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Set a Goal and Read: The Beauty of Large Reading Projects

Tue, 07/22/2014 - 07:00

photo by flickr user msbhaven

Ah, summer. The time for lazy reading by the pool, picking up whichever book strikes your fancy… or frantically completing long summer reading assignments. It depends on who your teachers are.

I definitely had a couple of long, involved reading assignments during my school years, most notably the summer before I started college. It was strongly suggested that we read an abridged version of Don Quixote before term started. Being the rule follower that I am, I went to the library and could only find the unabridged version… so that’s what I read. Even with that experience, though, something about summer brings out my enthusiasm for planning large reading projects.

What do I mean by a large reading project? Well, make no mistake, I completely believe in reading for fun and pursuing those reading materials that interest you. And my reading projects are materials that interest me, but they are those items that I never seem to get around to in the course of my normal reading: really long, thick novels that don’t automatically call to me when I flop down on the couch at night, for example, or lists of books that I wouldn’t remember to get to if I weren’t intentional about it. 

Here are some of my completed reading projects from years past:

All of these were books that I genuinely wanted to read. But Anna Karenina (like many other “classics”) is of an imposing size, and takes some time before you start to really identify with any of the characters (I ended up loving it). The Marsden series took awhile to track down, including having to request that my library purchase 2 of the 3 Ellie Chronicles, which follow the Tomorrow series proper. Poetry can require more thought than I’m often willing to put into my reading without prepping myself beforehand. I had to make them into projects to get them read.

I’m currently working my way through these projects:

  • Read Les yeux jaunes des crocodiles, a French novel, in French (although I have a translation handy to refer to after reading a section in French).
  • Read all six of Jane Austen’s completed novels.
  • Read a selection of questions from Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae. This is a project to let me get a small picture of the reading my husband does regularly.

Of these, only one is what I would call “active” mode. I am currently reading through the Aquinas book, trying to read a little each day (then picking up my mystery novel once I have!). I’ve read five of the six Austen novels, but I don’t know when I’ll get to the sixth. I started the French novel last fall, and it fell by the wayside, but I hope to pick it back up later this summer.

Obviously, my project reading is not a model of efficiency. Everyone’s reading style is different– see this Hub post about reading habits to get an idea of the variety. Still, I like having projects to work on along with my regular reading because they help me broaden my reading and read books that I might not otherwise. I never seem to have trouble coming up with projects, and certainly have several in mind for the future:

What about you? Do you have assigned summer reading projects? Do you have your own reading projects that you are working on? I love to hear about other people’s reading projects… they give me more ideas for future projects!

-Libby Gorman, currently reading Holy Teaching: Introducing the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas by Frederick Christian Bauerschmidt and The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith aka J.K. Rowling

Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 07:00

I love books and I love music. That being said, it should not be a surprise to learn that I am a big fan of crossovers between the two.

The Hub is no stranger to this fantastic pairing, either: every Wednesday Diane Colson shares with us a book-and-song match in her Jukebooks series, Jennifer Rummel recently used country music as the basis for a booklist, and I referenced my love of book-themed playlists in a previous post.

While scanning through a list of new YA releases recently, I couldn’t help noticing that many of the titles seemed awfully familiar: quite a few of them share (or are very similar to) titles of songs. They may not be similar topically as the pairings in Diane’s posts, but there is no denying that some of these will have you humming the second you see the covers:

Since You’ve Been Gone

When you hear the title of this contemporary story of best friends, summer vacation, and list completion from author Morgan Matson, you may immediately think of Kelly Clarkson’s 2004 chart-topper, “Since U Been Gone.”


(Don’t You) Forget About Me

This new release from Kate Karyus Quinn is a near-match for the Simple Minds classic “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” but that is where the similarities end between this suspense-filled mystery and The Breakfast Club’s theme. Additionally, Quinn’s debut Another Little Piece immediately resulted in Janis Joplin singing “Piece of My Heart” in my head.



This is the fifteenth installment of Sara Shepard’s Pretty Little Liars series. The title of this scandalous novels cries out for you to sing along to Britney Spears’ 2003 hit of the same name.


