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Friday Finds – November 29, 2013

This Week at TLT

Our expression of thanks – a book giveaway!

Join Us for Sherlock Week! 

In Rainbow Project news – some of this year’s nominees have sequels coming out soon.

Gamers in Teen Fiction, by Kearsten

Girl Knights and Boy Queens – The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas

And you though we were only going to have one week of posts about Doctor Who…

Book Reviews

Movie Reviews

Our thankful thoughts

Around the Web
Nickelodeon gives us a peek at what’s up with kids these days.
New Catching Fire quiz from EW – I did remarkably well, all things considered.
New Fear Street books from R.L. Stine?

My two favorite pieces on the Hunger Games series are here, and here.

VOYA: Girl Knights & Boy Queens . . . an addition to the list of cross-dressing titles

In the October 2013 issue of VOYA Magazine, there is a great article by Rebecca Moor about cross dressing teens entitled Girl Knights and Boy Queens: Cross-Dressing in Teen- Appeal Books and Films..  Honestly, it is pretty exhaustive in its exploration of motivation and titles.  It includes a look at titles old, Bloody Jack, and new, The Boy in the Dress.  But a new title has come to my attention that I wanted to add to the list: The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas.

It all began with a ruined elixir and a bolt of lightning . . .

I recently saw Sherry at Austin Teen Book Festival and she described her book as, “Cross-dressing Harry Potter.”  You see, she wanted to create a historical fantasy story with a female main character, but in order for it to work in the historical context she had to acknowledge that women weren’t afforded the same status as men in that time.  Her resolution?  Make the girl dress up as a boy to attend school, but it is not a magical school.  In fact, the main character, Iolanthe, has to hide not only the fact that she is a girl but her magical powers as well.

Back Cover Description:

Iolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation – or so she’s been told.  The one prophesied for years to be the savior of the Realm.  It is her duty and destiny to face and defeat the Bane, the most powerful tyrant and mage the world has ever known.  This would be a suicide task for anyone, let alone a reluctant sixteen-year-old girl with no training.

As I mentioned, the VOYA article is a well-developed look at the literature and the role of cross-dressing in the lives of teens. It has a pretty inclusive list and a great look at some further information about cross-dressing.  You can check it out on pages 10 through 14 in your October 2013 issue of VOYA.

The Thankful List

Things for which I (Robin) am thankful, in no particular order of importance:

  1. Babies. Babies are the best. I have been supremely blessed by an abundance of babies in my social sphere this year, and for this I am truly thankful.
  2. Middle schoolers. I find them delightful. (Sometimes it surprises me, too.)
  3. Cats. My cats are particularly lovely, but I have to say I’m just thankful for their existence as a species.
  4. Educators. People who, like me, are willing to pour their lives and careers into the seeming abyss that is the current public education system.
  5. Social Media. I live in a region where my social and political views are neither popular nor, frankly, acceptable. It’s nice to not feel so alone.
  6. Books. Where would I be without books? I honestly have no idea.
  7. Authors. See #6.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

The Cybils and Thanksgiving 2013

So for the second year, I am honored to be a YA Speculative Fiction judge in the Cybils. So this is what my dining room table looks like as I check out books, read, make notes, and read, then discuss, and then read some more. It is the most awesome thing. Ever. I am in bliss.

I love the reading and discussing part. Lots of great books were nominated this year. And we have been reading furiously. Great times.

The only issue is that I have been informed that I have to clean off the table for Thanksgiving dinner later today. Can’t we have a picnic on the floor?

Happy Thanksgiving!

What I’m Thankful For…. 2013 Version

This past year has been an extremely hard one for me, personally and professionally. I’ve had a lot of death in my immediate family, and it seems like we’ve had one health crisis after another. I’ve taken charge of professional committees, my library director retired in May after decades with the library, and just a few weeks ago we got a new director and are getting a new library manager. It’s been a year of huge changes for me, and while sometimes it’s hard to see the positive, I remind myself that there are things to be extremely thankful for this year.

My job

It may be a traditional/trite/stereotypical thing to be thankful for, but I am thankful for my job. I have a unique position in that I am the branch manager and in charge of teen and tween programming. While that means that I wear a TON of hats, and can sometimes be stressed to breaking when everyone calls in, I am in charge of what I do, when I do it, and how it gets done. It may change in the future, but for now, I get to call the shots (within reason) and run with anything I can think of. That is something that not a lot of people can say- it gives me an outlet for my creative side, and for my tendency to want things running MY way.

