Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Book Review: Pretty Amy by Lisa Burstein

Tonight is our Dear Cassie Twitter chat with author Lisa Burstein.  Join us on Twitter at 9:00 PM
Eastern and be sure and add the hashtag #TLTCassie to join in and follow along.  Dear Cassie is a companion novel to Pretty Amy.  Today we are re-running our review of Pretty Amy in preparation for tonight's chat.  Tomorrow I will be reviewing Dear Cassie and doing a Tweet roundup of our discussion.
Amy and her two best friends sit wearing their prom dresses in a jail cell.  They've been stood up, kicked out, and now captured (for drug use, possession and intent to sell).  Their prom is definitely a night to remember, but for all the wrong reasons.

The next few weeks bring new forms of torture for Amy as she is forced to seek legal help, see a counselor, get a job, volunteer and more all in an attempt to keep Amy out of jail.  Jail, she is assured, is not the place she wants to be.  Angry, naive and petulant, Amy is finding it hard to participate in operation reform Amy - all she wants to do is kiss Aaron and hang out with Cassie and Lila, now forbidden.  Slowly Amy learns that the people in her life she looked up to the most were probably not looking out for her best interests, and that the very people she shunned may actually love her.  Sometimes the people we choose are our worst enemies and the people we left behind are still waiting there for us at the end of our journey.

Book Review: The Collector by Victoria Scott

“As you know, it’ll be held in the gymnasium. We’ll be selling tickets during lunch all week. So don’t forget to buy yours or you’ll be left dateless like me.”

Charlie stops. Her smile falters, but she quickly recovers. “I would know…only ugly losers…” She stops reading the cue cards. Then she gazes right into the camera and freezes.
People in the classroom laugh nervously.

Taylor. She messed with the cue cards. I should have known. I should’ve known!

I bolt from my desk and run for the door.

Behind me, I hear the teacher yelling my name, but there’s no way I’m stopping this time. My sneakers thump against the floor as I run down the hallway, into the cafeteria, and down another longer corridor. I’m heading to the journalism room, but I stop suddenly when I hear the sound of quick footsteps coming from the closest bathroom. Somehow, I know it’s her.

The bathroom doesn’t have a door, just an entrance that turns sharply so you can’t see inside. I don’t even check to see if anyone’s watching. I just go halfway in, knock on the wall, and say, “Charlie? You in here?”

The footsteps stop briefly.

Yep. It’s gotta be her.

I go the rest of the way inside and find her pacing in front of the restroom stalls. Her back is to me as she says, “You can go, Dante. I’m fine.” But when she turns to pace in the opposite direction, I see the truth. Her face is pink and blotchy and her eyes hold so much pain, it rips something apart inside of my chest.

My hands curl and uncurl, and my breathing comes harder and faster. Who do these people think they’re messing with? This girl has been assigned to me. Boss Man wants her soul, which means anyone messing with her—is messing with me. And they’re about to find out exactly what that’s like.

I turn abruptly from Charlie and storm toward the hall.

“Dante,” she says. Her voice becomes urgent. “Dante, don’t.”

I head down the hallway, gaining speed, unstoppable.

As I round the corner, I see Taylor and one of her boy-toys laughing. They’re having a grand ol’ time mocking my girl. The guy sees me and his mouth turns up on one side. “Oh, here comes the boyfriend. Did you catch our show, boyfriend?”

I don’t stop. I keep moving. One second, Dick Head is standing upright and the next my fist slams into his jaw. He hits the floor with a hard thud. I jump on his chest and throw my fist over and over into his face. I’m a big guy, there’s no denying that, but what’s more—I’m a mother fucking demon. And now the guy below me knows what it’s like to piss one off. When the guy’s eyes roll back in his head, I stand up and wipe blood from my knuckles.

Then I look at Taylor.

Fear screams in her eyes. I approach her slowly. She backs up until her shoulder blades hit the lockers behind her. “Dante, I—”

I cover her mouth with my hand. “Shut up.”

I step so close I can practically feel her heart beating. The hand not covering her mouth flicks, and her soul light flips on. Just as I expected, she’s coated in sin seals.

What I don’t expect are the two sparkly, pink seals. What the hell? Did Charlie do this?
Right now, I don’t care. All I care about is delivering what this girl deserves. Usually, the size seal I can assign is based on the sin. But this time—just this once—I’m going to take a little liberty.

I close my eyes and pull as much as I can out of my core, then I let go. A seal the size of Canada attaches to her soul light. And oh, sweet mercy, I can tell Taylor feels it. Actually feels that I just took something sacred from her.

My mouth curls into a smile.

“Pow, bitch.”

Monday, April 29, 2013

Book Review: Prophecy Girl

“Oh, you think this is fun, Prophecy Boy?” I yelled, furious. “You think it’s cool that we’re swimming in other people’s feces?”
Brown water dripped down his smiling face as his gaze danced over me. I couldn’t put my finger on his expression. Bemusement. Possibly insanity.

“What are you grinning at?” I splashed a floating chunk of molded apple core at his head.

He dodged the chunk but kept smiling. “Nothing. It’s just… no girl has ever offered to feed my enemies’ fingernails to her cat before.”
“Lisa’s cat. And don’t flatter yourself. At the moment, I’m tempted to feed him your fingernails.”

I glanced at the high, circular opening we’d passed through. For some reason, it left me with the uncomfortable sensation that I’d been digested by the city. Directly above us, a series of large rectangular grates ran along the length of the drainage ditch where we’d landed. Moonlight flooded through them into the small enclosure, making Jack’s eyes glow silver. I held my breath as he waded toward me and lifted a hand to my cheek.