Take Me On

So, are you all humming the intro to a-ha’s “Take On Me” right now? In case you are not familiar, Kate McGarry’s newest release in the Pushing the Limits series shares its name with a very well-known lyric: “Take on me / Take me on / I’ll be gone / In a day or two”

Go ahead about hit those high notes as you sing along:



Hashtags may be a recent trend, but we’re head back to the eighties for this title share. Do you think author Sarah Ockler listened to this Queen song while writing?

A few more to check out:

Wicked Games by Sean Olin / “Wicked Game” by Chris Isaak
In the End by Demitria Lunetta / “In the End” by Linkin Park
Wanted: Dead or in Love by Kym Brunner / “Wanted: Dead or Alive” by Bon Jovi
Push by Eve Silver / “Push” by Matchbox 20
Shimmer by Paula Weston / “Shimmer” by Fuel


The title of this post is a reference to a song by The Smiths and a similarly-titled 2008 YA book by David Yoo!

- Jessica Lind, currently reading Graceling by Kristin Cashore

The Monday Poll: Your Favorite Assigned Summer Reading

Sun, 07/20/2014 - 23:22

photo by flickr user Patrick Gage Kelley

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, we asked which fictional summer camp you’d like to attend. Most of you are packing your bags for Camp Half-Blood as featured in Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books, which captured a whopping 66% 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!

This week, we are still on our summer-themed kick, and we want to know about your favorite assigned summer reading from high school. Whether you’re still in high school or simply reliving fond memories, what assigned books stood out to you over those long, lazy summers? Did you grimace and groan at the thought of reading something for school even though class wasn’t in session, or did you welcome the chance to have your eyes opened to a book you might not have otherwise chosen? I admit, I was never very pleased to interrupt my avid pleasure reading with assigned titles, but there were a few pleasant surprises along the way. We’ve supplied some common assigned summer reading titles in the poll below, but please add your choice in the comments if we missed it!

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

Cool Comics Picks (and Zombies!)

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 07:00

Hello again, my dear Hubbers!  I’m back again for a round-up of my favorite new-ish comics to share with you!  Yes, I know, I was supposed to do a post on the newest topic in my SuperMOOC comics series, but to tell you the truth, I am super behind on my MOOC.  Who knew that this “Summer Reading” thing would take up so much of my time?  Ha!  So, instead, I’m happy to give you a list of a few of my new favorite titles that will definitely appeal to a whole gamut of comics readers.  From weird Guardians to zombies to our (well, my, I guess) favorite, Mr. Batman, himself, I hope that you’ll be excited to jump into the deep end of the comics pool.  Join me, won’t you?  As always, we start with Batman!

Batman, Volume 4:  Zero Year – Secret City by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo & Danny Miki:  Zero Year is a fun place for both Batman fans and non-fans alike to jump into the current story line that Scott & Greg have created.  Zero Year is going way, way back to how poor little rich boy, Bruce Wayne, not only became Batman, but what that first year was like for him after he decided to don the cape and cowl.  A nefarious group calling themselves the Red Hood Gang have descended on Gotham, determined to take the city down, no matter what it takes.  They also wear these red cone like things on their heads – very amusing, if you ask me.  But they are deadly and will stop at nothing to bring the city to its knees.  However, one thing they didn’t count on was Batman – well, he isn’t known as Batman yet.  So, they weren’t counting on a guy in a suit that looks like a bat.  A fun and fast paced story that readers can jump right into and get hooked – and, trust me, they will get hooked.  Plus – bonus!  Early Edward Nygma, and we all know who he turns in to, right?  (It’s the Riddler, by the way!).

Afterlife with Archie:  Book One by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa & Francesco Francavilla:  If you’re anything like me, you love zombies.  Zombies are the best!  Hilarious and sad and utterly terrifying.  Now imagine if two award-winning comics people took your favorite kids from Riverdale and zombified them!  Well, your dreams have come true.  Unfortunately, the zombie plague has hit Riverdale after some sorcery involving Jughead and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.  Also, unfortunately, Archie and his pals have had to escape for their lives all the way to Veronica’s house.  The 3rd unfortunately is that Jughead is the new leader of the zombie army, and he and his zombie followers know just where to go for maximum brain consumption – yup, you guessed it – Veronica’s house.  This is a wonderfully creepy take on our favorite teens.  I loved it, and I don’t even like Archie!

