luck Be A Lady is an all-out croon. To be thorough, both versions are offered below.

If you’re hooked on Carter, don’t miss Carter’s Big Break  and Carter’s Unfocused, One-Track Mind.

And now, Frank Sinatra!

-Diane Colson, currently reading The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh (advance readers copy)

An Interview with Morris Finalist Elizabeth Ross, author of Belle Epoque

Wed, 01/22/2014 - 07:00

I am happy to continue our series of 2013 Morris Award finalist interviews with a chat with Elizabeth Ross, author Belle Epoque. Check out Alegria’s review of Belle Epoque, the story of a plain girl hired to become a beauty “foil” for an attractive society girl in 1880s Paris. Elizabeth was kind enough to answer some questions about her novel and even provided us with some pictures used in her research!

In Belle Epoque’s afterword, you mention that Emile Zola’s story ‘Les Repoussoirs’ in part inspired the story, but what made you want to set the book in this time? What do you think is so fascinating to many people of this time in history, and especially in Paris? I’m thinking the enduring love for the paintings of Toulouse Lautrec and other Post-Impressionists, and the continuing romance of the bohemian lifestyle. What is it about that time?

Salon at the Rue des Moulins, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec

Paris at the end of the 19th century was a pivotal time in history. Technology, architecture, art and culture were exploding. It was the dawn of the modern age, where the ‘new’ was at odds with old ways of thinking in so many fields.

I’m glad you mentioned Toulouse Lautrec because his art was a huge inspiration for my repoussoirs. The world he painted and the Paris Zola wrote about show the ugly underbelly of a city that we usually associate with romance and luxury. These unbeautiful elements, such as extremes of class and gender inequality, helped augment the stakes and drama for my characters.

Lastly, setting my story in belle époque Paris meant I could examine lots of ideas about today’s society but disguise them in another place and time.

I appreciate how you delved a bit into the psychology of the girls and women who were considered ugly or plain and how using this trait as employment might affect them. How did you go about thinking of this? Do you think our current obsession with particularly impossible beauty standards, i.e. the unreality and ubiquity of photo-shopped bodies and faces on magazines and other media, influenced your writing of the idea of this business?

It was easy to imagine the psychology of the girls because all I had to do was switch on TV or open a magazine to be confronted with our modern-day society’s obsession with beauty. Particularly for women, scrutiny of appearance above all else is commonplace.

I think adolescence can be an especially hard time for reconciling one’s appearance and the pressure society puts on us to be attractive. I remember thinking as a teenager that men are allowed to be “people” but women but are always judged on their “womanliness” first and foremost. As a woman you are in some imaginary beauty contest, just going about day to day life.

In the novel it was kind of liberating to examine the theme of beauty from all angles, and I was able to have fun with it as well. My antagonists, Durandeau and the Countess have such a despicable way of behaving – as a writer I took real relish in writing their dialogue, they are so horrid to poor Maude and the other repoussoirs.

A still of Maude from the Belle Epoque book trailer

Were you tempted to make the story into an ugly duckling or makeover story, for example a story where Maude learns she’s really beautiful and all she had to do was the 19th century equivalent of taking off her glasses and taking out her ponytail?

Hah! Great question. Not at all. Actually I always knew that Maude would never become a swan and to try and beautify her would undermine the whole story. The girl on the cover is not exactly a plain Jane so that took some time to get used to (as gorgeous as the cover is).

The challenge with a character like Maude was to find a transformation that didn’t fall into the makeover category. So in the novel Maude learns to create beauty through her art rather than care about being considered a beauty. She’s plain to most people but those who look beneath the surface find her inner light.

Historical novels often involve a lot of research. Could you tell us a bit about the research that went into this novel? Any really interesting facts you learned about the period that you couldn’t quite squeeze into the narrative?

I did go to Paris for a research visit, stopping over on a visit home to Scotland. I enjoyed delving into the saga of the building of the Eiffel tower. Of course at the time the tower was unpopular and considered unattractive and that became a metaphor for my heroine. I was fascinated to learn how establishment artists and architects like Garnier (who built the opera house) took umbrage with its creation. There was only so much of this history I could put into the novel. Research can be a dangerous tangent – the characters must come first!

Period costume was another element of research I loved. I saw a historical fashion exhibit at the LA museum of art. Corsetry and undergarments were complex in those days! Also the number of beasts and birds that were sacrificed in the name of fashion was appalling and I allude to this a bit with the Countess’s wardrobe. In the 1880s there was a craze for dead animal parts to ornament accessories and I read about a dealer receiving 32,000 dead hummingbirds in one shipment! This small fact seems to perfectly exemplify the excesses of the era.

I also appreciated the inclusion of Isabelle’s interest in photography and the struggles of upper class women to have an interest outside of ‘society’ as a contrast to Maude’s interest in that said society. Could you talk a little bit about what you think were the different struggles within the classes for women at the time? Why do you think that this resonates with readers – and especially teen readers – today?

