Teen Librarian Toolbox
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Friday Finds – May 30, 2014

This Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: On Teachable Moments and Consent, part 2
Memorial Day Reads
Middle Grade Monday – Don’t Call it a Quest!
Diversity Discussions: Diversity is the New Black – by Jayla P.
Get in the Game! YA fiction that features sports
Book Review: The Secrets of Lily Graves by Sarah Strohmeyer
Some thoughts about #YesAllWomen
Take 5: 5 New Titles Coming from Simon & Schuster

Graphic Novel Spotlight, 5 from the April 2014 edition of VOYA

Books, privilege, and how libraries are the only way some children will get to read a bedtime story tonight
Around the Web
One of my favorite ‘YoungTubers’ posted a really brilliant video this week:

Why horror is good for kids

8 Myths that Undermine Educational Effectiveness

Why the Amazon/Hatchett dispute matters

The tragic murder and mystery of Lois Duncan’s daughter is featured today on Buzzfeed

R.I.P. Marilyn Miller

If you’ve enjoyed watching the numbers tick ever upward on the Reading Rainbow Kickstarter this week, I’d highly recommend this video:

We also said goodbye to the incomparable Maya Angelou. Here are 13 of her best quotes in USA Today.

Graphic Novel Spotlight: from the April 2014 issues of VOYA

I am always scouring looking for Graphic Novels. They are super popular at my library and since I don’t really read them, I’m not always sure what to buy. Thankfully, Amanda Foust and Jack Baur wrote a piece on Graphic Novels for the April issue of 2014. Here they highlight their favorite titles published between November 2012 and 2013 (pages 28 and 29).

Some of the graphic novels they recommend include:

Adventure Time
I have actually had a couple of teens recommend these to me, so I have recently purchased a few. Adventure Time is very popular show on The Cartoon Network.

Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang
This title was on all of the best of lists for 2013 and was nominated for the National Book Award. They are two separate titles that work together as a whole.

March by John Lewis
Nonfiction graphic novels are continuing to grow in popularity, particularly biography and autobiographies. This title is a history lesson in the life of Congressman John Lewis and the march to end segregation. It is the first in a planned trilogy. March was featured on NPR in August of 2013.

Princeless by Jeremy Whitley
Locked in a tower, Princess Adrienne decides to rescue herself and to rescue her sisters from a similar fate. In addition to being a GN with empowering females,the princess and a majority of the supporting cast are African American, which we don’t see enough of in graphic novels.

Rust by Royden Lepp
Rust is drawn and illustrated with sepia toned art and it is really quite beautiful. Plus, there is a robot. I support all things with robots.

Books, privilege, and how libraries are the only way some children will get to read a bedtime story tonight

Libraries are the Beating Heart of Our Communities

You may be aware, but Amazon is currently in some kind of a negotiation war with the publisher Hachette. There are a variety of  houses and authors who publish and are distributed by Hachette. Amazon has cut any price discounting for Hachette titles, they are delaying shipping, and there is no longer any way to pre-order titles that have an advance publication date.

So in the midst of this, last week several people took to Twitter and urged people to buy their books from a brick and mortar store, an Indie store even if possible. A few hashtags sprang up, I think perhaps #BuyHachette. I even Tweeted several times about this, recommending a few titles here and there.

Then yesterday, an article appeared on Book Riot reminding us all that for some people, a bricks and mortar store isn’t a real possibility. It maintained that if you had a bricks and mortar store in your community, or a car that you could afford to put gas in to drive to one, then you were speaking from a place of privilege. The post then when on to talk about how for many people, Amazon IS the only option to buy books for a variety of reasons.

But if you take it a step further, being able to buy books via the Internet is also coming from a place of privilege as well. In fact, being able to buy books at all means that you are coming from a place of privilege. If at the end of your paycheck you can afford to pay your basic bills, feed your family and buy extra things like books, you have it better than an estimated 20% of the population. Having a computer or device with Internet access in your home, also coming from a place of privilege.
Every time someone tweets about watching Game of Thrones, they are doing so from a place of privilege because that means they can afford cable with HBO even.When we talk about driving our cars, turning on our heat or air, going to the movie theater to see a movie and even going to the grocery store, we are doing so from a place of privilege from someone else’s point of view.
Having books in the home is a huge monetary issue for many people and there are a variety of social activists who work hard to raise funds and try and get books into the homes of families struggling with poverty. Some children will never own a book they can call their own. And if we want to raise a nation of readers and thinkers and innovators, having access to books is a powerful thing. Scholastic has a good discussion about how lack of access to books can be an issue for school readiness.

