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YA A to Z: Gene Luen Yang

Here we are in the homestretch – I mean, we’re at the letter Y – and not one single graphic novel has appeared on our list, even though statistical evidence suggests that graphic novels are some of the top circulating items in my library system (how about yours?). The truth is, I personally am not a huge reader of graphic novels, though I am a huge advocate for them because my tweens and teens love them. Even The Tween loves them, personally being a huge fan of GNs by Raina Telgemeier and a few other series. I know, I hang my head in shame. I should read more graphic novels. That should be one of my New Year’s Resolutions.

But I have read the award winning works of Gene Luen Yang and maintain that everyone should. Everyone. Yes, even you. These books are award winners for a reason!

americanbornchinese 204x300 YA A to Z: Gene Luen YangAbout American Born Chinese:

“All Jin Wang wants is to fit in. When his family moves to a new neighborhood, he suddenly finds that he’s the only Chinese American student at his school. Jocks and bullies pick on him constantly, and he has hardly any friends. Then, to make matters worse, he falls in love with an all-American girl…

Born to rule over all the monkeys in the world, the story of the Monkey King is one of the oldest and greatest Chinese fables. Adored by his subjects, master of the arts of kung-fu, he is the most powerful monkey on earth. But the Monkey King doesn’t want to be a monkey. He wants to be hailed as a god…

Chin-Kee is the ultimate negative Chinese stereotype, and he’s ruining his cousin Danny’s life. Danny’s a popular kid at school, but every year Chin-Kee comes to visit, and every year Danny has to transfer to a new school to escape the shame. This year, though, things quickly go from bad to worse…

These three apparently unrelated tales come together with an unexpected twist, in a modern fable that is hilarious, poignant and action-packed. American Born Chinese is an amazing rise, all the way up to the astonishing climax–and confirms what a growing number of readers already know: Gene Yang is a major talent” (Publisher’s Description)

American Born Chinese has won a tremendous amount of recognition: “In 2006, Yang published American Born Chinese with :01 First Second Publishing and won the annual Michael L. Printz Award from the American Library Association recognizing the year’s “best book written for teens, based entirely on its literary merit”.[9] It was also the first graphic novel to be a finalist for the National Book Award, Young People’s Literature,[4] and it won an Eisner Award for best new graphic album.[10] American Born Chinese has since been recognized in many ways. It has been on the Booklist top Ten Graphic Novel for Youth; NPR Holiday Pick, Publishers Weekly Comics Week Best Comic of the Year, San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year, The Rueben Award for Best Comic Book, The Chinese American Librarians Association 2006/2007 Best Graphic Album – New, Time Magazine Top Ten Comic of the Year, and Best Graphic Novel/Comic of the year.” – From his Wikipedia page

About Boxers & Saints:

“China, 1898. Bands of foreign missionaries and soldiers roam the countryside, bullying and robbing Chinese peasants.

Little Bao has had enough. Harnessing the powers of ancient Chinese gods, he recruits an army of Boxers–commoners trained in kung fu–who fight to free China from “foreign devils.”

Against all odds, this grass-roots rebellion is violently successful. But nothing is simple. Little Bao is fighting for the glory of China, but at what cost? So many are dying, including thousands of “secondary devils”–Chinese citizens who have converted to Christianity.

Saints: China, 1898. An unwanted and unwelcome fourth daughter, Four-Girl isn’t even given a proper name by her family when she’s born. She finds friendship–and a name, Vibiana–in the most unlikely of places: Christianity.

But China is a dangerous place for Christians. The Boxer Rebellion is in full swing, and bands of young men roam the countryside, murdering Westerners and Chinese Christians alike. Torn between her nation and her Christian friends, Vibiana will have to decide where her true loyalties lie…and whether she is willing to die for her faith.” (Publisher’s Description)

boxersandsaints YA A to Z: Gene Luen Yang

Outside of the awesome storyline and storyboarding, Boxers & Saints has epic packaging in the way the two are clearly designed to go together. There are so many interesting things happening here, including diving into some of the myths and realities of China’s view of women and the world of Christians in China. As a youth ministry major at a conservative Christian college, we heard often about the life of Christians in China and it was fascinating to read about those struggles in a different storytelling format and outside the walls of a group of people who definitely had some bias in the ways that these stories were presented. This is truly an amazing story. In 2013 Gene Luen Yang was a National Book Award Finalist for this amazing story.

About the Author:

yang YA A to Z: Gene Luen YangGene Yang began drawing comic books in the fifth grade. In 1997, he received the Xeric Grant, a prestigious comics industry grant, for Gordon Yamamoto and the King of the Geeks, his first comics work as an adult. He has since written and drawn a number of titles, including Duncan’s Kingdom (with art by Derek Kirk Kim) and The Rosary Comic Book. American Born Chinese received National Book Award.

He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his lovely wife and children and teaches at a Roman Catholic high school. (This bio is ripped from his Goodreads bio)


Join the conversation!  Share a post about your favorite author OR tweet us your favorite author with the tag #YAAtoZ. While we’re sharing our favorite authors, we would love to hear about yours. We all might find some new authors we haven’t heard of before. And the more authors we share, the more comprehensive and diverse the list becomes. On Twitter, we’re @TLT16, @boothheather, @robinreads, and @citesomething.

#YAAtoZ Schedule: Week 1 4: A ; 5: B ; 6: C ; 7: D  Week 2 10: E ; 11: F ; 12: G, H, I ; 13: J, K ; 14: L  Week 3 17: M ; 18: N, O ; 19: P, Q ; 20: R, S ; 21: T  Week 4 24: U ; 25: V, W ; 26: X ; 27: Y ; 28: Z

Win a Signed Copy of ATLANTIA by Ally Condie

atlantia 198x300 Win a Signed Copy of ATLANTIA by Ally CondieIt’s Thankgsiving, so we thought we would let you know how thankful we are to you by giving away a signed copy of Atlantia by Ally Condie, generously provided by the publisher Dutton Children’s. All you need to do to enter is leave a comment below before Saturday, December 6th at Midnight. Open to U.S. residents.

“So much of life is in the smallness of moments…but they are harder to mark. So we need the grander celebrations and occasions. People like to feel significant”
Ally Condie, Atlantia

Here’s the book description:

Can you hear Atlantia breathing?

For as long as she can remember, Rio has dreamt of the sand and sky Above—of life beyond her underwater city of Atlantia. But in a single moment, all her plans for the future are thwarted when her twin sister, Bay, makes an unexpected decision, stranding Rio Below. Alone, ripped away from the last person who knew Rio’s true self—and the powerful siren voice she has long hidden—she has nothing left to lose.

Guided by a dangerous and unlikely mentor, Rio formulates a plan that leads to increasingly treacherous questions about her mother’s death, her own destiny, and the complex system constructed to govern the divide between land and sea. Her life and her city depend on Rio to listen to the voices of the past and to speak long-hidden truths.


Ally Condie is, of course, the author of the extremely popular Matched trilogy. Here she delves in the mysterious underwater world, a premise that has intrigued generations. School Library Journal said, “Complex characters, including Rio’s antihero aunt, and a realistically slow and subtle first romance make this a book teens will relate to, even non-genre fans. A slowly unfolding backstory perfectly complements all the action.” (School Library Journal, October 01, 2014).

YA A to Z: Francisco X. Stork (a guest post by Linda Jerome)

marcelointherealworld1 196x300 YA A to Z: Francisco X. Stork (a guest post by Linda Jerome)Alright, so we had to cheat a bit with the whole letter “X” thing but trust me, this author is worthy of rule-bending. If you haven’t read anything by Francisco X. Stork, then let me implore you to read my favorite book (so far) of his called Marcelo in the Real World. It’s the story of a young man on the autism spectrum who works in the mail room for a summer at his father’s law firm in order to gain “real world” experience and not only does this experience change his life, but it changes the lives of all involved.

As is the case with all my favorite books, Marcelo in the Real World isn’t just about one thing, it’s about the many threads that weave together to make a life. Yes, it’s a coming-of-age story told from a unique viewpoint but it’s also about the cost of doing the right thing, the shortcomings of our legal system, the differences between faith and religion and how a deep connection to music can shape a life. Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? But in the hands of a master storyteller, all those pieces fit together in a gorgeous, seamless way that makes you feel like a better person for reading it. And what Marcelo discovers is that it is in the asking of the big, difficult questions that we find our humanity:

“For all the pain I saw at Paterson, it is nothing compared to the pain that people inflict upon each other in the real world. All I can think of now is that is is not right for me to be unaware of that pain, including the pain that I inflict on others. Only how is it possible to live without being either numb to it or overwhelmed by it?”

                                –page 302

Just like in the lives of the teens we serve, there are no easy answers and there are hard lessons to be learned. But there is also love and humor and the joy of finding your place in the world. And for me, books like Marcelo in the Real World are the kind that stick with me and I find myself recommending again and again because they speak powerfully about what connects us as human beings, no matter the differences.

Brief Biography

franciscoxstork YA A to Z: Francisco X. Stork (a guest post by Linda Jerome)Francisco Xavier Arguelles was born in 1953 in Monterrey, Mexico. His mother, Ruth Arguelles, was a single woman from a middle-class family in Tampico. Six years later Ruth married Charles Stork, a retired man of Dutch ancestry, who adopted Francisco.When Francisco announced that he wanted to be a writer, Charlie gave him a portable typewriter for his seventh birthday. Two years later, Francisco and his family moved to El Paso, Texas, where he was sent to grammar school to learn English.

As a teenager, Francisco was given a scholarship to the local Jesuit academy and soon rose to the top of his class. Based on his success there, he received an honors scholarship to attend Spring Hill College, a small Jesuit school in Mobile, Alabama. Francisco majored in English literature and philosophy and received the college’s creative writing prize. He was awarded the prestigious Danforth Fellowship to attend graduate school at Harvard University, where he studied Latin American literature with writers like Octavio Paz, the Mexican Nobel Laureate. After four years at Harvard, Francisco went to Columbia Law School, planning to make a living as a lawyer while writing fiction. Twenty years, and twelve or so legal jobs later, he published his first novel for adults, The Way of the Jaguar.

Francisco X. Stork works in Boston as an attorney for a state agency that develops affordable housing. He is married and has two adult children.


The Way of the Jaguar (2000)

Behind the Eyes (2006)

Marcelo in the Real World (2009)

The Last Summer of the Death Warriors (2010)

Irises (2012)

In Anthologies

What You Wish For: Stories and Poems for Dafur (2011)

Two and Twenty Dark Tales: Dark Retellings of Mother Goose Rhymes (2012)

Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices (2013)

You can find Francisco online at:


If you like Francisco X. Stork’s books, I’d recommend:

Matt de la Pena

John Green


Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Natalie Standiford

Meet Our Guest Blogger:

Linda Jerome is the teen librarian at La Crosse Public Library and has been working with teens for the last 13 years of her 24-year library career and still finds teens to be the most fascinating, amusing and delightful group of human beings. When she isn’t reading, she’s watching sports, directing two handbell choirs, working on her family history and hanging out with her two dogs.

YA A to Z – Jacqueline Woodson

Woodson 223x300 YA A to Z   Jacqueline WoodsonI hope you, like me, were jumping out of your seat and gleefully exclaiming “Yes!” when you heard the news of Jackie Woodson’s win at the National Book Awards last week. The other contenders were all strong, but this book is amazing. In fact, if you want to read more of my thoughts about Brown Girl Dreaming, you can click here to go to my review. Two things are still ever-present from that review. One, I want Brown Girl Dreaming to win ALL THE AWARDS – it’s just that good. I want the cover to look like the cover for Walter Dean Myers’ Monster. I want there to be so many stickers on that book that you have to buy a poster of the cover art so everyone can see its beauty undisguised. And two, I am still reading the poem from page 61 to my students as they come for book talks, each time to gasps of appreciation. This last week I had a student exclaim, “That’s me!” Yes, yes it is you, affluent young blonde boy from the suburbs, that is you. Her poems are all of us.

Woodson’s young adult titles explore themes that are equally universally resonant. The pain of loss, the excruciating joys and sorrows of finding your place in the world, how to go on in the face of experiences that seem as if they will crush your soul, the importance of relationship – all are found within the pages of her novels. She is a blessing to those of us who constantly seek to put books into the hands of students who are underrepresented in today’s published novels, due to race, socioeconomic status, or GLTBQ identity. Her strong voice will be with us long after she is gone.

Brief Biography

As you know if you’ve read Brown Girl Dreaming, Woodson grew up in both Greenville, South Carolina and Brooklyn, New York. A full time writer, she teaches creative writing in the graduate program at City College for Goddard College. She also works with the National Book Foundation’s Summer Writing Camp to teach writing to young people from disadvantaged communities. She currently resides in Brooklyn with her partner and their two children.


Jacqueline Woodson has won so many awards over the years that I fear to list them lest I miss one. However, forging on, Woodson was the recipient of the 2006 Margaret A Edwards Award for significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature. She has received the Newbery Honor on 3 occasions, been a finalist for the National Book Award for Young People’s literature twice previously, been given the Coretta Scott King Honor 4 times and won it once, and had one of her books be awarded the Caldecott Honor.

Young Adult novels

  • Beneath a Meth Moon
  • Hush
  • Behind You
  • If You Come Softly
  • Miracle’s Boys
  • From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun
  • I Hadn’t Meant to Tell You This
  • Lena
  • The House You Pass on the Way
  • The Dear One

yaatoz22 150x150 YA A to Z   Jacqueline WoodsonYou can find Jacqueline Woodson online

Some other ‘W’ authors I love

YA A to Z: Siobhan Vivian

 YA A to Z: Siobhan Vivian

I read and reviewed Siobhan Vivian’s Same Difference for Booklist the year it was released. I was struck – I still am – by the book’s slow, deliberate unfolding of the story mirroring the unfolding and growth of the main character. I was surprised by the character, just as she was surprised by what she was growing into.

Siobhan Vivian has never shied away from these types of characters: young women who know themselves, and stretch to know themselves better. What I find really wonderful about this is that these are not easy characters to write. It’s easy to find teen characters who learn and grow – it’s kind of a thing in YA lit – but finding teen characters who are conscious of their growth, interested in stretching beyond the boxes that they have been placed in by their age, their gender, their social groups, or their society, and realistically self possessed as they do so. I love that her characters feel so real because they, like all of us, are complicated. They have dark sides, they want things they’re not supposed to want, they think things that “nice girls” don’t talk about, but they’re people we cheer for because this realness makes us know them.

Vivian is a New York native, an editor and teacher in addition to her novel writing. She can be found online, and is active on Twitter, but fun fact: there’s no Wikipedia page about her yet. So someone get on that, ok?


  • A Little Friendly Advice
  • Same Difference
  • Not That Kind of Girl
  • The List
  • Burn For Burn (with Jenny Han)
  • Fire With Fire (with Jenny Han)
  • Ashes To Ashes (with Jenny Han)

Join the conversation!  Share a post about your favorite author OR tweet us your favorite author with the tag #YAAtoZ. While we’re sharing our favorite authors, we would love to hear about yours. We all might find some new authors we haven’t heard of before. And the more authors we share, the more comprehensive and diverse the list becomes. On Twitter, we’re @TLT16, @boothheather, @robinreads, and @citesomething.

#YAAtoZ Schedule: Week 1 4: A ; 5: B ; 6: C ; 7: D  Week 2 10: E ; 11: F ; 12: G, H, I ; 13: J, K ; 14: L  Week 3 17: M ; 18: N, O ; 19: P, Q ; 20: R, S ; 21: T  Week 4 24: U ; 25: V, W ; 26: X ; 27: Y ; 28: Z

Amanda’s review roundup

In addition to blogging here at TLT, I have my own blog, too. At Cite Something, I blog primarily about what I’ve read and can’t wait to read. Every month I’ll be sharing a snippet of some of my reviews with you. Follow the links at the end of the reviews to head on over to Cite Something for the full review. All brief summaries from WorldCat. Read some of these titles? Tell us what you think in the comments or over on Twitter (@TLT16 for all of us and I’m @CiteSomething).


wildlife1 Amandas review roundupWildlife by Fiona Wood

ISBN-13: 9780316242097

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Publication date: 9/16/2014


Two sixteen-year-old girls in Australia come together at an outdoor semester of school, before university–one thinking about boys and growing up, the other about death and grief, but somehow they must help each other to find themselves.

From my review:

Here’s a version of the plot: some teenagers go into the woods and act like teenagers. You’re in, right? Because you just know that plenty of interesting things will happen. This is another book where the characters completely carry the small plot. Pretty much every emotion a person could feel is wrapped up in the weeks these characters spend in the wilderness. Another version of the plot could be: some teenagers discover that love, sex, friendship, and grief are complicated beasts. (See entire review here)


Anatomy of a Misfit by Andrea Portes anatomy of a misfit 197x300 Amandas review roundup

ISBN-13: 9780062313645

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publication date: 9/2/2014


The third most popular girl in school’s choice between the hottest boy in town and a lonely but romantic mistfit ends in tragedy and self-realizaition.

From my review:

This one didn’t work for me. That said, I just looked online at some reviews and see that I am in the minority with that opinion. I set it down twice and considered DNFing it, because my TBR pile is towering and did I really want to continue with a book that I was struggling to get into? I’m really curious to hear from someone why they may have liked it. The potential for this one was great—a capable and clever writer had an interesting premise, but the execution fell completely flat for me. (See entire review here)


misadventures 210x300 Amandas review roundupThe Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy

ISBN-13: 9780385376525

Publisher: Random House Children’s Books

Publication date: 7/22/2014


Relates the adventures of a family with two fathers, four adopted boys, and a variety of pets as they make their way through a school year, Kindergarten through sixth grade, and deal with a grumpy new neighbor.

From my review:

Mr. Nelson, the crotchety neighbor, can’t stand the Fletchers. They’re always kicking balls into his yard or being too loud. Me? I’d LOVE to live next to the family Fletcher. One of the common problems with a large cast of characters, particularly in a family, is that often they blend together. You don’t need to worry about that here. Sam, Jax, Eli, and Frog are distinctive and memorable characters. Their interests are wide-ranging, helping them stand out even further. The best thing about the characters is the diversity. The boys are white, African-American, and Indian. They are Jewish, Christian, and Hindu. They celebrate a variety of religious holidays. The boys have two dads and it is never once a “thing,” as in there isn’t any weirdness or judging going on. (See entire review here)


God Loves Hair by Vivek Shraya and Juliana Neufeld god loves hair 300x215 Amandas review roundup

ISBN-13: 9781551525433

Publisher: Arsenal Pulp Press, Limited

Publication date: 9/9/2014


A story collection that celebrates racial, sexual, and religious diversity.

From my review: 

This slight volume is an important addition to the field of LGBTQ YA books. It’s far too infrequently that we see diverse characters in these stories, so Shraya’s Indian and Hindu narrator is especially refreshing. Told with raw honesty, these bits and pieces of one boy’s life make for an affecting look at sexuality, families, culture, shame, and acceptance. (See entire review here)


words and their meanings av kate bassett Amandas review roundupWords and Their Meanings by Kate Bassett

ISBN-13: 9780738740294

Publisher: Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd.

Publication date: 9/8/2014


Seventeen-year-old Anna O’Mally is a gifted writer but for the past year, since her beloved uncle Joe died, she has been wrapped in grief that seems impenetrable until a strange email suggests she did not know Joe as well as she thought–and he was not the saint she believed he was.

From my review: 

I was absolutely blown away by this book. Here are some places I cried while reading it: my kitchen table, my bedroom, my car, and the pharmacy. Anna’s uncle Joe died last year, at age 19. Joe was more like a brother to Anna (who is 17), as his parents died when he was a toddler and Anna’s family (her father is Joe’s brother) raised him. Early on Anna tells the reader that “Joe is a dead person because of me.” We see that Anna carries some secret and heavy guilt about Joe’s death, but we don’t understand why for a very long time. Now that her one year mourning period is up (one year seeming like enough time to shut down and not deal, according to her parents and her therapists), Anna is supposed to try to get back to normal. It’s either that or be shipped off to Hell–no really, Hell, Michigan–to a boarding school for “the afflicted, suicidal, and otherwise broken tween and teenage souls.” (See entire review here)

Middle Grade Monday – Anne Ursu

middlegrademonday 300x300 Middle Grade Monday   Anne UrsuSo it turns out that it is difficult to find YA authors whose last name starts with ‘U’ – go figure. Karen asked me to cheat and do a middle grade author for our ‘U’ day for YA A to Z, because she knows how much I love Anne Ursu. You should love her, too. Not only does she write beautiful, enthralling middle grade novels that leave me a sobbing emotional wreck for days, she is also a tireless and eloquent advocate for diversity and the interests of children in the publishing community. Which is why she so often makes it into the Friday Finds ‘Authors Being Smart on the Internet’ category.

Breadcrumbs (my favorite of her novels) starts, like so many middle grade novels, at a turning point for the main character, Hazel. She has grown up with her best friend Jack who suddenly abandons her. She is understandably devastated. Her mother tries to help, explaining that this often happens with friendships, and attempting to help her find new friends. It was at this point that the sobbing began for me. I may have unresolved childhood issues. Regardless, Breadcrumbs is able to powerfully evoke this feeling of childhood loss with a palpable ache. The writing only becomes more brilliant as the story moves from our world into the realm of fantasy and Hazel attempts to rescue her friend Jack from an evil witch. It is modeled somewhat on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen, but also weaves in elements from his other stories. An absolutely stunning story, this is also helpful to have on hand for middle graders who are beginning to deal with some of the more harsh realities of life.

I book talked both Breadcrumbs and The Real Boy last week with one 6th grade class, introducing Anne Ursu as an author. All of my copies were gone in seconds. Her books have real appeal to children. In fact, earlier this year, one of my 6th grade students found Breadcrumbs on the shelf and brought it up to check out and tell me, “This was my favorite book last year – I’m going to read it again!” I was so pleased to be able to hand her a copy of The Real Boy (once I had finished attaching the cover.)

More recently, Anne has been a vocal advocate for diversity in children’s and young adult literature. She can be found passionately advocating for diverse voices and perspectives in the comments sections of certain tone deaf blog posts. She regularly responds with great depth of thought and reason to specious claims made in the media which attempt to marginalize and devalue children’s literature. In deconstructing the popular narrative about it, Anne illuminates the true value of books for children and young adults, as well as the value of their readers. You can visit her Tumblr for several excellent examples - this one is my favorite.

Brief Biography

Anne Ursu lives in Minneapolis, MN with her son and multiple cats. In addition to her writing, she teaches Writing for Children in the Hamline University Master of Fine Arts program. She received the 2013 McKnight Fellowship Award in Children’s Literature, which awards a Minnesotan writer a stipend so they can pursue their writing unhindered. Both Breadcrumbs and The Real Boy have been featured as IndieBound Next list picks. Breadcrumbs was featured on multiple Best of 2011 lists and was a featured title on NPR’s Backseat Book Club. The Real Boy was chose for the National Book Award long list.

BooksAnne Ursu Middle Grade Monday   Anne Ursu

  • The Real Boy (2013)
  • Breadcrumbs (2011)
  • The Cronus Chronicles
    • The Shadow Thieves (2006)
    • The Siren Song (2008)
    • The Immortal Fire (2009)

You can find Anne online

yaatoz22 300x300 Middle Grade Monday   Anne Ursu

View from the Director’s Chair: Guest post by Lynette Pitrak

Downers Grove Public Library just finished a large redesign project, and two of the major changes were a brand new Teen Central area and a Digital Media Lab. While the Digital Media Lab is open to all ages, we thought that our teen patrons would be especially excited about this area’s advanced video, music, and photography hardware and software!!

2014 11 10 20.19.20 300x225 View from the Director’s Chair: Guest post by Lynette PitrakIn preparation of the opening of the Digital Media Lab, we developed an 8-week course for high school students to learn how to create a documentary film from start to finish. One day a week, for two hours at a time, twelve high school students meet at the library to learn about film. Each class is set up to build on the previous week’s lessons. We have completed three classes so far, and students have learned the basics of how to change out the lenses, use the white balance, and work with the different f-stops and focuses on the cameras. The students have also learned the artistry behind framing shots and balancing natural light vs. artificial light (such as LED, umbrella, and three-point lighting).

Each week at the end of class, the students practice interviewing each other in short 1-3 minute videos. We then watch all of these videos together. While watching the videos, we discuss what worked in terms of film technique, but also in their personal interviewing approach. Students have found that asking open ended questions almost always makes for a much more interesting interview than asking simple yes or no questions. They have also found that using humor and conversation helps to open up the person being interviewed. Some of the great topics of these short interview films have been “Describe your daily hair care regimen” and “If you could create the perfect sandwich, what would be on it?” All of the students have been incredibly open, good natured, and kind with one another, and while sometimes provide constructive criticism, are always careful to balance this with compliments. It is an amazing group of teens!!

At the end of the eight weeks of classes, the students will have a full month to work on editing and fine tuning their own individual documentary films. Then, on February 7th, we will be screening all twelve films in a festival at Downers Grove’s beautiful, historical Tivoli Theater. At the program’s completion, each of the participating students will also spend at least four hours assisting other patrons in the library’s Digital Media Lab. Most of the teens are very excited about the opportunity to teach what they have learned to other members of our community!!

unnamed 7 300x225 View from the Director’s Chair: Guest post by Lynette PitrakThe most important component to making this program a success, besides having an amazing group of students, was to bring in a professional documentary film maker. Thanks to a grant from the Best Buy Foundation, we were fortunate enough to hire Laura Zinger of 20K Films, Inc. to teach each of the classes at the library. Miss Zinger has an incredible rapport with the students. Aside from teaching the technical and artistic facets of filmmaking, she is able to give practical advice for those aspiring to work in the field, such as how to seek out project funding and how to market a final product. It is really inspiring for students to learn from an instructor who has started her own film company, and released a full-length documentary film (Proceed and Be Bold). Miss Zinger is actually currently on a road trip to interview an artist for a documentary she is currently working on, and she will relay her experiences to the students in next week’s class!!

For those who are interested, the equipment we are using for this project is listed below. Also, please feel free to follow our weekly updates on the library’s website  and under the Twitter hashtag #dgdocu.


Equipment List with quantities

2 Canon T3i (Kit)

2 Canon EFS 18-55mm Lens (Kit)

2 Canon 50mm 1/1.8 Prime Lens (Kit)

1 Rode VideoMic Pro Shotgun Mic (Kit)

1 Rode VideoMic Shotgun Mic

2 Windscreen

2 72” Tripod

1 3-point Light Set

1 Zoom H2N Audio Recorder

1 Rokinon 24mm Wide Angle Lens


Lynette Pitrak is the  Teen Services Coordinator at Downers Grove Public Library in Downers Grove, Illinois.

Sunday Reflections: A Reflection on Everybody Sees the Ants by A. S. King (guest post by Bryson McCrone)

everybodyseestheants 195x300 Sunday Reflections: A Reflection on Everybody Sees the Ants by A. S. King (guest post by Bryson McCrone)Lucky Linderman is not so lucky. His dad can’t get over the fact that his father was drafted into the Vietnam War and never returned. Instead, he cooks. His mom pretends like everything in their lives is fine when it’s not. Instead, she swims. And Lucky is stuck in the middle of their crumbling marriage, hiding the reality that he is not okay. Instead, he dreams.

The Reality:

Lucky’s grandfather is never coming back.

Lucky’s parents’ marriage is on the brink of falling apart.

Lucky was sexually assaulted by a bully in the school bathroom.

At its root, Everybody Sees the Ants is a novel about coping—and coping in a way that can be both beneficial and deteriorating. As Lucky struggles to make it through the war that is high school, he’s hit (literally) with constant reminders of what happened to him because his abuser, Nader McMillan, is still a large part of his life.

This is, naturally, hard for Lucky to deal with. And because he’s scared, he escapes in his dreams to where his grandfather is in Vietnam. In the dense jungles, Lucky’s grandfather teaches him ways to deal with Nader. Still, confronting Nader in real life is terrifying.

This does not mean it is Lucky’s fault.

This does not mean Lucky is a coward.

This does not mean Lucky is weak.

This means that Lucky was a victim of a sexual crime.

What’s so important about this novel is that Lucky, like so many victims of any form of sexual assault, chooses to stay silent. The odds are against him because Nader is a terrifying bully with a pack to back him up, and his father is a lawyer who is quick to denounce any form of accusation against his son. And on top of all this, Lucky has a bunch of family drama he wants to run away from.

Lucky’s choice to stay silent isn’t just to keep what happened from those around him, he tries to stay silent from himself. Doing anything and everything he can to try and forget what happened to him. This is a sad reality because when victims speak out, things change. It’s scary, unpredictable. There is no set reality as to what will happen. I feel that deep down Lucky knows this. He thinks that this will be just another issue on top of everything else.

And yes, silence may seem like the better option in many cases. I have been there. But silence is a strange thing. It can be the best and worst thing at the same time. It can save and it can kill. Since Lucky has no one to go to about what is going on in his life, it all builds up inside him.

Lucky releases the stress by dreaming. The same way I used to cut myself. Or the way someone binges, pulls out their hair, scratches. All of these are coping methods. Does that make them healthy? No. It’s just a way to help us understand the pain we’ve endured.

This is the reality of silence for so many people, Lucky included.

One of the most beautiful things about A.S. King’s writing is her ability to make us think—but her brilliance doesn’t stop there. The challenges characters face in her novels propel conversations forward, involving situations and topics that are often pushed aside.  She gets the ball rolling so that the silence can stop, not just with coming forward about abuse when the time is right, but by talking about it openly to make people more receptive and aware.

It’s frequently our knee jerk reaction to want sexual violence victims to disclose their stories. And while it may be true that every survivor who comes forward makes it easier for the next one, it is also equally true that not all survivors are comfortable disclosing or feel that they can. Particularly if perpetrators are those who are family members, for a survivor to come forth, it may cause them to be exiled from their family. Similarly if the perpetrator is someone with a tremendous amount of power/influence, the risks to survivors are great. Also, disclosing to the police may mean the victim goes through additional trauma, fear they won’t be believed, fear they’ll be shamed/humiliated, fear of retraumatization from the rape kit. Every reason we can think of for a survivor to disclose has an equally compelling reason for them not to. In the end, the best thing to do for survivors is to let them make their own decision about disclosure and respect/support them whatever that decision is. – Christa Desir

Meet Our Guest Blogger: Bryson McCrone

Bryson McCrone can usually be found under a large pile of books. He is an avid reader and writer, living in small town SC under the constant watch of his cat. When he isn’t reading or writing, he’s probably singing too loudly in the car, falling down in public, or planning his next literary tattoo. Bryson is represented by Robert Guinsler of Sterling Lord Literistic.

Christa Desir is the author of Faultline and Bleed Like Me, both titles from Simon & Schuster. She is a rape victim advocate and co-moderator of The #SVYALit Project.

This post originally appeared on The #SVYALit Project Tumblr Blog

YA A to Z: Terry Trueman

terrytrueman YA A to Z: Terry TruemanIn 2001 author Terry Trueman won the Michael L. Printz Honor Award for his book Stuck in Neutral. In this work, we step inside the mind of Shawn McDaniel, a boy who has Cerebral Palsy. He is also a boy that things his father is about to kill him. You see, Shawn can’t communicate with the outside world and his father is worried that Shawn is in pain, so he wants to help him. And now Shawn is trying desperately to find a way to let his father know that he wants to live.

At the time, this was one of the first books I ever read from the point of view of a character that had a disability. And later it would come to mean something so much more to me. You see, I am the aunt to three boys on the Autism spectrum. Like Shawn, my nephews have a real inability to communicate, more so when they were younger. One of my nephews can become so frustrated with his inability to communicate his thoughts and feelings that he bites himself to the point of bleeding. Children’s services has been called many times by outside parties, though thankfully children’s services are aware that self harm, OCD, echocholia and more can be a part of Autism.

I also have several close friends who have children on the spectrum and their lives require a navigation that is quite different than others. Childcare can be a challenge, if you are able to find any at all. Trips out in public must be carefully orchestrated, in part because variations of routine and be quite stressful for those on the spectrum. But also in part because the public often does not respond well when they see kids on the spectrum. And if a meltdown should occur in public, the stares and comments you will get are horrific, withering.

Which is part of the reason why books like Stuck in Netural are so important. You see, books can create empathy, compassion. Atticus Finch once talked about walking a mile in another pair of shoes and how doing that helped us to develop a sympathetic viewpoint. That’s what Stuck in Neutral does, it allows us to see into the heart and soul of a young boy, it humanizes him in a world that would seek to make him less than human. Stuck in Neutral is not about Autism, it’s about Cerebral Palsy, but it is an important reminder for us all that those who are differently abled than us, those whose lives may seem challenging and overwhelming, are still people with thoughts and feelings and dreams and fears and love. Whatever our bodies may look like on the outside, at the core of us we’re all just people.stuckinneutral 221x300 YA A to Z: Terry Trueman

If Stuck in Neutral was the only book Terry Trueman ever wrote it would still be the accomplishment of a lifetime, but it isn’t. Trueman went on to write a wide variety of additional novels, including Cruise Control which tells the story of Shawn from his brother’s point of view. There are 10 books listed on Terry Trueman’s Goodreads page, including No Right Turn (2006),  7 Days in the Hot Corner (2007), and Hurricane (2008).

In 2012 Trueman released Life Happens Next, which tells us more about Shawn’s life: “How do you connect with others when you can’t talk, walk, or even wave hello? In the sequel to Stuck in Neutral, which ALA Booklist called “an intense reading experience,” Shawn McDaniel discovers a new definition of “normal” and finds that life happens next for everyone.”

Terry Trueman went to school and resides in the state of Washington. Trueman has a son, Sheehan, who himself has Cerebral Palsy. Stuck in Neutral was eventually turned into a stage play and you can read a bit about that process here.

It is not always easy for me to understand this life that the people around me live that is dictated by the spectrum. My nephews are now all teenagers and to be completely honest, this life has been a tremendous challenge for them and the people that love them. None of them will ever live on their own. One of my friends already has their son on a waiting list for a long term care facility because they know that their son will always need extensive care and because of the rapidly rising rates of Autism the waiting list is long. They worry about what will happen to their children when they are no longer able to care for them. I want the world to be more compassionate to these families, to stop sneering at them in public, to stop turning their noses in disgust. I want the world to read Stuck in Neutral and other books with differently abled characters so that they will develop a deep and abiding empathy for all human life, even those lives that look radically different than what our world has decided the norm should be.

Join the conversation!  Share a post about your favorite author OR tweet us your favorite author with the tag #YAAtoZ. While we’re sharing our favorite authors, we would love to hear about yours. We all might find some new authors we haven’t heard of before. And the more authors we share, the more comprehensive and diverse the list becomes. On Twitter, we’re @TLT16, @boothheather, @robinreads, and @citesomething.

#YAAtoZ Schedule: Week 1 4: A ; 5: B ; 6: C ; 7: D  Week 2 10: E ; 11: F ; 12: G, H, I ; 13: J, K ; 14: L  Week 3 17: M ; 18: N, O ; 19: P, Q ; 20: R, S ; 21: T  Week 4 24: U ; 25: V, W ; 26: X ; 27: Y ; 28: Z

Autism and Libraries