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What Would They Read?: New Girl

Mon, 06/29/2015 - 07:00

If anyone could appreciate creating lists of books for their favorite TV and movie characters, it’s Jessica Day.  She would probably assign book suggestions to her stuffed animals and then present them in the form of a jaunty song.  While we patiently wait for the next season to start up, I thought I would compile a list of books that the characters of New Girl would enjoy.

New Girl provides a large cast of characters that are so over-the-top that it feels authentic.  I mean, who wouldn’t want to play a round of “True American” and climb atop furniture while spouting random historical facts?  For those who are not familiar with the premise for the show, it’s fairly simple.  Jess answers an ad in Craigslist and moves in with three guys, Nick, Schmidt, and Winston.  The guys are not used to living with a girl, and Jess turns out to be much more than they expected.  Jess has several quirks that set her apart from the other girls they know, but it soon comes out that they have their own bizarre traits as well.

If you haven’t seen the show, I suggest watching it immediately.  After watching an episode or twelve, come on back and see what books each character would read.

Jess – While this title is a bit on the older side of YA lit, I would not be surprised if Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli was sitting on Jess’s shelf.  Stargirl wears granny dresses and plays the ukelele, which are two things I would most definitely see Jess doing as well.  Jess has a celebratory air about her and she would relate immensely to a girl who wants to do her own thing, despite how many people around her wish she would just conform to the rest of the crowd.  In a similar vein, I would also give Jess Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick.  Amber Appleton would most assuredly be buds with Jess and Stargirl, but this book skews slightly into drama when Amber’s story is revealed.  

Nick –Nick is simultaneously clinging onto his more immature, responsibility-free past as well as conducting himself in a manner resembling an old man.  He is quite the juxtaposition.  Aside from working at a bar, Nick has been slaving over a book for quite some time.  Knowing of his obsession with his zombie book, I would definitely recommend some zombie titles.  Although, it’s hard to pick just one.  I would bury him in zombie stories including Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry, Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion, Zom-B by Darren Shan, and The Infects by Sean Beaudoin.  Also, I’d throw in Spanking Shakespeare by Jake Wizner.  It’s not about zombies, but it’s about a teen who is trying to write his memoir.  The humor and personality of Shakespeare is something Nick would enjoy.

Schmidt – Schmidt is one of those guys who can have a talk show about absolutely nothing but in which he talks for 45 minutes straight.  I would watch that show every day despite that fact and I would probably get slightly offended and would be interested in actually slapping some sense into him.  He tries to overcompensate for the fact that he used to be overweight.  Now that he’s in shape, dressing better, and catching the eyes of the ladies, Schmidt is ready to capitalize on it.  There are two books that I would recommend to Schmidt.  The first is Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have by Allen Zadoff.  This recommendation, which goes to the past teenage Schmidt, is about a boy who joins the football team in order to get more popular and possibly lose some weight.  The second book goes to the trendy, current Schmidt.  For this Schmidt, I would suggest So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld which is a book about a boy who is tasked with finding the newest trends before they become old news.

Winston – Winston is constantly struggling to figure out what he’s supposed to do now that he’s done playing basketball in Latvia.  He tries out broadcasting for a bit and then decides he really wants to be a police officer.  Sometimes you just know a book that someone should read.  I feel that way with Winston.  I would give Winston 100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith.  In this book, Finn analyzes his life and the course it has gone.  He was hit by a horse that fell off a bridge; an incident that killed his mother.  Ever since the accident, he has dealt with epilepsy.  What connected this book to Winston is Finn’s battle to understand who he really is.  Finn’s father wrote a best-selling novel in which Finn is the main character and an alien.  While I don’t think that Winston is an alien, I think that he would enjoy Finn and his crazy friend Cade.

Cece – Cece is Jess’s best bud and go-to female when she has questions her male roommates cannot answer. Cece is a model and instantly grabs Schmidt’s attention from day one.  Cece stands out from her professional friends and doesn’t fit into the model stereotype.  Because of this, I would give Cece the “Airhead” trilogy by Meg Cabot which includes Airhead, Being Nikki, and Runaway.  In this series, Emerson’s brain is transferred into the body of supermodel Nikki Howard after an accident involving both of them.  Em sees the modelling world up close and personal and gets a firsthand account of the ins and outs of the biz.  To me, it seems like Cece views the modelling industry in a similar way to Em.

Feel free to add more titles in the comments below.  Happy reading!

-Brandi Smits, currently reading Dust & Decay by Jonathan Maberry and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

ALA Annual 2015: Day Three Highlights

Sun, 06/28/2015 - 23:59

Day three of the American Library Association Annual Conference was off to a bright start for YA lit lovers, who gathered at YALSA’s YA Author Coffee Klatch. Kind of like speed dating with authors, this event is a highlight of many attendees’ conference experience.

The amazing group of authors participating in the Klatch.

YALSA members Lalitha Nataraj of Escondido and Kim Christofferson of Salt Lake City eagerly await the authors.

Author Leigh Bardugo talks about her upcoming book, Six of Crows.

It seems like this event gets bigger every year!

Another excellent YALSA session for YA lit fans took place in the afternoon– bestselling author Marie Lu moderated a panel of debut authors whose books feature diversity. The room was packed, and the conversation was fascinating! There was a lot of talk about the intentionality of writing diverse stories, and about who the audience is (spoiler: everybody!).

A full house! This topic and these authors really resonated with the audience.

The fabulous panel and moderator!

YALSA members Tamara Baltazar and Christopher Estes of Greensboro take a selfie with Marie Lu

In the Moscone Center West (where the above session was held), I spotted a gorgeous display of  newly created cover art for classic books.

That’s it for day three… one more day coming up!

-Allison Tran, currently reading an ARC of Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

ALA Annual 2015: Day Two Highlights

Sun, 06/28/2015 - 00:58

It’s a beautiful day in San Francisco, and the American Library Association Annual Conference is in full swing!

Today started with YALSA 101, which is always an inspiring introduction to the various facets of the organization with lots of advice about how to get involved, from the leadership development opportunities that come with serving on strategic committees to tips for staying on top of all that reading when you’re part of a selection committee. It was also noted in this session that YALSA is one of the best dressed and most productive divisions of ALA. Well, absolutely!

Next up was the Margaret A. Edwards Award brunch honoring this year’s recipient, Sharon Draper, who may have moved the entire audience to tears. Standing ovation!

The afternoon brought the Teen Feedback session for the Best Fiction for Young Adults committee– one of the highlights of each conference for many YA librarians. We love to hear the insight and honesty of these teens who have been reading the BFYA nominations! 