Which is why we need libraries. It is also why libraries need to do better jobs of reaching out to their local communities and reminding parents about the importance of regular trips to the library, reading together, and having books in the home. It’s why we need things like 1,000 books before Kindergarten. It’s why we need things like every child ready to read. It’s why we need things like YA librarians and youth programming.

My library, like many libraries around our nation, is currently researching how to better reach the needs of our growing homeless population. There are libraries employing social workers and job counselors and writing grants to provide food for children living in poverty this summer who will go without a free school lunch. Libraries help children have access to the Internet, complete homework assignments, and have access to books they would never get to read if their only options was to buy them. Some people don’t have the money to buy books period.

I work part-time. I struggle from paycheck to paycheck to buy groceries. The nearest local bookstore is an hour drive for me. To be completely honest, I don’t buy a lot of books. Not from the bookstore. Not from Amazon. Not online. Mostly, I check my books out from the library. Because every time I choose to buy a book, the money for it comes out of our food budget. It is the only place in the budget that has any wiggle room. Sometimes we make that sacrifice and we eat a few extra peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Usually it is so my kids can have a book they want, not me. Luckily, the Tween wants a lot of the same books that I do. But even knowing this, I know that for many of the patrons I serve, I am still coming from a place of privilege. I buy books more often than they will ever be able to consider buying a book.

So I buy books for the library. Not just the books I want, but the books that my patrons want . . . and need. Because for many of them, that is the only way they will ever get to read a book.

So yes, buy books. Buy them whenever and however you can. Support your local bookstore sometimes if you can. And if you believe in the importance of books and reading, support your local library as well. Libraries matter. For the 1 out of 5 children going to bed hungry each night, libraries are the only way they’ll get to read a bedtime story tonight.

Take 5: 5 New Titles Coming from Simon & Schuster

Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine

Publisher’s Description:There are whispers of a ghost in the slaughterhouse where sixteen-year-old Wen assists her father in his medical clinic—a ghost who grants wishes to those who need them most. When one of the Noor, men hired as cheap factory labor, humiliates Wen, she makes an impulsive wish of her own, and the Ghost grants it. Brutally.

Guilt-ridden, Wen befriends the Noor, including their outspoken leader, a young man named Melik. At the same time, she is lured by the mystery of the Ghost and learns he has been watching her … for a very long time.

As deadly accidents fuel tensions within the factory, Wen must confront her growing feelings for Melik, who is enraged at the sadistic factory bosses and the prejudice faced by his people at the hand of Wen’s, and her need to appease the Ghost, who is determined to protect her against any threat—real or imagined. She must decide whom she can trust, because as her heart is torn, the factory is exploding around her … and she might go down with it.”

Note: Historical fiction, ghosts,and a good book to add to help us all meet our active goal of trying to make sure our collections and TBR piles have more diversity.

Publishes by McElderry Books on August 5, 2014. ISBN: 9781442483583

Rumble by Ellen Hopkins

Publisher’s Description: “Eighteen-year-old Matthew Turner doesn’t believe in much. Not in family—his is a shambles, after his brother’s suicide. Not in so-called friends who turn their backs when the going gets rough. Certainly not in some omnipotent master of heaven and earth, no matter what his girlfriend, Hayden, thinks. In fact, he’s sick of arguing with her about faith. Matt is a devout atheist, unafraid of some Judgment Day designed by decidedly human power brokers to keep the masses in check. He works hard, plays hard, and plans on checking out the same way. But a horrific accident—one of his own making—plunges Matt into a dark, silent place where the only thing he can hear is a rumble, and eventually, a voice. And what it says will call everything Matt has ever disbelieved into question.”

Note: I recently mentioned that one of the authors I hear YA librarians they have to replace a lot is Ellen Hopkins. She writes very gritty, realistic novels – in poetry. This latest title deals with a teenage boy who proclaims atheism as his belief system. The topic of atheism has been getting more coverage in the press, so this is a timely novel. And no doubt for many it will be controversial. In other words, awesome and classic Hopkins.

Publishes on August 26, 2014 from Simon & Schuster. ISBN: 9781442482845

In Deep by Terra Elan McVoy

Publisher’s Description: “Ultracompetitive Brynn from The Summer of Firsts and Lasts craves swimming victory—and gets in over her head—in this irresistible novel from Terra Elan McVoy.