Some images collected by Ross during her research on 1880s costumes

Rich women were constricted by their gender and the society rules. They might be educated, but generally by governesses and in more feminine pursuits. Poorer classes of women were hampered by the cycle of poverty and not being able to earn a living wage. Both situations meant lack of options and choices. In Belle Epoque both of my characters have to fight their way out of the box society has created for them.

Even though today’s youth is independent in many ways, it’s a time when you can feel constricted and when it seems as though decisions are being made for you. For this reason aspirational stories where a character finds his or her voice will always resonate with teens.

Do you have a new project that you are working on that you’d like to share with us? Or a book you’d love to write?

Yes, I’m working on a new novel set in 1940s Los Angeles. It’s a fun period to research, and living in LA I’m inspired every day by the city around me. But of course no wonderful research trip to Europe, sadly.

A final note, I’ll be attending ALA midwinter in Philadelphia so I hope to meet some youth librarians – please say hi!

Thank you so much! We hope to see you in Philly and congratulations on your nomination!

-Anna Tschetter, currently reading Far, Far Away by Tom McNeal



An Interview with 2014 Nonfiction Award Finalist Neal Bascomb

Tue, 01/21/2014 - 07:01

Neal Bascomb is the author of The Nazi Hunters, a finalist for YALSA’s 2014 Award for Excellence in Nonfiction. The book is a rewrite of his 2009 book for adults, Chasing Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World’s Most Notorious Nazi, and tells the story of the effort to capture Nazi Adolf Eichmann after he was discovered to be living in Argentina. The book is a work of narrative nonfiction, and also includes throughout archival photos and objects, like passports, travel documents, and more. 

Congratulations on your nomination! I understand The Nazi Hunters is an adaptation of your previous work, Hunting Eichmann. What prompted you to approach this subject again? How did you go about creating this new work from the old one (i.e. how much is new, how much is reshaped, etc)?

While researching the story of Eichmann’s hunt and capture, I came across a statement by David Ben Gurion, the leader of the Israeli State, on why he ordered the dangerous operation to seize the Nazi war criminal and bring him to Tel Aviv to face a trial. It would have been much easier—and much less risky on many levels—to simply have Eichmann killed quietly. But Ben-Gurion wanted Eichmann captured alive for two reasons: 1) To remind his country’s youth why the State of Israel needed to exist; 2) To remind the world what happened in the Holocaust.

At its heart, this secret operation was about education, about informing the world of deeds past. In that sense, the story was tailor-made to be written for a younger audience. Unfortunately, I was too dim to see it myself, but then I received a call from a wonderful editor at Scholastic, Cheryl Klein, who had read Hunting Eichmann and saw its potential for this audience.

To adapt the book for younger readers, I focused more on the narrative of events than the layers of history that surrounded it. I wanted to get to the center of who these individuals were who captured Eichmann and explain why they risked their lives to bring him to Israel. Everything else hit the cutting room floor. One could say that Nazi Hunters is truer to the events than the much longer adult book!

I loved how much archival material was used in the book. Did you do additional research and find new items that you hadn’t seen when working on Hunting Eichmann? More generally, can you tell me about some part of your research process and archive visits that really fascinated or excited you?

I love writing my books—but I derive just as much satisfaction from the months/years of research in advance. In the course of my research for any book, I always unearth about five times more material than makes it into the final publication, so I didn’t need to do any additional research for Nazi Hunters.

I found the research and investigation into this particular part of history to be fascinating—perhaps even more than any of the other topics I’ve written about. I spent months in Israel, Germany, and Argentina, both burrowing into old archives and interviewing individuals who were involved in the operations. I met the Mossad agents and the El Al crew who brought Eichmann to Israel. I discovered the passport Eichmann used to escape Europe and troves of other primary materials.

This is your first YA book, though the subjects of your previous books would surely fascinate younger readers. What discoveries have you made since entering the YA lit world, and what have you been reading lately? Do you plan on staying here?

Short answer: yes. I will definitely be staying in the YA field. I’m in the middle of researching my next book with Scholastic, Sabotage, which recounts the secret operations conducted by British and Norwegian spies that stopped Hitler from getting the atomic bomb [and] will be published in both adult and YA versions. Knowing this from the start, I find myself hunting down elements of the story that might be fascinating for a younger audience, for instance, the stories of the children of the operatives in Nazi-occupied Norway. They’ve given me a whole new perspective on the overall narrative.

Since I’m at the start of my research, poring through book after book on subjects surrounding this world (atomic physics, Norwegian history, British secret services, Gestapo tactics, and lots of biographies and memoirs), there’s not a lot of time for reading anything else. But my eight-year-old daughter is now on a hot streak with non-fiction (mostly biographies), and she’s making her father very happy.

Thank you!