Avengers Assemble by Brian Michael Bendis & Mark Bagley:  So, I guess I kind of like the Avengers.  I mean, I really liked the movie, and all, but I haven’t taken a lot of time to read the associated comics.  I decided to pick up this new-ish title because I heard it was good.  And, it is – it’s funny and action packed and it has a guest appearance by the newest (or soon to be, at least) Marvel movie stars – the Guardians of the Galaxy!  This is basically a star filled mash-up of the Avengers and Guardians trying to defeat the dreaded Thanos.  For fans of the Avengers, this is the perfect book that displays the same sort of hilarious hijinks and Hulk/Iron Man bromance that the movie fans will love.  For readers who’d like to get some Guardians of the Galaxy action, this book brings them to hilarious life on Earth and beyond.  C’mon – it’s got a talking raccoon in it.  What more do I have to say?

Mara by Brian Wood, Ming Doyle & Jordie Bellaire:  In a future where sports and war are what is most important in the society, volleyball player, Mara, is the star that shines the brightest.  She’s beautiful, plays an awesome game and inspires her country and teammates alike.  She is beloved throughout the world until, one day, the world gets a look at superpowers that she would rather stay hidden.  With her brother off fighting in dangerous war zones and those who once embraced her now pushing her away, Mara is isolated and alone.  But, she won’t let them forget who she is.  She’ll make the world notice her now, and if they thought she was powerful before, the world is in for a big surprise.  A great futuristic read with an interesting and intriguing main character, Brian Wood really brings Mara to life, and readers will root for her every step of the way.

Well, I hope this list of my new faves will whet your appetite for graphic literature.  And, don’t give up hope – I might catch up on my SuperMOOC in the time being so as to get back on track with my examination of those themes.  But… I might not!  That doesn’t mean that I won’t be back to give you more of my comics and graphic novel recommendations, though, whether you want them or not!  See you next time – same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel!

P.S. For more graphic novel reading pleasure, check out YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens lists.

–Traci Glass, currently reading The Perfectionists by Sara Shepard

Tweets of the Week: July 18th

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 07:00

Summer is in full force. If you’re a public library, your Summer Reading Program is probably in full swing: programs, readers look for books, and readers picking up reading incentives.  If you’re a school librarian, I hope that you’re having a great summer. Either way, if you’re crazy busy this summer, here are some tweets you might have missed this week.

Upcoming Event:  @sljournal Hottest books, coolest authors. SummerTeen is next week! Register FREE today:  #sljst


Cover Reveals




Just for Fun

~ Jennifer Rummel, currently reading Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

Popular Paperbacks: Movies, Mysteries and More

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 07:00

The excitement this summer for YA books turned blockbusters like The Fault in Our Stars is only just beginning. The If I Stay (2010 Best Books for Young Adults) and The Giver movies both come out this August, with many, many more of our favorite YA titles being optioned for films or currently in development.  Which makes this the perfect time to check out YALSA’s Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults nominees for its 2015 list Books to Movies: Ripped from the Pages. You’ll probably find your favorite titles that have already been adapted for the silver screen (or will be soon).

Each year YALSA’s Popular Paperbacks committee creates lists filled with books that are in paperback (important for those budget conscious) and are interesting and engaging reads on a broad range of themes and genres. We also strive for our lists to have diverse characters and authors that reflect the different background and experiences of the teens we serve. The other 2015 lists are Mysteries: Murder, Mayhem, and Other Adventures (for the whodunit fans), Lock Up: Teens Behind Bars (for contemporary fiction fans) and Narrative Non-Fiction: Inspired by Actual Events (for history buffs and biography fans).

The other great thing about Popular Paperbacks is that this committee accepts and loves to receive field suggestions for any of our lists. We want our lists to be as inclusive and exhaustive as possible so the more nominations we receive the better our list will be. Popular Paperback’s nomination criteria is simple too, be currently available in paperback, have appeal to teens 12-18, not on a previous Popular Paperback list in the last five years and fit the theme of the list being nominating for. The most exciting part is anyone can put forth suggestions for the committee to consider– non-YALSA members or librarians, teen readers, parents, grandparents, anyone! Head to YALSA’s Popular Paperbacks page to get more information or to start suggesting your favorite book to movie or mystery titles.