Nothing else matters to Brynn as she trains her body and mind to win. Not her mediocre grades and lack of real friends at school. Not the gnawing grief over her fallen hero father. Not the strained relationship with her absent mother and clueless stepdad. In the turquoise water, swimming is an escape and her ticket to somewhere—anywhere—else. And nothing will get in her way of claiming victory.

But when the competitive streak follows Brynn out of the pool in a wickedly seductive cat-and-mouse game between herself, her wild best friend, and a hot new college swimmer, Brynn’s single-mindedness gets her in over her head, with much more than a trophy to lose.”

Note: I was at a S&S event last year at ALA annual where I watched teens vote between two covers for this title. This is the cover that won.

Publishes July 8, 2014 from Simon Pulse. ISBN: 9781481401364

Trouble by Non Pratt

Publisher’s Description:In this dazzling debut novel, a pregnant teen learns the meaning of friendship—from the boy who pretends to be her baby’s father.

When the entire high school finds out that Hannah Shepard is pregnant via her ex-best friend, she has a full-on meltdown in her backyard. The one witness (besides the rest of the world): Aaron Tyler, a transfer student and the only boy who doesn’t seem to want to get into Hannah’s pants. Confused and scared, Hannah needs someone to be on her side. Wishing to make up for his own past mistakes, Aaron does the unthinkable and offers to pretend to be the father of Hannah’s unborn baby. Even more unbelievable, Hannah hears herself saying “yes.”

Told in alternating perspectives between Hannah and Aaron, Trouble is the story of two teenagers helping each other to move forward in the wake of tragedy and devastating choices. As you read about their year of loss, regret, and hope, you’ll remember your first, real best friend—and how they were like a first love.”

Note: Received a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly 5/01/2014

Publishes June 10, 2014 from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 9781442497726

The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher by Jessica Lawson

Publisher’s Description: “In 1860, eleven-year-old Becky Thatcher is the new girl in town, determined to have adventures like she promised her brother Jon before he died. With her Mama frozen in grief and her Daddy busy as town judge, Becky spends much of her time on her own, getting into mischief. Before long, she joins the boys at school in a bet to steal from the Widow Douglas, and Becky convinces her new best friend, Amy Lawrence, to join her.

Becky decides that she and Amy need a bag of dirt from a bad man’s grave as protection for entering the Widow’s house, so they sneak out to the cemetery at midnight, where they witness the thieving Pritchard brothers digging up a coffin. Determined to keep her family safe (and to avoid getting in trouble), Becky makes Amy promise not to tell anyone what they saw.

When their silence inadvertently results in the Widow Douglas being accused of the graverobbery, Becky concocts a plan to clear the Widow’s name. If she pulls it off, she might just get her Mama to notice her again and fulfill her promise to Jon in a most unexpected way . . . if that tattle-tale Tom Sawyer will quit following her around.”

Note: Received a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly 5/05/2014, for Middle Grade readers ages 8 to 12.

Publishes July 22, 2014 from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 9781481401500

Some thoughts about #YesAllWomen

Some time on Saturday, I noticed there was a hashtag trending that said #YesAllWomen. At the time, I had no idea why it started, I just took a few moments and realized that here were women sharing their stories – most often about street harassment and sexual abuse. And since this is a cause that I care deeply about, I too began sharing.

At one point I Tweeted “#YesAllWomen because when men are found guilty of rape the news reporters say oh no those boys life are ruined instead of talking about the victim.” I was of course referring to the Steubenville trial in which these boys, who videotaped themselves raping an almost incapacitated girl, were found guilty of rape. One news reporter in particular lamented how their promising futures were now ruined after they were found guilty. Of course, this girl now how to live the rest of her live with this violent act, but some people were more concerned about the effects on those choosing to commit a violent crime than on the victim of that crime. And recently, a wealthy man was found guilty of raping his 3-year-old daughter and the judge chose not to send him to jail because he apparently wouldn’t fare well in jail. I just want to take this moment again to remind you that his daughter was 3-years-old.

