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Your Connection to Teen Reads
Updated: 10 hours 47 min ago

Celebrate Victoria Day with YA Lit!

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 07:00

Image by Alexander Bassano, via Wikimedia Commons

Today marks Victoria Day (Fête de la Reine), a Canadian national holiday to honor Queen Victoria’s birthday. It’s celebrated on the last Monday before May 25. Much like Memorial Day weekend in the U.S., this long weekend is viewed by many as the official kickoff to summer.

Victoria hasn’t gone unnoticed by today’s authors, either. Here at the Hub, take a moment of this holiday to peruse a few of the titles about this fascinating monarch and her times!

Victoria Rebels, by Carolyn Meyer – In this intriguing installment of the Young Royals series, Meyer’s always well-researched fiction draws directly from Victoria’s journals to reveal her thoughts and dreams from as young as age eight.

The Agency series, by Y.S. Lee – There are plenty of teen books set in the Victorian era, such as this series about a girls’ academy that is actually a cover for an all-female detective agency. In book 3, however, Queen Victoria herself plays a part, when she hires protagonist Mary Quinn to investigate recent thefts at Buckingham Palace.

The Faerie Ring, by Kiki Hamilton – Another Victorian-era title, this story connects historical fiction and fantasy elements when pickpocket Tiki accidentally steals a ring with a history and a purpose. It belongs to Queen Victoria and keeps the rulers of the human and faerie world at peace.

Queen Victoria’s Bathing Machine, by Gloria Whelan – If you’re a fan of using picture books with teens, don’t overlook this winner. Did you know it was so unseemly for Queen Victoria to be seen undressing to bathe in the ocean that Prince Albert built her a “bathing machine” to change clothes right by the seaside? He did! Includes Author’s Note, Further Reading, and a photo of the bathing machine itself (which was used for a time as a chicken coop, but is now restored). This book is also where I found out that you can see (via subscription) Queen Victoria’s entire journals online.

The Girl in the Steel Corset, by Kady Cross – It’s definitely worth mentioning the steampunk genre, since so much of it is set in Victorian London. In this particular title, Finley tries to thwart a plan to kill the Queen herself.

Are there any other great teen books with a nod to Her Majesty? Let me know if I’ve left your favorite off this list, and enjoy your Victoria Day!

–Rebecca O’Neil, currently reading Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon

The Monday Poll: Musical YA Lit

Sun, 05/17/2015 - 23:21

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, we had a little technical glitch, so you had a whole extra week to think about the previous Monday poll’s topic. We asked you which YA book or series you’d recommend to Star Wars fans. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld was the top pick with 34% of the vote, followed by Legend by Marie Lu, with 24% and Across the Universe by Beth Revis with 18% of the vote. You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted and commented last week!

This week, with the recent release of Pitch Perfect 2, we want to know your favorite YA book featuring a singer or a band!  Choose from the options below, or suggest another in the comments.

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

2015 Hub Reading Challenge Check-In #14

Sun, 05/17/2015 - 07:00

Not signed up for YALSA’s 2015 Hub Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post.  Anything you’ve read since February 9 counts, so sign up now!

It’s a good thing I am not participating in the challenge because I am having a hard time focusing, just like Geri and Julie.  It’s not the weather for me, as I live in California and it’s sunny almost all the time.  I think summer reading program planning, prepping for my first author visit, and writing letters of recommendation has worn me out.  I’m only interested in playing games on my iPad. I’m hoping my vacation next week will get me back in the reading groove.

How are you readers doing? Are you worn out like me? Killing it as usual? Taking a break to enjoy the weather? Running around with last minute summer reading prep?

Let us know where you’re at in the comments, and keep the conversation going on social media by using the hashtag#hubchallenge to post updates on Twitter or by joining the 2015 Goodreads Hub Reading Challenge group.  You have until 11:59 PM EST on June 21st to finish at least 25 books from the official list, and if you participated in the Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge this year, you can count the books that you read for that challenge for this challenge as well.  Also, don’t forget to post the Participant’s Badge on your blog, website, or email signature, and, as always, if you have any questions or problems, let us know in the comments or via email.

If you have already completed the challenge by reading or listening to 25 titles from the list of eligible books, be sure to fill out the form below so we can send you your Challenge Finisher badge, get in touch to coordinate your reader’s response and, perhaps best of all, to notify you if you win our exciting grand prize drawing! Be sure to use an email you check frequently and do not fill out this form until you have completed the challenge by reading 25 titles. 


Tweets of the Week – May 15th

Fri, 05/15/2015 - 07:00

Happy Friday! Here’s your chance to catch up on a week’s worth of social media. For me, the new hashtag I learned this week was #yafeministchat. Check it out!