“You’ve got spaghetti on your face,” he said. “At least, I hope it’s spaghetti.”

I frowned, desperate not to think about it. “Yeah, well, you’ve got toilet paper on your chin. And you’re doomed. Pot.” I pointed at him, then back at myself. “Kettle. Can we move it along, please? I think I’m contracting hepatitis.”

He gave me that look again, the cocky half-smile. “Sure. We’re almost there.”

I followed him through the tunnel obediently, ducking my head every few seconds to avoid the concrete arches that supported the drainage structure. I didn’t bother asking where “there” was. Jack was about as forthcoming as a park bench and, frankly, I didn’t feel like wasting my breath. True to his word, it only took another few minutes before we came to a metal ladder with rungs embedded in the concrete. When Jack finally helped me out of the sewer, I almost cried with relief. Never had the beer/fish/vomit scents of the French Quarter smelled so fragrantly sweet. Somewhere in the distance, the sound of rushing water and steamboat horns rang out. 

Yup. Not Hell. Definitely still home.

My knees ground against the hard cobbles as I crawled to the side of the road, fully prepared to kiss the ground. The concrete was still warm from the heat of the day, so I flopped onto my back and gave a long sigh. Through my eyelids, I could see the full moon above.

“Jack, seriously,” I muttered. “No more surprises. No more prophetic caves, or haunted Graymason nests, or body-surfing sewage. If you want to commit suicide, let’s just go hunt some werewolves and be done with it, okay?”

I lay still as a dark silhouette came to hover over me, blocking out the brightness of the moon.
“Well, love, if you’re set on suicide, I daresay there’s something more dangerous than a werewolf.”
Every inch of me tensed. Not only was that not Jack’s voice, I could tell by the flawless musical quality and perfect British accent it wasn’t human, either. My eyes scanned over him, taking in the cliché. Tall, dark, and psychotically beautiful, with elegant cheekbones and the most arresting violet eyes I’d ever seen on a man. The perfect echo of every romantic hero I’d conjured in my head.
“Oh, hell,” I mumbled. “Who ordered a vampire?”

Entangled Teen: Fall 2013 Titles coming your way

This week is Entangled Teen week at TLT.  All week long we will be reviewing Entangled Teen titles and giving you multiple chances to enter and win a mini-collection of 2013 titles to add to your home or library collection.  We kick off the week with a look at some of the Fall 2013 titles that will be coming your way.

Hover by Melissa West, August 2013
On Earth, seventeen-year-old Ari Alexander was taught to never peek, but if she hopes to survive life on her new planet, Loge, her eyes must never shut. Because in this world, pleasure is everything, held up by a ruling  body that keeps their peopke in check by giving them what they want and closing their eyes to what's really happening around them.  The only hope Loge has is to move its people to Earth, and they have a plan.

Thousands of humans crossed over to Loge after a poisonous neurotoxin released into Earth's atmosphere, nearly killing them.  They sought refuse in hopes of finding a new life, but what they became were slaves, built to siege war against their home planet.  That is, unless Ari and Jackson can stop them.  But on Loge, nothing is as it seems . . . and no one can be trusted. 

Out of Play By Nyrae Dawn and Jolene Perry, August 2013

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Things I Didn't Learn in Library School: Crafting Programs by Stephanie W.

We are excited to welcome the fabulous Stephanie Wilkes back to TLT after her maternity leave.  We have missed her.  Today she is sharing with you her first ever installment of Things I Never Learned in Library School.

How to do crafts. Or in my case, crapfts.  I completely suck at being an artsy fartsy person in so much as being able to do certain types of programming.  I am a master seamstress and I quilt but the few programs where I’ve tried to get teens interested in those things didn’t go so well and the cost per person wasn’t justifiable to administration.  So…for other types of crafts, I’m expected to just whip things up.  And let me tell you…at no time in my MLIS instruction did anyone teach me how to varnish, paint, make shrinky dinks out of plastic cups, braid lanyards, make Hunger Games parachute drops, or make duct tape (insert name of any object here).  

So, like any brave YA librarian, I started my programming career by Google-ing crafts.  Now, remember this was before the days of Pinterest and DIY blogging.  So, I would get random hits from Disney Family Fun and other websites where the crafts were primarily for children.  No bueno.  

Friday, April 26, 2013

True Confessions of an Audio Book Virgin (an audio review of Rotters and Scowler by Daniel Kraus and tips for highlighting audio books in your collection)

I am fairly new to audio books.  Not as a supporter, I have always understood their value and been a huge supporter of audio books.  I have just never personally been a listener.  In part, it was probably because I could take my kids to school and walk to work in my previous location - all within about 15 minutes.  There simply wasn't time or a need.

Fast forward to now.  I have a 45 minute commute 3 times a week to my library. Sometimes I listen to NPR or music, but I have recently started listening to audio books on occasion.

It began with Delirium by Lauren Oliver.  It was one of the few YA titles my small branch library had, and as you know I became a huge fan of the series.  There were times when the Tween and I would want to just keep driving because we didn't want to turn it off.

Next came book one in the Gallagher Girl series by Ally Carter, which my tween loved as well.  She has continued reading the books in the series on her own after having been introduced to it via audio.

And more recently, I listened to both Rotters and Scowler by Daniel Kraus on audio.  This was an interesting experiment for me as it was the first time that I listened to books that I had already read and was a huge fan of.  I embraced this experiment with gusto because it gave me some real genuine grounds for comparison.  Listening to the books . . . it was such a different experience.