- Amanda Margis, currently reading Design, Make, Play, edited by Margaret Honey and David E. Kanter and listening to Rebel Heart by Moria Young

Jukebooks: When Mr. Dog Bites by Brian Conaghan

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 07:00

It can be hard to make friends when you have Tourette’s Syndrome. Filthy words explode from your mouth, unbidden. But Dylan Mist is lucky in that respect. His best friend, Amir, accepts and understands his outbursts. So when Dylan comes to believe he has only a few months to live, he makes a bucket list:

1. Have real sexual intercourse with a girl.

2. Fight heaven and earth, tooth and nail, dungeons and dragons, for my mate Amir to stop getting called names about the color of his skin. Stop people slagging him all the time because he smells like a big pot of curry. And help him find a new best friend.

3. Get Dad back from the war before…you-know-what happens.

Many adventures take place in pursuit of these goals. For one, Dylan and Amir go to the school’s Halloween party (as characters from the Reservoir Dogs). It’s not exactly their scene. As they sip warm, carbonated drinks, the boys survey the dance floor. Dylan notes:

The Beyonce song where she talks about having a rock the size of a grape on her finger was playing. This was a song all the girls seem to love; they loved it so much that they all pointed to their ring fingers when they were dancing as if all the men should go out and spend their hard-earned cash on a bloody silly sparkle ring. Stupid song. Stupid dance. Stupid message. And, as I expected, all the dudes and walking wounded hovered around the edges of the dance floor/gym hall with nothing to do. p253

The girls do love that song! “All the Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” struck a nerve with its saucy lyrics and punchy, upbeat melody. Released in 2008, Rolling Stone magazine named it the best song of the year. The recording below is from the 2011 Glastonbury Festival.

Summer Reading: Vacation Destination Books

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 07:00

Photo by flickr user george.bremer

It’s summertime! And if you’re anything like me, that means finding a spot to curl up with a cool breeze, a tall glass of something iced, and a stack of good books. Now, I don’t always match my reading to the season, but sometimes I like my books to feel like an extension of the atmosphere I’m experiencing, rather than an escape from it. Especially if I’m lucky enough to be on vacation (or happily anticipating one); sometimes I want to read all about other people having the same disruption to routine that vacations bring, living outside of their regular schedules. And sometimes, y’know, I just want to savor the season as much as possible: sun, sand, water, just-picked fruits and veggies – celebrate the many incarnations of a summer vacation with the following vacation-themed reading.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Destination: Private island estate

This is the book that prompted  the whole list of summer destination-themed titles; I devoured it in a single sitting (with a pitcher of iced tea, natch) and upon finishing was, a) blown away by the plotting – avoid spoilers!- and b) immediately ready for absolutely everything in my life to be summer-themed, because the setting was so deliciously drawn. Cady, our protagonist, is returning to her family’s summer retreat on a private island after spending the last two years away. She is suffering from excruciating migraines and trying to reclaim the easy, uncomplicated rhythms of the vacations she shared with her cousins in summers past, but she’s hindered by memory loss. As the incomplete flashbacks of previous years on the island draw the mystery closer to the dormant truth, the pages go by faster and faster until the truly shocking finale.


This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

Destination: Lakeside cottage

This is the first collaboration between cousins Mariko and Jillian Tamaki since 2008’s much-lauded Skim (a personal favorite and a 2009 Best Books for Young Adults top ten selection), and like that nuanced, thoughtful graphic novel, this nuanced, thoughtful graphic novel is equally beautiful, with pitch-perfect dialogue and a subdued palette awash in blues and purples. The fully-realized characters are visibly bubbling over with complex, rich emotions, their relationships displayed with all the hesitations and missteps of real life. The gorgeously rendered scenes are alive with all the details of small beach town life; the magnificence of plunging into the water on a warm day, the lazy delights of an afternoon indoors after too much sun, the importance of marshmallows at a bonfire. I swear I could hear the gulls while I read.


Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

Destination: Private estate (non-island variety)

Bittersweet is an adult-market title told entirely from the point of view of nineteen year-old Mabel, who has been invited to spend the summer at the vacation compound (it’s like We Were Liars; everyone gets their own cottage) of her roommate from freshmen year of college, the unbelievably named Genevra Winslow. She then proceeds to unearth some fairly juicy details about the various members of her host family, and the book picks up steam as a veritable soap opera of bad behavior and buried secrets, all the while dispensing summer picnics, swimming sessions, and sudden rainstorms amidst all the drama.