My “kids”

Tied directly into my unique job are my “kids”. I’ve been at my job since December 2007, and I’ve seen these guys above grow up from scrambled middle schools to not so scrambled high schoolers and older. I’m called “Mom” by others, and they share their day. When I’m not at work, they all ask where I am, and get worried when I go on vacation. I’m invited to birthday parties, graduations, weddings, and baptisms of their babies. They are as much “my” kids as they are their parents- I know when they’re skipping, when they’re lying, and when they need help. And while it may be different than other librarians, I know that I’m making a difference in their lives, and that makes me extremely thankful.

My blogger family

TLT has given me an outlet to share things, thoughts, and feels that I never thought I’d have the opportunity to share, and has shown me that my randomness can actually be appreciated by some. I have made a heart sister in Karen, and huge friends in Heather and Robin and Stephanie. It may not seem like it, but I am extremely thankful for having the opportunity to be part of Teen Librarian Toolbox (see got it right, gold star) and that they accept me for who I am.

My heart family

Some people call them friend family, I call them heart family. They are the friends (and extended family) who have found deeper places in my life and would be the family I would call mine if I got a choice. They are the friends who’s children I call my nieces and nephews, who have made me the godparent of their child, who have been with me through all the craziness of my life, through That Guy’s health scares. Through their issues, through mine, I know I can call them up in a heartbeat and they will be there, either listening or at the house. I’ve found them in jobs, in college, in committees and professional organizations, and they are scattered across the country, but they are my rock and support.

That Guy

Finally, I am thankful for That Guy. He has been with me through everything since we met in college. He has held me when my world has broken (many times), and not only put back the pieces but helped me put back the pieces, and watched as I put back the pieces. He’s helped me talk through job moves, and career moves, and professional moves. He’s helped me talk through personal issues, family issues, medical issues- he is my soul mate, and I could not do what I do and be who I am without him.

As a thank you, we are giving away books.  Christie, Heather, Robin and I are each giving away 1 small box of books/ARCs that we have accumulated (probably around 5 books in each box).  So that means we’ll have 4 boxes, so 4 winners.  Do the Rafflecopter thing.  We’ll choose 4 winners and each of us will send a box in the mail.  Sadly, because of the cost of shipping, we are asking for U.S. residents only and I am sorry. We’re taking entries until Friday, December 6th.

We really do appreciate your sharing this journey with us.

Game For Your Life: Gamers in Teen Fiction (Kearsten)

I’ve recently lost myself in playing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and it got me thinking about teen books about roleplaying games (video, computer, and tabletop), and the possible dangers/adventures that might come with an excessive amount of gaming.  I’m still waiting to be sucked into the world of the Elder Scrolls, but so far, my obsession has only annoyed my husband and daughter…
Erebos by Ursula Poznanski.  In this suspense story, Erebos, an apparently bootleg copy of a computer roleplaying game (RPG), takes over a London school as well as sixteen-year-old Nick’s life.  He’s thrilled when he finally gets a copy, and is even more delighted when he starts playing the realistic game.  Nick happily ignores homework and sleep in favor of playing Erebos, until all the weird little things he’s noticed (the game seems to know who Nick is, know when he’s not alone, know who his friends are) begin to add up to some serious unease.  And then the game asks Nick to perform tasks outside the game, in the real world. But it’s not until he’s asked to dose a teacher with a potentially lethal pills that Nick begins to fear for his own life.

Epic by Conor Kostick.  Imagine an Earth where violence is illegal, and you and your family can face serious consequences for even pretending to duel.  But don’t worry: you’re free to express all the violence you’d like in Epic, the government-mandated RPG fantasy game wherein your future – and that of all the inhabitants of this New Earth – is determined.  Play poorly and you may end up in the salt mines.  Play well and you’ll get a good job.  Play really well, and you may get the attention of the Committee, which is made up of New Earth’s best players, who actually are the government.  And the government does not like it if someone, like Epic’sfourteen-year-old narrator Erik, plays the game better than they do.