Book Review: Death and the Girl Next Door by Darynda Jones

I tapped the page with my fingertips. "And this is the page Mr. Davis was looking at. I remember. he'd circled a face with a -"

"Lorelei," Brooklyn interrupted in a hushed whisper. Her finger slipped up to one of the photos bordering the main picture. In it, a crowd of students stood around the flagpole of the old high school. They were laughing  as though in disbelief, and I realized it was a shot of Mr. Davis's brother. In what must have been some kind of prank, he and some friends had chained themselves to the pole and were holding a sign I couldn't quite make out.

But they were laughing  too. Every student in the photo was laughing, except one. A boy. He was standing closer to the camera yet apart from the rest, his stance guarded, his expression void, and then I saw the unmistakable face of our newest student.

Jared Kovach.

I felt the world tip beneath me, my head spin as I stared unblinking.
"It can't be him," she said.

But there was no mistaking the wide shoulders, the solid build, the dark glint in Jared's eyes.

"It can't be him," she repeated. 

He had the same mussed hair, the same T-shirt with the sleeves rolled up, the same arms, long and sculpted like swimmer's  The only difference I could see in this picture was the tattoo. Two, actually. Wide bands of what looked like a row of ancient symbols encircled each of his biceps.

"It just can't be, right, Lorelei?"

He was just as breathtaking  just as surreal. And somehow, it made perfect sense. I swallowed hard and asked, "What if it is him?"

"Lor," Glitch said, shaking his head, "that's impossible."

"Maybe it's his father, or even his grandfather." Brooklyn glanced up. "Lots of kids look like their grandparents."

"Think about it," I said. "Think about all the things he can do." I studied the photo again. The caption below it read, Taken the day we lost our beloved brother and friend.

"Wheat if it is him and hew as there the day Mr. Davis's brother died." I thought back to what Cameron's father had said. "Cameron called him the reaper. Maybe he really is."

"Is what?" Brooklyn asked, pulling away from me.

In hesitation, I pursed my lips. Then I said it, what we were all thinking. "What if he really is the grim reaper?"

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Book Review: Severed Heads, Broken Hearts by Robyn Schneider

Please note: Apparently, the title of this book has been changed to The Beginning of Everything.  Goodreads also suggests that there is not currently a cover.  I reviewed a digital galley from Edelweiss.  The current release date is August 27th from Katherine Tegen.

Ezra Faulkner believes that everyone's live is just waiting for just one good tragedy.  His occurs right before prom his junior year when he is in a massive car accident that ends his promising tennis career and takes away everything that made him who he was.  So he begins his senior year lost and adrift, only to reunite with his former best friend Toby.  Toby's tragedy occurred in middle school at Disneyland when a severed head landed in his lap on one of the rides.  As far as openings - and tragedies - go, this one was pretty awesome.  Then Cassidy shows up and the two of them are trying to heal from their tragedies - although for a long time Cassidy's is in fact unknown - and the two are falling in love, maybe.  It's hard for Ezra to know because Cassidy is an enigma.

Severed Heads, Broken Hearts is a classic coming of age story full of pathos, with the first and third parts definitely holding your attention more strongly than the middle.  The thing that kept me reading was the characters: I definitely wanted to know what was happening with Ezra, Cassidy and Toby.

A little humility goes a long way

Last night at TLA I was at a party hosted by Random House, Sourcebooks and more. I had a great time meeting a variety of fab authors, including the inspiring Jon Sciezka. He was very kind and gracious to talk to.  It is always amazing to meet the authors that my kids and I love.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


For the remainder of this week, Christie and I will be at TLA.  Please do say hi if you see us there.
We will be Tweeting so if you are on Twitter follow us!
Karen @TLT16 
Christie @mz_christie

On Friday, April 26th, Christie will be presenting as part of a panel on GLBT YA Lit.
Out of the Closet & Onto the Shelves
Friday, 10:15 AM, 113B
Christie is representing the Rainbow List
Peter Coyl is representing the Stonewall List

Next Week is Entangled Teen Week
We will be highligthing 2013 Entangled Teen titles and doing a book giveaway.

From Page to Screen and Coming to a Theater Near You

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a movie junkie. Even more, I love movies that are based off of books- the best of both worlds, right? Except not when there are huge parts that *I* think may be important parts that are left out for editing reasons (think Harry Potter 7) or a change in the ending (The Firm).  At any rate, as more and more studios use books for their inspirations, I have more chances to enjoy (or rant) about how the conversion went.  Here are some that are coming up for this summer- are you going to see them?
One that I am super excited about (even though I haven't seen a trailer yet) is Judy Blume's Tiger Eyes.  Set to come out June 7, I am buzzing that one of my favorite books is making it to the big screen!  I can only hope that it makes it to theaters nation-wide- I was so bummed that Fat Kid Rules the World was never playing anywhere near me (and I am in a HUGE metropolitan area).
I also want to see Geography Club. Based off of Bret Hartinger's book, the trailer looks really good.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Book Review: Death, Doom, and Detention by Darynda Jones

With new purpose, I worked the back of the frame off and took the picture into my hands. I was going to lean back against my headboard, take deep breaths, and concentrate. But the moment my fingers touched the picture, I tumbled inside. The sheer curtain drifted apart and I found myself standing in the hospital room while Mom and Dad studied the infant me.

I was sound asleep, probably due to lack of oxygen from being cocooned, as Dad wiggled my chin with a fingertip. "Just like my father's," he said, and I couldn't have explained the pride that welled inside me if I tried a thousand years. My incorporeal chest welled in emotion.

My parents were right there. Right in front of me. So close, I could almost touch them. I wanted so much to run to them, to thanks them for everything. I felt like I couldn't breathe, but could I breathe here at all? In this place of void?