–Hannah Gómez, currently reading Starbreak by Phoebe North and Never Have I Ever by Katie Heaney

Say It with a GIF: A Discussion on Animated Book Reviews

Tue, 01/21/2014 - 07:00

Last November, published an article by Laura Miller entitled GIFs, memes and liveblogs; the controversial new language of book reviewing.  Miller explores the customer review phenomena as it applies to books on and Although both web sites have reviewer guidelines, amateur book reviewers have a considerable amount of freedom to express their opinions to an international audience. Hub bloggers Carla Land, Becky O’Neil, and I share our reactions to the brave and sometimes brutal new world of customer book reviews.

What is it that drew you to this topic?

Carla: What drew me to this topic was that I think, as a blogger, that it takes a certain creative element to be able to combine words and pictures together to convey an idea. I know as librarians and educators we all love the written word, but there’s something about Jean-Luc Picard with his head in his hands that says to me, “This is an epic fail” better than actually saying “This is an epic fail.” It isn’t always flippant- sometimes it can be a very sweet or poignant image that says more than words can. The whole concept intrigues me!

Diane: Agreed! Images are so effective at capturing attention, and technology has made them increasingly available. In her Salon article, Miller writes, “Perhaps, though, what’s unsettling about even the most inventive use of GIFs and images is the way they evoke emotion and subjectivity rather than ideas and analysis.” One might argue that emotion and subjectivity have always been a part of reader response, and that words traditionally limit such responses.

Becky: I was drawn to the topic because I find visual culture very interesting, and have definitely noticed the use of GIFs on Goodreads especially, but would never expect that kind of review to become the way books are reviewed. Maybe I’m old-school that way! I see GIFs used to great comedic effect in a “picture is worth a thousand words” kind of way (the Capt. Picard facepalm is a perfect example).


What do you think of using GIFs and other images in book reviews?

Carla: Usually I’m okay with images being used- unless I’m on my phone and they won’t load and then I get aggravated! But I’ve spent just as much time looking for the right image as I have the right words, and I think that in certain instances, like blogs and Goodreads, and other places where people can post reviews online, an image is perfectly acceptable. I was working on my personal blog last month and my husband commented that it was taking me a while… the thing that was taking time was finding the right pictures to go along with my words. The latter came easily, but the pictures did not and I ended up spending a lot more time on Pinterest than I had intended (isn’t that always the way?). I really think that using visual aids in a review adds to the process of creation as much as it does in a blog- and aren’t some of these online reviews blogs anyway?

Becky hit on a key point during our discussion- it may date us later to use gifs and memes, but it makes things accessible and relevant NOW. Honestly, I’m not looking at reviews of books five, ten years down the line to see if I want to buy it for my collection or not. I’m looking NOW. And teens are looking NOW, too. If a book has good reviews whether it has pictures or not then it’s likely to stick around for a while and get good word of mouth. I think teen books get dated really quickly, too- not so much the fantasy and historical fictions, but books that I couldn’t keep on the shelf three years ago are now sitting there gathering dust. Maybe the review looking dated would be a good thing because it may clue you in that the book itself is dated? It could become an important tool in the future.

Diane: Count me in as another blogger who spends way too much time looking for just the right image. It’s especially exciting when looking back at flyers I created earlier in my librarian career, when terms such as “copy,” “cut,” and “paste” literally involved tracing paper, scissors, and glue. I never dreamed we would ever be able to manipulate video in such creative ways. I don’t see this mode of expression going away. It’s just too much fun to make and view. If the images we created today become dated, it may only mean we view them with the fond nostalgia that I feel for my old flyers.

Becky: I, too, have spent an inordinate amount of time looking for JUST the right picture for a blog post or presentation. It feels enormously important, especially as we do become more and more visual and of-the-moment. I don’t know how much of our generation will start reading our book reviews solely off a screen (where we can easily get the benefit of multimedia reviews), but I have heard of a toddler poking an image in a magazine, trying to make the page react. Old-media reviews may soon be read only by old-media readers!

It’s also interesting that the author says multimedia book reviewing is in its infancy, but I’ve heard more than one person say that reaction GIFs are “kind of over” and certain ones definitely need to stop being used. As with all things, I think we will keep our eyes upon the trendsetters — teens themselves. The article says, “Is it really such a surprise that an Internet review of a book for and about teenagers should be written pretty much the way teenagers write stuff on the Internet?” How will teens be writing about stuff on the internet next year, with echoes sure to be found in customer book reviews? I can’t wait to find out!

Do you feel that professional reviews are compromised by the proliferation of customer reviews?

Carla: I don’t think professional reviews are compromised as much as they are complemented by customer reviews. From this librarian’s point of view, reading reviews can be time consuming and sometimes boring. Sometimes they can be too professional. When writing a professional review, people aren’t likely to get passionate one way or another about a book. On the other hand if I see a book on Goodreads that has a bunch of teens reviewing it, even if they are glib and use a bunch of silly pictures in their reviews, I’m far more likely to consider buying it because I know teens are already talking about it and have strong feelings about it. And since they are the ones we’re buying the books for, it makes sense to look at them through their eyes. When I was a teen I never looked at a professional review and I read based on word of mouth and class assignment lists. Even if I’d had access to professional reviews I doubt I’d have bothered with them. We need the professional reviews professionally, but I think having access to customer reviews helps us with trends and speaks more to everyone and not just a select group.