And just for fun: Thompson Reuters was giving away selfie sticks at their booth, as modeled by Muoy Li of Los Angeles, Susanne Sakai of San Francisco, Claire Arnold of Washington, D.C., and Lynn Kysh of Los Angeles. Smile!
More to come tomorrow!

-Allison Tran, currently wanting to read Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (I got an ARC!)

ALA Annual 2015: The Printz Award Program and Reception

Sat, 06/27/2015 - 17:53

The 2015 Printz Award Program was held last night, Friday, June 26th, here in San Francisco, and though my pictures aren’t as clear as I’d like (and I had to type my notes into my phone while its battery dwindled), here’s a quick breakdown of the event– which, as always, was full of laughs and emotional moments.

From left to right: Jenny Hubbard, author of Printz Honor And We Stay; Jessie Ann Foley, author of Printz Honor The Carnival at Bray; Andrew Smith, author of Printz Honor Grasshopper Jungle; Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki, illustrator and author of Printz Honor This One Summer; Jandy Nelson, author of 2015 Printz Award Winner I’ll Give You the Sun; and Booklist consultant and moderator Daniel Kraus.

During Jandy Nelson’s speech, she told us that the only thing she said during the phone call, other than screaming, was in response to being told where this year’s award program would be. “I live in San Francisco!” She took this opportunity to thank the Printz committee the way she wished she had when they called her! 

The inside of the program.

When asked what was different about this particular book from others they had written, Mariko Tamaki said that it began as something based on a Burger King in Niagara Falls that allegedly gets girls pregnant!

Jenny Hubbard told us that when she finished her first draft of And We Stay she then started over and wrote it from a different character’s point of view. Originally the story was told from the sister’s point of view and not Emily’s.

Andrew Smith embarrassed his son, who was in the audience, but got a big “Awwww!” from the rest of us when he shared that his son not only thought Grasshopper Jungle is the best thing his dad has ever written,  but it might be the best thing he’d ever read.

Jessie Ann Foley had to rewrite one emotional scene seven times, and it got harder to write each time.

That’s current YALSA President Chris Shoemaker at the podium.

To wrap up the evening, moderator Daniel Kraus asked each author to share a book they’d like to recommend. Here are their responses:

Jenny Hubbard- Some Day This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron

Jessie Ann Foley- The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos

Andrew Smith- said he doesn’t like to make recommendations- that’s our (a librarian’s) job!

Jillian Tamaki- found a book about an American Sumo Wrestler on the street that was fascinating

Mariko Tamaki- decided she would use Andrew’s recommendation and recommended two, Super Mutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki and When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid

Jandy Nelson- The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey and A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

-Carla Land

ALA Annual 2015: Day One Highlights

Fri, 06/26/2015 - 23:01

Hello from beautiful San Francisco! Several thousand librarians are descending upon the city this weekend for the ALA Annual Conference, to talk about our profession, share ideas, and gain new knowledge of trends relevant to our work– including the realmoof YA literature! YALSA has a lot going on at this conference, and we here at The Hub will be doing our best to bring it all to you.

First up: actually getting to the conference. Never overlook a plane ride for its potential as a reader’s advisory occasion! My seatmate on the plane was reading Paper Towns by JohnGreen, and you know a librarian never passes up the chance to make book recommendations. Since she was enjoying John Green, I suggested she might try Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.

The entrance to the exhibits hall decked out with an eye-catching Golden Gate Bridge replica- very festive!

And here’s the same spot about ten minutes before the exhibits grand opening… librarian mob! 

The exhibits hall on Friday evening was quite a rush… books everywhere! Librarians everywhere!

And then, the icing on top of an already fantastic evening– the Printz reception. Being in a room filled with fellow YA lit lovers celebrating some of the best YA books of the past year… it’s a kind of exhilaration that never gets old.

Stay tuned for more conference coverage coming up tomorrow!

-Allison Tran, currently reading Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby

Here’s Your Fandom Fix

Fri, 06/26/2015 - 07:00

Game of Thrones just aired its season finale, Doctor Who doesn’t come on until September, and you’ve waited over a year for Sherlock; how are you supposed to cope?

Readalikes are your answer. Novels comparable to popular TV shows have found their way in YA fiction so now you can get for fandom fix during the hiatus of your favorite series.

Game of Thrones Readalikes:

  • The False Prince (The Ascendence Trilogy) by Jennifer Neilsen-  The royal family has been murdered and in order to keep the throne out of the wrong hands, Conner, a nobleman of the court sets off to find the long lost prince who disappeared several years prior. Connor’s plan to is find, train, and groom orphans who resemble the long lost prince to keep the throne in safe hands. Sage is one of those orphans and he must fight three others to win.
  • Falling Kingdoms Series by Morgan Rhodes-The three kingdoms of Mytica fight for power and four teens from different nations are caught in the middle. Magnus, the son of the Blood King, must gain his father’s acceptance while quelling his feeling for his sister Lucia. Lucia discovers she can wield magic but is the daughter of the Blood King who condemns all magic. Cleo is a beautiful and beloved princess and has suffered a terrible tragedy and must find a way back to her rightful throne. Jonas, a rebel, vows to avenge the wrongful death of his brother. They all seek the throne and through this six book series, readers follow their favorite character on their journey to claim Mytica.

Doctor Who Readalikes:

  • A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab-There are four Londons, Grey London; Red London; White London; and Black London, that exist in four dimensions and only two people in the world can travel between them and one of them is Kell. Kell is a smuggler and one day he acquires a magical black stone but his illegal activities catch up to him. Lila, a thief who dreams of independence and travel, saves Kell’s life and is quickly drawn into his mysterious world. Together, Kell and Lila must return the smuggled black magic stone to Black London before it falls into the wrong hands.
  • A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Grey-The Firebird, a time traveling device, has been stolen and its creator murdered. Marguerite and her murdered father’s intern must travel through time and dimensions to avenge her father’s death and bring back the original Firebird.

Sherlock Readalikes:

  • Jackaby by William Ritter-Jackaby doesn’t use his skill of deductive reasoning to hunt criminals, he uses his abilities to see the supernatural to hunt banshees and vampires. While seeking a new assistant, Jackaby meets Abigail- a young girl escaping the thumb of her father. Together Jackaby and Abigail track down a serial killer.
  • Madness so Discreet by Mindy McGinnis (to be published October 6, 2015)-Grace has been sent to a mental institution but it’s not for her unusually keen senses it’s for other matters. She is due to be released soon but Grace would rather die than go home so she and the institution’s traveling doctor plan her escape. As a free girl with no place to go, Grace offers her abilities to assist the doctor as he tries to solve a string of murders.