When I Tweeted the above Tweet, I got my first hostile comment. I will leave out the colorful flourishes and just let you know that the Tweeter said they had never heard of the above happening, but that they had heard of false rape accusations that have ruined men’s lives. Any false criminal accusation is bad, and a crime in itself. Filing a false police report is a crime. But the truth is, statistically less than 10% of rape accusations have been proven false (the current facts support 2 to 8%). That means that somewhere over 90% of rape accusations are true. So while I can agree that false rape accusations are a horrific thing, I can also agree that this happening less than 10% of the time does not negate our need to talk about rape and sexual violence when 90% of the reports are true. A rape occurs in the U.S. every 2 minutes. And when men throw out the issue of false rape accusations as a way to say we need to stop talking so much about this rape issue, please keep in mind that men are in fact often the victims of sexual violence and rape themselves. And sometimes women are the victims of false rape accusations. Also keep in mind that rape is under reported because many victims – men and women alike – don’t report their rapes because they know that they won’t be taken seriously, that they will be blamed, and that the legal hoops that they will have to jump through will re-victimize them in many ways.

I am now 41 years old. I do not know a single woman who has reached my age that can say they have never been the victim of some type of sexual harassment or violence by a man. Not a one. That is what we are talking about with #YesAllWomen. And I hear too often either in person or through this site from girls who share experiences as young as 11 and 12 years old. They talk about being groped in their school hallways. Or on their way to and from school. They talk about men slowing down in the cars as they drive by them and having older boys – often even men – ask them to suck their dick or tell them they want to “do them” or worse.

Just Saturday night, after Tweeting my tweet, I was playing outside with my 11-year-old daughter and some neighborhood kids. I also have a 5-year-old so I tend to sit outside with them because in general she lacks impulse control and I would kind of like to avoid her being hit by a car. As I sat out there, one of the neighbor girls ran up, out of breath and scared. She is 10 or recently turned 11, but she is one of those girls who looks a little older than her age because her body has started developing. She had been out skateboarding. She was down the street she told me, when all of the sudden a man driving a car turned around and started following her slowly. So she stopped. Then he stopped. So she took off and he started following her again. So when she saw me outside she booked it and came to me. She stayed at my house for a while, afraid to go home. And although I mentioned she was developing, she by no means looks of age.

There was another time when I was outside playing with my girls. At the time they were younger, maybe 9 and 3. The neighbor from next door came over and the two of us were talking. A car drove by with a couple of young men in it, and they slowed down to yell out their window what they wanted to do to us, her, I’m not really sure. But they yelled it in front of my two little girls. Not only did we have to deal with their harassment, but we had to deal with it in front of my little girls. That was my 3-year-old daughters first experience of street harassment.

Once in high school there was a boy who asked me out. I said no. He would sometimes go sit at the end of my street to see who I was going out with. It’s terrifying. And yes, not all men are like this. But keep in mind that there are almost no women who can’t tell you stories like any of these stories I have mentioned. But I do not know tons of men who have had things like this happen to them. Not all men.

I work with teenagers, which includes putting together programs in which I spend time with teenagers. I once had a teenage boy – age 14 – call me sexy repeatedly. And he would say things to me like, “fetch me a drink woman.” After I told him to stop, he continued. So I kicked him out of my program. His father called in and complained to my boss, tried to get me fired. I was forced to have a meeting with my supervisor, him and his son and to defend my kicking his son out of the program. The father told me I was being ungrateful, his son was just giving me a compliment. I was lucky, because my supervisor was on my side. But this man and his son left not ever understanding why it was wrong for him to harass someone that way.

This is not about hating men. Yesterday I celebrated 19 years of marriage with a lovely man that I adore. He is just one of many good men that I am blessed to have in my life. But this is about the fact that by the time my girls are 40 they will have tons of stories of their own like these to share. In fact, my youngest had her first at age 3 if you’ll recall. And I hate that they will talk to their friends and they will probably all have stories like these to share as well. That’s what these discussions are about, they are trying to raise awareness to the fact that Yes All Women are eventually the victims of sexual harassment and violence. That doesn’t mean that we don’t care when men are the victims, because we do. In fact, my general belief is that all people deserve to walk through this life with basic respect, dignity and safety. But in this moment – this one right here – I want to raise awareness to the fact that something in the way we as a whole – as a culture – think about women is broken because women are disproportionately the victims of sexual discrimination, street harassment, sexual harassment, sexual abuse and sexual violence. Members of the GLBTQ community are also disproportionately victims of these types of harassments and crimes. It’s a discussion we need to be having.

Book Review: The Secrets of Lily Graves by Sarah Strohmeyer (plus, information about another upcoming title that takes place in a graveyard)

Publisher’s Description:

With the intrigue of Pretty Little Liars and plenty of romance, bestselling author Sarah Strohmeyer weaves a story of secrets and lies—set in a funeral parlor.