Diane: For one thing, Amazon seems to have moved towards publishing only favorable reviews from professional publications, or just quoting a “faint praise” kind of phrase from the review text. For example, the actual words in the professional review may have been, “Despite the slow start, patient teen readers will love the action-packed finale,” but Amazon’s excerpt reads, “Teen readers will love the action-packed finale.” As a librarian, I love the detail of professional reviews. But as a bookseller, Amazon may only need to encourage a sale. Seems like that leaves the real critiquing to the customer reviews, at least as far as the general public views it.

Becky: I agree with Carla that there is room for both. Not everyone speaks pop-culture lingo, and a professional review, while dry, can still be the best one-stop summary for plot points, red flags, a style summary, and intended and recommended audiences — answering the “should I buy this?” question for librarians on a budget. And, of course, YALSA’s book awards and booklists are invaluable in keeping up with the best in YA literature. Customer reviews, on the other hand, by their very proliferation, can form a current map of feelings and trends that a tuned-in teen librarian will not ignore. The large grain of salt, as Diane mentioned, is the hand controlling the content. It’s worth being aware when Amazon is quoting reviews edited down to, essentially, cover blurbs — positive short phrases only. And although Goodreads is now owned by Amazon, it looks like they have not taken action on the suggestion (mentioned in the Salon article) about banning GIFs in Goodreads reviews.

Carla is currently reading The Sandman and the War of Dreams by William Joyce

Becky is currently reading Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish by David Rakoff

Diane is currently reading On Such a Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee

Teens’ Top Ten: Thoughts from a Book Giveaway Winner

Tue, 01/21/2014 - 07:00

It has been such an honor to be selected as one of the recipients of YALSA’s Teens’ Top Ten Book Giveaway. My library is located in Michigan and we are a medium sized library—not small but not big either. Our library’s budget has been dwindling and the teen budget is the smallest as is the case with most libraries budgets across the country. With winning this giveaway, I would have multiple copies of the titles my teens were clamoring to have! Success, as it is always our goal to have titles available that we know that our teen users are going to want to have on our shelves.

What I have found is having these titles on display with signs, labels and also bookmarks listing the titles has brought even more attention to these titles. With the popularity of these titles, they are honestly not always available in the library. For instance, Veronica Roth’s Divergent series– I cannot keep the copies I have on the shelf, let alone on display for less than a day before someone snatches them up.  Perhaps, with the already given mass popularity of these titles, this would not surprise you but with them being on the list it shows the teens browsing the list that there are well known books on the Teens’ Top Ten lists.

I also turn to the Teens’ Top Ten lists for ideas for my Book & More teen book discussion group. Half the battle for an active book discussion group is picking a great book. The Teens’ Top Ten lists take the guesswork out of this because the titles have been vetted by teens across the country. At a glance, I have hundreds of titles to go through and consider for the group.

Lastly, I used these titles frequently when working with parents and teens when trying to help them identify titles for school assignments. Students may be looking for a book to fulfill a specific genre reading assignment or perhaps they just need one for sustained silent reading.  Whatever the case, usually if they see that the title is on the Teens’ Top Ten lists they are more inclined to: read the blurb in the book; flip through the pages; pause read some pages; and leave the library with it in their hands.  If it is me working with them, I like to tell them to come back and talk with me about the book so we can find more books that will work for them.  Most times they do—a win in my eyes.

~Stephanie Charlefour, YALSA Awards and Booklist Marketing Taskforce Member

The Monday Poll: YALSA Awards Anticipation

Mon, 01/20/2014 - 10:36

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, we wanted to know what you think is the most intriguing YA story about being the Witness Protection Program.  Don’t Look Behind You by Lois Duncan came in first with 38% of the vote, and The Rules for Disappearing by Ashley Elston was a close second with 33%.

We also got some great suggestions in the comments on last week’s poll! Jessica reminded me about Robert Cormier’s classic, I Am The Cheese, and Jenn suggested Roland Smith’s Zach’s Lie and Jack’s Run. You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks very much to all of you who voted and commented!

This week, we’re getting excited about the announcement of ALA’s Youth Media Awards, which happens next week in Philadelphia at the ALA Midwinter Meeting. Last year on The Hub, we asked which YALSA award you’re most looking forward to. This year, we’re putting a twist on the question– we want to know which YALSA award you feel most confident about predicting the winners. Sometimes everyone’s buzzing about a particular book and you just know it’s going to win that one award– and sometimes the winners come out of left field as a delightful surprise. Which YALSA award do you think you have a handle on this year?