Summer of Firsts and Lasts by Terra Elan McVoy

Destination: Camp

If you’ve ever been to camp, you undoubtedly have your own specific, nostalgia-drenched memories of exactly how things were done, and if you haven’t, The Summer of Firsts and Lasts will paint a vivid picture for you, from three distinct perspectives. Calla, Violet, and Daisy are sisters all attending camp together, Calla as an administrative assistant, and Violet and Daisy as campers, Daisy for the first time. As the three navigate their own summer experiences (Calla is trying to work up the nerve to tell another long-time camper about her feelings for him, Violet is taking the camp’s rules more as suggested guidelines than hard and fast rules), their stories intertwine and overlap, and the smell of a campfire practically wafts off the page.


The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani

Destination: Camp (with horses!)

Another adult-market title with a teen protagonist, this one shipped off to the titular riding camp after she does something decidedly unapproved of at home. Only, where most of the girls at camp are just there for the summer, Thea has been informed by her father that it’s unclear when she’ll be “ready” to come home (this one does meander off-list a bit, as it includes seasons other than summer, but the primary atmosphere is definitely summertime). Set in the 1930s southeast, this is a historical fiction novel and a coming of age novel all in one, with some school story elements thrown in for good measure. Thea is determined to experience the fullness of life but confused about the best way to go about it; the resulting story is both tender and occasionally provocative.


What are your favorite books set in a summertime vacation destination? Let me know in the comments your picks for warm weather reads; happy summertime reading!

-Carly Pansulla, currently reading One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson

ALA Annual 2014: Stranger Than Fiction: Reader’s Advisory for Nonfiction

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 07:00

One of best programs I attended at the recent ALA Annual Conference in Vegas was the very popular session on Monday afternoon presented by Jennie Rothschild and Angela Frederick called Stranger Than Fiction: Reader’s Advisory for Nonfiction.

It seems like everyone’s talking about nonfiction these days because of the emphasis on the Common Core. Rothschild and Frederick suggested a large number of interesting and appealing nonfiction titles for teens, many from YALSA’s award and selection lists like the Alex Award, Excellence in Nonfiction Award, Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, and Outstanding Books for the College Bound. They also had a lot of suggestions for great nonfiction read-alikes for popular fiction titles.

The books they recommended are notable for their interesting subject areas that can be read for pleasure, not just for assignments; have appealing layout/style or design, and, despite that so many are published for adults, still have great teen appeal. Rothschild noted that since there isn’t a lot of teen nonfiction published compared to children’s and adult, teens are used to reading up or down. Many of the nonfiction titles are notable for their narrative style that reads like fiction and the fact that they complement so many popular fiction books.

Here are some of the highlights:

Subject read-alikes for Bomb: The Race to Build –And Steal –The World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin (YALSA 2013 Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, 2013 Sibert Award Winner, 2013 Newbery Honor Winner; National-book-award-finalist for Young People’s Literature):



  • The Ultimate Weapon: The Race to Develop the Atomic Bomb by Edward T. Sullivan (YA)
  • Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm, graphic novel (adults and older teens)
  • The Radioactive Boy Scout by Ken Silverstein (adult)
  • The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Keiran (adult)

Narrative-style read-alikes:

Subject read-alikes for Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach (adult), YALSA’s 2014 Outstanding Books for the College Bound (OBCB):




  • How I Killed Pluto: And Why it Had it Coming by Mike Brown (adult) YALSA’s 2014 OBCB list
  • The Mighty Mars Rovers: the Incredible Adventures of Spirit and Opportunity by Elizabeth Rusch (Middle Grade)

Narrative style read-alikes:

Subject read-alikes for Scandalous! 50 Shocking Events You Should Know About (So You Can Impress Your Friends) by Hallie Fryd




  • Jim Thorp by Joseph Bruchac (Middle Grade)
  • Eight Men Out: the Black Sox and the 1919 World Series by Eliot Asinof (adult)
  • All the President’s Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (adult)
  • Bullets, Bombs and Fast Talk: 25 Years of FBI War Stories by James Botting (adult) (Includes two scandals from Scandalous: Patty Hearst & Branch Davidians cult)
  • Leaving Glorytown: One Boy’s Struggle Under Castro by Eduardo F. Calcines (Middle Grade)
  • The World of Gloria Vanderbilt by Wendy Goodman (adult)