Growing up in a house of female morticians, Lily Graves knows all about buried secrets. She knows that perfect senior-class president Erin Donohue isn’t what she seems. She knows why Erin’s ex-boyfriend, hot football player Matt Houser, broke up with her. And she also knows that, even though she says she and Matt are just friends, there is something brewing between them—something Erin definitely did not like.

But secrets, even ones that are long buried, have a way of returning to haunt their keeper.

So when Erin is found dead the day after attacking Lily in a jealous rage, Lily’s and Matt’s safe little lives, and the lives of everyone in their town of Potsdam, begin to unravel. And their relationship—which grew from innocent after-school tutoring sessions to late-night clandestine rendezvous—makes them both suspects.

As her world crumbles around her, Lily must figure out the difference between truth and deception, genuine love and a web of lies. And she must do it quickly, before the killer claims another victim.

Karen’s Thoughts:

I really enjoyed so much about this book, up until the end. I’m not sure that the ending works entirely well, but I thoroughly enjoyed parts of the journey to get there – with one huge quibble. Read on if you want to know more about that quibble.

When a classmate is found dead at home, Lily becomes a prime suspect. Which really complicates things because her mother is dating the chief of police. Soon, she is on a quest to clear her name, which is easier for her than most because she has grown up living in a mortuary. She knows a few things about death and dying. Of course, this is also what makes her a prime suspect. That and the fact that she may have been having a thing with the dead girl’s boyfriend.

Lily and her best friend set out to solve the mystery, with the help of Matt, who, to complicate matters, may also be a suspect.

There’s lots of really interesting stuff happening here. Lily is a very cool character. She’s smart, resourceful, and fiercely embraces her outsider status. And the look into mortuary science and life among the dead is very interesting – as is her relationship with some of the family members working in the mortuary home. There is sometimes an odd mix of dark and light tones, especially as we delve further into the mystery and throw in some additional plots that include drug trafficking and religion (not necessarily together). For me, the who done it seemed to kind of come out of nowhere and was a twist that didn’t seem to make sense in light of some of the previous stuff. Some other reviews said they figured it out very early in the book, which is interesting.

And in all honesty, it really bothered me that Lily continues to be very involved with Matt at the beginning even as he seems like such a prime suspect; Matt hadn’t really earned her trust I felt she kept giving him. Why is she so fiercely loyal to this boy who might be guilty of murder?

Like all mysteries where teens are the ones out trying to solve the crime, you have to suspend a lot of disbelief.  There were things I liked about this one and things that are definitely an issue. For me, it’s an optional purchase. The professional reviews were mixed and somewhat lukewarm as well. 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Published May 13, 2014 by Balzer&Bray. ISBN: 9780062259608.

Interestingly, there is another upcoming release that features a female character that lives and works in the business of death . . .

Six Feet Over It by Jennifer Longo 

Publisher’s Description:

Home is where the bodies are buried.

Darkly humorous and heart-wrenchingly beautiful, Jennifer Longo’s YA debut about a girl stuck living in a cemetery will change the way you look at life, death, and love.

Leigh sells graves for her family-owned cemetery because her father is too lazy to look farther than the dinner table when searching for employees. Working the literal graveyard shift, she meets two kinds of customers:

Pre-Need: They know what’s up. They bought their graves a long time ago, before they needed them.

At Need: They are in shock, mourning a loved one’s unexpected death. Leigh avoids sponging their agony by focusing on things like guessing the headstone choice (mostly granite).

Sarcastic and smart, Leigh should be able to stand up to her family and quit. But her world’s been turned upside down by the sudden loss of her best friend and the appearance of Dario, the slightly-too-old-for-her grave digger. Surrounded by death, can Leigh move on, if moving on means it’s time to get a life?

Karen’s Thoughts: I have started reading this title and so far I am very interested in it.

Releases August 26, 2014 from Random House. ISBN: 9780449818725

And if you are intersted in books involving graveyards, don’t forget to check out these titles that feature graveyards in some way.