YA Librarianship/Youth Culture

–Hannah Gómez, currently reading Winterspell by Claire Legrand and listening to Smashed by Koren Zailckas

What Would Jude Read?

Fri, 05/15/2015 - 07:00

I was sold on the television show The Fosters from the moment I saw the previews. A lesbian couple who has also adopted kids and is also a foster family? And their last name is Foster? Shut up and take my money.

I can’t imagine what it would be like to raise five teenagers, especially since each character on this show comes with a truck-load of drama and issues and trauma to boot. One thing is certain: living with five teens would never, ever be boring.

All that being said, Jude is my favorite character.  He’s in junior high, which is the age group I spent six years teaching, and he’s the youngest. In fact, there are several episodes where he doesn’t appear at all, and I find myself looking at my wife and saying, “Did they forget about Jude? Like, did they leave him at home or not pick him up from school or something? Where is that kid?”

Jude has had a rough past, but he is adopted now and has a supportive family that loves him. He’s also slowly coming to the realization that he is gay. With two moms, one would think things would be easy for Jude.  His family is fine with his orientation, but the father of his potential boyfriend most definitely is not. Jude is also quite definitely the youngest child in the family and often seems frustrated when others treat him like a child when he, like his siblings, is already a teenager.

With that in mind, here are the books I would offer to Jude if he was looking for something new to read:

The Eye of Minds by James Dashner (2014 Teens’ Top Ten winner)

Jude’s love of gaming has already been demonstrated on several episodes. He might not be as much of a gamer as the main characters in James Dashner’s The Eye of Minds , but I think he’d still enjoy escaping into their world for a while.

Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg (2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults)

Bill Konigsberg’s Openly Straight is about a character who is out and has a supportive family, but chooses to closet himself when he goes to an all-boys boarding school.  He is trying to see what it would be like not to constantly wave a rainbow flag, but he is finding it more difficult than he imagined. 

One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva

I think Jude would relate to Alek in Michael Barakiva’s One Man Guy. Alek meets a boy who is about as different from him as is possible, yet he finds himself falling for Ethan. This is an adorable story about a pair of boys who fall for each other and have to work out their cultural differences.

Proxy by Alex London (2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults)

Syd is an orphan who has been forced into indentured servitude because of his poverty. He is playing the whipping boy to the spoiled brat Knox, and is even sent to prison because Knox made a foolish decision and accidentally killed someone.  Syd is dealing with the unfairness of his life and manages to escape, only to discover that his fellow runaway is none other than Knox himself, his patron. I think Jude would relate to Syd and the rough things he’s had to deal with.

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson (2014 Teens’ Top Ten winner)

I really enjoyed the audio version of Brandon Sanderson’s Steelheart, and I would love to show Jude how to download the book onto his phone so he could listen to it. David watched as Steelheart, one of the epic supervillains who have taken over the planet, killed his father during a bank robbery. Since then, David has studied the Epics, and he has vowed that he will avenge his father’s death. I think Jude would be drawn to David’s loyalty to his family and would, again, understand how alone David feels at times.

Jude is a pretty quiet character, so it might be hard to judge what he’d want to read without spending more time with him. And knowing my propensity for recommending ALL THE BOOKS, I’d probably give him another two or three (or five or ten) books to choose from, and hopefully he’d find something good to read in the stack.

-Jenni Frencham, currently reading Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

46th Annual Arbuthnot Honor Lecture: Brian Selznick Explores Queerness & The Family in Children’s Books

Wed, 05/13/2015 - 07:00

On Friday evening Brian Selznick delivered the 46th Annual Arbuthnot Honor lecture at Martin Luther King Jr. Library in downtown Washington, D.C.  to a packed house of hundreds of librarians, educators, and youth literature aficionados.  This lecture series was established in 1969 to honor May Hill Arbuthnot, educator, children’s literature critic, professor, and author of both the famous Dick & Jane books and the seminal textbook, Children and Books.  In her introduction, Sue McCleaf Nespeca, chair of the 2015 Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Committee, described their reasons for selecting Mr. Selznick as this year’s lecturer, citing both his groundbreaking The Invention of Hugo Cabret and his powerful speeches in the wake of that book’s awards.  His lecture, titled “Love Is A Dangerous Angel: Thoughts on Queerness and Family in Children’s Books,” promised to be a thrilling additional contribution to children’s literature–and indeed, it was.

Brian Selznick, dressed in a snappy navy blue paisley suit and black bowtie, stepped on stage and thanked his family (including his mother & husband, both in attendance), friends, co-workers, editors, and, finally, the ASL interpreters for the evening, to whom he spoke and signed his gratitude and advance apologies for speaking quickly.  His humor and personalized acknowledgements set the tone for the evening.