Supernatural Readalikes

  • The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker-Elizabeth is one of the best witch hunters in the country but when she’s suspected as being a witch, she soon becomes the hunted. Will the witches she used to hunt help her as she proves her innocence?
  • While by Joseph Delaney-Tom is a spook or someone who finds and eradicates the supernatural and he is in the need of an assistant who can last longer than a night. Jenny is in desperate need of a job and a home and will prove that although she is a girl; she is up to the challenge. Together Tom and Jenny protect their town from a strong supernatural being that is coming straight for them.

-Dawn Abron, currently reading Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Susan Juby

Thu, 06/25/2015 - 07:00

Check out previous interviews in the One Thing Leads to Another series here.

I’m pretty sure I originally picked up Alice, I Think because of the homeschooling angle.  There weren’t (aren’t?) many books about homeschooling back in 2000 and I was definitely interested, partly because the topic was rare, and partly because, while I had spent my requisite 12 years in the public school system, my seven siblings had been homeschooled.  (You can make of that fact what you will.  You’re probably right.)

I loved the book, of course, and Susan Juby became one of those authors I followed, anxious to see what was coming next.  Unsurprisingly, this turned out to be…more books that I loved.  Another Kind of Cowboy? Bright’s Light? The rest of the Alice MacLeod series?  Such great books.  If you haven’t already, you need to read The Truth Commission immediately.  Really.

Somewhere along the way I came across the essay she references below, “Directed Studies”, which tells a specific and highly personal story with which I totally connected, despite the difference in the details.  Like her books, the Susan Juby in that essay comes across as honest and funny, clear-eyed but optimistic, able to articulate and share painful, embarrassing truths in a single bound.  This is no small feat.  

Thank you, Susan, for talking truth, bad 80s hair, identity, and the danger of peach wine coolers with me.  If you wrote a “hauntingly elegiac volume that is mostly description of landscape” I would read it.


Always Something There to Remind Me

Please describe your teenage self.

I find this hard and sort of painful because my teen years were, well, hard and painful. I think by the time I hit fifteen or so, I looked okay on the outside, at least by the low standards of the 1980s. But inside I was a churning mess of anxiety and insecurity. This situation was exacerbated by the fact I had developed a serious drinking problem by the time I was thirteen.

I was one of those people who never ever went in public without makeup and hair done, clothes carefully chosen. It was all a camouflage for what I saw as a deeply flawed self. I was convinced that if anyone saw the unadorned me, they would run away in horror.

On a lighter note, I was a serious fashion experimenter in a time and town where that was unexpected and not terribly welcome. Not one 1980s trend passed me by! I wore: Madonna-esque bloomers and puffy blouses, satin blazers that hung to my knees, perms, faux punk looks, heavy metal looks, prep looks. Fashion filled in all the blank spaces for me. In spite of how messed up I was then, my adult self looks back and applauds my teen self for having the guts to experiment in the face of quite a bit of despair.

What did you want to be when you grew up? Why?

When I was very young, I thought I could be anything. As I grew, that confidence was pounded out of me by my peers, my schools and my own bad choices. Those bad choices were legion―making them was basically my superpower. But here are some of the things I dreamed of being before I stopped dreaming: writer, lawyer, zoologist, professional dressage rider, fashion designer. 

What were your high school years like? 

At risk of belabouring the point, my teen years felt like I was just hanging on. I had friends and a busy social life, consisting of going to parties and recovering from parties. Only the people who saw me at the end of a party knew just how messed up I was. Because of that, I only vaguely remember most of my teen years. They’re a blur of parties, boyfriends, abandoned hobbies and, I must say again, bad choices.

That’s why I write a lot about teen life. I feel like I missed mine, including all the coming-of-age tasks a person’s meant to experience between thirteen and twenty. I got clean and sober when I was twenty and started fresh. (And, as an adult, I wrote a memoir about it: Nice Recovery.)

When I started high school, some of the kids (and a few teachers) seemed to make it their mission to clip my wings. It was partly classic bullying, and partly a result of who I was at the time—very opinionated and socially awkward, which is a tough combination that leaves you wide open.

Several teachers and adults and friends were in my corner—or, at least, wouldn’t give up on me. I wrote about one of them in an essay called “Directed Studies”.

What were some of your passions during that time? 

My mom kept me very busy with hobbies as a way to deal with my tendency to get into, ahem, trouble. I began 4-H when I was in elementary school, I also drew and rode horses, showed horses, ran track, was crazy about fashion, and I worked in a video store and saw every movie in the place. I loved music but didn’t develop snobby music taste until after I graduated and sobered up. It is the truth that most music sounds great when you’re under the influence of peach wine coolers.

Would you be willing to share a difficult teen experience or challenge that you feel shaped the adult you became?

Having to face the fact that I had a substance abuse problem and that I needed a major lifestyle change. Being the most intoxicated girl at every party was painful. The process of getting clean and sober and, in many ways, reliving my adolescence in my early twenties was profound. I had to learn to date, go to school, have friendships without the aid of alcohol and drugs. HUGE difference. It made me treasure the idea of second chances for people. And sometimes third and fourth and fifth chances, too.

I was on the board of the local branch of the John Howard Society for a couple of years. Part of the John Howard’s mandate is to support prisoners re-entering the community. Most of the people we work with started getting into trouble when they were still teens. I would like to see a world in which mistakes can be overcome with honesty and compassion. Well, mistakes other than some of my mid-to-late eighties haircuts. Some things should never be forgiven.

What about a positive experience or accomplishment that had an impact on your adult self?

I remain grateful for all the people who encouraged my passions when I was slowly losing them. Those people didn’t know it at the time, but they were saving my life. The easiest one to point to is the one I wrote about in “Directed Studies.” Programs that treat teens like they have potential are critical, no matter whether the kid is flailing around or not. People often don’t know how much good they’re doing because the results aren’t evident until years later.

What advice, if any, would you give your teen self? Would your teen self have listened? 

The older I get, the more I realize that while my teen years were a disaster, I was absolutely doing my best. In a funny sort of way, I was coping. And when my method of coping (which, admittedly, was wildly unhealthy) stopped working, I tried a new way. Thank God it worked.

I guess advice I should have gotten was that it’s important to talk about things and to tell the truth. But my lived reality, thanks to a few notable betrayals and social wipeouts, was that the truth, and being vulnerable enough to tell it, were way too risky in my school and social scene. Vulnerability and honesty made more sense when I was a little older and had a better sense of people.

One piece of advice that has never left me: Always have a new job before you quit your old one. I’ve ignored it a few times, but I think that’s a genuine golden nugget of life advice.

Do you have any regrets about your teen years? Anything left undone or anything that might have been better left undone?

Good lord. I suppose that staying out for two or three days at a time when I was thirteen wasn’t a great move. Neither was having wildly inappropriate (read: much older) boyfriends. Sigh. I did a lot of things that would horrify me if I saw a kid my age doing them now. But they made me the person (and the writer) I am.