I wanted to stand there forever and bask in their presence. It was like they were back. They were with me. But I had no way to pause the moment, and it slid forward despite my every desire to the contrary.

Mom stopped her cooing and looked over at Dad. "We should tell her when she's older."

I stepped closer. Tell me what?

Dad gave her a sad look. "It's not our secret to tell," he said, shaking his head. "Besides, what good would it do her to know the truth? To know that he's alive?"

What? Who's alive? What truth?

"I think I have this thing figured out," a man said, and just as Mom and Dad looked up, the bright light flashed and I was back on my bed, the picture in my hands, Brooke mumbling something about duty and how spying was a noble tradition. Just look at James Bond.

Graphically Speaking: From Page to Screen, summer movies based on graphic novels

I am in *love* with movies that are based off of comics and graphic novels. Nothing makes me happier than an excellent adaptation of them, and nothing ticks my inner geek off more than a crappy one. And it's such an excellent way to tie those readers who swear they aren't readers (or don't think they are) into reading and browsing your collection!  We have such a wonderful line-up of movies coming through, you should definitely see what you have and tie it into your display! (And, superheros and mystery and secret identities and plots all work for the Collaborative Summer Reading Program themes....)


Monday, April 22, 2013

TPiB: Earth Day Projects (and project resources for your collection)

It's Earth Day! 

Today is a day when we remember that we all share this big Earth and that many of its resources are, in fact, limited.  As you drive wherever you are going today (all though a good Earth day guru would ride a bike or walk), take a moment to look at all the trash you see on the sides of the road.  Earth Day is not just about global warming or oil . . . it is about seeing the beauty in the world around us and working to keep it clean, working to make sure that we have access to clean water and nutritious food now and in the future, and just being responsible consumers as we live together on this 3rd Rock from the Sun.  Earth Day is a reminder to just stop for a moment an exam how we live our lives and the chain reaction that it can have.

Now is a great time to look at ways that we can do more responsible programming with our teens, and teach teens how they can use the materials in their daily life in more than one way.  Below are some great programming ideas you can use in your libraries and some resources to share with teens on eco-crafting.
One of my favorite resources is 47 Things You Can Do for the Environment, written for teens - and very accessible.  It includes hands on activities and simple steps you can take to live in more environmentally friendly ways.  More than just a craft book, this is a guide book for eco-living.  In addition, 47 Things does include some craft projects which can be done in a program setting.

re·cy·cle /rēˈsīkəl/
  1. Convert (waste) into reusable material. (Merriam Webster Dictionary)

Here are 5 Things You Can Do Today - and for Fun! - to Help the Earth

Countdown's Begun: Earth Day Dystopias

http://wetlandscenter.fhsu.edu/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/Earth-Day-2013.jpg My Disney parks addiction and fairy tales aside, I have a decidedly dark streak. So when Earth Day rolls around, even though we do a "Save the Earth" craft at my library, my brain rolls instead to the dystopias I know and read like crazy.  I got to thinking about which ones were based on ecological disasters: if we continue on the path we're on, what future are we headed towards?  

With the help of some awesome librarians, we came up with this list to share with your tweens and teens, as a preview of what can happen if things don't start to change....

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sunday Reflections: Going to Bed Hungry

Violence. Bullying. School testing. We talk a lot about the issues affecting the lives of teens, but we don't talk enough about one of the biggest: poverty and food insecurity.  1 out of 5 children don't know when - or if - they are going to get to eat today.

"It was during such a moment that my stomach, empty for nearly forty-eight hours, constricted and squired out a noise of at least six seconds in duration . . . In a twisted bit of mercy, I could not fully concentrate on my own mortification, as I was gripped by hunger pains the likes of which I'd never felt. I had to eat . . ." Rotters, Daniel Kraus

"I'm not on drugs,' I blurted, 'I'm just hungry.'
'Hungry', mused Diamond. . . .
'Joey, say it was up to you. How would you like us to help you?'
'I just want to eat' was all I said . . ." Rotters, Daniel Kraus

In Rotters, author Daniel Kraus writes a compelling potrayal of one teen boys descent into an underground world that many of us never realized existed: graverobbing.  It is a dark, twisted tale where Kraus sets up a sympathetic character, smashes him to bits in the most darkest of ways, and then you suddenly find yourself reading the darkest, most unflinching tale of a character that you once rooted for but now often loathe.  It is bold and daring storytelling at its best.  But for me, one of the most stunning features of Rotters is the all too tangible and aching description of food insecurity that Kraus portrays in the character of Joey Crouch.  After Joey's mom dies, he is sent to live with a father he never really knew and is thrust into a life of abject poverty.  He goes days without eating, living in a shack that can barely be considered a home.  It is this very food insecurity that makes Joey tiptoe onto this dark path.  Although it has been over 3 years since I first read Rotters, I have never stopped thinking about this book.  And recently, I began listening to it on Audio and was amazed at how much more visceral the audio presentation made those very uncomfortable scenes, those scenes that far too many of our world's children are living every day.  When narrator Kirby Heyborne says "I just want to eat", your heart just shatters into a million pieces because you can hear the hunger in his voice.  There is a reason this audio adaptation won the 2012 Odyssey Award.

Just a few days into his tortured life at a new school, already the subject of bullying and scorn for the father he barely knows, Joey is tortured by hunger.  He is caught by a teacher stealing a purse out of a locker just to get some money to eat.  And when the school gets involved, they do everything exactly wrong; except they do get Joey signed up for free lunch.  But as too many children know all too well, lunch is never enough.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Challenge Accepted! A school librarian talks about Reluctant Readers

We're wrapping up this week's focus on Reluctant Readers with confessions from another librarian raising a Reluctant Reader and her insights. 