The Game of Triumphs by Laura Powell.  Yes!  A story about gaming with a girl as the main character!  (There are nowhere near as many as boys, sadly).  Fifteen-year-old Cat is pretty comfortable on her own.  Orphaned at three, she and her eccentric aunt Bel have recently moved to London, where her aunt has a job in a skeevy casino and Cat is left to her own devices most evenings, wandering the streets and riding the Underground out of boredom. Then one night, a Tarot card and a desperate, chased man change her world.  Soon she’s caught up in a game that spans worlds, and offers up both adventure and danger to its players…and may have played a role in Cat’s parents’ deaths.
Interstellar Pig by William Sleator.  And now, for an old title!  A summer at the beach may seem like the ideal vacation, but not when you have to spend it with your incredibly uncool parents.  Sixteen-year-old Barney is feeling that pain until he discovers that this year’s neighbors are young and fun.  When they invite Barney’s family over to play a board game called Interstellar Pig, he’s happy to join.  Unfortunately, he soon discovers that, like most things, their neighbors are too good to be true.  Interstellar Pig isn’t just a game: it’s real, Barney’s neighbors are aliens, and the fate of the universe is at stake.  No big deal, right?
The Other Normals by Ned Vizzini.  Perry just wants to be left alone to play Creatures & Caverns, an elaborate tabletop roleplaying game.  Having someone to play with would be ideal, but not necessary (or likely, if he’s being honest).  Unsurprisingly, Perry’s parents don’t feel it’s healthy for him, so they send him to a summer camp that happens to be full of the exact sort of male teenagers that love to beat Perry up.  But then something exciting finally happens to Perry: he’s led into another world, full of “other normals,” and there they tell him his destiny is saving their beloved princess.  The catch?  Perry has to somehow manage to kiss a gorgeous girl at the neighboring camp back on his Earth.  And Perry?  Well, he’s not so good with people, let alone girls

Take 5: Rainbow Project Nominee Sequels

The 2014 Rainbow List Nominees were announced the other day, and it looks wonderful. I cannot wait to see the final list when it is finished at ALA Midwinter in Philadelphia in January!
HOWEVER, did you know that there are SEQUELS coming out to these awesome books, some as early as JANUARY?!?!?!?!?! 
Well, what are you waiting for?

5, 6, 7, Nate follows Better Nate than Never in the adventures of Nate following his Broadway dreams. He auditions for a role in E.T.: The Musical, but will Broadway live up to his expectations?
(January 2014, ISBN: 9781442446939)
At the end of Pantomime, Micah has ditched the circus and is on the run with Drystan, but when they find a fallen magician willing to teach them the trade, Micah learns that magic is more than card tricks and illusion.
(January 2014, ISBN: 9781908844408)

Eight years after her first and only exposure to the addictive tracks, Alpha is still haunted by the music, and when her older brother Anthem calls for help, she is dragged back in to discover that the Corp has reappeared, this time more insidious than ever.
(May 2014, ISBN: 9780762449507)

Syd is the figurehead of the revolution, yet people are falling ill all over- with the former Guardians hit first, and the government does nothing to help. With the government indifferent to the sickness, Syd takes it upon himself to find a way to stop it- only to to be shocked by what he finds.
(May 2014, ISBN: 9780399165764)
An ongoing series just waiting for the English translations, Wandering Son tells the stories of Nitori-kun and Takatsuki-san, two transgendered kids who only want to be their true selves- which  is increasing difficult as they age, especially in Japanese society. Volume 5 was released in November 2013 (9781606996478) and volume 6 is scheduled to be released in January 2014 (ISBN: 9781606997079).

In Which I Say Thanks and We Give Away Books

Sometime last week, I realized that this week we would reach over 1 million page views.  And because you have to have goals in life, it suddenly became mine.  I don’t know why, but you know, you have to have something to obsess about.  Late last Tuesday night, we did it!

I felt like I had just walked onto a spaceship.  Full of dinosaurs.  It was epic. (Yes, that was a gratuitous Doctor Who reference.)

Here’s the thing.  I started TLT at a very scary time in my life.  Our old town had just flooded and we had lost almost everything. Well, a lot.  But more importantly, we learned the true horror that life can throw at you.  At the same time, we were getting ready to move because of The Mr.’s job & well, we all know what is happening in the library world, I didn’t know how easy it would be to find a job.  So I started TLT because this is what I am: a librarian.  This is my passion, my calling, my love.  And I needed to find a way to keep doing it, even if I couldn’t find a job in this scary new land we were moving to.