What, if anything, do you miss most about that time?

The sense of new horizons opening up every time I did something new. As an older person, it’s really easy to stay stuck. I love my routines, but they come at the expense of new horizons.

Every Day I Write the Book

Describing your own struggle to navigate the murky high school social scene, you explained that you “put [your] mind to it and decided [you were] going to fit in,” successfully transforming from “a bookish kid into a smoking, drinking bush party queen,” despite feeling that “something profound was lost in the process.” In essence, you decided that being a party girl was “easier than being an outcast,” and became “really committed to the fitting-in project.” On the other hand, you’ve said your “books are, at heart, about the pressure to fit a mold and how difficult it is to defy expectations,” and you’ve professed your love of oddballs. So I’m wondering, what happened? How did you find (or regain) the self-confidence not only to be yourself, but to create “stories about peculiar people finding someplace to belong?”

My books are animated by wishful thinking. What happened is that I got honest about who I was and what my problems were. I figured out that I had to quit drinking and taking drugs like they were life-giving oxygen, or nothing in my life was going to improve.

When I quit, I discovered I was a nearly pathologically fearful person. I was afraid of people, new experiences, my own self. With the help of friends and a few professionals, I changed profoundly. It was, in essence, my true coming of age. It took me a long time to trust that if I kept walking in the right direction, people would appear along the way to walk by my side. Even when I was doing my best to walk the wrong way down a one-way street, people appeared and tried to turn me around. I didn’t thank them at the time.

My books are a way of thanking those people now. My life has been improved immeasurably by people who are nonstandard and people who tolerate and even celebrate those of us who screw up.

You’ve written about a special project you worked on in high school, “19th Century Costume Design and its Social Relevance,” as well as your brief time at fashion design school, and talked about how you’ve “always been interested in identity and ‘trying different things on,’” because “fashion is one of the only ways that young people have to assert themselves without opening their mouths.” Despite it’s obvious importance, fashion is not something a lot of writers seem to consider or use in the same way you do, whereas you often “write novels in which fashion tends to figure prominently,” including Bright’s Light, which tackles the subject head on. I’m wondering if you’d talk about how clothes can shape your identity and maybe share some of your current thoughts about fashion and how you use it in your work.

Fashion is our most immediate signifier of identity. It allows us try on personas: tomboys, glamourpusses, cowboys, goths, construction workers, death metal fans. When people opt out of caring about clothes, that’s another signifier. How people create identity is my obsession.

When I was young and floundering, fashion allowed me to at least change who I was on the outside. Caitlin Moran, whom I love, wrote that when women say: “What should I wear today?” they really mean “Who should I be today?” It’s meant as a put-down on fashion. Well, I’m in love with clothes. There are few things that make me happier than buying a nice piece of clothing. I would happily be a new woman every day, at least on the outside. I love the humour and style and responsiveness to culture and the moment. I love the craft that goes into well-made clothing and the sense of history and economics and social and ethnic considerations we can find in clothes. That said, I don’t love the practices of mass-market clothing, disposable fashion, the exploitation of people who make clothes and the expressionless, underage, underweight models who currently walk most runways. As the art that most directly and intimately influences people’s lives (a close runner-up is architecture), fashion is also the one that is vastly problematic on many levels.

I still remember being twenty and discovering that “dressing rich” (or at least using my last $400 to buying a $375 sweater hand-knit by a nice lady in Ireland) did not draw wealth into my life or lead to me spending time in a house in the Hamptons. Instead, I ended up with an itchy, ill-fitting, sheep-smelling cable knit sweater and no money for food or rent.

Also, when I went to fashion design school, I stood out for being insufficiently talented and committed. Another grave disappointment. Fashion has often let me down.

The book I’m working on now is about two people trying to get into the ultra-competitive fashion program at Green Pastures Academy of Art and Applied Design, the setting for The Truth Commission. So at the moment I’m up to my eyeballs in fashion. I’m thinking about it, looking at it, writing about it, and thinking about it some more. I’m also wishing I was buying a lot of it.

Many of your books explore the notion of “truth” from various angles—discovering and being true to yourself, the shifting nature of truth, the benefits and consequences of telling the truth. Your current novel, The Truth Commission, is explicitly about “how we live with truth, whose truth we get to tell, when it’s good to tell the truth and when it’s a real problem to tell the truth.” Normandy says, “Writers create the truth, for better or worse,” but also questions whether the truth can really set her free. What do you think? And would you talk a little about why this particular theme resonates so strongly with you?

There’s something a bit cold about how writers operate. As we experience situations, we stand outside them taking notes. At a certain stage, almost every experience, ours or other peoples’, becomes material that may or may not end up in a book. Whenever we write a story with any bit of truth in it, we’re shaping that story. I really felt that when I wrote my memoir, Nice Recovery.

I felt it again when I was working on an adult crime novel and 200 pages in realized I was telling the story of someone close to me. I hadn’t even realized I was doing it. That made me wonder what would be the worst-case scenario for a family. I think it would be having a talented artist who had no compunction about portraying her family in illustrations and words in such a way that they looked like themselves, but in the most unflattering light possible—making them the butt of the joke.

The other thing I’ve realized is that coming of age is partly about learning hard, messy, exhilarating truths about life. Although teenagers aren’t supposed to be exposed to everything, they’re often eager to be treated as adults—which involves exposure to difficult things. That’s another thread in the book.

Genre-hopping has become a lot more common among writers lately, as well as writing for more than one audience, but, as usual, you manage to put a unique spin on it, writing fashion-conscious, funny, dystopian science fiction; a gay coming-of-age novel about dressage and fancy horses; a personal, informative, and humorous recovery memoir; a hilarious detective story set in a small town high school, and so many others. “I decided that my goal is to write every kind of book I love to read,” you’ve said, so I’m wondering what kind of books might you tackle in the future? Is there any particular genre or subject that totally turns you off? Anything you’re willing and able to share about your next projects?

As I mentioned earlier, I’m working on another book set at Green Pastures. For the time being, I think I’m done experimenting in new genres. Contemporary realism is calling my name. And comedy. Always comedy, which allows us to tell the truth in a palatable way ― it’s how we survive. I will never write a hauntingly elegiac volume that is mostly description of landscape. That feels certain.

Just Can’t Get Enough

Question from Laura Ruby: I once saw Emily Jenkins/e. lockhart give a lecture called “How to be Funny” in which she talked about using jolly words, among other things. You write comedies. What advice would you give about writing comedy? What makes something funny?

That’s hard because closely examining humor causes the subject to dissolve into unfunniness. Humor is a mode, and some people can work in it very naturally and some can’t. If you’re straining to be funny, chances are you won’t be. That said, some of the basic ingredients are hyperbole, understatement, a nice sense of the absurd, and a willingness to go past where you feel comfortable. Seriously self-important people aren’t usually very funny.