Confession. I am a librarian and the mother of a reluctant reader. I know! The shame! The horror! But, hold on, the story is just getting started. 

From the moment the strip turned pink I started buying books for my child. I’d wander through the shelves imagining her sitting in my lap, all snuggled up, enjoying the same stories that I loved as a child. Of course she’d go ga-ga for Dr. Seuss! Of course she’d read and love Little Women, Anne of Green Gables and Walk Two Moons. How could she not?

Friday, April 19, 2013

What if it's more than just Reluctant Reading? A mom shares about her daughter's dyslexia

This week we are talking about reluctant readers and today my friend has been kind enough to share her struggles about raising not only a reluctant reader, but a child with dyslexia.

I have a Reluctant Reader to say the least.  I would push it a bit further and admit I have a Kicking and Screaming reluctant dyslexic reader. (Now, say that 5 times in a row)   She’s nine years old and in the third grade but already has the mood swings of a teenager.  Her talents lean toward the social aspects of life.  She’s really a perfectionist, which makes reading more difficult.  She is easily frustrated.   She doesn’t want to try because she’s afraid to fail.

Bella Thorne discusses her struggles with dyslexia

When I was growing up, reading was fun!   I would devour a book in a day that would take my friends days or weeks to read.  Reading was my escape.  School was fun and easy.  But this is not about me.  I wish I could say the same is true for my kid, but that’s just not in her personality.

I finished a book! A guest book review of Dead Run by Sean Rodman (Orca Soundings)

I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t read as much as I should for a teen librarian.  I check out a lot of books that I never end up reading.  I start a lot of books that I never finish.  Far too often my response to “have you read ________?” is no.  Maybe I’m a reluctant reader.  I was certainly reluctant about reading Dead Run by Sean Rodman (Orca Soundings).

If I’m not in the middle of something already, or if I walked off and left my book at home, I’ll often grab something that’s not really my style to read during my lunch break.  I figure this way I’m still broadening my horizons in YA lit without tying myself down to something I’m not sure I really want to read.  Does that sound crazy? 

Anyway, that’s how I ended up with Dead Run.  I’ve been ordering Orca books, especially Orca Soundings, for a few years but had yet to read one.  This one was in our “New YA” display so I picked it up and read the back.  It immediately made me think of a movie that came out a while back, Premium Rush (2012).  I never saw it but I’ve been crushing on Joseph Gordon-Levitt since 10 Things About You (1999), so it was on my radar.  That was good enough to make it lunch time reading, so down to our dungeon of a break room I headed.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Book Review: Agent Angus by K. L. Denman (Orca Currents)

Orca Currents is a line of high interest, lower level reading titles for Middle Grade and Early Teen readers who are reading below grade level.

The lie happened.

Angus has been crushing on Ella Eckles for as long as he can remember; well, at least five months now.  So when he suddenly finds himself in a conversation with her outside the school, which has just been evacuated due to a stink bomb, the lie flows so easily off his lips: "I am a mentalist".  Now, Ella's sketchbook has gone missing and she has asked Angus to use his Mentalist skills to help her find it.  That is why Angus has now enlisted his best friend, Shahid, to help him research how to be a Mentalist and become Ella's hero.

Agent Angus by K. L. Denman is actually a pretty fun read.  Think Psych for middle schoolers.  Angus is a classic geeky character who has a chance at greatness with the girl of his dreams, of course he lies! And that lie brings about a lot of fun moments, including a humorous encounter with a suspect in a dark alley and conversations with a boy known only as "Grunt" in the bathroom stall.

Writing for Reluctant Readers, a guest post by Alex Van Tol

Writers who are eager to break into publishing – or who are wanting to take a break from their usual genre – will be pleased to know there’s a huge and growing market for books that are accessible to youngsters who struggle with reading. Often referred to as hi-lo books, these are short, action-packed books written in easy-to-grasp language. The margins are a little wider, the font is a wee bit bigger, and the words are a smidgeon shorter. As for the rest? Exactly the same as mainstream fiction.

Reluctant readers are just as socially savvy and emotionally mature as kids who find reading easy. It’s essential not to dumb anything down for these youngsters. They crave stories that speak to the concerns in their own lives, yet which are written at a reading level that they can manage.

Until recently, reluctant and weak readers were given simple stories in simple language. But paging through Stuart Little at age 16 isn’t the way to turn a disenfranchised kid onto the magic and power of reading. Today’s youth want to read about the issues that touch their worlds: peer pressure; participation in sports; the seductions – and dangers – of gangs; terminal illness; coming of age; taking risks; fighting injustice…the list goes on. There’s also room for the odd horror story or good old-fashioned romance.

If you’re thinking of writing for reluctant readers, a few tried and true techniques will help you craft strong stories and believable characters. Read – and write – on.

1.      Cut to the action. Get straight into the problem within the first couple of pages. If you can’t get the story rolling with something that leads to the main issue, then at least drop your main character into a situation where there is conflict – either between her and another character, within her own mind, or between her and the outside world. In hi-lo fiction, conflict is key. It keeps the story moving.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

10 Tips for Parents (and librarians) Working with Reluctant Readers

Hand out I made for Betty Warmack Branch Library
Read with your child for 20 minutes a day.  Take turns switching who does the reading.  Afterwards, ask them the who, what, when, why and how of the story to make sure they are understanding what is read.  If you have a teen and they are hesitant to be read aloud to, read the same book as them and discuss it daily. 

2. Listen
Have your child listen to audio books and read along in the book.  Research shows that the act of reading while listening can help improve skills and comprehension.  You can listen in the car while on the road or at home.

3. Opportunity
Every moment is a reading moment.  When you are eating a bowl of cereal ask your child to read you what is on the cereal box.  While watching a movie turn on the subtitles or close captioning. Read road signs.  The best way to become a better reader is to read!  Make your home a reading friendly zone!

4. Have Reading Delivered
Consider buying your child a magazine subscription that is age appropriate and in a subject area that interests them.  The act of receiving mail is exciting to kids and they will love to sit down and read it.  All reading is reading practice.

Bibliotherapy: What if we read more? (guest post by Amianne Bailey)

Because this is one of the best posts ever about aliteracy, and by an amazing friend of mine, we are re-running it today for Reluctant Readers week
This post originally appeared on TLT on December 20, 2012

“If every person in this room made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you will try to act a little kinder than is necessary - the world really would be a better place. And if you do this, if you act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you, in every single one of you, the face of God.” --From Wonder by RJ Palacio

I spent Friday, December 14, 2012, with all 757 students of my school in our first annual Polar Express day in the library. This is what I posted as my Facebook status after hearing the gut-wrenching news of the Connecticut shootings:

In light of the horrific events in CT today, I am reluctant to share this post. But I want you all to know that in an elementary school in Mesquite, TX, there was JOY today. We had 38 classes listen to The Polar Express and served 807 cups of hot chocolate. Smiles, joy, and gratitude swirled around my heart today, and I don't feel guilty for these blessings. My fellow educators & parents, we must continue to teach and love our children with passion & joy & energy. When we live in fear, evil wins. Don't let evil win.

One of my best days as an educator is juxtaposed with one of the worst days in our nation’s recent history. That incongruity does not go unnoticed.  

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Take 5: Resources for Working with Reluctant Readers

Who are reluctant readers?  
Reluctant readers are people who. . .

Can Read, But Don't (Aliteracy)
A reluctant reader may have good reading skills, but chooses not to read.  They will often say that they just don't like to read.  This is also called aliteracy; being able to read but uninterested in doing so.  When we talk about Reluctant Readers, these are primarily the types of readers we are talking about.  As Mark Twain once said, "The man who does not read has no advantage over the man that can not read." 

The Pew Report on Young American Reading Habits tells us that at least 83% of young people in America read at least one book in the past year.  This tells us that 17% didn't.  And one book in a year, that's not exactly our goal.

Wants to Read but Hides It
There are also some tweens and teen who actually do like to read, but because of the perceived coolness factor of it, they choose to hide it.  They are closeted readers if you will.

It's a common adage that boys don't like to read.  Truthfully, I know plenty of boys who like to read, and the things they like to read often surprise me.  But here is a really good look at boys and reading, some statistics to be concerned about (test scored have been falling for 30 years), and a different look at the question.  The truth is, there IS a gender gap in reading.  Test scores show that boys are less proficient at reading than girls and this gap has been widening for the past 30 years.

Can't Read (Illiteracy)
Illiteracy is not necessarily the same as reluctant reading, because many people who struggle with the inability to read would like very much to be able to read.  It is amazing to me how many people are able to effectively hide the fact that they can't read.  Others do so less effectively, of course.  Here is a look at the World's Illteracy rate as compiled by Info Please:

The United Nations, which defines illiteracy as the inability to read and write a simple message in any language, has conducted a number of surveys on world illiteracy. In the first survey (1950, pub. 1957) at least 44% of the world's population were found to be illiterate. A 1978 study showed the rate to have dropped to 32.5%, by 1990 illiteracy worldwide had dropped to about 27%, and by 1998 to 16%. However, a study by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) published in 1998 predicted that the world illiteracy rate would increase in the 21st cent. because only a quarter of the world's children were in school by the end of the 20th cent. The highest illiteracy rates were found in the less developed nations of Africa, Asia, and South America; the lowest in Australia, Japan, North Korea, and the more technologically advanced nations of Europe and North America. Using the UN definition of illiteracy, the United States and Canada have an overall illiteracy rate of about 1%. In certain disadvantaged areas, however, such as the rural South in the United States, the illiteracy rate is much higher.
Here are 5 Spectacular Resources to Help Connect Readers with Books

Book Review: Deadly by Sarah N. Harvey (Orca Soundings)

Orca Soundings are high interest titles for teens reading at or below their reading level.  Deadly by Sarah N. Harvey is a 2013 title from the Orca Soundings line.

Synopsis: Amy and Eric are the perfect couple - popular, good looking, happy.  But after they are seen arguing at a party, Amy disappears and Eric is the number on suspect.  Amy wakes up in an all white, windowless room with one simple instruction: every day for 7 days she must write an essay about one of the seven deadly sins, and then whoever is holding her will let her go.  As Eric tries to figure out where Amy is, he learns that the past has a way of coming back and biting you in the butt.

Deadly grips you from the very first page, when Amy wakes up in a strange room and realizes that someone is holding her hostage.  Deadly alternates between Amy and Eric's point of view as we see what is happening with Amy and how Eric sets out to find her.

Because Deadly is part of the Orca Book line, it is short, captivating and to the point.  The sentences are short, and don't have a lot of extra descriptors to keep reluctant readers invested in the story.  The tension in the story is high and compelling.  I read it in a little under an hour and was definitely interested in the story and the characters. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Orca Book: New 2013 Titles for Reluctant Readers, and the librarians that love them

Spring 2013 Hi/Lo Titles – New from Orca Book!

As part of our Reluctant Reader week, we are so excited to be pairing with Orca Book for a great giveaway.  You can enter to win a mini-collection of 2013 titles, chosen from these new titles below.  Please visit the Orca Book webpage for a ton of great information on their books, reading levels, etc.  Later this week I will share with you my first time reading an Orca Book, some tips for parents and librarians, and a few flashback posts about aliteracy and reluctant readers.

Orca Currents are short high-interest novels with contemporary themes, written expressly for middle-school students reading below grade level.

What is a "Reluctant Reader"? An introduction to Orca Books

Reluctant readers are those who, for whatever reason, do not like to read.

 Reluctant readers are typically students who are disengaged, struggling readers, many of which are not realizing success in any aspect of their school career. Educators encounter struggling readers in the classroom every day. These students need to be engaged in reading and must be helped to develop the skills required to not only be successful in school, but to become lifelong readers and learners. 

Unfortunately, many of these students arrive at middle and secondary school believing that they can’t read and/or that they dislike reading. This negative attitude tends to be combined with a steadfast view that it is too late for them to become good readers. The pre-existing attitudes and beliefs of these students make it extremely challenging for teachers to actively engage them in reading. 

Orca publishes four series aimed at reluctant readers: Orca Currents, Orca Sports, Orca Soundings, and Rapid Reads. These short, high-interest novels are written at a lower reading level and feature compelling plots, linear storylines and contemporary topics that will appeal to middle and high school students.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sunday Reflectons: True Confessions of a NON Reluctant Reader (tips from a librarian parenting a reluctant reader)

Beginning tomorrow, April 15th, we are celebrating and discussing Reluctant Readers this week with Orca Books.  Tomorrow you can also begin entering a giveaway for a mini collection of books from Orca Books.

I grew up in a family of readers.  I have always read.  And for 20 years now I have been a teen (youth) services librarian.  I'm not going to lie, I didn't always understand reluctant readers.  How can someone NOT like to read? It is a concept that I just couldn't get my mind around.

And then I became a mom.  I did everything they say to do, everything I tell my parents in the library to do.  I read to my children every single day.  My house is full of books for all age levels, from board books to Shakespeare.  There is not a room that doesn't have at least 50 books in it in this house.  My kids obviously see me read every single day.  I let my kids choose a book from every single Scholastic Book order that comes home.  Do you know how many of those books my Tween has actually read - from cover to cover? Very few.  My tween is a sometimes reluctant reader. 

I had always imagined myself the mother of a girl like me, someone who read every book and would have to be bribed to put the book down at the dinner table and actually make eye contact.  My biggest worry while pregnant with my first child was, "What if she doesn't like science fiction?"  It never occurred to me to worry that she wouldn't love to read, that seemed like a given.  To be fair, when she starts a book she loves she will sometimes finish it and tell me how much she loved it.  But I am pretty sure she has started more books than she has finished.

This has all been a great lesson for me as a librarian, and forced me to really evaluate the strategies that I have always shared with those concerned parents at the Reference Desk.  I have to grin and bear it as she reads a Wimpy Kid book for the 1,000th time when I know she has a super fabulous book that I just checked out and brought home from the library.  I have upped the emphasis on letting her pick out the books, no matter what I know (or think I know) about the other books on that book order form.  I'm not going to lie, I cringe when she reads a Puppy Place or Rainbow Fairy book.  I worry that they aren't challenging her and that she is missing out on all this good stuff, but I don't want to push her and make reading an issue.

We have been reading the various MG titles that I get to review together at night, and she does really enjoy that.  So chalk one up to reading aloud together, that does seem to be a good strategy.  We have also started listening to audio books in the car, which she also loves (though I have to be careful because right now I am listening to Scowler by Daniel Kraus and I have to make sure to turn that one off, definitely not tween friendly - though awesome).  Click here for a list of our top fave MG titles from last year.

So here's what I've learned:

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Saturday Thoughts: Going Backwards

I really don't know what to think this week.  I don't know where we're going as a society when we can't hold people accountable for their actions because "they don't know what they're doing" or victims are "enticing them with what they're wearing." I know that we as a culture are growing less empathetic due to the distance and immediacy caused by the internet, but when you're told that you're "too sensitive" because you react to things said to you *online* that someone could be prosecuted for if they were said face-to-face, something is wrong.

All I know is that I can try to help those I work with and those that I care about know what is Right and what is Wrong, and what to DO when faced with situations like these.

Middle School BANS 'Tight' Pants on Girls because girls are the problem and boys can't be responsible for how they act around girls dressed in tight clothing. RIIIIGGGHT. What about teaching people to respect others personal space and not to assault people instead, and holding people responsible for their actions?

according to Marvel and their new T-Shirts:

Friday, April 12, 2013

Book Review: Trinkets by Kirsten Smith

"a stolen present
means way more than one that's been bought
because of what you had to go through to get it." - Kirsten Smith, Trinkets

Don't get caught is their mantra, but when they do, Tabitha, Elodie and Moe find out that these three girls who seem to have nothing in common have more in common then they could ever have imagined.

In kind of a cross between The Breakfast Club (where we see different social groups come together because they did something wrong) and The Fault in Our Stars (the Shoplifter Anonymous scenes reminded me of the cancer support group in TFiOS), 3 girls wind up spending time sitting in a basement for Shoplifters Anonymous, where they are asked to bare their souls and work through their issues.  Told in alternating points of view, we have the popular girl, the bad girl, and the new girl. 

Tabitha is the queen bee with the super hunky boyfriend.  She could be a stereotype, but her observations about the people around her show depth and insight.  Smith is best at developing and conveying the stark emptiness found inside Tabitha.  I loved that she seemed like one thing but the voice in her head was something completely different.