Karen and Her Favorite 5-year-old.

It has been a little over 2 years now.  I do have a part-time teen librarian job.  But TLT has turned out to be such a major blessing.  You see, because of TLT I have met an amazing number of passionate librarians, authors and teens and it has been epic. Truly, amazingly, life-changingly epic.  Plus, I now have Christie, Heather and Robin in my life. (I miss Stephanie, sniff.)

Christie and My Favorite Pre-Teen

So we have over 1 million page views, and we could not have done it without you.  So many of you have shared your passion, often in guest posts. You have shared your stories and your favorite books, your heart and your dedication.  I have found my people – and you rock.

So thank you.  Thank you for reading, thank you for writing, and thank you for demonstrating time and time again the basic goodness that can be found in this world.  And thank you for joining me in the fight for reading, libraries and teen advocacy.

Sincerely, Karen

So let’s give stuff away . . . 

As a thank you, we are giving away books.  Christie, Heather, Robin and I are each giving away 1 small box of books/ARCs that we have accumulated (probably around 5 books in each box).  So that means we’ll have 4 boxes, so 4 winners.  Do the Rafflecopter thing.  We’ll choose 4 winners and each of us will send a box in the mail.  Sadly, because of the cost of shipping, we are asking for U.S. residents only and I am sorry. We’re taking entries until Friday, December 6th.

We really do appreciate your sharing this journey with us.

Take 5: YA Lit for Rose Tyler fans (Doctor Who), a guest post by Amy Diegelman

“The first nineteen years of my life, nothing happened.
Nothing at all.”  

Image property of Megan Lara at Megan Lara Tumblr

Rose Tyler.

Companion, friend, comforter, badass.

Resourceful, empathetic, brave, determined.

I could go on for days and days about all Rose Tyler’s amazing qualities (and trust me, I’ll get back to that in a second) but there is one aspect I don’t think we talk about enough. Before she was the Bad Wolf, Rose Tyler was just a shop girl with minimal education living in an estate with her mother. Her life is chugging forward in the mundane, slightly below average way everyone expects it to.. Jackie indicates that a butcher shop would be more suitable work for Rose because the department store was too fancy. Rose has no A-levels, the requirements for college. Estates like the one the Tylers inhabit are not just apartment buildings but large housing projects (often owned by the government or non-profit organizations) for the lower end of the economic scale. She’s a chav – a British stereotype and derogatory term similar to calling someone ‘white trash’ or ‘ghetto.’ The implication is always there in Rose’s history and fashion, and in the episode “New Earth”, when the ever-fabulous Cassandra inhabits Rose’s body, she openly despairs, “I’m a chav!”

I love a character like Rose. A girl who leads a disadvantage life, who is simply following the path set out for her when a door to something better opens up. Once given the chance, Rose proves that she is more than up to snuff. Through the new life of adventuring she is able to show everyone, including herself, that she is brave and smart and compassionate. She saves herself, strangers, friends, and the Doctor more than once. She becomes the Bad Wolf and puts her mark on time itself. So I’ve made up a small list of characters who are pulled from low circumstances to extraordinary ones, and prove that they themselves are extraordinary.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer – Cinder is a retelling of Cinderella in the future. I tend to think any characterization of Rose Tyler as Cinderella to somewhat miss the mark. But Cinder isn’t the classic Cinderella either. Cinder is a cyborg, and that makes her, like Rose, a second class citizen to most people. And though her family lives in a certain level of luxury, Cinder herself earns most of the wages as a mechanic and sees few of the benefits. Regardless of all that, when trouble turns up, Cinder rises to the occasion. She throws herself into danger when she doesn’t have to, because it is the right thing to do. What is perhaps most Rose Tyler-esque, is the fact that Cinder doesn’t question it. She doesn’t stand around and agonize over things. She sees what needs to be done – often who needs to be helped – and she finds a way to do it. Neither she nor Rose have fairy godmothers. They prove themselves all on their own.