Narrative Reads-alikes for Scandalous:

  • Math Doesn’t Suck: How to Survive Middle School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail by Danica McKellar (Middle Grade)
  • Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon (Adult) YALSA’s 2014 OBCB list
  • Historical Heartthrobs: 50 Timeless Crushes from Cleopatra to Camus by Kelly Murphy & Hallie Fryd (YA)
  • The Economics Book Explained (DK) (adult)
  • Can I See Your ID?: True Stories of False Identities by Chris Barton  (Middle Grade)
  • Big Ideas Simply Explained (series) by various authors from DK publishers (adult)

Readalikes for The Fault in Our Stars by John Green:

Rothschild and Frederick presented a lot more great books than I have space to list here. To see their entire list, including references to other places to find lists of great nonfiction for teens, see their handout on their website.

I guarantee teens (and adults) who think they don’t like nonfiction will find something on this extensive list that will appeal to them. Thank you, Jennie and Angela, for your fun and informative presentation!

-Sharon Rawlins, currently reading The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

Bastille Day 2014

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 07:00

photo by Flickr user Yann Caradec

Today is Bastille Day – a French holiday commemorating the beginning of the French Revolution in the late eighteenth century. On this date in 1789, crowds stormed a prison known as the Bastille, broke it open, and released the prisoners inside. Since the prison was symbolic of the powers of the king, its fall marked the beginning of the revolution, and the downfall of the monarchy.

If you are interested in viewing this part of French history through fiction, or if you are simply a Francophile and enjoy any stories set in “Marianne,” there are many wonderful books to choose from. Grab a café au lait and a croissant, get comfortable, and consider any of these half dozen titles to get you started.

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly (2011 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults)
Andi is a modern day New York teen, forced to spend her winter break in Paris with her father. She’s angry at the world after the death of her little brother, and nothing seems to be able to get her to care about anything. While in Paris, Andi finds a journal belonging to a young actress named Alexandrine and finds comfort in its words. Alexandrine won’t mind her privacy being invaded – she lived more than 200 years ago, during the French Revolution. As Andi reads about Alexandrine’s struggles, she feels herself growing closer to the actress until one night, their two personalities seem to merge. Has Andi traveled through time?

Just One Day by Gayle Forman
Allyson is at the end of her three week, post-graduation trip in Europe. She’s a meticulous, careful, thoughtful person and her trip has been the same – well planned, not a detail left to chance. When she meets Willem, a lively, itinerant actor, and he invites her to spend a day with him in Paris, she should say no. This is not on her itinerary! But Allyson says yes, and has an amazing 24 hour adventure with Willem in the City of Lights; romantic, risky, fun, exciting, and challenging. Maybe breaking out of her careful plans is the best thing that could happen to her.

The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner
An unusual group of people band together during the French Revolution. Yann, a young, gypsy orphan works for a magician, along with Tetu, a dwarf who is Yann’s guardian. When the magician is murdered, and Yann’s life is threatened, Tetu and Yann should flee France. But the Revolution is beginning, and a lovely young noble woman to whom Yann is attached, Sido, is in danger, precluding his escape from the Terror.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults)
A fun love-story that includes wonderful descriptions of the City Of Lights and life within it. Anna is very upset at her father for sending her to a Parisian boarding school for her senior year. But after she meets the charming Etienne, she thinks life in Paris might not be so bad after all. It’s a pity Etienne has a girlfriend… 

The Ruby Notebook by Laura Resau
Zeeta and her mother travel the world, settling in a different country every year. This year they are in France, and while her mother teaches English, sixteen year old Zeeta studies, writes in her notebook, makes friends with a group of street performers, and finds she has a secret admirer (whom she calls her fantôme). While on a quest for a mysterious, underground spring that is said to give immortal life, Zeeta and her love Wendell question their own relationship, try to discover the nature of love itself, and get an enormous surprise when they discover Zeeta’s fantôme’s identity.

Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross (2014 Morris Award finalist)
Maude, like many teens, dreams of a glamorous life in the big city. She runs away from home to Paris, where she quickly runs out of money. But in the late nineteenth century, when this story is set, plain-looking girls could get jobs as repoussoirs, beauty foils, girls who accompany young nobles to make the nobles look more beautiful in contrast. Maude’s young noble, Isabelle, has no idea Maude is her foil. She enjoys Maude’s company and a real friendship grows. Should Maude come clean to Isabelle? If she does, her job will certainly end, and she’ll be out on the streets. But if she continues the charade, she’ll be lying to a girl who has come to mean a lot to her.

