Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Reading Challenge Wrap-Up

I've been participating in a self-imposed Reading Challenge on Goodreads for several years now, but in 2015, I added another, more involved list. This one was making the rounds on Instagram at the beginning of the year, so I traced its origins to PopSugar and participated.

Out of 50 challenges, I completed (or didn't complete, in the case of "a book you started but never finished") 42 of them. I only used each book title to check off one challenge, even though a lot of them could have applied to multiple criteria. I'm pretty proud of myself because, though a lot of the books I read and THEN went back to check off items, I read some books just for the list. For example, I never would have read The Marvels (at the last minute!) if I didn't need to read a book over 500 pages. And not reading The Marvels would be an incredibly sad thing. So this list did push me to read beyond my usual interests, even if I didn't read "a classic romance" or "a book over 100 years old".

PopSugar has a new reading challenge up for 2016 - check it out, and let's challenge ourselves together!

My past Goodreads goals
2012: 125/120 - I went above and beyond, so I upped my goal for the next year!
2013: 92/125 - I was well below my goal. That's what I get for being smug and determined.
2014: 110/100 - I went a little bit above, but kept my goal in check for the next year. I learned my lesson.
2015: 141/100 - Well above my goal, which kind of amazes me because my course load was really heavy this year.
2016: ?/100 - sticking firm at 100 books for the year. Like I said, I learned my lesson! I'll be finishing up my MLS, leading library programs for people with disabilities, and reading to my son!

My son read 183 out of 100 books this year! For 2016, I'm raising his goal to 200 books. I need to practice reading aloud as much as I can anyway, and I think he'll have more interest in books (though he already loves them!) since he'll be turning 2.

Do you have any reading challenges or goals for 2016?

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Favorite Adult Books of 2015

Just like my young adult post, my favorite adult books are just ones that I read this year, not ones that were published this year. My goal for 2016 is to read more current titles.

The Family Fang is a book about a family who performed a flash mob type of art before it was a sensation. As the children grow up, they get tired of the public hoaxes their parents conduct, and try to distance themselves from their past. When they fall on hard times, the adult children have no choice but to come back home, where their parents try to get them to participate in just one more act of public performance art. Kevin Wilson is an excellent writer, and though I didn't read it this year, I also highly recommend his collection of short stories, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth.

The Good Girl is a suspenseful book about a prominent judge's daughter being kidnapped. Because of the excellent suspense, I don't want to give too much away, but the twist at the end of this book is one of the most excellent I have ever read. And I say that as someone who was underwhelmed by Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train, and all the hype surrounding similar titles.

The Secrets of Midwives is told from the points of view of three generations of midwives: a grandmother, a mother, and a daughter. Despite having the same profession, the women are very different. When the daughter reveals that she is 30 weeks pregnant, other secrets start coming out. This book is very emotional, powerful, and well-written.

Five Days Left is a book about Mara, a woman with Huntington's disease, who wants to kill herself before the disease puts a strain on her family. She has five days left. Mara was adopted, and her daughter is adopted, so she spends a lot of time on a forum for nontraditional families. There, she befriends a man who is fostering a young boy. He wants to adopt the boy, but his pregnant wife is against the idea. He has five days left with the foster son he has grown to love. The concept of five days left creates a lot of suspense as the story is told, and it's interesting to see how the two different characters interact with each other.

Goodbye for Now is a book about how much living we do online, and how that can blur the lines of reality. I summarize this book, as well as Laurie Frankel's first novel, in a book tube video you can watch below.

Read them for yourself!
Wilson, Kevin. The Family Fang. New York: Ecco, 2011. Print.
Kubica, Mary. The Good Girl. Ontario, Canada: Harlequin MIRA, 2014. Print.
Hepworth, Sally. The Secrets of Midwives. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2015. Print.
Timmer, Julie Lawson. Five Days Left. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2014. Print.
Frankel, Laurie. Goodbye For Now. New York: Doubleday, 2012. Print.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Book Bonus!

Last week I posted a booktube video of three favorite Christmas books we'd been reading.

Then this week, several books I had on hold came in, so we had a new stack of Christmas books to read! Since Christmas is the season of giving, I wanted to share more of our favorites.

The Last Christmas Tree is a cute book about a scrawny tree that is constantly overlooked in favor of bigger trees. It's still in the lot on Christmas Eve, all alone...only a Christmas miracle can help the tree find a home. The illustrations in this book are gorgeous and colorful, and the story is one that we will re-read each year.

Dinosaur vs. Santa is a fun book because my stepson loves dinosaurs, and we love the character from the other Dinosaur vs. books. The text in this book is simple, which leaves the bright, bold illustrations to tell a lot of the story. It's fun for kids to see what Dinosaur does in each picture to help move the story along.

The Gingerbread Pirates is about a boy and his mother who are making cookies for Santa. They make gingerbread men, but decide to decorate them as pirates - including a toothpick as a peg leg! After the boy goes to sleep, the gingerbread men come to life and try to avoid being eaten by Santa. The cookie illustrations in this book are really cute, and the story is sweet - no pun intended! I especially like this book because I reviewed another pirate Christmas book in my video: A Pirate's Night Before Christmas.

Little Robin's Christmas is another book we'll be reading each year. The animals are adorable, especially round Little Robin, who has seven sweater vests to wear the week before Christmas. When Little Robin goes out, he finds animals that seem to need a vest more than he does, so he keeps giving them away. The ending is really sweet and helps remind children that this is the season of giving, and that it's important to be kind.

I hope you enjoy reading these Christmas books as much as we have. Merry Christmas!

Read them for yourself!
Krensky, Stephen. The Last Christmas Tree. Illus. Pascal Campion. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2014. Print.
Shea, Bob. Dinosaur vs. Santa. New York: Disney Hyperion Books, 2012. Print.
Kladstrup, Kristin. The Gingerbread Pirates. Illus. Matt Tavares. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2009. Print.
Fearnley, Jan. Little Robin's Christmas. Waukesha, WI: Little Tiger Press, 1998. Print.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Favorite Young Adult Books of 2015

For favorite picture books, I recommended only books that were published this year. For favorite young adult books, I'm highlighting my five favorites, but... none of these books were published in 2015. None. I read books that were published this year, but I read a lot of books this year, so I decided to go with my gut and post raves about my favorites, with no publishing constraints. (Next year, I vow to be more timely with my reading list so I can pull exclusively from 2016 books. Funnily, this list has 4 books that were published in 2014, and one in 2013, so I'm not TOO dated.)

El Deafo is a graphic memoir by Cece Bell. In really cute, bright illustrations, she tells the story of how she had to get hearing aids at a young age, and how she coped with being different from everyone else. I love graphic memoirs and Bell has a great style.

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson is about twins who used to be best friends. Their mother wants them to attend a fancy art school, and when one twin is admitted and one isn't, it starts tearing them apart. The book is told in alternating chapters from each twin's point of view, across the span of three years. It's hard to summarize without giving the good stuff away, so let's just say there's a reason this book is an award-winner! I read and reviewed this for a class, and loved it so much I created a book trailer for it!

Girls Like Us is an amazing and emotional story about two teen girls with disabilities who graduate from high school and become roommates. They live with an old lady on the condition that they help her around the house. This book is so real and honest, and so moving. It was so good that I already want to re-read it; I think it'll stay on my list of all-time favorites.

Good Kings Bad Kings is another book with characters who have disabilities. The story is told from different points of view of teens living in the institution, as well as employees who work there. It's an interesting story, but due to the institutional setting, it's especially effective as a way to bring about change.