Susan Juby has contributed a question for the next writer in the series, Matt de la Pena.  Watch for an interview with him coming soon!


Susan Juby has written a number of acclaimed  novels for teenagers, including Another Kind of Cowboy, Getting the Girl, and the Alice MacLeod trilogy, the first of which, Alice, I Think, was made into a successful television series.  Her most recent book for teenagers is The Truth Commission. She is also the author of two comic novels for adults (Home toWoefield and its sequel, Republic of Dirt), and an adult memoir, Nice Recovery. She is currently working on a companion novel to The Truth Commission, also set at the Green Pastures Academy of Art and Applied Design, and teaches creates writing at Vancouver Island University.

Susan and her husband James live in Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, with their Australian Cattledog, Rodeo (AKA Rodie). 

You can find Susan at her website and on Facebook, or follow her on TwitterInstagram, or Goodreads


–Julie Bartel, currently reading Ms. Marvel Vol. 3: Crushed

8 Books from YouTube Stars

Wed, 06/24/2015 - 07:00

Just this week, I’ve had a co-worker tell me about his 4-year-old son’s fascination with “unboxing” videos on YouTube featuring new toys, had a parent ask for help finding books for her twelve-year-old daughter who is “obsessed with YouTube” and received two purchase requests for books by YouTube stars months ahead of their release (a rare occurrence).

YouTube has long been popular with teens, and vloggers have amassed millions of followers. Especially in the last year, the publishing world has taken notice. These are eight 2015 releases of memoirs and essays from YouTube stars that might be of interest to teen patrons.


Really Professional Internet Person by Jenn McAllister

This memoir is from YouTuber JennxPenn, who not only vlogs, but is starring in a movie, Bad Night.

This Book Loves You by Pewdiepie

This book, from a channel with 37 million (yes, that’s right) subscribers is “is a collection of aphorisms, bits of wisdom-slash-jokes, paired with photos and other visuals” that is sure to be a hit with teens. Pewdiepie’s YouTube channel includes everything from animated fanfiction to important and entertaining information like “the 10 creepiest websites”

The Amazing Book is Not on Fire by Dan and Phil

Dan and Phil have been popular with teens in my library for years, and I’m betting that this book will be in demand in many libraries. This comical books will include some traditional biographical info, as well advice for coping with awkwardness and their text messages to each other.

A Work in Progress by Connor Franta

Connor’s videos cover everything from “speaking backwards” to dating and relationship advice. His reflections on his struggles during his teen years and his journey from a small-town Midwesterner to Internet sensation will like be a story that many teens can relate to.

Binge by Tyler Oakley

Tyler Oakley is a popular LGBTQ voice on YouTube, and this collection of essays will surely find a teen audience. You can see some teen reactions to Tyler in this video (as well as Tyler’s reactions to the teens’ reactions).

In Real Life: My Journey to a Pixelated World by Joey Graceffa

This memoir details Joey’s personal and family struggles in a hopeful tone. Joey’s YouTube channel is part of Dreamworks AwesomenessTV Network and is mix of personal stories and short movies and music videos.

I, Justine: An Analog Memoir by Justine Ezarik

Justine has a few different YouTube channels and covers everything from cooking to gaming and technology. her memoir will detail how she became an Internet star.

I Hate Myselfie: A Collection of Essays by Shane Dawson

Shane has been making YouTube videos since 2008 and has also directed a feature film.  His collection features essays on many topics, such as his anxiety about getting haircuts.

These are just a sampling of books written by YouTubers. Expect more if these are successful. One thing’s for sure — New Media is here to stay, and will likely continue to influence and reflect teen interests.

– Molly Wetta, currently reading Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A. S. King



Genre Blend: Historical Fiction and Mysteries

Tue, 06/23/2015 - 07:00

“Postcards and magnifying glass” by Anna – Flickr: records. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

I am a huge fan of mysteries, especially during the summer! I love a good page-turner that keeps me guessing until the very last page. A great thing about mysteries are that they also work well when they are blended with other genres.  One of my newest favorite genre blends are historical fiction and mysteries! If you are also a fan, or have yet to explore this genre blend, check out some of the titles below to get you started!




Death Cloud by Andrew Lane (2015 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults)

Set in the summer of 1868, fourteen-year-old Sherlock Holmes is sent to live with his aunt and uncle where he uncovers two mysterious deaths that appear to be plague victims. However, Sherlock suspects that these deaths are not what they seem so he sets out to investigate and uncover the truth.






A  Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly (2004 Printz Honor Book, 2011 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, 2004 Selected Audiobooks for Young Adults, 2004 Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults)

Based on the true story of the 1906 Gilette murder case, Maggie is working the summer at a nearby inn, when one of the guests drowns.  Mysterious circumstances surround the death, including Maggie’s own involvement and interactions with the victim.





A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee (2015 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults)

In Victorian London, Mary is saved from the gallows at the last minute and sent to a school where she is secretly trained to be a spy.  She is eventually selected to work a case where she is undercover as a lady’s companion to investigate a wealthy merchant’s shady business dealings.




The Season by Sarah MacLean

The year is 1815 and Alex is not your typical debutante.  She doesn’t want much to do with men or being married off, but when one of her brother’s friends catches her eye she starts to change her mind.  But Gavin is distracted by his father’s sudden death, one which Alex discovers was actually murder.







Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

Gretchen is considered one of Hitler’s pets and is known for being favored, due to the valiant death of her father.  Gretchen lives a life of privileged in Munich in the 1930’s, but when she meets a young Jewish reporter, she begins to question her father’s death and unravels the lies that were told to her.






Palace of Spies by Sarah Zettel

In 1700’s London, Peggy is orphaned and homeless so she decides to take a chance: she disguises herself as lady in waiting in the palace of King George I. Under disguise she is to act as a spy for Mr. Tinderflint and Peggy gets wrapped up in a web of secrets, lies, and even romance.







The Girl is Murder by Kathryn Miller Haines (2012 Readers’ Choice List)

It’s 1942, and Iris’s life has taken a turn for the worse.  The former private school girl is now living on the Lower East Side and attending public school.  Her father has just returned from the war and has started a private detective agency, and when one of his cases involves a missing boy from her school, Iris insinuates herself in the case acting as her father’s assistant.





Ripper by Stefan Petrucha

Set in New York in 1895, orphan Carver Young is searching for his father.  When he is adopted by Detective Hawking, he takes advantage of his new father’s abilities and resources and begins an investigation that leads him all over the city.  At the same time, a killer is on the loose and is mimicking the murders of London’s Jack the Ripper from years ago.  Soon Carver’s investigation leads him to believe that his father and Jack the Ripper may be one in the same.




Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick (2011 Printz Honor Book, 2011 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults)

In 1910, just outside a small village in Scandinavia, Sig’s father has just died carelessly trekking across the frozen lake. Sig wonders why his father took the chance he did, and discovers the truth when a intimidating stranger appears at his door demanding the gold that Sig’s father stole from him.  Held at gunpoint, Sig tries to figure out where the stolen gold might be and whether or not he has another way out.




Dead to Me by Mary McCoy

Four years ago, Alice’s sister disappeared.  Now at sixteen, Alice is surprised to discover her sister beaten and lying in a coma in the hospital. When Alice sees the state her sister is in, she vows to find out who did this to her. This leads Alice through the seedy underbelly of Hollywood in 1948, and in the path of some colorful characters.






Deadly by Julie Chibbaro

Prudence, at sixteen years old, has just landed a job as the assistant to an epidemiologist for the Department of Health and Sanitation in New York.  However, it is 1906 and Typhoid Fever is about to become an American epidemic.  Prudence is part of a team that investigates the case of “Typhoid Mary” to find what she believes may be the cause of the disease.





The Musician’s Daughter by Susanne Dunlap

Set in 18th century Vienna, Theresa is desperate to solve the murder of her father and to retrieve his valuable violin.  What Theresa is surprised to discover, however, is that her father was leading a secret life– a life that may have gotten him killed.







Venom by Fiona Paul

Cass is 15 years old and a wealthy noblewoman, constrained by life in Renaissance Vienna.  Things take a turn for the dramatic when she discovers the body of her recently deceased friend is missing and the grisly murdered body of a courtesan in her friend’s crypt.  Cass sets out to discover the mystery of this strange death and what this has to do with the disappearance of her friend’s body.





The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry (2015 Odyssey Honor, 2015 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

At a Victorian boarding school, the young students get a surprise when their headmistress and her brother suddenly die at the dinner table.  Poison is the suspect, and the girls think they can get away with hiding the bodies and enjoying the school all to themselves, but when they begin to fear their lives may also be in danger, the girls try to solve the suspicious murders.





The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman (2005 Selected Audiobooks for Young Adults, 1998 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults)

Sally lives in the London slums of the Victorian era.  She has been recently orphaned, since her father died at sea, but Sally learns that she may be the rightful owner of a valuable ruby.  The search to find it sends Sally and her friends on a deadly hunt, filled with colorful Dickensian characters and action-packed adventure.





–Colleen Seisser, currently reading Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

San Francisco, Here I Come!

Mon, 06/22/2015 - 07:00

Are you heading to ALA annual this year? Are you staying home, but wishing you could join the festivities in San Francisco? Here are some young adult books set in San Francisco to help you feel like you are there already:

 The Fire Horse Girl by Kay Honeyman

Jade Moon is offered the opportunity to join her father in immigrating to the United States. Soon, however, she finds herself trapped on Angel Island with no promise of ever seeing her new country. The only way she can get off the island is to disguise herself as a boy. Can this fire horse girl survive the streets of 1920s San Francisco?

Bitter Melon by Cara Chow

Frances’s mother dreams of the day that Frances graduates from high school and begins to pursue a career as a doctor.  She encourages Frances to work very hard in school and has forbidden any extra-curricular activities.  A computer glitch lands Frances in a speech class, though, and there she begins to find her true calling.

Miss Fortune Cookie by Lauren Bjorkman

Erin is the brains behind the popular advice blog Miss Fortune Cookie. When one of her friends writes in for advice, however, Erin must face the real-world consequences of her blog’s advice.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (2013 Alex Award)

Clay was just looking for any job that paid when he walked into Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore, but he soon finds himself wrapped up in mysteries and puzzles and enigmas. 

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Marcus is a hacker, and when terrorists blow up the San Francisco Bay Bridge, he and his friends are arrested by Homeland Security. He’s eventually released into a world where freedom no longer exists and must find a way to free his friend, no matter the cost.

Adaptation and Inheritance by Malinda Lo

Reese and David are traveling home from a debate tournament when they are in a horrible car accident.  As a result, they end up at a secret base in Area 51. They return to a home that they no longer recognize and begin developing strange abilities.  What really happened to them out in the desert?

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Lola falls in love with the boy next door, a boy who has secretly loved her since he met her. This is a sweet romance story that features the characters from Anna and the French Kiss as secondary characters. (Both titles made the 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults list.)

The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr

Lucy, a child prodigy in piano, suddenly stops playing after a competition in Prague, and her younger brother takes her place as the star musician in the family.  Lucy has to decide whether she wants to continue her pursuit of music or if she should try something completely different.

Roomies by Sara Zarr

Lauren and Elizabeth are about to be college roommates, and this collection of their emails to each other describes their differences while also highlighting how much they have in common.

Smile by Raina Telgemeier (2011 Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens)

This autobiographical graphic novel retells Raina’s experiences in middle school as she loses her two front teeth in an accident and has to go through numerous dental procedures on top of the ups and downs of middle school.

Gingerbread, Shrimp and Cupcake by Rachel Cohn

This series has a love for major East and West Coast cities. Irreverent Cyd Charisse (not that one) flits back and forth between San Francisco and New York, getting to know her mother’s and father’s sides of the family and spending quality time with her best friend, an old lady named Sugar Pie, her boyfriend Shrimp, and her crush (Shrimp’s brother), Java.

Ripper by Isabel Allende

Not technically a YA novel, but this popular author has fans of many ages, and this book stars a teen protagonist. This techno-thriller mystery is about murder and computer games and takes its characters – and you – all around San Francisco’s many distinct neighborhoods.

Love and Haight by Susan Carlton

What about 1971 as a major cultural moment in San Francisco history? In this road trip story, a girl and her best friend move to the city in order to procure a legal abortion, and they discover many things about themselves on the way.

Al Capone at Alcatraz series by Gennifer Choldenko

This middle grade series will appeal to your middle schoolers as they move from tween to teen. The historical fiction series is about a boy whose father works at Alcatraz. Everything starts when he tries to impress the kids at school with stories about the island’s most famous inmate, Al Capone.

–Jenni Frencham, currently reading Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge and Hannah Gomez, currently reading Show and Prove by Sofia Quintero

The Monday Poll: YA Lit Theme Park

Sun, 06/21/2015 - 23:29

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, we asked you which YA book you’d want to read from another character’s point of view. The results were pretty evenly divided! 27% of you would like to revisit The Fault in Our Stars from Gus’ perspective, 21% of you would like to know what Yaqui was thinking in Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, and 14% of you voted to read Grasshopper Jungle from Shann’s point of view. You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted last week!