~ Geri Diorio, currently reading Neuromancer by William Gibson

The Monday Poll: Let’s Go to Summer Camp

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 00:28

photo by flickr user cheeseslave

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, we asked about your favorite summer romance in YA lit. 32% of you chose The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen, 23% are partial to Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson, and 20% are swooning over This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith. You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted!

This week, we’re sticking with the summer theme, but taking our questions to the great outdoors. There are lots of amazing summer camps depicted in YA lit. Which one would you pack your bags for? Vote in the poll below or add your choice in the comments!

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

On Walter Dean Myers

Sun, 07/13/2014 - 07:00

On July 2, the world lost a visionary, revolutionary, and influential member of the YA community: Walter Dean Myers (1994 Edwards Award). His death at 76 has affected the whole field, but more importantly, his body of work impacted all who read his books.

Some Hub bloggers have fond memories of reading or teaching his books:

Becky O’Neil
I really liked Lockdown (2011 YALSA Quick Pick) by Walter Dean Myers. It’s a good book for a guy reluctant reader (the language and tone are simple and straightforward), especially one who romanticizes a life of crime. The book’s greatest strength is its unblinking look at how hard it can be to get back on the right track once you have a record and not much hope of a better life on the outside…even if you’re only in juvie. I really liked this quote: “Every time [the other inmates] see somebody who looks like he might break the cycle and do something with his life, they want to pull him back in. Especially if you look like them, if you come from the same environment they come from. If you turn your life around, you’re putting the blame on them for not turning theirs around.”

Brandi Smits
I remember reading The Glory Field and Fallen Angels (1989 YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, 1998 Popular Paperbacks, Quick Picks) when I was younger. I was so inspired by the complexity of the stories and being surprised that they were written for my age group. These two titles awakened my need to read books that make you think long after you close the cover. Thank you, Mr. Myers.

Libby Gorman
When I read (actually, listened to) Monster (2000 Printz Award, 2000 YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, 2000 YALSA Quick Pick) during library school, it was an eye-opening experience. I’ve since thought back to that book when a good friend was charged with a crime. People are so multi-faceted that any crime committed is going to have many angles–but the media (and people with a particular agenda) often don’t want us to examine all the angles. I think showing us different angles of the human experience was one of Mr. Myers’ gifts.

Hannah Gómez
While I can appreciate many of Myers’ books, the one that spoke to me most when I was young was Brown Angels (ALSC Notable Book), his collection of poems set to accompany vintage photographs. It was a simple idea, but what made it fresh and validating was that all the children were black or brown, and instead of being posed-for, retouched, shopping mall photo studio portraits, the children in them look real, messy, diverse, and alive. And the poems are just beautiful. I also loved At Her Majesty’s Request, which shone a light on an unknown African princess who was received at Queen Victoria’s court.

Diane Colson
Walter Dean Myers’ novel Scorpions transformed my understanding of what it means to grow up in a poor, urban neighborhood. The story focuses on twelve-year-old Jamal, who lives in Harlem with his mother and younger sister. His older brother, Randy, is in prison, but still trying mastermind his gang, the Scorpions. Jamal wants nothing to do with the Scorpions, but he gets thrust forward as the possible leader in Randy’s absence. He starts to carry a gun. From the outside, Jamal appears to be headed for violence, crime, and a prison stay of his own.

But this story is not about a gang-banger. It’s about a confused boy who wants to do the right thing. His dreams have nothing to do with gang life. He and his best friend, Tito, like to walk down to the boat basin and imagine owning one of the boats. Even as Jamal is on his way to confront one of the scariest Scorpion members, Tito asks if they are going to let girls come on their boat. “Only movie stars,” Jamal replies.

I love the way that Jamal was a twelve-year-old boy FIRST. However frightening his life becomes, he still thinks like a twelve-year-old. This opened my heart in a place that I hadn’t even realized was closed. Kids are kids are kids. That was the gift I received from Scorpions.

What are your favorite Walter Dean Myers books?

–Hannah Gómez, currently reading Blessing’s Bead by Debby Dahl Edwardson