He opened his lecture with a quote from the late Maurice Sendak, who gave the Arbuthnot lecture in 2003.  Mr. Selznick noted that Sendak is his “great hero” and when Hugo was awarded the Caldecott Medal, he was especially thrilled that the award would forever link his name to Sendak’s–an honor that the Arbuthnot lecture enriches further.  To begin, he read out the six sections of the first chapter in May Hill Arbuthnot’s Children & Books.  He used these section titles to structure his lecture, artfully intertwining his evolving understanding of his own identity and his career with his thoughts on the shifting visions of queerness and families in children’s books.

He began with “The Need for Security,” reflecting on his own childhood, his emerging attraction to boys, and the absence of role models as he struggled to understand his identity.  “I thought I was alone . . . I didn’t know anyone was gay,”  Selznick exclaimed. “I didn’t know that Michelangelo, or Walt Whitman, or Oscar Wilde, or my favorite artist Leonardo Da Vinci, was gay.  I didn’t know Maurice Sendak and Remy Charlip were both gay!”  This absence of a history and community became a clear and powerful theme that Mr. Selznick explored with increasing width and depth.

During the second section, he focused on “The Need to Achieve – to do or be something worthy” and here the Selznick delved further in the topics mentioned in the lecture’s title: queerness and families in children’s books.  Selznick defined that in this context, ‘queer’ is a slur re-appropriated by the people it has been used against and it has come to mean “any questioning of mainstream society’s received rules and wisdom.” He reflected on his complicated creative and personal struggle to create works that recognize and celebrate queerness.  Then Selznick segued into an contemplation on “created family” as a growing theme in his work first in Hugo and later, in Wonderstruck, a story in which he intentionally explored both created family and  the “queerness of being deaf.”  Selznick saw a similarity between his experience as a young gay boy alienated from a community and history and the experience of many deaf individuals growing up in hearing families separated from a larger world of deafness and a history of deaf people.  He referenced Andrew Solomon’s concept of horizontal identities–identities linked to others outside the families of our childhood.

This conversation transitioned perfectly into the next section,”The Need to Belong”– that human urge to be part of a group, a community, and a history.  Arbuthnot’s original text explaining this topic holds a clear subtext: that sympathetic portrayals of minorities/underrepresented groups existed so that majority (in this case, white) children would learn to understand those different from them.  Selznick noted that while this wasn’t necessarily a bad goal, it is not enough; it is important for the minority children to see themselves represented.  We all need to know that we are not alone–that we are part of a larger history and community.

Selznick gracefully shifted to a discussion about AIDS, gay history, and young adult novels that represent shifts in these topics’ treatment in literature for youth.  To audience’s clear excitement, he announced that his newest novel, The Marvels, will be his first with out gay characters and one of its two narratives takes place in the shadow of the early 1990s AIDS crisis.  Selznick described his struggle to decide whether or not to use the word ‘AIDS’ in the book and, in turn, recalled a novel that made an intense impression on him: 2005 Edwards Award winner Francesca Lia Block’s Weetzie Bat–a story that he describes as “love in the time of AIDS” in which AIDS is never explicitly named.  His love letter to Weetzie Bat was also a paean to research–he told an epic tale of tracing reviews and letters to editor about the novel, of tracking down a librarian seemingly intensely opposed to the novel and chatting with Francesca Lia Block herself. From Weetzie Bat, Selznick went onto discuss David Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy (2004 Best Books for Young Adults) Two Boys Kissing (2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults) and the evolving history of LGBTQ teen experiences and generational shifts, gaps, and conversations as illustrated in those two novels.  Again, Selznick emphasized the importance of knowing–and recording–communal histories of oppressed and underrepresented peoples.  “Having a history gives you scaffolding, it builds you up,” he stated.

On the topic of shared cultural history, Selznick shared that he had recently read the Bible from cover to cover.  He had come to see it as “a collection of stories about what it means to be human.”  Selznick went on to share thoughts on the message of love in the New Testament and on the painful ways that the Bible has been used to justify hatred and violence–including the highly relevant example of the case of Loving v. Virginia.  And again, Selznick brought it all back to his declared topics of discussion–queerness and families.  We are reaching another moment in history when the question of who gets to decide the definition of a ‘family’ has returned to the Supreme Court and Selznick declared that the answer is very simple: families will decide what families are.

And with final references to Mary Norton’s The Borrowers, gay family history, queerness in books without any out gay characters, role models, and “The Need to Love and to be Loved,” Brian Selznick closed out his lecture, ending with these final poignant words:

“In the beginning was the word. The end is a mystery.  