This week, we want to know which YA book you think would make the best basis for a theme park, a la Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Which fictional world would you want to be a tourist in? Choose from the list below, or suggest another approach 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 #19

Sun, 06/21/2015 - 07:00

“And now, the end is near, and so I face, the final curtain…”

OK, that’s hokey, but apt! The end is very near indeed! Tonight at 11:59 PM EDT the 2015 Hub Reading Challenge wraps up. If you took part and completed it, be sure to fill out the form below before 11:59 PM tonight so you will get credit AND be eligible to win our random drawing for a YALSA tote bag full of 2014 and 2015 YA literature. If the winner is a teacher or librarian or something similar, we will also toss in a few professional development titles!

Everyone who completes the Challenge will receive an elite digital badge to show off online. And if you completed it – well done!! That is a lot of reading and listening. I hope you enjoyed yourself and that you broadened your reading horizons; perhaps explored some genres you don’t normally venture into.  I didn’t actually hit 25 books myself, but just by taking part, I read some titles that I would otherwise never have even looked at!

We are still working on contacting all finishers, so don’t worry if you haven’t gotten your badge yet. Please feel free to use the comments here to tell the Hub what you enjoyed most about this year’s challenge, as well as what didn’t really work for you. Please share what books you loved and what books you didn’t love. If you’d rather email us that information, that works too. Don’t forget you can still peruse the #hubchallenge hashtag on social media to see what other folks have been doing, challenge-wise.

Thank you so very much for taking part in the 2015 Hub Reading Challenge! We hope you enjoyed yourself and that you’ve found some new authors and genres to dive into for the rest of the year. 


Tweets of the Week – June 19th

Fri, 06/19/2015 - 12:14

It’s Friday! If you weren’t on Twitter this week, here’s what you missed in the world of libraries and literature. Sadly, it was also quite a week for race-related and conflict-oriented news, so I added a current events section as well.




Librarianship/Youth Culture/Youth Services

Trending Current Events

–Hannah Gómez, currently reading Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton

Let’s Hear it For the Dads in YA Books

Fri, 06/19/2015 - 07:00

I know it’s very common for parents, especially fathers, to be absent or portrayed negatively in YA books. Not every father is Atticus Finch, but there are more dads in teen books that are loving and supportive than you might think. Since Sunday is Father’s Day, I wanted to celebrate some admirable dads found in YA books.

All I can think is that I want her more than anything. I want her more than I’ve ever wanted anything ever.” (Bobby, 16, The First Part Last by Angela Johnson, winner of the 2004 Michael Printz Award and 2004 Coretta Scott King Award)

This is the book I immediately think of when I think of fathers in YA books. It might have been published in 2003 but it’s still fresh in my mind, even after all the years since I first read it. It’s not just that it’s about a teen father, but it’s also because it’s written from the father’s point of view instead of the mother’s. In this companion book to Heaven, Bobby is an African American teenager struggling to raise his adored baby daughter Feather by himself after the baby’s mother tragically dies.


“I am a father.” “I am Jupiter’s father.” “I will always be Jupiter’s father.” (Joseph, 14, Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt, coming out November 3, 2015)

Joseph may be practically a child himself, but by aged thirteen he had been incarcerated for allegedly trying to kill a teacher, and is the father of a three-month-old daughter named Jupiter that he’s never seen. He will do anything he can to find her. This is a beautifully written story that will make you cry but also uplift you.



“I’m glad to hear you think you ought to feel guilty.” “I was beginning to wonder whether we’d brought you up properly.” (Derk, The Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones)

After they are unwillingly chosen as tour leaders, unconventional wizard Derk and his magical family try to stop the devastating tours of their world arranged by the tyrannical Mr. Chesney. Derk specializes in genetics, specifically in creating new animals & the family consists of both humans and animals (that talk). Teenaged son Blake has a fifteen-year-old brother, Kit, a griffin. Kit’s murderously angry with Mr. Chesney for his disrespectful treatment of Derk and the family and the quote above is what Derk says in response to Kit’s confession that he wanted to kill Mr. Chesney but felt guilty about it. Blake wants to attend Wizard’s University but his father Derk is dead set against it. Mara, Blake’s mom says, “…Your father thinks, rightly or wrongly, that you’ll end up as miserable as he was, or you’ll find yourself doing nothing but look after the tours like the rest of them. And that would break his heart, Blake.”

“My baby girl is a teenager – I worry about everything. ¿Cariña!” “Can we hire someone to guard Maisie for the next several years? Maybe a Navy SEAL?” (Maisie’s dad, Dangerous by Shannon Hale)

When Maisie Danger Brown wins a spot at a NASA-like summer boot camp in space, she doesn’t expect to uncover a conspiracy that could destroy the world. Despite only having one hand Maisie must live up to her name to save everyone she loves. Since her dad likes research and the boot camp was started to “ignite the love of science in the teenage mind,” according to information Maisie finds online, her dad’s in favor of Maisie going.


“You have a brain. A good one. Which means that no machine is a match for you. Now” —he plopped the busted gizmo on the worktable in front of me and yanked a screwdriver out of my tool belt, wrapping my six-year-old fingers around it—“you can come back inside when you’ve fixed the toaster.” (Evie’s dad, Mothership (Ever-Expanding Universe Series #1) by Martin Leicht and Isla Neal)

Evie’s dad wants her to be self-sufficient and drags her into the garage when she’s six-years-old and forces her to show him that she can fix anything. He may appear to be a bit harsh but his insistence that she be like MacGyver comes in handy after the airship for pregnant girls she’s been shipped off to after she gets pregnant gets hijacked by commandos. She has to escape after she discovers that her teachers are aliens who want to use her baby to repopulate their species in this hilarious space adventure set in 2074.


“You are not a grenade, not to us. Thinking about you dying makes us sad, Hazel, but you are not a grenade. You are amazing. You can’t know, sweetie, because you’ve never had a baby become a brilliant young reader with a side interest in horrible television shows, but the joy you bring us is so much greater than the sadness we feel about your illness.” (Hazel’s dad, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green)

I can’t imagine there’s anyone who doesn’t know the plot! But, just in case, the very short description is that it’s a sad but beautifully written story of a teenage girl and boy who both have cancer who meet at a cancer support group and fall in love.