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers – Raised by a man who never wanted her, sold off to an abusive husband. These are the only things we really know about Ismae’s life before she is taken in by the nuns of St. Mortain- better known as Death himself – to be trained as an assassin. Its not often you can say a girl raised by assassin nuns is similar to, well, anyone – but Ismae came to mind right away when I started this list. She is taken from a life of being beaten and neglected, to one where she is shown how truly amazing she can be. Its Ismae’s faith and fidelity (along with a fair amount of badassery, of course) that really connect her with Rose. Ismae is firmly dedicated to what she feels is right, and to Death, who she has sworn to serve, even though she has every reason to believe only in the terrible things and people in the world.. It makes me think of the scene in the Satan Pit episodes when everyone believes the doctor is dead but Rose stands firm, “You don’t know him. Cause he’s not. I’m telling you he’s not. And even if he was, how could I leave him?”

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld – In this alternate, steampunk, bioengineered version of World War I Deryn is a commoner girl disguised as a boy so she can serve in the British Air Service. And boy is she good at it. Oh man, how much do I love Deryn Sharp? So much. Smart, funny, brave – Deryn goes after what she wants and takes it. The best part? What she wants isn’t power or wealth or fame, she just wants to do what she loves – flying. Deryn doesn’t hesitate, and she doesn’t give up. She’d do anything for her friends, she doesn’t blink before tossing herself into danger to save another. She and Rose would be fast friends, I have no doubt.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo – Alina is an orphan serving in the military with her best friend Mal. Her life is truly average. But when a unique ability manifests in her, she is swept up into the elite, majestic world of the Grisha and their leader, the Darkling. I agonized a bit over this one, but in the end I decided that Alina deserved a spot on this list. Don’t get me wrong, I love Alina and adore this book (Epic fantasy with a Russian twist? Yes, please!) but I wasn’t sure she was Rose Tyler material. Alina is a bit of a Rose in training. She struggles with a woe-is-me attitude for quite some time, but to be fair the Darkling, while powerful and mysterious, isn’t quite the inspirational figure the Doctor usually is. But at the end of the day she is much like the Bad Wolf – an immense power just waiting to find her way.

Color of Rain by Cori McCarthy – Rain’s story is much darker than Rose’s. She and her little brother are the only surviving members of their family, living in an abandoned pool and scrounging for a life in the crime and grime of Earth City. When Rain’s brother’s life is at risk she gives up everything to save him. She trades herself to a man named Johnny in exchange for passage on his ship to The Edge, where there may be a cure for her brother, whole will have to make the trip cryogenically frozen. But Johnny’s ship, a city all its own, proves to be almost as dangerous as Johnny himself. Rain is one of my favorite YA heroines of the last couple of years. Her life is ugly and often awful, but she never gives up. NEVER. There were so many moments when I couldn’t imagine even having the will to continue, but Rain finds a way. And she does her best not to trample anyone in the process. Rain shares with Rose the ability I love most in them both – a refusal to be beaten, without a loss of compassion.

Amy Diegelman is a Young Adult Librarian in Massachusetts, with an MLS and Specialization in Youth Services from Indiana University. She lives on an island, and Batman is her one true love.

Book Review: Coaltown Jesus by Ron Koertge

“I would have been here sooner,but the traffic on I-55 was awful.”

Walker and his mother are wandering along the long, lonely road of grief, and they are getting nowhere fast.  So one day, as Walker sees his mother crying once again for his dead brother, Walker says a prayer:

“Look,” he said, “if you’re up there, help
my mom, okay? My brother’s been dead
two whole months, and she’s still crying.”

And then Jesus comes.  He’s standing right there in Walker’s room.  The two of them spend a few days together, walking around Coaltown, Illinois talking about things like prayer, love, and healing.

This is a short, moving, and beautifully examined look at healing and faith written in free verse poetry.  At only 122 pages, it says a lot in very effective ways.  Jesus is given some personality, he wants a pair of red tennis shoes, but is never mocked or disparaged.  I thought this was such an effective portrait of grief; Walker wants Jesus to help is mom but doesn’t really recognize the depth of his own grief and guilt, but Jesus slowly and gently reveals it to him. It was just very good, and is easily approachable by all ages. I highly recommend it.

After I read it, the Tween read it.  She thought it was one of the most beautiful books she had ever read.

“He felt like a cup falling from a table.  Turning and turning,
about to shatter.”

Coaltown Jesus by Ron Koertge.  Candlewick Press.  ISBN: 978-0-76363-6228-8.