And in between, there’s love.”

Happily, the D.C. Public Library recorded the lecture and it is available online here.  I really recommend that viewing it in full because it is a powerful and thought-provoking speech for anyone invested in literature for children and young adults.

-Kelly Dickinson, currently reading Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier


Study Break Books: Books for when you really don’t have time to be reading.

Tue, 05/12/2015 - 07:00

It’s AP Exams season where I work, and finals time for many a college and high school. Which means legions of bleary-eyed students trying to summon up the discipline for a last surge of studying, even though they just want to be done. The sunshine is calling. I hear it too, and even though I’m well past the exam-taking phase of life, I’m still in crunch mode, trying to power through to many deadlines.

For the dedicated bookworms among us, studying for exams generally requires two sets of reading; the materials we’re actually supposed to be reviewing, and the reading we sneak for “study breaks.” This is a calculated strategy (no, really!) designed to achieve the perfect balance of discipline and release, allowing us to get all the necessary reviewing in while also getting enough of a break to feel revived and ready for…still more reviewing. Because the internet and everything that lives there can rapidly turn into a vast time-suck, all responsible students (and worker-bees) know: if you’re serious about getting something done, you have to stay (temporarily) signed out of all the stuff, especially this close to the finish line. And the pitfalls of streaming-binges are obvious, so the TV’s got to stay off too (as do the game consoles).

But a book…a book feels studious, even if what we’re reading isn’t likely to show up on any exams, or help cross anything off a task list.

So. What to read when you don’t really have time to be reading at all, but you absolutely must get a little escape in if you have any hope of staying motivated long enough to cover everything you’ve still got to do?

Unless you are a reader with very good self-discipline, novels are probably out. Novels are what we get to read when everything on the task list is actually done, when grades are in, school is out, and your to-do list is all inked-out lines.

Page count matters when you’re on a deadline. Short-ish graphic novels and short story collections are what we need when time is at a premium; pieces vivid enough to truly escape into, and short enough that we emerge from our work-respite refreshed and ready to dive back into the task at hand.

Here, then, are some suggestions for quick escapes, to tide you over until the freedom of summer is a reality, and not just a highly-anticipated future fantasy.

Lips Touch, Three Times by Laini Taylor. Are you a fan of sweeping fantasy shot through with romance, like Taylor’s epic Daughter of Smoke and Bone series? Well, here are three short stories about three different girls who’ve never been kissed, told in Taylor’s distinct, dramatic style, with brief page counts (but high pulse rates). A 2010 Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults book.

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll. This is an I’m-too-busy-to-read jackpot of a book; short chapters in graphic format, thematically connected to make one creepy wave of foreboding descend over the reader. Gorgeous colors, stick-with-you-after-dark frames, and spare, haunting prose combine to make this 2015 Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens pick a fast – but memorable – escape into the murky depths of the woods.

The Eternal Smile by Gene Luen Yang. This is another short story/graphic novel hybrid, with three distinct tales showcasing Yang’s mastery of the form. For stories so short, these reach serious emotional heights, exploring big, sticky ideas with compassion and humor. A 2010 Best Books for Young Adults pick.

Zombies vs. Unicorns, edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier. Certainly one of the most entertaining questions of our time, answered in alternately amusing, creepy, horrifying, and moving stories by an, ahem, veritable stable of YA’s most celebrated authors: Alaya Dawn Johnson, Maureen Johnson, Carrie Ryan, Scott Westerfeld, Meg Cabot, Garth Nix, Diana Peterfreund, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, and more. A 2011 Teens Top Ten nominee, and, as an audiobook, a 2012 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults pick.

Black Juice by Margo Lanagan. Margo Lanagan builds strange, vaguely sinister worlds peopled with slightly off-kilter characters. If you like your fairy tales more Grimm than not, she’s definitely an author you should be reading, and this is one of her most celebrated collections. A 2006 Printz Honor book, and a 2006 Best Books for Young Adults pick.

Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson. See Carli Spina’s awesome post on this year’s Eisner nominations for more about this origin story that is a great mash-up of tried and true comic tropes and some much-need new angles.

These are just a few suggestions for those times when you really really don’t have time to start a new book, but you’re going to anyway (full disclosure: my college “study break” reading of choice was Harry Potter, over and over again, but I cannot in good conscious recommend that as a “quick” break, because I always got sucked in 100 pages longer than I’d budgeted for!). What are some short, quick reads you’re excited to fit in when there’s really no time to fit anything else?

-Carly Pansulla, currently reading Vango by Timothée de Fombelle