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek is a memoir by Maya Van Wagenen, a girl who found an old popularity guide and decided to implement it in her modern middle school life. Her writing is easy to read, with touches of humor and emotion. I've previously reviewed this book on the blog after I read it for a class. I loved it so much, I even developed an "If You Liked..." display based off of it, so you can check out some of those book suggestions as well!

Read them for yourself!
Bell, Cece. El Deafo. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2014. Print.
Nelson, Jandy. I’ll Give You the Sun. New York: Dial Books, 2014. Print.
Giles, Gail. Girls Like Us. Somerville, MA: Candlewick, 2014. Print.
Nussbaum, Susan. Good Kings Bad Kings. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books, 2013. Print.
Van Wagenen, Maya. Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek. New York: Dutton Books,
     2014. Print.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Favorite Picture Books of 2015

We're getting ready to wrap up 2015, and my son and I wanted to share some of our favorite pictures books that came out this year!

Imaginary Fred is a sweet book about how much imaginary friends can really mean to a child. After being forgotten and re-imagined by many children, Fred is worried he'll never find a true friend. The illustrations in the book are simple, but beautiful, true to Oliver Jeffers' style. Check out more about this book in my short review: A BOOK A MINUTE.

Red is a funny yet meaningful book about being true to yourself. Red is a blue crayon trapped in a red wrapper. Everyone treats him like he's red, yet every strawberry he draws looks like a strange blueberry. When he tries to mix with yellow to make orange, they get a very different result. My son loved this book for the colorful illustrations, and I loved the sly jokes slipped in with the colors' names.

The Day the Crayons Came Home is yet another book starring colorful crayons! This book is the follow-up to the wildly popular The Day the Crayons Quit, by the same author-illustrator duo. In the second installment, the crayons send postcards from destinations where they have been left behind. Pea Green Esteban is sure to charm readers of all ages. My son loved this book (again) for the color illustrations, I loved it because it was really witty, and the group of adults with disabilities I read it to loved guessing which color wrote what.

Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise is a book I've posted about before because I really love it. Hoot Owl is hungry for dinner, but he can't catch any food. He tries disguising himself as a carrot to catch a rabbit...will it work? This is another book I loved because the ending was so clever, it genuinely made me laugh out loud. My son seems to love the animals' big eyes and the repetitive rhyme of Hoot Owl's quest.

Edmund Unravels is a very cute story about Edmund, a ball of yarn who loves to explore. Edmund pushes his limits, going further and further and unraveling with each new exploration. The illustrations are bold and adorable, which pleased both my son and me!

Read them for yourself!
Colfer, Eoin. Imaginary Fred. Illus. Oliver Jeffers. New York: HarperCollins, 2015. Print.
Hall, Michael. Red. New York: Greenwillow Books, 2015. Print.
Daywalt, Drew. The Day the Crayons Came Home. Illus. Oliver Jeffers. New York: Philomel Books, 2015. Print.
Taylor, Sean. Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise. Illus. Jean Jullien. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2015. Print.
Kolb, Andrew. Edmund Unravels. New York: Nancy Paulsen Books, 2015. Print.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Christmas Storytime

Today was the Christmas storytime for two classes from SRVS! I read Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree by Robert Barry and Olive, the Other Reindeer by J. Otto Semibold and Vivian Walsh.

Mr. Willowy's Christmas Tree is a cute rhyming story about a too-tall tree that keeps getting trimmed down. The craft tied in with that book - we made Christmas ornaments to hang on our trees at home!

Clockwise from top left: Hard at work // The whole world // LaQuita's signature style is brightly colored stripes // I love how this one looks like a Christmas tree with a huge heart beside it!

We ended the session by reading Olive, the Other Reindeer. This is a really fun book about Olive, a puppy who is convinced she's a reindeer because the words to the famous Christmas carol tell her so: "Olive, the other reindeer!" This is a great book to read aloud because listeners can sing along with the well-known lyric. There was a lot of laughter when everyone realized how Olive had misheard the song! I think we can all relate to misunderstood lyrics...

I've also written about previous library programs for adults with disabilities.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

YA Book Recommendations - Cleaver Magazine

The other day my husband texted me from work for some book recommendations. One of his coworkers wanted to get his fourth grade granddaughter some books for Christmas, and my husband told him that I was a librarian-to-be who LOVES juvenile and young adult fiction. I thought of some of my favorite books from elementary school - and a few I've read recently! - and sent my husband a list of titles, authors, and brief summaries to pass on to his coworker.

I have SO much fun recommending books to others, whether someone asks me personally or if I can promote my favorites online. That's why I'm so excited to share with you all a great list of some amazing YA books from 2015. Check out my two favorites, and many more, at Cleaver Magazine!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Book Clubs During School Hours for Students with Disabilities

While trying to get an overview of library services offered in my area, I spoke with a high school librarian who brought up an idea that seemed revolutionary to me. The librarian had previously been a special education teacher, so she purposely made her library services welcoming to this population.

Because of her background, the librarian reached out to the current English teachers to form a book club for students with disabilities. She wanted to hold a weekly book club in the library during English class. Holding programs during school hours can be difficult, because there is already so much to do during a school day. But it increases participation, since many students ride the bus or have other after-school obligations, and often can’t stay late.

Read the full post on YALSAblog and share your thoughts!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Thanksgiving Storytime

Last Thursday, I held a Thanksgiving storytime for a class from SRVS. I read Turkey Trouble by Wendi Silvano, illustrated by Lee Harper, followed by One is a Feast for Mouse by Judy Cox, illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler.

Turkey Trouble reminded me a lot of Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise, except instead of disguising himself to catch dinner like Owl, Turkey is disguising himself so he won't become dinner!

One is a Feast for Mouse reminded me of the song "The Green Grass Grew All Around" because Mouse makes a huge stack of food morsel upon food morsel, and the stack is repeated each time something new is added. It's extra fun to point at the illustrations and have everyone say the item along with you. Spoiler alert: you will be out of breath by the end!

After reading those two books, we made turkeys using toilet paper rolls and construction paper feathers. To save time, I pre-cut the feathers, so each individual got ten and glued them to the back of their toilet paper roll. Then they used crayons to draw eyes and a beak on their turkeys!

I've also written about previous library programs for adults with disabilities.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Hoot Owl Storytime

A project for my LS5343 Youth Programs class was to design a storytime program. I picked one of my son's favorite books, Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise by Sean Taylor. Check out my program ideas on Glogster to see the song and craft, too!

Sunday, October 25, 2015


I've jumped in to the booktube community, and I'm loving it so far! I only have a few review videos up, and they're a little pretty awkward, but honestly, I had SO much fun making them! I have a couple more of my new feature A BOOK A MINUTE to upload this month, and then I hope to add a LOT of new content in November!

Check out my booktube channel: How I Feel About Books

I have a great list of booktubers to subscribe to, but also let me know what booktubers are your favorites - or if you record videos, too!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Halloween Storytime

Yesterday I held a Halloween storytime for two classes from SRVS. I know, I know - it's only the beginning of October! But for now, this program is only held once a month, so I had to share these excellent books while I could!

See the setup in a better light here.

I read:
- Goodnight Goon by Michael Rex
- Little Shop of Monsters by R.L. Stine and Marc Brown
- a few poems from Your Skeleton is Showing: Rhymes of Blunder from Six Feet Under by Kurt
   Cyrus, illustrated by Crab Scrambly
- Monster Mash by David Catrow

I encouraged the group to speak/sing along as I read Monster Mash; we also listened to the song by Bobby "Boris" Pickett and danced. Then I turned off all the lights and asked for volunteers to tell ghost stories.

It was a fun program, but several of the individuals asked if we were making monster crafts. I had substituted the ghost stories section for craft time, since we have a little less than an hour for the whole program, and I pay for supplies out of pocket. For future Halloween programs, I'll definitely have a fun monster craft planned. Lesson learned!

I reviewed the first three books on the read-aloud list as "Best Books for
Halloween" and made a short video, so check it out for more on those titles.

I've also written about previous library programs for adults with disabilities.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Read Banned Books!

Happy Banned Books Week!

Thanks for following along this week as we checked out the books and authors who have been challenged for various reasons. Keep reading, and read widely, with an open mind!

Image from American Library Association.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Top 10 Banned Books of 2014

Happy Banned Books Week!

The top ten most frequently challenged books of 2014 are:

1) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie. Read and reviewed on the blog!

2) Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi. Read and reviewed on Goodreads.

3) And Tango Makes Three, Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell.

4) The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison.

5) It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris

6) Saga, by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples

7) The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

8) The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

9) A Stolen Life, Jaycee Dugard. Read and reviewed on Goodreads.

10) Drama, by Raina Telgemeier. Read and reviewed on Goodreads.

Aaaaalmost halfway there... Have you read any of these banned books? Which would you recommend I read?

List from American Library Association.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

100 most frequently challenged books: 2000-2009

Happy Banned Books Week!

Titles I've read are in bold, and favorites are denoted with an *. How many banned books have you read? Which would you recommend?

Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor*
The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier

And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck*
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman
ttyl; ttfn; l8r g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers
It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
Forever, by Judy Blume
The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous*
Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

King and King, by Linda de Haan
To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee*
Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
The Giver, by Lois Lowry*
In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak
Killing Mr. Griffen, by Lois Duncan
Beloved, by Toni Morrison
My Brother Sam Is Dead, by James Lincoln Collier
Bridge To Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline B. Cooney*

We All Fall Down, by Robert Cormier
What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson
The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler
Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
It’s So Amazing, by Robie Harris
Arming America, by Michael Bellasiles
Kaffir Boy, by Mark Mathabane
Life is Funny, by E.R. Frank
Whale Talk, by Chris Crutcher
The Fighting Ground, by Avi
Blubber, by Judy Blume
Athletic Shorts, by Chris Crutcher
Crazy Lady, by Jane Leslie Conly
Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby: The First Graphic Novel by George Beard and Harold Hutchins, the creators of Captain Underpants, by Dav Pilkey
Rainbow Boys, by Alex Sanchez
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
Daughters of Eve, by Lois Duncan
The Great Gilly Hopkins, by Katherine Paterson
You Hear Me?, by Betsy Franco
The Facts Speak for Themselves, by Brock Cole
Summer of My German Soldier, by Bette Green*
When Dad Killed Mom, by Julius Lester
Blood and Chocolate, by Annette Curtis Klause
Fat Kid Rules the World, by K.L. Going
Olive’s Ocean, by Kevin Henkes
Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson
Draw Me A Star, by Eric Carle
The Stupids (series), by Harry Allard
The Terrorist, by Caroline B. Cooney*
Mick Harte Was Here, by Barbara Park*
The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred Taylor

A Time to Kill, by John Grisham
Always Running, by Luis Rodriguez
Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
Harris and Me, by Gary Paulsen
Junie B. Jones (series), by Barbara Park
Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
What’s Happening to My Body Book, by Lynda Madaras
The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold*
Anastasia (series), by Lois Lowry*

A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving
Crazy: A Novel, by Benjamin Lebert
The Joy of Gay Sex, by Dr. Charles Silverstein
The Upstairs Room, by Johanna Reiss
A Day No Pigs Would Die, by Robert Newton Peck
Black Boy, by Richard Wright
Deal With It!, by Esther Drill
Detour for Emmy, by Marilyn Reynolds
So Far From the Bamboo Grove, by Yoko Watkins
Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, by Chris Crutcher
Cut, by Patricia McCormick
Tiger Eyes, by Judy Blume
The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
Friday Night Lights, by H.G. Bissenger
A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle
Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George
The Boy Who Lost His Face, by Louis Sachar
Bumps in the Night, by Harry Allard
Goosebumps (series), by R.L. Stine
Shade’s Children, by Garth Nix
Grendel, by John Gardner
The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende
I Saw Esau, by Iona Opte
Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume*
America: A Novel, by E.R. Frank

List from American Library Association.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

100 most frequently challenged books: 1990–1999

Happy Banned Books Week!

Titles I've read are in bold, and favorites are denoted with an *. How many banned books have you read? Which would you recommend?

Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
Daddy’s Roommate, by Michael Willhoite
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck*
Forever, by Judy Blume
Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson

Heather Has Two Mommies, by Leslea Newman
The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
The Giver, by Lois Lowry*

My Brother Sam is Dead, by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
Alice (series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor*
Goosebumps (series), by R.L. Stine*

A Day No Pigs Would Die, by Robert Newton Peck
The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
Sex, by Madonna
Earth’s Children (series), by Jean M. Auel
The Great Gilly Hopkins, by Katherine Paterson
In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak
The Witches, by Roald Dahl
A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle

The New Joy of Gay Sex, by Charles Silverstein
Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous*
The Goats, by Brock Cole
The Stupids (series), by Harry Allard
Anastasia Krupnik (series), by Lois Lowry*
Final Exit, by Derek Humphry
Blubber, by Judy Blume
Halloween ABC, by Eve Merriam
Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George
Kaffir Boy, by Mark Mathabane
The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters, by Lynda Madaras
Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers
The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton
The Pigman, by Paul Zindel
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee*
We All Fall Down, by Robert Cormier
Deenie, by Judy Blume
Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes*

Annie on My Mind, by Nancy Garden
Beloved, by Toni Morrison
The Boy Who Lost His Face, by Louis Sachar
Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat, by Alvin Schwartz
Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
Cujo, by Stephen King
James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl
A Light in the Attic, by Shel Silverstein

Ordinary People, by Judith Guest
American Psycho, by Bret Easton Ellis
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Sleeping Beauty Trilogy, by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
Bumps in the Night, by Harry Allard
Asking About Sex and Growing Up, by Joanna Cole
What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons, by Lynda Madaras
The Anarchist Cookbook, by William Powell
Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume*
Boys and Sex, by Wardell Pomeroy
Crazy Lady, by Jane Conly
Athletic Shorts, by Chris Crutcher
Killing Mr. Griffin, by Lois Duncan
Fade, by Robert Cormier
Guess What?, by Mem Fox
Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
Native Son, by Richard Wright
Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Fantasies, by Nancy Friday
Curses, Hexes and Spells, by Daniel Cohen
On My Honor, by Marion Dane Bauer
The House of Spirits, by Isabel Allende
Jack, by A.M. Homes
Arizona Kid, by Ron Koertge
Family Secrets, by Norma Klein
Mommy Laid an Egg, by Babette Cole
Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo A. Anaya
Where Did I Come From?, by Peter Mayle
The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline Cooney*
Carrie, by Stephen King

The Dead Zone, by Stephen King
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain
Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
Always Running, by Luis Rodriguez
Private Parts, by Howard Stern
Where’s Waldo?, by Martin Hanford*
Summer of My German Soldier, by Bette Greene*
Tiger Eyes, by Judy Blume

Little Black Sambo, by Helen Bannerman
Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett
Running Loose, by Chris Crutcher
Sex Education, by Jenny Davis
Jumper, by Steven Gould
Christine, by Stephen King
The Drowning of Stephen Jones, by Bette Greene
That Was Then, This is Now, by S.E. Hinton
Girls and Sex, by Wardell Pomeroy
The Wish Giver, by Bill Brittain
Jump Ship to Freedom, by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

List from American Library Association.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Frequently Challenged Authors

Happy Banned Books Week!

I've read books by the authors whose names are in bold, and an * denotes some of my favorite writers.

How many of these frequently challenged authors have your read? Who are your favorites?

2012: Dav Pilkey, Sherman Alexie, Jay Asher, E.L. James, Ellen Hopkins, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Patricia Polacco, John Green, Luis Alberto Urrea, Alvin Schwartz, Dagberto Glib

2011: Lauren Myracle, Kim Dong Hwa, Chris Crutcher, Carolyn Mackler, Robert Greene, Sonya Sones, Dori Hillestead Butler, Sherman Alexie, Suzanne Collins, Aldous Huxley, Harper Lee*, Eric Jerome Dickey, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor*, Dav Pilkey, Cecily von Ziegesar

2010: Ellen Hopkins, Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, Sonya Sones, Judy Blume*, Ann Brasheres, Suzanne Collins, Aldous Huxley, Sherman Alexie, Laurie Halse Anderson, Natasha Friend

2009: Lauren Myracle, Alex Sanchez, P.C. Cast, Robert Cormier*, Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, Stephen Chbosky, Chris Crutcher, Ellen Hopkins, Richelle Mead, John Steinbeck*

2008: Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, Philip Pullman, Lauren Myracle, Jim Pipe, Alvin Schwartz, Chris Crutcher, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor*, Rudolfo Anaya, Stephen Chbosky, Cecily Von Ziegesar

2007: Robert Cormier*, Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, Mark Twain, Toni Morrison, Philip Pullman, Kevin Henkes, Lois Lowry*, Chris Crutcher, Lauren Myracle, Joann Sfar

2006: Chris Crutcher, Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, Toni Morrison, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor*, Cecily von Ziegesar, Carolyn Mackler, Alvin Schwartz, Stephen Chbosky, Alex Sanchez, Judy Blume*

2005: Judy Blume*, Robert Cormier*, Chris Crutcher, Robie Harris, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor*, Toni Morrison, J. D. Salinger, Lois Lowry*, Marilyn Reynolds, Sonya Sones

2004: Phyllis Reynolds Naylor*, Robert Cormier*, Judy Blume*, Toni Morrison, Chris Lynch, Barbara Park, Gary Paulsen, Dav Pilkey, Maurice Sendak, Sonya Sones

2003: Phyllis Reynolds Naylor*, J. K. Rowling, Robert Cormier*, Judy Blume*, Katherine Paterson, John Steinbeck*, Walter Dean Myers, Robie Harris, Stephen King, Louise Rennison

2002: J.K. Rowling, Judy Blume*, Robert Cormier*, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor*, Stephen King, Lois Duncan, S.E. Hinton, Alvin Schwartz, Maya Angelou, Roald Dahl*, Toni Morrison

2001: J. K. Rowling, Robert Cormier*, John Steinbeck*, Judy Blume*, Maya Angelou, Robie Harris, Gary Paulsen, Walter Dean Myers, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor*, Bette Greene

List from American Library Association.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Frequently Challenged Classics

The Radcliffe Publishing Course listed the Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century, and at least 46 of those titles are banned or challenged books! I bolded ones I've read, and used a * to denote my favorites. How many of these have you read?

1. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald*
2. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
3. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
4. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee*
5. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
6. Ulysses, by James Joyce
7. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
8. The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
9. 1984, by George Orwell*

11. Lolita, by Vladmir Nabokov
12. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck*

15. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
16. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
17. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
18. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
19. As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
20. A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway

23. Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
24. Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
25. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
26. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
27. Native Son, by Richard Wright
28. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, by Ken Kesey
29. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
30. For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway

33. The Call of the Wild, by Jack London

36. Go Tell it on the Mountain, by James Baldwin

38. All the King's Men, by Robert Penn Warren

40. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien

45. The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair

48. Lady Chatterley's Lover, by D.H. Lawrence
49. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
50. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin

53. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote

55. The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie

57. Sophie's Choice, by William Styron

64. Sons and Lovers, by D.H. Lawrence

66. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
67. A Separate Peace, by John Knowles

73. Naked Lunch, by William S. Burroughs
74. Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
75. Women in Love, by D.H. Lawrence

80. The Naked and the Dead, by Norman Mailer

84. Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller

88. An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser

97. Rabbit, Run, by John Updike

If only I could count books I started and never finished! Looks like I have some required reading to brush up on...

List from American Library Association.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

I Read Banned Books

Happy Banned Books Week!

Stayed tuned for a new post each day this week with different lists of challenged books and authors. Chime in on what books you've read and what you'd recommend to other readers!

Did you know:

Infographic from American Library Association.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Libraries Promoting Literacy

Last week I attended a Literacy Summit at the Mid-South Book Festival in Memphis, Tennessee. I was inspired by speakers like Jeff Edmondson of Strive Together and David C. Banks, the founding principal of the Eagle Academy. I learned that 73% of students in local Shelby County Schools were reading below grade level. That statistic might be specific to my area, but similar numbers can be found elsewhere. (The KIDS COUNT Data Book has extensive information broken down by state.)

I learned that there are ways we can change this unfortunate trend. I sat in an auditorium surrounded by teachers and tutors who were specifically told “You can do THIS.” And I looked around, wondering where the other librarians were.
Read the full post on YALSAblog and share your input!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Day the Crayons Storytime

Today was my second time holding a library program for adults with disabilities! Two classes from SRVS came for a colorful storytime! I read The Day the Crayons Quit and The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers.

I made the books a little more interactive by letting the individuals call out what color was writing the letter based on the illustrations. In the second book, they had fun trying to remember what color crayon had renamed himself "Esteban"!

For the craft, individuals colored their own bookmarks with an assortment of crayons, trying to use them all equally so none would get mad and quit! Check out these beautiful bookmarks!

I've also written about previous library programs for adults with disabilities.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

My First Storytime with SRVS!

The backstory behind my library program for adults with disabilities is explained here.

Two weeks ago today, on August 13, 2015, I held my first library program for two classes of adults with disabilities from SRVS! I was pretty nervous because my experience of reading aloud is limited to my one-year-old. I picked two books I really loved because I knew I'd be comfortable reading them aloud. Bonus: both books are really funny, so I knew my audience would be laughing!

I started with The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers, then read Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise by Sean Taylor, illustrated by Jean Jullien. The craft was to make Hoot Owl pencil toppers out of construction paper. I pre-cut all the pieces for the owl because we have a little less than an hour for this program. The individuals glued them together, then taped the owl to their pencil. A SRVS teacher and I took requests from the individuals and we made disguises for each owl! See the super cool spy glasses pictured above.

This program was so much fun to lead, and I'm excited to continue it every month. I can't wait to see how it grows and develops into more!

Adapted Books for Teens with Disabilities

Adapted books are texts that have been modified to make them more accessible for people with different abilities. Making books more physically accessible could mean using fluffers, which are foam stickers or Velcro squares added to the corners of stiff pages to make them easier to grab and turn. Any book can be adapted with these fluffers, but it’s important to make sure the books that are modified can also be independently read by patrons. Turning regular texts into adapted books will not only round out your library’s collection, but it can also be a great makerspace project!
Click to read the full article on YALSAblog.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Are You Seeing Me?

Books are often seen as a respite from everyday life and road trip books can be an even greater escape. They let you travel without having to go through airport security or get stuck in a strange city’s traffic. Darren Groth’s Are You Seeing Me? takes readers from an Australian airport to several stops in Canada and the United States, journeying alongside nineteen-year-old Justine and her twin brother, Perry.

The trip is a big undertaking, but it’s meant to be a send-off, a farewell to the lives the twins have always known. Justine and Perry’s father died a year ago and, since then, Justine has been Perry’s caregiver. Before his death, their father secured Perry, who has autism, a spot at an independent living facility. Justine is conflicted: Perry says he wants to move away; her boyfriend wants to move in; and she can finally live a life without caring for a brother with disabilities.

Check out the full review at Cleaver Magazine.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Flashback Friday - Storytellers Beginnings

Last Thursday I started a new read-aloud program at the local library. I read aloud to adults with disabilities, and then we talk about the stories and do a craft. Last week, 13 of the adults left with applications for library cards! I'm hoping that the program will expand to teach the adults with disabilities how to use the library more independently. Eventually, I'd love to offer this program to all ages of people with disabilities.

In honor of the program kickoff, I wanted to share posts from a previous program I did for adults with disabilities. I started "We Are Storytellers" - a chance for people with disabilities to write and illustrate their own stories. This entry was originally posted on January 8, 2013.

- - -

     A friend and I were on a road trip in August of 2011. We talked about everything under the sun, from personal lives to hopes and dreams for the future. She told me that she wanted to visit terminal children in the hospital and have them tell her a story. She'd write it down and make it into a book, giving them a creative outlet even while their bodies were being ravaged by disease. She wanted to show them they could still make something, they could use their imaginations and escape in some small way.

     Three months later, I started volunteering at SRVS. I helped out with the art program, which meant I distributed paper, paint, and brushes to the plethora of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities lined up at cafeteria tables - we were a little overwhelmed initially, with about 20 clients and three teachers. As time wore on, I stole moments to sit beside them and talk about their paintings.
     We described animals and the individual would paint them; we'd make the animal's noises when the picture was complete. Some clients worked better when given an example; I'd try to paint my own version of whatever they wanted to draw themselves. (Despite being a graphic designer and volunteering with the art program, my drawing skills are somewhat lacking.) Usually, thankfully!, they requested simpler things: animals, fruits, landscapes with birds soaring over the trees.

     I got to know these people as individuals, but I wanted to understand how their minds worked. I wanted to know their stories. My friend's idea had stuck with me since the year before, and I knew I wanted to implement it in this setting, but I had no clue how. I spoke with administrators at the organization, told them what I wanted to do, and they gave me their blessings. But I didn't know what to do - where to start, what the purpose would be, and how I would reach the finish line.

     It wasn't until January 2013 that I felt ready to start the project. (And I use the term "ready" loosely - I was incredibly nervous, for no real reason.) I now see that was the best possible thing I could do - wait. Get to know the clients, familiarize myself with their personalities, their conditions, their daily lives. Really try to understand where they're coming from and what they're going through before I sit down with them and ask them to write and illustrate a story for me.

- - -

If you're interested, please check out the entire blog at We Are Storytellers!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Since You've Been Gone

Plot Summary
Emily was a nobody until Sloane came along and picked Emily to be her best friend. For two years, Emily was able to be included just by being at Sloane’s side, but when Sloane leaves without a trace, Emily is lost. Until a list arrives in the mail, a list like those Sloane would make before Emily went on a trip. A list of dares, of things to do in a new place. Emily is intimidated by a lot of the items on the list - kiss a stranger? Skinny dip? - but is determined to complete them all, because she’s sure they’ll lead her back to Sloane.

Critical Analysis
Though a lot of young adult books seem to have lists of dares involved, written by a friend who has left or died, this stands out as being very original. Matson has a great voice that makes the scenes seem realistic instead of hokey, and the ending is incredibly satisfying.

Read more by Morgan Matson!
+     Matson, Morgan. Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young
          Readers, 2011. Print.
After her father dies, Amy is moving across the country with her mother. She decides to drive from California to Connecticut, but there’s a hitch - her mother’s friend’s son is coming along. Amy was looking forward to taking a trip by herself - will she be able to drive across the country with a guy she doesn’t even know?
+     Matson, Morgan. Second Chance Summer. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young
          Readers, 2013. Print.
Taylor has always run from her problems, but when her family goes back for a summer at the lake house their haven’t visited for years, she has to face her former best friend and first crush.

Related Activities
Sloane makes Emily lists of things to try when she’s traveling. It’s an attempt to pull Emily out of her shell, to push her beyond her comfort zone. What tasks on the list intimidate your teens the most? What would your teens include on lists for their best friends? Have them write up a list, or take suggestions for a list all the teens who visit the library can do! If you know your teens really well, write personalized lists for them and slip them into a book they check out! Use Sloane’s list for Emily as a jumping-off point, but if you make the tasks more school and library related, you can keep tabs on the teens and they’ll have fun sharing what they’ve accomplished.

Read it for yourself!
Matson, Morgan. Since You’ve Been Gone. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2015. Print.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Operation Pucker Up

Plot Summary
Seventh-grader Grace Shaw is ecstatic when she beats out the eighth grade theater girls for lead in the school’s production of Snow White. Things don’t seem so great, however, when she can’t even tell her mom and sister the good news because her dad showed up for dinner after living on his own for months. It only gets worse when Grace realizes she’ll have to kiss one of the most popular boys in school in the final scene of the play - and she’s never been kissed before! Her two best friends get to work developing “Operation Pucker Up” - a detailed plan to get Grace kissed that fills a notebook. But no plan can go off without a hitch, and that includes Grace’s life onstage as well as at home.

Critical Analysis
Alpine’s first middle grade book is very well-written and strong. Her first novel was for young adults and really enjoyable, but it seems she’s found her niche with tween writing! She makes the characters come alive as relatable people, and good role models for tween girls. The family dynamics are perfectly done, handling a sensitive topic like parental separation with ease. The emotions are not overly sentimental, and there is genuine humor in the story, not silly gimmicks aimed too young for the targeted age group. Alpine’s explanation of theater terms are just right - not too long for those who already know the meanings, and just enough to make readers with no theater knowledge feel in-the-know.

+     Lockhart, E. Dramarama. New York: Disney-Hyperion, 2007. Print.
Two friends who try to avoid attention go to a summer theater camp where one becomes a star, and one doesn’t have the talent she originally thought; both are forced to rethink their friendship.
+     Matson, Morgan. Since You’ve Been Gone. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for           Young Readers, 2015. Print.
Emily’s parents are playwrights, and though they’re not the focus of this novel, it’s a great book that has a lot of theater infused into the storyline.

Related Activities
This book will make you want to put on a play! If you have the time and resources, go for it! If this isn’t an option for your class or for a library program, take a shortcut! Ask students to pick a favorite play or fairy tale, and they can read the parts aloud like Grace’s table read. This way, you get the feel of a play without needing costumes or sets. You could even gather other classes or library patrons for an audience!

Read it for yourself!
Alpine, Rachele. Operation Pucker Up. New York: Aladdin, 2015. Print.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

If you liked Popular...

I recently read and reviewed Popular by Maya Van Wagenen. I loved the book, bought a copy for my thirteen-year-old niece, and have recommended it to countless people. I also picked it as the topic of my final project for my summer class, Advanced Literature for Young Adults. We had to make a virtual book display using a Web 2.0 tool, and I'd love you to check out the one I made for Popular!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Lola Zola, a series for tweens

Plot Summary
Lola Zola and the Lemonade Crush: Lola Zola is understandably upset and confused when both of her parents are laid off from their jobs at the auto plant. She’s only eleven years old, but she feels the fate of her family resting on her shoulders, and she won’t let them drown in debt. Lola decides to start a lemonade stand in front of the house, enlisting her best friend Melanie to help. But after buying all the ingredients and treating her fair-skinned friend to a sun-blocking umbrella, Lola is out of money—and no one seems to like her lemonade that much, anyway. But Lola won’t give up. She finds a secret ingredient and engages in some covert marketing, and her business booms! Then Slime Bucket, an annoying boy from school, starts selling limo-nade from the trunk of his father’s limo, right across the street from Lola! Will her enemy ruin her business before Lola is able to save her family from bankruptcy?