Vote in the poll below, and feel free to leave your predictions in the comments– and keep in mind that we here at The Hub don’t have any insider info, so we’re just as excited as you are to find out the winners next week!

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


Nonfiction Award Finalist: Courage Has No Color, by Tanya Stone

Mon, 01/20/2014 - 07:00

History and biography are among my favorite types of nonfiction to read. There is something extra powerful about a story that reads like fiction, is filled with the same themes that make the best fiction unforgettable, but rests on a foundation of truth and having actually happened. Even the most exciting fiction asks the reader to eventually think “what if this was real?” while nonfiction brings me to constantly reflect on how amazing humans are, and what can be accomplished in the face of incredible odds.

So in some ways I was predisposed to enjoy the YALSA nonfiction nomination Courage Has No Color, The True Story of The Triple Nickles: Americas’ First Black Paratroopers by Tanya Lee Stone from the title alone. I should probably also admit here to a paralyzing fear of heights, so the idea of jumping out of a plane voluntarily is pretty unimaginable to me. Choosing to face prejudice, train independently, and jump out of a plane in the context of military combat is even more incredible, but that is just what the brave members of the “Triple Nickels,”  U.S. army’s 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, did.

During World War II, the U.S. military service remained deeply segregated. As the book introduced me to the men who would go on to become the Triple Nickles, it was humbling to me how many enlisted in the army when the war began through a deep desire to serve a country that would not fully accept them and afford them the same privileges as their white counterparts– a feeling reinforced as I learned that for most black men enlisting in the service at that time, the only jobs available were service jobs, such as oiling machinery, working in mess halls, or in the case of the founding members of the Triple Nickles, working as night guards at the paratrooper training grounds of Fort Benning, GA. Walter Morris noted that morale among his men was low, and formed a plan to start training in secret with the same drills that paratroopers practiced by day while on their night watch. This sets the tone of the whole incredible story: men who chose to become the best they could be at a job that was both dangerous and thrilling, in spite of receiving little or no support.

Yet through their own initiative, these soldiers were eventually granted permission to train, and formed the first African American paratrooper unit in the country. Their story to this point is inspiring, and reinforced with fantastic images of the training grounds and their unit practicing, as well as pictures that reflect their humanity, showing them with their families or revealing the camaraderie and pride growing within the unit. What follows is heartbreaking– after months of training and hoping to be sent to the war front where they would have a chance to prove their worth alongside white battalions, the Triple Nickles were instead stationed in the Pacific Northwest where they were assigned work as “smoke jumpers” who would parachute into fight forest fires. A little-known aspect of the war in the Pacific was the threat of bombing from the Japanese, and the Triple Nickels did help to stop some of the fires started through enemy action.

What makes their story so poignant is not just how hard the Triple Nickles worked or the racism they overcame, but the fact that most people have still never heard of them. Unlike the Tuskagee Airmen, the first African-American pilots to fight in World War II, the Triple Nickles were denied their opportunity to see combat, prove their worth, and receive the recognition they deserve. Yet in spite of this, their work paved the way for future black military battalions and their accomplishments did contribute to the war effort.

Perhaps the thing I found most powerful about this exceptionally-written slice of history was the way it deepened my understanding of racism in the U.S.A. at this time. It is one thing to read about the tragedies and inequalities civilians endured in the time leading up to the Civil Rights Movement. I found it even more humbling and outrageous to see this discrimination and prejudice leveled against men who were offering their lives to serve. If there is anything that requires more courage that jumping out of a plane into a dangerous situation, it is the idea of doing so for a nation that was in some ways expecting failure rather than triumph. Tanya Lee Stone presents their story in a way that feels personal, relatable, and unforgettable, shining a light on acts of heroism and dignity that have too long been shuffled into the margins of history.

-Mia Cabana, currently reading The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu


Everyone is a Designer: An Interview with YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Finalist Chip Kidd

Mon, 01/20/2014 - 07:00

Chip Kidd is a graphic designer (he created the iconic book cover for Jurassic Park) and a novelist (The Cheese Monkeys), a comic book creator (Batman: Death by Design), and a YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Finalist (for his book GO! A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design). Mr. Kidd took some time out of his busy schedule to chat on the phone about his book, about how design is intrinsic to everyone’s life, and about which soap opera star he thinks he’s most like.

The Hub: Well first of all congratulations on being a YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction finalist.
Chip Kidd: Thank you, I appreciate that.

TH: Why should teens care about design, unless they’re going to be designers?
CK: Well because they already care about it, even if they’re not designers. And PS, I also have the theory that pretty much everyone is a designer whether they realize it or not. There are all sorts of things about your life that you design either consciously or unconsciously. Whether it’s putting together whatever look you’re going to have for that day, or the way you have things arranged on your desk, or in your room, or in your house. I think there are so many design aspects to young people’s lives and I think it helps for them to just consider them and think about them and to, at the very least, understand some of the thinking that goes into pieces of design that they see or interact with every day.