“Because I can’t stand watching all that loneliness that lives inside you. Because I love you, Ari.” (Ari’s dad, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz, 2013 Michael Printz Honor Award, 2013 Pura Belpre Award, 2013 Stonewall Book Award)

Fifteen-year-old Ari Mendoza is an angry loner with a brother in prison, but when he meets Dante Quintana they become friends. This enables Ari to start asking questions about himself, his parents, and his family that he has never asked before. Ari’s dad doesn’t talk much and Ari doesn’t understand him. He has to smile at the way Dante and his Dad get along – “the easy and affectionate way they talked to each other as if love between a father and a son was simple and uncomplicated.” Ari’s dad has to deal with what the Vietnam War did to him and Ari has to bear the journey to becoming a man, including acknowledging his feelings for Dante. Both Ari’s and Dante’s parents are very loving and supportive of their sons. Despite Dante’s family being wealthier and better educated than Ari’s, both families have a lot in common. Dante says, “Our parents are really weird.” Ari asks, “Because they love us? That’s not so weird.” And Dante says, “It’s how they love us that’s weird” and Ari says, “Beautiful.”


“I made a promise to your mother. I told her I’d take good care of you, put you all before myself or anyone else.” (Lupita’s dad, Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall, 2012 William C. Morris YA Debut Award Finalist, 2012 Pura Belpré Author Award )

After her mother gets cancer, Lupita has to juggle even more responsibilities as the oldest girl in the family. Her father is away working a lot of pay for her mother’s medical bills but he loves her and her seven siblings. He wants her to be safe and doesn’t want to let her go away for college, but Lupita wants to go places, see new things and meet new people.


“We didn’t expect you to find your calling so young,” “But you did. And we’ll do our best to make it happen.” (Siobhan’s dad, The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E.K. Johnston, 2015 William C. Morris Award Finalist)

In an alternate world where overuse of fossil fuels has led to the existence of destructive and death bringing dragons, teenager Owen is carrying on the Canadian family tradition by training to be a dragon slayer. Owen, his bard Siobhan, his father Aodhan and Aunt Lottie, both legendary dragon slayers, and friends search for the source of the growing dragon threat. Owen’s dad is away a lot slaying dragons and Siobhan’s parents aren’t exactly happy that she’s in possible danger as she records Owen’s dragon killing exploits but both families love and support their children. Siobhan was starting to “get the impression that he (Aodhan) really didn’t like being an absentee father, but it was the nature of his job so he caught up whenever he could.”

I know that the Bella’s dad in the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer, and Park’s dad in Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell are also good guys but I didn’t include them because I wanted to mention some that might not have been as obvious (The Fault in Our Stars being the exception).

I know I’ve missed others. What books would you add to this list?

-Sharon Rawlins, currently reading The Ring and the Crown by Melissa de la Cruz


Summer Thyme: Cooking Projects for Lazy Days

Thu, 06/18/2015 - 07:00

Photo by Fractalbee on Open Clipart.

Sadly, I think the idea of the “lazy days of summer” is now pretty outdated, but many of us still see summer as the season to tackle projects we don’t have time for the rest of the year. For anyone who likes to take on cooking projects, the public library has a veritable treasure trove of books that can help you on your way.

The Project: Brush Up Basic Cooking Skills

A summer cooking project can be as simple as wanting to learn how to make a few simple meals from start to finish. In that case, here are some great all-purpose cookbooks:

How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. A modern “how to,” that can both help you find something tasty for dinner and answer the question “what do I do with this?” for unfamiliar items in the CSA (community supported agriculture) box.

The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker. The classic American cookbook. I used to avoid it, thinking the recipes were too complex, but for many basic dishes, the techniques are surprisingly simple.

The Real Girl’s Kitchen by Haylie Duff. Based on her food blog, the actress introduces recipes for a variety of meal and snack options. Her gushing about kale might also make this a good choice for the next project on our list!

The Project: Try a New Diet

I’m not a fan of “dieting,” but I do sometimes explore ways to cook food that fit certain dietary choices or lifestyles. My favorite story about this is that I realized I needed to learn a couple vegan dishes when I had a vegetarian friend and a lactose-free friend over for the same meal. All my vegetarian dishes at that point involved cheese! If you are trying to change eating habits for health reasons, or just looking to expand your repertoire, here are some fun specialized cookbooks:

The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook by the America’s Test Kitchen editors. For those who need or want to be gluten free, but miss old favorites, the America’s Test kitchen team takes on the task of figuring out how to make them. America’s Test Kitchen is famous for making a dish dozens of times until they get it just right, so you can be sure these have been well-rehearsed.

Teen Cuisine: New Vegetarian by Matthew Locricchio. Aimed at teens who are new to vegetarianism, this  option includes vegetarian versions of traditional “meat” dishes, like BLTS, nuggets, and sloppy joes, and also has a good selection of vegan recipes.

Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. Like The Joy of Cooking for vegans, this includes “how to” sections on vegan ingredients, plus a wide range of recipes. 

The Project: Take DIY to a New Level

Cooking options these days run the range from a Betty Crocker “no bake” dessert that you just have to mix up to cheese that you make after milking your own goats. If you are interested in taking a step closer to the goats this summer, here are some sources that help you learn to make those things that we are all used to buying at the store:

The Cake Mix Doctor by Anne Byrn. If you are just starting on the journey to making things yourself, this is a fabulous resource. Instead of jumping in all the way, you can try out these hybrid recipes: each starts with a cake mix, but they’re all “doctored” to make them more interesting and more delicious.

Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese. When she lost her job, Reese embarked on a quest to see just how far she could take “making from scratch.” She went as far as getting her own goats and chickens, but she’s more realistic in what she recommends the average reader do. This book is as great for the stories as for the recipes, but the recipes are also fun and useful (it helps that each dish includes a “hassle” rating).

The Project: Relive Your Favorite Series in Food

It’s amazing how many book and show tie-in cookbooks are out there. If you’re feeling an urge to live out your inner Katniss or Mrs. Patmore, take your pick from these sources:

The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook by Emily Ansara Baines. Containing both an upstairs section (with dishes for up to eight courses, plus tea) and a downstairs section, this collection of authentic recipes will please anyone interested in traveling to Downton Abbey via food.

The Unofficial Game of Thrones Cookbook by Alan Kistler. Looking to escape to Westeros? Look no farther than the creative recipes Kistler puts together, including options for meals, snacks, and desserts.

The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook by Emily Ansara Baines. Chock full of recipes, this collection runs the gamut from dishes mentioned by name in the series to imaginative supplements. Some of the ingredients might be a little difficult to find (a raccoon, anyone?), but there are lots of book-related musings to make this a fun read all around.

The Project: Dessert

Because dessert is always a worthy cause:

Teens Cook Dessert by Megan and Jill Carle, with Judi Carle. Sisters Megan and Jill are regular teen home cooks who first got interested in cooking (like so many of us) because of dessert. Here they share a trove of recipes, along with techniques they’ve learned from years of hanging out in the kitchen.

Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: 75 Dairy-Free Recipes for Cupcakes that Rule by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. Those looking for vegan or lactose-free baking options, here’s a delicious guide.

-Libby Gorman, currently listening to Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira