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The Stories That Haunt Our Childhood: Local legends and superstitions in YA lit

Most areas have some type of local legend that gets passed down through the ages.  Sometimes we hear about them on a large scale, like the Loch Ness monster in Scotland or the Mothman legend in Pittsburgh, and other times you only learn them when you visit the area.  Sit in a pub or sit around a campfire and someone will start telling you the story of how a house is haunted, a child drowned in a lake and haunts the shoreline, etc.

While reading Ashes on the Waves by Mary Lindsey, which I reviewed yesterday, I was really struck by the setting and how it was steeped in a rich local mythology.  In this case the legends were true, there really were Otherworlders that interfered with local life.  Often the legends are not true, though they have no less power over the local culture.  Today I am going to share with you 10 (technically 11) more books that have strong local legends and superstitions, compiled in part with the librarians on the YALSA-BK listserv.

Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough
Beware of Long Lankin, that lives in the moss. . . .When Cora and her younger sister, Mimi, are sent to stay with their elderly aunt in the isolated village of Byers Guerdon, they receive a less than warm welcome. Cora must uncover the horrifying truth that has held Bryers Guerdon in its dark grip for centuries — before it’s too late for little Mimi.  (synopsis from Goodreads)

 
The Diviners by Libba Bray
Evie is shipped off to New York to live with her Uncle, the curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult–also known as “The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies.”  Set in the 1920s, there is a lot of good stuff here.

 
A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth Bunce
Charlotte Miller has always scoffed at talk of a curse on her family’s woolen mill, which holds her beloved small town together. But after her father’s death, the bad luck piles up

 
Highway to Hell by Rosemary Clement-Moore
One dead cow later and it becomes clear that a creature of legend is stalking the ranch.

 Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore
Amy comes from a long line of witches, but spends her time watching a ranch. Soon bodies are being discovered, a ghost is on the prowl, and everywhere she turns, the hot neighbor cowboy is in her face.

Witchlanders by Lena Coakley
High in their mountain covens, red witches pray to the Goddess, protecting the Witchlands by throwing the bones and foretelling the future.
It’s all a fake.
At least, that’s what Ryder thinks.

 

The Siren series by Tracia Rayburn
Vanessa’s town doesn’t know what to do when a series of dead bodies wash up on the shore, grinning from ear to ear.

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab
The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children.
If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company.
And there are no strangers in the town of Near.

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley
Just when seventeen-year-old Cullen Witter thinks he understands everything about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town, it all disappears. . . . 

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
Mackie Doyle is not one of us. Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, he comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess. He is a Replacement, left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. 

Fury (Book 1 in the Fury trilogy) by Elizabeth Miles
In Ascension, mistakes can be deadly. And three girls—three beautiful, mysterious girls—are here to choose who will pay. Em and Chase have been chosen.

Have more to add to our list? Please share in the comments.

Librarian Confessions: Ender’s Game Reactions

I have a rule that I have followed since the movie version of The Firm came out: never, EVER read the book before the movie if I haven’t already read it. WHY? Because I’m going to be CONSTANTLY comparing the two. If you haven’t read John Grisham’s The Firm, then you won’t be bothered by the huge change in the ending between the book and the movie. And don’t get me started on the major differences between the book and movie version of The First Wives Club. And it’s not just in adult fiction- how many knew someone who was upset by things that were left out of one of the Harry Potter movies? Or Beautiful Creatures

So when I mentioned to both That Guy and Karen that I’ve never read Ender’s Game, by their reactions I knew I was going to have to break my rule. If you didn’t know, Ender’s Game was published in 1985 and written by Orson Scott Card, and won both the Nebula and Hugo Awards. The sequel, Speaker of the Dead, also won the Nebula and Hugo Awards for it’s year, making Card the only author to win both awards back to back. Ender’s Game is being released into theaters this November.

I knew about Card’s viewpoints and opinions before reading Ender’s Game, and knew that there was huge controversy surrounding the book as well (racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.), and went into it with an open mind, and my teen viewpoint in place. The version my library has is published in 2002, and it’s been sanitized from the original (found that out later with a little research):

The cover of the copy that I read, that does not have as much of the objectionable material in it

So what was my reaction to it? I read it all in one day, and fell into the world that Card built. I HAD to find out what was going to happen to Ender, and whether he would survive everything that was being stacked against him. (I admit, it may have helped that I had Harrison Ford’s voice in my head as Colonel Graff and Sir Ben Kingsley’s as Mazar Rackham). I was both captured and horrified. It reminded me a lot of current YA dystopias (Hunger Games, Divergent, The Testing) in that the youth were put into horrific and battle situations where the adults were stepping back and watching, and waiting, and placing hopes and expectations on them. There is still a lot of racism and sexism and homophovia within the book, and I can see it being a hard book to discuss within a classroom content. I’ll be extremely interested to see how they take those issues within the movie; Card is a producer on the movie but did not write the script.


What did I take away from it?
(WARNING- MASSIVE SPOLIERS AFTER THE JUMP)


ADULTS SUCK

OMG, do the adults suck in this world. His parents are clueless to what they signed their kids up for, nor do they know to what extent their children are doing. I never caught whether or not the Wiggin family was just superior genetics or they were tinkered with (I lean towards tinkered) but you would think that if the I.F. knew how wrong Peter was, they’d keep an eye on him. None of the teachers step in for the fights at any time, and although as the book goes on Graff becomes more of a friendly figure in the book, everything is completely negated by Ender’s “graduation” and Mazer tricking Ender into destroying the Buggers in the last “simulation”. 


KIDS ARE EXPENDABLE
Kids are completely expendable in the quest for total destruction of the Buggers. They go through Peter and Valentine in their quest for the ultimate commander, and then toss them aside (never mind their obvious extraordinary intelligence and intensely abnormal personality issues). We never know how many possibilities for the leader of the fleet there were before Ender- Mazar never says, just that there were many before but no one reached the final “simulation”. The adults turn all the kids on each other to hone their fighting abilities, and hide the death of one (he “graduated” and was supposedly returned to his town of Spain) in order to reach the goal- total destruction of the Buggers. Nothing else is important- not the mental health of these kids, not what they can do/become afterwards, not whether they’ll be normal- just total destruction of the Buggers.

STAR TREK IS EVERYWHERE
Sometimes things come in circles. Karen and I went and saw Star Trek: Into Darkness, and I was really struck by how in the movie Kirk went from full out vengeance and destruction to capture and return for trial based on discussions with Spock and his own internal struggles. In stead of just blasting away, he chooses what we would call the “human” choice and to bring the villain in for trial.
In Ender’s Game, Ender never GETS that chance to have that discussion and choice until it’s far too late. It’s always after things have happened that he gets the chance to reflect- and wish that things were different, that he could go in a different direction. Every fight is forced, and there is no way that he can back away from anything- to do so would be to seal his fate, or to be iced out and send destruction to the human race. Every time he rebels against something, he ends up “winning” the game anyway, and finding the clues to his next challenge. Ender’s Kobayashi Maru if you will, is discovering that his end rebellion destroyed the entire Bugger race. And like Kirk, he is actually given a second chance at the end of Ender’s Game, if he can take it.

Have you read the book? What did you think? Share in the comments below.

MTV may not show videos anymore, but you should watch these shows if you work with Teens

There was a time when MTV showed music videos. And it was awesome.  Though it is not a music staple anymore, and I sometimes weep about it, Teens and Young Adults (true young adults, in their early 20s) are still MTV’s target demographic.  And in all honesty, they do have some interesting things happening on the channel.  So if you want to work with teens, I think it is important to spend some time in their world.  Just a little.  Here are 5 MTV shows that will not only help you work with your teens, but they are actually pretty good.  Yes, I am admitting it. 

So, what 5 shows on MTV should you be watching?

Teen Wolf

Season 3 of Teen Wolf premieres on Monday, June 3rd.  This series is loosely based on the 80s movie starring Michael J. Fox, but it has amped up the sex appeal.  MTV is all about amped up sex appeal sometimes.  Scott is a teenager who was bitten by a wolf and is plunged into an underground world with power struggles, death, and danger at every turn.  Although there is some evidence to suggest that paranormal is waning in the publishing world, it is still hot with teens.  Also, you can never go wrong with hot vampires (Vampire Diaries on CW) or hot werewolves.  See above.  It is not as awesome as Buffy, because it lacks the Whedon vibe, but Buffy staple Nancy Holder has written some of the book tie-ins and many people on Twitter watch it together.  Community watching always makes TV more fun.

World of Jenks

Andrew Jenks was a teenage documentary film maker.  He is now 24 and makes a show on MTV that is really kind of awesome.  On the World of Jenks, Jenks spends time literally walking in someone else’s shoes.  He has lived with a rapper, an autistic boy, and more.  While he is living with them, we learn about lives different then our own.  It’s really pretty cool.  He also recently released an autobiography which we reviewed and gave some programming ideas for. His story is pretty inspiring to teens and young adults.

True Life

 
True Life tells the story of young people who are facing a wide variety of life challenges.  The goal of this show is to raise awareness and just let young people tell their stories.  It is, in fact, often one of my favorite shows on TV.  The show synopsis says: “Since its first episode in 1998, True Life has provided a window into the struggles, hopes, and dreams of young people. Narrated solely by its characters, each episode documents the unusual–and often remarkable–circumstances of real individuals, whether it’s about soldiers returning from Iraq, deaf teenagers, or people living with autism. We’ve given all of them–and hundreds of others–the opportunity to tell their own stories directly to their peers in this powerful, Emmy award winning series that uniquely reflects the experiences and cultures of this generation.”

Awkward.

 
Being a teenager is, well, awkward.  And Awkward really capture the essence of it.  Awkward is basically a serialized soap opera that follows the life of Jenna, who many people believe tried to commit suicide, although she genuinely had a weird accident.  Jenna shares her life in a blog.  Actually, she overshares.  There is a lot of good humor here.  I particularly love the English teacher who tries to really get his students to write in ways that would probably get him fired in real life.

Made

Made is an award winning show that focuses on teens (and now college students) trying their hands at personal transformation.  This is more than just The Biggest Loser, however, as the transformations can literally be anything.  Some teens take dance or cheerleading lessons to be “made” into these different people.  Most of the goals are career or performance oriented.  And yes, some of them involve things like being made into a beauty queen.  But it is still an interesting look into the life of young people and their hopes and desires.

As for music, if you really want to see music video I recommend Jump Start on VH1 (I have my DVR set to record it so I can skim through the videos I hate) or check out Fuse.

What other shows do you think are secretly awesome and why?  Tell us in the comments.  They don’t even have to be on MTV.

Book Review: Ashes on the Waves by Mary Lindsey

“Can the bonds of true love ever be severed?” – front cover blurb

Some books are inspired by other authors.  Golden by Jessi Kirby, for example, channels the works of Robert Frost.  For Mary Lindsey, her dream was to write a book inspired by Edgar Allan Poe.  Ashes on the Waves is inspired by not only by the works of Poe, but by the poem Annabel Lee in particular.

“It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of ANNABEL LEE;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.”

Complete poem by Edgar Allan Poe here


Ashes on the Waves is set on a secluded island that is almost like a different world.  Here, the locals live a life of extreme poverty and are overwhelmed by ancient legends that dictate much of their daily life.  The locals know that there are various creatures, called Otherworlders, that live in the sea; they are wary because you can be drawn in by them to your death.

 “It’s difficult to reconcile the fantastic with reality; hard to accept that things we can’t see exist—terrifying, in fact.”  – Ashes on the Waves


Anna, Annabel Leighton, is a rich socialite who has gotten a lot of negative press lately so she is sent by her family to stay out of the spotlight in their island mansion while her brother plans a wedding and his political career.  It would be so easy to dismiss Anna as a socialite, but Lindsey gives her tremendous depth of character as she stands up for justice and the poor.  She performs some truly heroic, sacrificial acts and I really loved her.  She is a strong female role model.

Liam MacGregor lives on the island, shunned and forsaken.  It is believed he is of the devil because of a birth injury that left him with damage to one of his arms.  Like I said, the people on the island are truly backwards and primitive.  At times it almost feels like you aren’t just going to a different island and culture, but through a portal to the past.

Anna and Liam played together as kids, and Liam has always been in love with her.  But because of who he is, he knows that he is unworthy and has no chance.  Except that Anna totally rocks and sees into the heart of him and a love grows among them.  The Otherworlders see this love and make a bet: they will test the couple’s love and the outcome determines which of the two supernatural groups will have to leave the area forever.  They throw every test and temptation that they can think of to the couple, and what happens is the real meat of the story.  The second half of the book is particularly strong and interesting.

 “The pain had no ebb or flow. It was a constant ever-increasing knell in my chest, timed to the beating of my broken heart.”- Ashes on the Waves

Overall, I really liked the premise of the story. The bet between the two factions of Otherworlders will remind readers of the story of Job.  This part didn’t happen, however, until around page 170, so it took a really long time to get to it.  I would have liked it to have happened earlier to propel the story forward more quickly.  The pacing of the first half of the story may be problematic for some readers.  It was very exciting though to see what would happen next, how the couple would – or would they? – survive it, and the strength of our two main characters.

However, there is really good character development and romance readers will definitely find a lot to swoon over. I am never a fan of that obsessive I can’t be away from you love, but in this world there is at least a reason for it.  Liam and Anna are both shining characters, as is Liam’s only real friend and supporter Francine.  Most of the other characters are cruel, superstitious, self serving and prone to secrets.  Again, I love just the moral being of our two main characters, their strength, the choices they make.  What Anna does for a local girl is simply inspiring.

I really liked how well a life of poverty was depicted; Although, as I mentioned, there were times where it felt more historical than other elements suggested, like Anna going back and forth to the island in a helicopter, and that caused a real disconnect for me.  Of course, this is a work of fantasy and there were very strong fantasy elements, and they were not your typical fantasy creatures.

Teachers, in particular, could really love this book.  It would be great to read along with a unit study on Poe.  Each chapter begins with a quote from a poem or story by Poe that relates to what happens in the chapter.  There are so many creative writing ideas to do here with teens.  It would also go great with a study of mythology, local legends, or superstitions.  There are also strong discussions of justice, discrimination, and women’s issues in Ashes on the Waves.

“For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling- my darling- my life and my bride,
In the sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.”

At times haunting, especially towards the end, this dark, gothic love story should find many fans.  Share it with fans of Jane Eyre or The Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin (which is also Poe inspired).  3 out of 5 stars.  There are 41 reviews for Ashes on the Waves on Goodreads and it has gotten an average rating of 4.25.  Ashes on the Waves by Mary Lindsey. June 2013 from Philomel.  ISBN: 978-0-399-15939-8.

The 80s as Historical Fiction (A review of Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell)

I will never forget the day I was driving in the car, listening to the radio when the DJ declared it was a flashback weekend – and then he started playing a song from the 80s.  Suddenly, the music I grew up listening to was considered the “oldies”.  It’s possible that I have even heard myself say, “Music today just isn’t any good”.  Maybe.  (You can also go retro with your programming.  Find out more here.)

The music of the 80s is what brings Eleanor and Park together.  That and some comic books.  In fact, Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell is a love letter to the 80s, music, comic books and all things geekery.  It is brilliant, touching, and not what I was expecting. 

Two misfits. One extraordinary love. – from the inside cover

E&P first came on to my radar when I asked earlier in the year if anyone knew of any upcoming light, contemporary romances.  I was working on a book order and noticed that everything was dark, dark, dark, dark.  And not all of my teens like dark.  So several people responded with Eleanor and Park.  But, there are a couple of things you should know.

1) Eleanor and Park may be a love story, and a beautiful one, but it is not contemporary.  It is set in the 1980s, which might make it technically qualify as historical fiction.  But it definitely has a relatability that transcends time.  Teens might not know what it means to have to worry about the batteries running down on their walkmen’s or what it means to make a mix tape, but they have still shared headphones and they can create playlists to share with the freak sitting next to them on the bus.

2)  Eleanor and Park may be a love story, and it is a brilliant one, but it is definitely not light.  Eleanor has a very dark home life.  She is living in abject poverty.  Her stepfather is abusive and that abuse seems to be escalating.

But instead of talking about what Eleanor and Park isn’t, let’s talk about what it is.  E&P is one of the most organic love stories I have ever read.  The first time Eleanor steps onto the bus, Park is just trying to keep his head down and avoid being noticed by the school bullies.  He knows that to offer her a seat would be the death of him, but he sees her struggling and does so.  They sit side by side for weeks without saying a word, until Park realizes that she is reading his comic books over his shoulder.  Soon they are sharing comic books.  Then talking. Then kissing.  Rowell captures every aspect of a budding relationship perfectly: the ackwardness, the sparks, the longing just to be near that person.

“Bono met his wife in high school,” Park says.
“So did Jerry Lee Lewis,” Eleanor answers.
“I’m not kidding,” he says.
“You should be,” she says, “we’re sixteen.”
“What about Romeo and Juliet?”
“Shallow, confused, then dead.”
”I love you,” Park says.
“Wherefore art thou,” Eleanor answers.
“I’m not kidding,” he says.
“You should be.”
– from Eleanor and Park

Rowell also does a really amazing job of character and family development.  Park’s family is simply awesome.  They are a multicultural family struggling with poverty and stereotypes.  Park himself is half Korean.  Everything about Park’s family is done so well.  And when the moments matter, they rise to the ocassion.  Loved this aspect of the story.

Eleanor’s family is so much harder to read because her home life sucks and way too many teens are living in these types of homes.  They walk around on egg shells, fearful of the next wrong step and what the consequences will be.  Simply heartbreaking.

“You’re my favorite person of all time.” – from Eleanor and Park

This is simply a really amazing book.  Read it.  What more can I say.  5 out of 5 stars.  I did have one issue with it, and you can read about that here if you would like.  Next up for Rainbow Rowell – Fangirl, coming in September 2013. 

For more books set in the 80s (or professing a love to the 80s), check out:


The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler
Way to Go by Tom Ryan
The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jessica Rothenberg
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard

They have a nice discussion and booklist over at Stacked.  So tell us, what would you put on your #80smixtape?  And what are your favorite books set in the 1980s?

The One Long Epic Story That is History, a guest post by Christina Hicks

When I was in the 5th grade I had a history teacher who told us that his idea of Heaven would be to sit in a movie theater and watch all of history like it was one long, epic movie. That was he wanted, well that and really buttery popcorn! Much later, I went on to study history in college. When I think back, it’s that little story that partly inspired my love of history. 

Rather than think of history like a movie, though, I’ve always considered history to be one long, epic story. And I love stories. So historical fiction has always fit in perfectly with my interests. I enjoy many different genres but historical fiction has always given me a sense of understanding of and connection to the past. Whether its Vikings or pioneers. Servants or princesses. Ordinary people living ordinary lives or famous people changing the world. Through these books I have lived hundreds of different lives in hundreds of different times, it’s not unlike time travel. But, unlike other types of fiction they not only transported me to another time and place, they sometimes helped me in class! 

Even though I loved most of my history classes in school, I’ll be the first to admit that they could also be boring at times. But reading historical fiction made those dates and battles, kings and queens relevant because they affected the characters in the books I read. And often, I learned more about the cultures and societies that motivated people’s actions through fiction of those time periods than I could through dry text books. 

Here are a few historical fiction novels that I have loved, among them you will find different genres and even different formats, which I think proves that anyone can find something to love in historical fiction! 


The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare.


 Kit struggles to fit into life in a Connecticut colony after growing up in the vibrant Caribbean. Her Puritan relatives live a much stricter life than she is used to and everything she does seems wrong. When her only friend in the town is accused of witchcraft, Kit is also suspected.

My mom suggested this book to me when I was in junior high and I still reread it regularly. Kit’s outsider perspective gave me a lot of insight into the time of the Salem witchtrials and Puritan values. Kit’s adventurous and independent nature and its tendency to get her into trouble are always thrilling to read.

The Agency series by Y.S. Lee

In 1850’s London, Mary Quinn has been sentenced to hang for theft. Luckily she is rescued and offered the chance at an unusual education. At Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls, Mary is taught all the things a proper Victorian young lady should know. She is also trained to be a part of the elite and secret team of female investigators known as The Agency.

I love this series. Mary begins her story as a starving thief in the poorest streets of London, travels into some of the richest households, and also disguises herself as a boy. The mysteries are nice and twisty and there is plenty of suspense. Plus Mary’s ethnicity reveals issues in English history that aren’t talked about much in history classes. The third book The Traitor in the Tunnel just came out!

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos



Grounded for firing his father’s World War II era rifle, Jack spends a summer working with his neighbor who just so happens to be the small of Norvelt’s Medical Examiner AND obituary writer.

Okay, that’s not a great description, but believe me there is so much going on this book you don’t want to get me started talking about it. This is a semi-autobiographical account of Jack Gantos’ childhood. Parts of his real life are just as ridiculous as anything fictitious, so have fun trying to figure out what really happened and what he made up! There is a sequel coming out in September 2013 called From Norvelt to Nowhere.

A Bride’s Story by Kaoru Mori

“Amir Halgal is a young woman from a nomadic tribe betrothed to a twelve-year-old boy eight years her junior. Coping with cultural differences, blossoming feelings for her new husband, and expectations from both her adoptive and birth families, Amir strives to find her role as she settles into a new life and a new home in a society quick to define that role for her.”

A Bride’s Story is a historical manga series, it is beautifully written and drawn. Arranged marriages are such a foreign concept to American minds, and they’re usually seen as two people being forced together. This story shows how that is not always a horrible thing and watching Amir and her husband get to know one another is really sweet. But then her village decides they want her back!

The Silence of Our Friends by Mark Long and Jim Demonakos and Nate Powell

“This semi-autobiographical tale is set in 1967 Texas, against the backdrop of the fight for civil rights. A white family from a notoriously racist neighborhood in the suburbs and a black family from its poorest ward cross Houston’s color line, overcoming humiliation, degradation, and violence to win the freedom of five black college students unjustly charged with the murder of a policeman.” 

This is another graphic novel and the art brings the story to life. This semi-autobiographical story was particularly powerful for me, as I grew up near and still live in Houston. And yet I knew nothing about these incidents (they took place almost 20 years before I was born, but still!). Learning about struggles over civil rights that took place in my own hometown definitely gave me different perspective and opened my eyes a lot.

I hope you find something new to try within these recommendations or are inspired to give historical fiction a try!

DFTBA, Sti

Bio: Christina Hicks is the Young Adult librarian for the Friendswood Public Library in Friendswood Texas. She has been described as practically perfect in every way. She blogs at http://friendswoodlibrary.blogspot.com/

Confessions of a Teen Librarian: Downtime Reads

It is always about this time of year that I am *burned out*. We have summer reading starting off soon, I’m buried in projects for committees and work, and we won’t talk about the dust dragons roaming my house. So what do I do? I turn to reading! But it’s not the books that I should be reviewing for the blog, or books I should be reading for committee work, or even ones I should be previewing for the library. Nope, in my off-time I need a *break*, and I go away from the normal haunts to lighter, different reads. Some people might mistakenly call these “guilty pleasures”. Turns out I’m not so different. I asked some other librarians what they read, and here’s what they had to say:

  • Graphic memoirs, especially adult graphic memoirs. I’m so eager to read Calling Dr. Laura or those by Julia Wertz
  • Celebrity memoirs! I’ve loved Kristin Chenoweth’s, Portia de la Rossi’s, and Jane Lynch’s
  • Last week? The Elite. This week? The Clockwork Princess and Let the Sky Fall
  • HISTORICAL FICTION! Courtney Milan and Clara Kelly, also the Phryne Fisher series by Kerry Greenwood. I just finished two great books, Seraphina, and The Shattering by Karen Healey, as well.
  • Any and all types of magazines- short articles and lots of color, glossy pages
  • Chick lit! I just finished the new Sophie Kinsella book- and Beth Ciotta
  • The Mortal Instruments series, and The Steampunk Chronicles
  • The Gallagher Girls series 

So share! What are your favorite downtime reads? 

Things I Never Learned In Library School: You Will Never Have Another Summer Vacation

If you are not in youth services, you may be shocked – shocked I tell ya! – to learn that summer is the busiest part of a youth or teen services librarian’s life.  Summer is not when we take vacation and hang out with our kids.  No, we spend the first part of the year trying to plan for summer, the summer trying not to pull our hair out, and the fall trying to recuperate.

Summer Reading Clubs (or Challenged or Programs, whatever you call them) are often the biggest production of a library program.  I am not kidding when I say that libraries spend months planning.  There are prizes to obtain and organize, performers and programs to book, marketing materials to gather together . . . and you have to do all this while you are still doing the day to day activities.

My dad had the audacity one year to get remarried in July.  In another state. 
Some of you already know what a really big deal it was to try and get the time off for this event.  And ALA every year in the summer? Forget about it.  I went in asking for the time off this year with my tail between my legs and my very best puppy dog eyes.  I got the time off, but it also means we have to scramble to find people to take over programming, man SRC material stations and more.

Most libraries will host a summer reading club/challenge/program that begins when the school year ends and lasts anywhere from 6, 8 or 10 weeks.  The thing is, summer reading programs are really beneficial to our kids as it helps to keep them reading over the summer months.  Yes, some kids are readers and they will read regardless, but we all know that many aren’t and they need that extra incentive.

Library summer programs also provide educational and entertainment opportunities for the community throughout the less busy summer months.  Idle hands and minds can get into trouble, but summer reading programs provide a wide variety of programming events to help kids (and teens) occupy their time during the hot summer months.  From magicians to scientists to cute and cuddly animals, there are cool things happening at libraries across the globe during the summer months.  Just remember that when you are having fun at the library, a dedicated team of librarians worked behind the scenes to make all that happen, often sacrificing their own summer fun along the way.

As I get ready to kick off my own SRC for the year, I am reminded why we are doing this: Reading makes us all better, and the summer is a great time to read.  We’ll just have to take a vacation in the fall.

Here is some research from the ALA webpage about SRPs. Hopefully, knowing how beneficial SRPs are helps take some of the sting out of the loss of that summer vacation time.

So tell us about your Summer Reading Plans:
How long does your SRP last?
How do you have teens keep track of their reading?
How many and what types of programs will you be doing?
Do you believe in offering prizes for reading or would you rather just emphasize reading for fun?
And are you getting any time off this summer?

Join Us: Twitter Chat with Jenny Torres Sanchez

Tomorrow, May 28th, Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia by Jenny Torres Sanchez is released (Running Kids Press).  This was one of the best books I have read so far in 2013.  In fact, it was for me a 5 star book.  Jenny has agreed to do a Twitter chat with us on Tuesday, June 21st, to talk about the book, which really captures what it is like to be young, confused, and depressed.

So, get your hands on the book, read it and join us. Please.  I would love to hear what others think about this book.

Here is my original review.  Kirkus gave it a starred review and said, “An exceptionally well-written journey to make sense of the senseless.”

Tell us in the comments: What books do you think really capture the essence of grief and depression?

Take 5: Memorial Day Reads, Honoring those who serve

Today is Memorial Day.  A day to honor the men and women who have served and died in the U.S. Military.  Today, I’m sharing with you 5 teen titles that honor those who serve in the military in some form or another.


In Honor by Jessi Kirby

Honor receives her brother’s last letter 3 days after she learns he has died in Iraq.  He sends her on a quest to tell his favorite singer, Kyra Kelly, that he was in love with her.  A touching road trip through grief.

Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick

Private Matt Duffy wakes up in a military hospital and is awarded the Purple Heart.  But the memory of a young boy’s death haunts him.  He worries that he is somehow responsible.

Personal Effects by E. M. Kokie

Matt’s older brother is killed in Iraq. When he gets his brothers personal effects, he makes a shocking discovery that rocks his world and makes him question everything he thought he knew.

All the Broken Pieces by Ann Burg

 
Matt Pin was airlifted out of Vietnam during the war.  He now lives in the US with an adoptive family.  But he is haunted by secrets.  A powerful, moving debut from 2009.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

 
Not American soldiers, but a brilliant work of historical fiction that tells an amazing tale of 2 female pilots in World War II.  A celebration of courage, honor and bravery – no matter what country you serve.

What are your favorite titles about soldiers and the military?  Share with us in the comments.