TH: In an interview you gave to the New York Times, you spoke about how the idea of writing for teens made you uncomfortable and that discomfort was actually appealing to you.
CK: (laughter) It’s called masochism! It’s the cliche of being in or out of your comfort zone. I mean, I certainly don’t like being out of my comfort zone all the time but I think that it helps to spur creativity. And most creative people I know want to be challenged. If everything was easy all the time, it just gets boring. I think it’s an interesting, valuable trait for creative people to have.

TH: That’s a fantastic way of looking at it. I will seek out discomfort. I was also wondering, as you walk around looking at the world, do you want to redesign everything you see?
CK: No… there’s a wonderful saying: It’s a small world but I’d hate to have to clean it. It’s a small world but I’d hate to have to redesign it all. I think there are certain specific, isolated moments, especially since I live and work in Manhattan and, just from walking out my door and commuting to my office, I see all the latest ad campaigns in the subway, I see billboards and storefronts and all this kind of thing, and there are certain aspects of things where I look and think, ‘Well that could be done better or differently or to greater effect,’ but no, I don’t want to redesign everything!

TH: Judging books by their covers – we’re told we’re not supposed to do that, but that’s kind of your job, right? To get a reader to judge a book positively by its cover.
CK: Well, I think the key word in there is “judge,” which I would not use. I would use the word “notice.” I want them to notice it and I want their curiosity to be piqued. Which is something that I very much tried to do on my own book cover with the stop sign that says “Go.” It makes you wonder why things are reversed, and why are the form and content seemingly at cross purposes.

TH: How much of your work these days is digital and how much is traditional media? Paint or paper or such?
CK: Well, it’s kind of a complicated question because I certainly work on a computer, and pretty much all the graphic design I do is going to be touched by the computer at some point, even if it’s just in terms of production – to get the files ready so that the printer can print it. But I’d have to go on a case-by-case basis in terms of what’s literally created on the computer and what’s by hand. As we’re speaking, I’m working on a book cover for a historical novel about a native tribe in Canada in the 1600s, and so I sort of took part of the logic in that everything back then would be made by hand. So I did a drawing, and did all the lettering by hand and that sort of thing. And that is touched on in GO! too. I did these theoretical identities. I’m very careful not to use the B word (brand) in the book at all. There are two kids, a boy and a girl and they want to create visual identities for themselves based on some aspect of their personality. The boy likes to DJ parties for his friends and his name is Bertram, so he takes a “B” and on a computer he spins the B, which you can do very easily in Photoshop, and you can’t even tell it’s a B anymore, and then he takes that, and then recreates it by hand to give a more expressive feel to it.

TH: What are you working on next? Can we expect another Kidd’s Guide, or a new novel?
CK: I’m working on a new novel. In terms of a new Kidd’s Guide – not that I know of. I did try to leave the door open there… While working on the book, I did feel that in each of the sections I was just barely scratching the surface of whatever subject matter it was, whether it was typography or color or concepts or what have you. So I think more could be done; it all depends on whether the publisher would want that, and then figuring out what that would be. In terms of comic book projects, I’m working on a book about Superman in Japan in the 1950s; it’s almost a companion volume to the Batman in Japan book that I did. I’m always working on a bunch of book covers, which I love, and there’s going to be some really great ones coming out in the fall for Haruki Murakami and James Ellroy and a lot of these authors that I traditionally love to work with.

TH: Thank you very much for taking the time today, and best of luck on January 27!
CK: Well thank you, thank you, I appreciate it.

TH: The media awards are like the Oscars or the Emmys for librarians.
CK: I’m just poised to be the Susan Lucci, which will be just fine.

-Geri Diorio, currently reading The Nazi Hunters by Neal Bascomb

Teens Behaving Historically: The Civil Rights Movement in YA Literature

Mon, 01/20/2014 - 07:00

image from U.S. Embassy The Hague’s flickr

Today, we celebrate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a leader and legend in the Civil Rights Movement of 1950s and 1960s.   And what better way to celebrate here at the Hub than to round up some of the incredible young adult fiction and nonfiction exploring this pivotal time in history?

While the major events and people of the Civil Rights Movement might be familiar, one aspect in particular is frequently under-appreciated: the incredibly significant role of children and teens.  From elementary school kids to high school & college students, young people contributed their time, energy, and passion while risking their futures, bodies, and even sometimes their lives for the fight for justice.  Nowhere does the strength of their commitment come through more clearly than in these young adult novels and nonfiction narratives.

Many of the significant civil rights events in the 1950s occurred at places central to the lives of children and teens: schools.  In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its monumental decision in the case of Brown v. Board of Education, unanimously declaring that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional.  The ruling set into motion a renewed push for school integration across the country.

Warriors Don’t Cry: A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock’s Central High - Melba Pattillo Beals (1995 ALA Notable Book)  Drawing on memories, historical documentation, and her own teenage diaries, Melba Pattillo Beals shares her harrowing and life-altering experience as one of the Little Rock Nine–the nine black teenagers who integrated Central High in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957 amid violent protests and an eventual federal military intervention.  Her straightforward and honest prose and the inclusion of her diary entries make this monumental historical event personal and alive in a whole new way.  For another view on Central High’s integration, check out her fellow Little Rock Nine member Carlotta Walls LaNier’s memoir, A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School. 

The Lions of Little Rock - Kristin Levine (2013 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults)

A year after the contentious integration of Central High, tensions in Little Rock remain high. However, shy Marlee Nisbitt is mostly worried about starting middle school.  But when her new outspoken friend Liz suddenly leaves school after rumors spread that she’s a black girl passing as white, Marlee must put her newfound voice to the test to stand up for her friend–and a larger cause.

My Mother the Cheerleader - Robert Sharenow

A few years after the infamous events in Little Rock, young Ruby Bridges became the first African American student at William Franz Elementary in New Orleans.  Louise Collins’ mother has become a Cheerleader–one of the women who return daily to taunt Ruby. Life for Louise, however, hasn’t changed–although she’s pretty sick of working at their boarding house instead of attending school.  Then a mysterious man shows up to rent a room and suddenly Louise is pushed to reconsider her apathy to both the historical events unfolding around her–and to her own muddled history. 

 While some young adults stood up for their rights by going to school, others played their part by doing the opposite: walking out of class to join marches & sit-ins.  

We’ve Got A Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March - Cynthia Levinson (2013 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction finalist)

This award winning nonfiction book tells the story of the 1963 Children’s March (also known as the Children’s Crusade) through the eyes of four young participants.  Despite strong leadership from Dr. King himself, the push for integrated public spaces and fair treatment under the law in Birmingham, Alabama had stalled.  The plan to fill the jails had failed–until hundreds of children and teens stepped up to the challenge.

Marching For Freedom: Walk Together, Children, and Don’t You Grow Weary – Elizabeth Partridge (2010 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction finalist & 2010 YALSA Best Books For Young Adults)

Using original photographs and drawing on a variety personal accounts, this exciting nonfiction narrative explores the intense & monumental series of events that leading up the now famous 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Partridge also focuses on the experiences of several individual teens and children in the protests and the march, following the events on a day-by-day basis.

 However, young people weren’t only involved in nonviolent civil rights activism–many were also very attracted to the fierce, black power message of the newly formed Black Panther Party.  

The Rock and The River - Kekla Magoon (2010 Coretta Scott King-John Steptoe Award & 2010 YALSA Best Books For Young Adults)

It’s 1968 and Chicago, like the rest of the country, simmers with tension and Sam is right in the middle of it.  His father is a well known civil rights activist but his older brother Stick has begun to explore the more radical Black Panthers.  As much as Sam wants to believe in his father’s commitment to nonviolence, he’s sick of just standing by in the face of racism and the Panthers seem to have answers.  But is he in over his head?

Fire In The Streets - Kekla Magoon (2013 YALSA Best Fiction For Young Adults)

Taking place just a few months later, this companion novel follow’s Sam’s ex-girlfriend Maxie as she attempts to earn her place in the Panthers.  When she learns that someone in the Panthers is passing inside information to the police, Maxie decides to hunt down the traitor. But the truth might lead her to question her loyalties—to the Panthers, to her family, and to her own beliefs.

For a slightly younger perspective on the powerful presence of the Black Panther Party, check out Rita Williams-Garcia’s National Book Award Finalist & 2011 Newbery Honor One Crazy Summer and its recently published sequel P.S. Be Eleven. 

What are your favorite books exploring the Civil Rights Movement?

What other titles include examples of teens’ participation in historical events?

-Kelly Dickinson, currently reading In The Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

2014 Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge Check-in #6

Sun, 01/19/2014 - 07:00

Not signed up for YALSA’s 2014 Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post. If you’re finished, fill out the form at the bottom of this post to let us know!

I have to be honest: I’m not doing so hot on the challenge this year.  Last year I blazed through both lists and really enjoyed the diversity, the new authors, the experience of reading outside my comfort zone.  I have no doubt at all that the nominated titles this year have just as much to offer, but everything seems to be conspiring against me.  I still haven’t managed to round up copies up of all the books, and interview-centric reading has kicked into high gear again.  Plus, like many of you, I suspect, there’s that pile of books I received over the holidays, so new and shiny and enticing…

That said, I did finish Elizabeth Ross’ Belle Epoque and The Nazi Hunters by Neal Bascomb, both of which were wonderful and an excellent reminder of why this challenge is so great.  And I’ve got a copy of In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters and a whole weekend ahead of me so I’m certainly not giving up!

What about you?  What does your weekend hold?


–Julie Bartel, who will be reading In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters, as soon as I finish these last 30 pages…


The Hub Celebrates Thesaurus Day

Fri, 01/17/2014 - 07:00

Portrait from Medical Portrait Gallery by Thomas Pettigrew

Happy Thesaurus Day!