New Girl on Salt Flat Road: Lola Zola begs her mom for a bra, just wanting to be like all the other girls in middle school, but her mom keeps saying Lola doesn’t need a bra yet. She wants her daughter to stay a child, while Lola is really to grow up! Especially when a new girl moves in, a girl that Lola and her best friend Melanie dub “Tween Queen Pauline” due to her gorgeous hair and curvy body. Zola feels like the chosen one when Pauline invites her to the mall to try on bikinis (even though Lola doesn’t fill hers out) and to a makeup party (even though Lola isn’t allowed to wear makeup). Unfortunately, this makes Melanie, Lola’s best friend, feel left out. But when Lola discovers that Pauline shoplifts and likes boys—including Lola’s crush!—she isn’t as sure that she wants to be Ms. Popularity.

Critical Analysis
Lola Zola is a great new series for tween girls. Lola has a huge personality, making the books fun even while they tackle issues like unemployment, alcoholism, and peer pressure. The characters in the books come off the page, even when they play minor roles. The books use a lot of slang, which will appeal to tween readers.
     There are a few sections in New Girl on Salt Flat Road where the timeline jumps a bit from present time to flashbacks (sometimes just an earlier instance in the same day) that is confusingly worded, but overall the books are very accessible for tweens, written in their language—literally, in the case of current slang, but also written for their grade level.
     Lola Zola is published by “Brown Girls Publishing” (which does NOT exclusively print African-American books OR African-American authors) and the character often laments about her wild hair, but otherwise nothing is explicitly stated about Lola’s race. Which doesn’t matter, of course, though the series seems to be about people of color (especially if you judge both books by their covers). This doesn’t detract from the story at all, but I think it would be a great opportunity to highlight a strong, bold girl of color - IF that is what the authors intended. Melanie, Lola’s best friend, is frequently mentioned as being pale and freckling in the sun, so it would be just as easy to slip in a few phrases about Lola’s race.

Personal Response
Growing up, I was a big fan of the Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. It follows Alice from elementary school, and just ended with a book catching us up to Alice’s 60th birthday! I can see the Lola Zola series stretching out like that, growing up with the girls who read it and acting as a guide and inspiration as they do. I was a shy kid so I loved reading about characters that were bolder than me, and Lola is definitely that girl! She’s very sassy, but at the same time she is relatable and faces issues that most girls face, so it’s inspiring that she deals with real issues while still being true to her personality. I would really like to see this turned into a TV series, or even made-for-TV movies, because the stories are so vivid that I think they could translate really well to screen, and reach even more girls in the process.

Related Links
Keep up with Lola Zola on the blog: and on Twitter: @tweenorama. Get your own copies of the books from Amazon: Lola Zola and the Lemonade Crush and New Girl on Salt Flat Road.

Read them for yourself!
Winograd, Marcy and Jackie Hirtz. Lola Zola and the Lemonade Crush. Houston, TX: Brown Girls Publishing, 2014. Print.

Winograd, Marcy and Jackie Hirtz. New Girl on Salt Flat Road. Houston, TX: Brown Girls Books, 2015. Print.

*Disclaimer: I was sent free copies of these books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

This One Summer

Plot Summary
Rose and her family stay at a lakeside cabin every summer, where Rose hangs out with the slightly younger Windy. Together the two girls roam the small town, renting scary movies to appear more mature to the boys who work at the local convenience store. Rose’s crush consumes her, but younger Windy doesn’t understand and wants to still play and be silly, like the kid she is. While Rose struggles with her own feelings, her parents are fighting so much that her father goes home, and only returns to the cabin on weekends. Rose can’t relate to her mother, who seems wrapped up in her own sadness, so she struggles to find her place between the contrasting worlds of childhood and adulthood.

Critical Analysis
The panels in this novel are realistically drawn, so the characters show relatable emotions in their expressions and actions. The whole book is printed in dark blue ink, calling to mind the water of the lake Rose and Windy swim in. The whole approach to the book’s style and layout give it the importance necessary for such a coming of age story.
     The story of the summer is interesting and accessible for teens of all ages and backgrounds, but one is left with a feeling of sadness at the end of the book. Just like in real life, all the loose ends are not neatly tied up. This is a strength AND a weakness, because books that have a happy ending just because don’t seem genuine, and won’t satisfy most teens. Then again, the overall sadness of this story could bring teens down at a time when their emotions are easily influenced. That doesn’t mean that the book should be avoided, but I don’t think it would be as popular as some more light-hearted graphic novels, especially with graphic novels holding so much appeal to reluctant readers.
     Though Rose is going through puberty, and Windy a year behind her, this book seems best for older teens. The underlying stories of Rose’s mother’s sadness and the town’s teens’ drama are better suited for an older audience. All ages of young adults could enjoy the book, however, because the experience of spending summer at the lake with a friend seems timeless and relatable: letting loose with someone you don’t see too often, in a place where no one really knows you and no routine holds you down. Adults and older teens might feel a bit of nostalgia as they read, while younger teens might currently be experiencing a lot that Rose does.

Related Activities
This One Summer focuses on a specific vacation Rose and her family take. Many other graphic novels are about a short period of time as well. Have teens think of an experience in their life that was particularly monumental, difficult, or even funny. Have them tell that story in concise panels that depend more on illustration than narrative or dialogue. If the teens aren’t artistic, offer a selection of magazines they can cut images from to make collage panels. The panels can be pasted on a larger sheet of paper and folded into a book or zine, or if the stories are too personal to share, collect them all about fifteen minutes before the program ends. Shuffle them together, lay them face down on a table, and let teens pick seven to ten frames. See if they can put these assorted panels together into a new story, or let them keep those panels and add more of their own creation to make a cohesive story.

Books about a certain time in a teen’s life are popular because the emotions are so raw, and everyone can relate to these coming-of-age stories. Telling these stories in graphic novel form adds another layer to the story, because the emotions can be clearly expressed in illustration beyond what words alone make us feel.
+       Halliday, Ayun. Peanut. Illus. Paul Hoppe. New York: Schwartz & Wade, 2012. Print.
Sadie is starting a new school, and she’s not sure how she’s going to make friends - so she pretends to have a peanut allergy. This gets her plenty of attention and sympathy from her peers, but when the teachers and nurse get involved, Sadie’s not sure she can keep up her lie.
+       Telgemeier, Raina. Smile. New York: Graphix, 2010. Print.
Raina knocked out her two front teeth, resulting in years of dental experiments and braces during the crucial time of middle and high school.
+       Mucha, Corinne. Freshman: Tales of 9th Grade Obsessions, Revelations, and Other
. San Francisco, CA: Zest Books, 2011. Print.
Annie is a freshman in high school dealing with a crush, delicate friendships, and trying to learn how to act at parties.

Professional Review
Marcus, Leonard S. “Some Vacation: This One Summer.” Horn Book Magazine 91.4 (2015): 61-64. Academic Search Complete. Web. 26 Jul. 2015.

Read it for yourself!
Tamaki, Mariko. This One Summer. Illus. Jillian Tamaki. New York: First Second, 2014. Print.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek

Plot Summary
Maya Van Wagenen isn’t a total loser—she has one best friend. But on the food chain of middle school popularity, she’s only a step above the teachers. After finding an old book called Betty Cornell’s Teen-Age Popularity Guide, Maya decides to attempt changing her social standing. Her mother encourages her to tackle a tip of two a month from the book’s table of contents, keeping a journal of the experiment as she does. Maya goes from throwing on whatever clothes she can find in her closet to wearing pressed skirts and a string of pearls. She stops being content at blending in and pushes herself to sit at every table in the lunchroom. Though the memoir is about Betty Cornell’s Teen-Age Popularity Guide, Maya adds in elements of her home life, including a sister with autism, and schoolwork, including an ailing beloved teacher, to round out the story.

Critical Analysis
Maya’s writing is so honest and open that every teen girl will fall in love with her. Maya’s worries about her appearance, weight, and personality are universal, and are written about with an eloquent yet conversational voice that will draw in readers. The title, cover, and concept are all eye-catching enough to appeal to teen girls, but boys should also be encouraged to read the book. The lessons about fitting in and being popular vs. being well-liked are universal, and Maya interacts with a lot of boys in her school in a way that is enlightening for both genders.
     It can be hard to tell if a social experiment book will have a lasting place in literature, but if any do, Popular should definitely be one of them. Maya’s writing is timeless, and the idea of updating classic advice is something that will never go out of style. Before too long, Maya’s advice might be considered “classic” itself!
Related Activities
It’s time to get fancy! Teens will make pearls and bow ties out of paper. Collect junk mail and paper scraps so everyone can get their pick of paper types and colors. White paper can also be custom-decorated, so include markers and colored pencils as well. You can use glue sticks, or water down some white school glue to be painted on to the beads. Make sure you have plenty of stretchy string so teens can wear their pearl necklaces and bow ties!
     Find how to make different paper beads here:
          “How to Make Paper Beads.” WikiHow. Mediawiki, n.d. Web. 19 Jul. 2015.
     Find how to make a paper bow tie here:
          “How to make origami ties.” N.p., 2015. Web. 19 Jul. 2015.
     Maya Van Wagenen not only experimented with becoming classy by wearing pearls, she turned around and made her own project into a book! Teens can do something similar during this craft program. Let them film short videos explaining how to make the beads and bow ties from start to finish. Upload them on the library’s social media sites so other teens can learn how to do these crafts at home.

Read the book that inspired Maya’s experiment! It’s being republished to meet the demand of Maya’s readers, so get your hands on a copy and see how you can interpret and apply the advice to your own life!
     Cornell, Betty. Betty Cornell’s Teen-Age Popularity Guide. New York: Dutton Books for Young
          Readers, 2014. Print.
If you’re not into retro advice or changing your social status, you can spice up your life in other ways, with a variety of social experiments. This book is framed within your high school career, but most of the suggestions will fill your time after school hours.
     Stalder, Erika and Steven Jenkins. 97 Things to Do Before You Finish High School. San
          Francisco, CA: Zest Books, 2008. Print.

Professional Review
Coats, Karen. “Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen (review).”
     Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books 67.10 (2014): 546. Project Muse. Web. 19 Jul. 2015.

Read it for yourself!
Van Wagenen, Maya. Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek. New York: Dutton Books,
     2014. Print.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


Plot Summary
Blessed is a Scandinavian island where no children are born and people don't age. The year is 2073 and Eric Seven, a reporter, is sent to write a story about the island. Little is known about the land and its inhabitants, which Eric figures is because the island is off the grid, technologically. He finds this out when he arrives and his phone has no signal. But someone still steals his phone charger, and Eric learns the island isn't as friendly as he first thought. Yet he feels comfortable here, and is drawn to a young woman named Merle. He feels like he already knows her, though she's a stranger. Eric is on the verge of discovery when the story ends and the next takes us back to 2011, then 1944, then 1902, 1848, the 10th century, and a timeless period.

Critical Analysis
It is hard to write about Midwinterblood without giving away much of the story, which is actually a great problem to have. It's one of those books that can be recommended to teens by saying "You've got to read this!" That being said, it doesn't seem like a typical young adult book. It's very unique in subject matter and the way it's told, but it doesn't seem expressly written for teens. The subject matter is gruesome in several stories, and none of the major characters are teenagers. The writing style is not too juvenile for adults, but isn't laden with slang or otherwise aimed at teens. Still, it seems like a book that will rarely be on the shelves due to its popularity. Teens will be drawn to the mash-up of historical fiction and supernatural elements. Since the book won the Printz Award in 2014, it is destined to become a classic.
     Sedgwick's seven short stories are tied together with common characters and common themes of love and sacrifice. Each story is written in present tense, drawing in the reader and keeping them in suspense until the final story is told and all the plots are woven together. Until the entire book is finished, some stories, and parts of stories, can be quite confusing. Though this is a short story collection, it's not an easy book to breeze through. Because of the imagery and how much thought it takes to put it all together, this book should be recommended to older teens or those at an advanced reading level.

Related Activities
Midwinterblood is a book that will make you think. It stays with you long after you close the cover, and has your imagination working overtime. Capitalize on this inspiration by hosting a writing workshop. Teens can write their own short story collection in seven stage.
1. Love. Write a love story, but don't be constrained by what is typically thought of as a love story. Write about familial love: that of a mother for her daughter, or between siblings. Write about platonic love one feels for friends and neighbors. Explore romantic love, or the love one feels for the gods of their religion.
2. Moons. Each story in the book is named after the type of moon that occurs during that time of year. Look up different moons and see what they represent. Pick one that inspires you and write a story about it, or set during that time of year, or make up a fable about how it got its name. Find moons by the month here.
     Full Moon Names and Meanings., 2015. Web. 1 Jul. 2015.
3. Reincarnation. Eric and Merle appear throughout the book as different people in different times. What do the teens at your library think of reincarnation? Do they feel like they've lived before? Have they ever gotten a sense of deja vu? Have them write a story about a character who is living a second or third life, or even an essay about what the teen might have been like in a previous life.
4. Historical Times. Piggy-backing off the idea of reincarnation is simply setting a story in a historical time. Teens can pick a time period, research it, and write as if they or their characters lived during that time, or they can create a mash-up. A mash-up is when two different genres are combined; for example, teens can write a romantic story or a science fiction story set in a historical time period.
5. Symbolism. Things aren't always what they seem! Midwinterblood has a lot of symbolism in every story, like the hares, the dragon orchids, the moons, the bonds of love, and more. Have teens write a story where symbolism plays a big part in the plot. Effective symbolism should add depth to stories, not just be extra elements included without reason.
6. Works of Art. Midwinterblood is based on a painting by Carl Larsson entitled "Midvinterblot". Show teens this painting so they can see how it relates to the book. Have them page through coffee table books of artwork until they find a piece that speaks to them. Have them write a story influenced by the art, or about how it was created, or about what is depicted in the art.
7. Sacrifice. This is a major theme in all seven stories. Have teens write about what they would sacrifice to save something, or what has been sacrificed for them. To further the Midwinterblood theme, challenge them to include characters they used in an earlier story, if they haven't been doing that all along.

Short story collections written specifically for teens seem to be overlooked in favor of more attention-grabbing novels. Spotlight these great books that will open teens' eyes to short fiction, and might inspire them to write their own - beyond the Midwinterblood Writing Workshop!
Black, Holly, and Justine Larbalestier, eds. Zombies vs. Unicorns. New York: Margaret K.
     McElderry Books, 2012. Print.
Datlow, Ellen, and Terri Windling, eds. After: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia. New
     York: Disney-Hyperion, 2013. Print.
Link, Kelly, ed. Pretty Monsters. New York: Speak, 2010. Print.
Strahan, Jonathan, ed. Life on Mars: Tales from the New Frontier. New York: Viking Books for
     Young Readers, 2011. Print.

Professional Review
Silverman, Karen. "Midwinterblood." School Library Journal. 9 Dec. 2013. Web. 11 Jul. 2015.

Read it for yourself!
Sedgwick, Marcus. Midwinterblood. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2013. Print.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Rain Is Not My Indian Name

Plot Summary
Rain is a photographer who fell in love with her best friend, Galen. When Galen dies in a car accident, Rain loses herself and her creative passion. She skips Galen’s funeral and sinks into a 6-month-long depression. The only thing that makes her come up for air is the chance to photograph an Indian camp for the local paper. Rain is one of the few Indians in her small town, but doesn’t feel connected to the culture since her father is white. After photographing the camp and learning that even her former friend, an African-American, is proud of the Indian blood in her lineage, will Rain find a passion for her people?

Critical Analysis
The themes of the book are photography and Native Americans, but neither topic is explored to its full potential. The storyline of Galen’s death is the only one that is satisfactorily resolved; the others fade out before they’re completed. Rain is a flat character; teens would more than likely find it hard to relate to her. She’s interested in photography, but doesn’t seem passionate about it, and nothing else about her personality sticks out. Rain’s grandfather, who is only present via postcards sent from Vegas, is more interesting than the main character herself. This book is more appropriate for younger readers, probably topping out at age 12, though Rain herself is 14. The book is also only 14 years old, but comes across as extremely dated; the story isn’t strong enough to be classified as timeless. Some of the sentences were awkward and wordy, making it hard to comprehend what was being said, and making the reader very aware that they’re reading a story. Overall, the book wasn’t too engaging, so I wouldn’t recommend it even for younger readers.

Related Activities
Rain is a photographer, using a 35mm camera and developing her own film. If your library has the financial resources, it’d be fun to host a pinhole camera makerspace— find instructions here, from:
          343GUILTYSPARK. How To Make A Pinhole Camera. Instructables, n.d. Web. 5 July 2015.

For those who don’t have the resources, you can still have fun “developing” photos. Have teens use their camera phones and the library’s iPads to take journalistic photos of each other in the stacks and around the building. Print them off and send home copies, hang them up, and post them on social media to show what’s going on at the library. You can even make the photos look like they came from a pinhole camera by using a needle to poke a hole in a small square of cardboard and tape it over the camera lens to let less light in. Teens will have to be more conscious of how they frame photos with these limitations!

Edward Curtis was an early 1900’s photographer who wanted to document American-Indian tribes before they disappeared. See his work here:
          Native Americans: Epic Photojournalism., 28 Feb. 2013. Web. 5 July
In 2005 Aaron Huey, a modern photojournalist, documented people living on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. See his photos here:
          Teicher, Jordan G. A Photographer’s Moving Tribute to the Pine Ridge Reservation.
     , 20 Feb. 2014. Web. 5 July 2015.
Aaron Huey created a space for people of the Pine Ridge community to upload their own photos and stories as an interactive storytelling project. View it here:
          Huey, Aaron. Pine Ridge Community Storytelling Project., 20 Mar.
               2012. Web. 5 July 2015.
Aaron Huey also gave a 15 minute TED talk, found here:
          Huey, Aaron. America’s native prisoners of war., Sept. 2010. Web. 5 July 2015.

Professional Review
Edwards, Carol A. "Rain Is Not My Indian Name." School Library Journal 47.6 (2001): 156. Business Insights: Essentials. Web. 5 July 2015.

Read it for yourself!
Smith, Cynthia Leitich. Rain Is Not My Indian Name. New York: HarperCollins, 2001. Print.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel

Plot Summary
Sixteen-year-old Leila Azadi likes girls. Really likes girls. But she can’t tell anyone. She’s already struggling to fit in at school due to being an Iranian-American in a sea of white students. And she’s already disappointing her parents by failing science and not becoming a doctor like they want her to; throwing an announcement about her sexuality into the mix would devastate them.
     When an exotic new girl starts at Leila’s private school, Leila feels less alone. Sask. is from Switzerland, and gorgeous, and immediately befriends Leila. But it feels like something more than friendship… Leila has never felt this way before. She ditches soccer to try out for the school play alongside Saskia. But Leila still isn’t ready for anyone to know she’s a lesbian, and she isn’t sure Saskia is the best person to keep her secret…

Critical Analysis
Leila’s voice is honest and true—teens will find comfort in Leila’s world, even as she is experiencing emotional turmoil. The school environment Farizan portrays is equally as relatable, making this a valuable contemporary book for teens. Leila represents two minorities—mixed-race Iranian-American, and lesbian. Elements of Iranian culture that are incorporated into the story in the form of Leila’s father and social events the family attends are shown with respect and intelligence, so the reader comes away learning about the culture. The lesbian culture is also shown, with Leila falling for, and then striking down, stereotypes. None of those elements are heavy-handed, so the reader doesn’t feel like they’re getting hit over the head with political correctness, yet takes away tolerance and acceptance at the end of the book. The enjoyable, realistic depiction of two minorities make this book a necessity for contemporary young adult collections.
     This book will appeal to teens because the story is easy to get caught up in, but to be superficial, I have to say the pink cover might be a turn-off. This book would be great for girls and boys to enjoy, but every edition I could find a photo of had the signature pink cover. When it comes to an attention-grabbing color, pink is it. But when it comes to a book you’d want to be caught reading in high school, regardless of your gender, pink looks fairly immature. If teens can get past the cover and read the jacket copy, however, I think they’ll be hooked.

Related Activities
Much like her character Leila Azadi, author Sara Farizan is the daughter of Iranian immigrants, likes girls, and dislikes science and math. Other authors have also incorporated a lot of themselves into their fiction, like Sherman Alexie in The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian. Invite teens to create a character using aspects of themselves and their personalities that they find unique or are especially proud of. Characters can be sketched, revealed in a short story, or even shown by a list of traits.
     Leila had a secret that she wasn’t ready to share, but found that things weren’t so bad in the end. Have teens write down a secret on a small slip of paper. They can disguise their writing or write with their other hand if they don’t want to be identified. Teens can roll up or fold their secrets and place them in a jar, which will be sealed so not even the librarian can open it! It’s surprising how much lighter you might feel after getting your secret out - even if no one knows it.
     If you’re lucky enough to have an especially open group of teens, share the secrets instead of sealing the jar! Have the teens leave the room and post all of the secrets on a bulletin board. When the teens come back in, they can read all of the secrets—silently! No calling out guesses or accusations of who wrote what.

Iranian immigration to the United States is a relatively new political phenomenon and constitutes one of the highest status foreign-born groups in the United States (Ansari). Encourage teens to read more about this fast-growing population with a variety of fiction and nonfiction books.
     Amirrezvani, Anita and Persis Karim. Tremors: New Fiction by Iranian American Writers.
          Fayetteville, AR: University of Arkansas Press, 2013. Print.
     Ansari, Maboud. The Iranian Americans: A Popular Social History of a New American Ethnic
Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2013. Print.
     Dumas, Firoozeh. Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America. New York:
          Random House, 2004. Print.
     Dumas, Firoozeh. Laughing Without an Accent: Adventures of a Global Citizen. New York:
          Random House, 2009. Print.
     Nafisi, Azar. Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books. New York: Random House, 2008.

Professional Review
Patten, Amy. “Farzan, Sara: Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel.” The Horn Book Guide 26.1
     (2015): 106. Literature Resource Center. Web. 27 June 2015.

Read it for yourself!
Farizan, Sara. Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Young
     Readers, 2014. Print.