Elodie is the yearbook photographer and new girl, in the area around 4 months.  Elodie's part of the story is told in verse, which sometimes worked for me and sometimes seemed unnecessary.  There is this scene where Elodie goes to a party and compares new friendship to that of a life long tree, and it is in moments like these that Smith really captures the essence of being a teen.

TPiB: Poetry Crafts!

Like a lot of Middle and High School students, I started writing angsty teenage poetry with the best of them.  And I love doing National Poetry Month (April) activities with my tweens and teens.  Actually, you can read some of my poetry as I wrote a few poems as part of the awareness campaign for Hyperemesis Gravidarum, a pregnancy disease I suffered 3 times.  As someone who loves poetry, I love doing poetry related activities with my tweens and teens at the library.

 For my tweens and teens, all it takes is a canvas of open sidewalk and some sidewalk chalk to make some amazing poetry.  But I like to step it up a notch and give them something they can take home, as well. You can do simple things with the sidewalk chalk poetry, like take Instagram pics and do any number of Instagram crafts to create poetry keepsakes. (Links to the Instagram crafts appear at the end of this post.)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

TPIB: Prom!

Prom! That's right, it is prom season.  Last week as the girls and I were out shopping, we couldn't help but look at the dresses EVERYWHERE.  The tween and I spent some time looking at them, apparently you are never to young to start thinking about prom.  We told one teen with a group of her friends that she would look amazing in her dress (and she did).  And then a panic set in - one day, my baby might be going to prom.  Much sooner than I would like.  Luckily for her, I already have the perfect prom planning guide: The Prom Book: The Only Guide You'll Ever Need by Lauren Metz.

As you all know, I am a huge fan of Zest Books for my teen nonfiction needs, so I was excited to see The Prom Book.  It has a resourceful planning guide, which includes breaking down your budget.  It has a great countdown preparation guide.  Apparently in March you should have been finalizing your look.  There is of course a section on make-up, nails and hair. It's a good little planning tool.  There is a whole section on planning your look that is an amazing flow chart and a helpful list of things to carry in your purse.  My favorite part?  It has a post prom section that asks what you are going to do with your dress and lets teens know they can donate it (Donate My Dress).

I will say, from a library point of view, it has A LOT of fill-in-the-blank pages, which of course always makes use nervous.  Although, as I have mentioned before, this has never been an issue for me in the past.  I would, however, recommend maybe putting a note on the book letting teens know that they can make copies of the pages.  These would make great giveaways at a prom themed program (or at a fall Zombie prom) as well.  If you are a teen, or the parent of a teen, who is in the midst of prom season, you will definitely want it.  When prom fever hits, this book will fly off the shelves.

Take 5: Teen Books About Prom

Scholastic Book Fair: April

 It's April, which means it is time for another edition of our Scholastic Book Fair here at TLT.  Since I have a tween in school, we have been buying a lot of Scholastic books from the book fair.  Here are a look at some new Scholastic titles you may want to look into.   This month we have a lot of fantasy for you with a little action/adventure thrown in.  And a few titles that are taking their cues from big blockbuster movies.  Also, a recurring theme this year seems to be Tweens/Teens with mutant superpowers of some sort.  Definitely seeing a lot of comic book inspiration in titles lately.  That's not a bad thing.  Drumrolll please . . .

The Runaway King by Jennifer A Nielsen
The Sequel to The False Prince
I have one of my library teens reading this series for you, and he was a fan of The False Prince. A staff member also read it and enjoyed it. I haven't read this title yet, I just know that the first book if pretty popular at my library.  This is some pure, fun fantasy about Kingdoms that need saving, Princes, and destiny. If you haven't read book one, start there, it is worth reading. Grades 5 and up

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Book Review: The Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

Henry lurched to his feet, his gingery hair matted with blood and ichor. His gear was torn at the shoulder, scarlet fluid leaking from the would. "Tessa," he exclaimed, and then he was beside her, helping her to her feet. "By the Angel, we're a pair," he said in his rueful Henry way, looking at her worriedly. 

"You're not hurt, are you?"

She glanced down at herself and saw what he meant: Her dress was soaked with a spray of ichor, and there was an ugly cut on her forearm where she had fallen on the broken glass. It didn't hurt much, yet, but there was blood. "I am quite all right," she said. "What happened, Henry? What was that thing and why was it in here?"

A guardian demon. I was searching Benedict's desk, and I must have moved or touched something that awoke it. A black smoke poured from the drawer, and become that. It lunged at me-"

"And clawed you," Tessa said in concern. "You're bleeding-"
"No, I did that myself. Fell on my dagger," Henry said sheepishly, drawing a stele from his belt. "Don't tell Charlotte."

Tessa almost smiled; then, remembering, she dashed across the room and tugged open the curtains across one of the tall windows. She could see out across the gardens, but not, frustratingly, the Italian garden; they were on the wrong side of the house for that. Green box hedges and flat grass, beginning to brown with winter, stretched out before her. "I must go," she said. "Will and Jem and Cecily- they were battling the creature. It has killed Tatiana Blackthorn's husband. I had to convey her back to the carriage as she was near fainting."

There was a silence. Then: "Tessa," Henry said in an odd voice, and she turned to see him, arrested in the act of applying an iratze to his inner arm. He was staring at the wall across from him- the wall Tessa had thought earlier was oddly mottled and splotched with stains. She saw now that they were no accidental mess. Letters a foot tall each stretched across the wallpaper, written in what looked like dried black blood.

And there, beneath the scrawls, a last sentence, barely readable, as if whoever had written it had been losing the use of his hands. She pictured Benedict locked in this room, going slowly mad as he transformed, smearing the words on the wall with his own ichor-ridden blood.