While not necessarily a well-known holiday, Thesaurus Day is celebrated on January 18, the birthday of Peter Mark Roget, creator of Roget’s Thesaurus.

The original version of Roget’s thesaurus, created in 1805 and released in 1852, contained 15,000 words. Over the years, the thesaurus has grown, adding thousands of additional words and synonyms. These days, in addition to print versions of the thesaurus, wordsmiths are able to access the Roget’s thesaurus online through If you are interested in a historical perspective, a 1911 version has been cataloged as part of the ARTFL Project through the University of Chicago.

We’re celebrating a day early here on The Hub by using the thesaurus to swap words in some popular YA titles. See if you can figure out the original titles and then scroll down to check!

  1. The Tome Bandit
  2. The Bonus of Being a Loner
  3. Papyrus Municipalities
  4. An Excellent and Dreadful Virtue
  5. The Insanity Below
  6. Swivel Spot
  7. The Examining
  8. Faithful
  9. Break Me
  10. The Choice
  11. Vocalize
  12. A Chain of Ill-fated Happenings.
  13. Gorgeous Critters
  14. Audrey, Halt!
  15. The Commander of the Loops
  16. Thirteen Rationales of Cause
  17. The Categorically Bona Fide Journal of a Part-Time Native American
  18. The Sorority of the Roving Trousers
  19. Always…
  20. 13 Slight Azure Pockets
  21. The Starvation Sports
  22. The Accuracy Referring to Always
  23. The Labyrinth Sprinter
  24. Granted That I Stick Around
  25. Paired


  1. The Book Thief     by Marcus Markus Zusak
  2. The Perks of Being a Wallflower     by Stephen Chbosky
  3. Paper Towns     by John Green
  4. A Great and Terrible Beauty     by Libba Bray
  5. The Madness Underneath     by Maureen Johnson
  6. Pivot Point     by Kasie West
  7. The Testing     by Joelle Charbonneau
  8. Allegiant     by Veronica Roth
  9. Shatter Me     by Tahereh Mafi
  10. The Selection     by Kiera Cass
  11. Speak     by Laurie Halse Anderson
  12. A Series of Unfortunate Events     by Lemony Snicket
  13. Beautiful Creatures     by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
  14. Audrey, Wait!     by Robin Benway
  15. The Lord of the Rings     by J.R.R. Tolkien
  16. Thirteen Reasons Why     by Jay Asher
  17. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian     by Sherman Alexie
  18. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants     by Ann Brashares
  19. Forever…     by Judy Blume
  20. 13 Little Blue Envelopes     by Maureen Johnson
  21. The Hunger Games     by Suzanne Collins
  22. The Truth About Forever     by Sarah Dessen
  23. The Maze Runner     by James Dashner
  24. If I Stay     by Gayle Forman
  25. Matched     by Ally Condie

Have some fun exploring and see what you can come up. Share your favorites in the comment below!

- Jessica Lind, currently reading Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Nonfiction Award Finalist: Imprisoned by Martin W. Sandler

Fri, 01/17/2014 - 07:00

This book about the incarceration of Japanese-Americans during World War II is bold and compelling. It’s vivid in detail and doesn’t hold back in its telling of a dark part of America’s history.

In my reading of many other books on the same topic, I’ve learned that the vocabulary used to describe this event holds a great deal of weight. The official term most of us learn in history class, “internment,” is considered sanitized and inaccurate by many who actually experienced this disruption and trauma in their lives. Japanese-American advocacy groups such as Densho tend to use the term “incarceration.” Therefore, Sandler’s choice to use the word “imprisoned” for the book’s title and “betrayal” as part of the subtitle immediately informs the reader that this book holds a strong position about the injustice of the incarceration of Japanese-Americans during World War II– and the text most certainly supports that position.

Sandler’s clear, well-organized writing draws on personal narratives of Japanese-Americans who lived in the “internment” camps and is accompanied by a wealth of black & white photographs. The narrative is thorough; Sandler not only details life in the camps, but also puts the incarceration in context by touching upon the prejudice against Japanese-Americans before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He also addresses the aftermath of the incarceration during the following decades. The reader will come away with a clear understanding of this piece of history and its significance.

Reading this book brings to mind the dystopian fiction trend in YA lit. A government-sanctioned incarceration of innocent citizens, with little warning or a valid explanation? It sounds like the latest Divergent readalike, but sadly, it’s our history. Sandler’s book comes at a time when teens can make a clear connection from the futuristic fiction they love and the stark recounting of true-life events.

I think this book is an example of nonfiction that teen readers will really connect to. Kudos to YALSA’s Excellence in Young Adult Nonfiction Award committee for recognizing Imprisoned.

-Allison Tran, currently reading an ARC of The Shadow Hero, by Gene Luen Yang & Sonny Liew