Get in the Game! YA fiction that features sports

On Sunday night I took part in a Twitter chat under the hashtag #TitleTalk about sports fiction. The truth is, I’m not a big sports fan. In fact, when people talk about some people not liking to read for recreation I use sports as my go-to example: I’m never going to like sports for fun and that’s okay, just as it is okay that some people don’t like reading for fun. What IS important is that everyone CAN read. Literacy is an important, life saving skill. Reading for pleasure – well, I don’t understand it if that’s not how you choose to spend your time and I feel like you’re missing out on a lot, but it’s not the end of the world. We each have our passions and I respect that. But sports can be a great way to get some more reluctant readers into books if you can connect them to a book that features a sport they enjoy. Plus, regular readers just like to read about the things that interest them, which I understand for a lot of people this can be sports. So let’s talk sports in YA fiction, shall we? Also, don’t forget all the awesome nonfiction and biography titles in your collection!

Some of my Go To sports authors include:
Chris Crutcher, Carl Deuker, Simone Elkeles, John Feinstein, Robert Lipsyte, Mike Lupica, Chris Lynch, and Paul Volpini. Crutcher is a particular favorite of mine and illustrates how a book can have sports in it but not actually be about sports. Miranda Kenneally, Catherine Gilbert Murdock and Sarah Ockler often feature sports in their titles. And of course Walter Dean Myers features sports in a lot of his titles.

TAP OUT by Eric Devine features a young man who gets involved in MMA fighting.

HOOKED by Liz Fichera features golf, including a female golf player.

Baseball is featured in MEXICAN WHITE BOY by Matt de la Pena, CURVEBALL: THE YEAR I LOST MY GRIP by Jordan Sonnenblick and PLUNKED by Michael Northrop, to name a few.

Rugby is highlighted in WINTER by Andrew Smith, a breakaway hit from 2013.

Cheerleading is featured in titles like I WAS A NON-BLONDE CHEERLEADER by Kieran Scott and BAD TASTE IN BOYS by Carrie Harris.

Soccer shows up in the graphic novel series WHISTLE by Daisuke Higuchi and the novel SHUT OUT by Kody Keplinger.

High school sports culture plays an important part in CANARY by Rachele Alpine, THE TRUTH ABOUT ALICE by Jennifer Matthieu and SOMETHING LIKE NORMAL by Trish Doller. Each of these titles highlight the way that sport culture can shape a person’s character. In SOMETHING LIKE NORMAL, the main character, Travis, is the son of a professional football player and we he quits football in high school it dramatically impacted their relationship. And CANARY and THE TRUTH ABOUT ALICE highlight the way that sports culture allows athletes – even high school athletes – to get away with abhorrent behavior. Football and high school sports culture also place a prominent role in INEXCUSABLE by Chris Lynch.

THIS SIDE OF SALVATION by Jeri Smith-Redy features a male protagonist who is a dedicated to baseball, which is a huge part of his personal identity. Eventually, as a sign of his faith, he is asked to sacrifice his involvement in this sport to prepare for the upcoming “Rush”, what the rapture is referred to in this title.

I am a huge fan of UNTIL IT HURTS TO STOP by Jennifer R. Hubbard for many reasons. But one of the things I love is that it features a female main character that that goes hiking and mountain climbing with her male best friend.

If we’re going to kick it old school, I think the first sports themed book that truly moved me was WRESTLING STURBRIDGE by Rich Wallace. It really captures the desperation to get out of small town life and how for many teens, sports and a sports scholarship are their only hope. And in the not truly YA (they are MG titles), I think everyone should read TANGERINE by Edward Bloor and CRASH by Jerry Spinelli. TANGERINE is quirky and compelling. CRASH is touching and humorous.

The upcoming IN DEEP by Terra Elan McVoy features Brynn, a young lady training as a swimmer. Brief blurb for IN DEEP: “Ultracompetitive Brynn from The Summer of Firsts and Lasts craves swimming victory—and gets in over her head—in this irresistible novel from Terra Elan McVoy.” Given my love for WHALETALK and STAYING FAT FOR SARAH BYRNES, which both feature swimming, it seems like this is my kind of book.

In the upcoming PERFECTLY GOOD WHITE BOY by Carrie Mesrobian the main character takes up track as he prepared to join the military after high school. Running is also featured in the upcoming ON THE ROAD TO FIND OUT by Rachel Toor, described as “a funny, uplifting debut about running, romance—and dealing with college rejection and other hurdles.” While you are waiting for these, be sure to check out THE RUNNING DREAM by Wendelin VanDraanen for an older and excellent title about running.

And in the upcoming BLEED LIKE ME by Christa Desir a female skateboarder is featured. Skateboarding is also featured in SLAM by Nick Hornby and THOU SHALT NOT DUMP THE SKATER DUDE AND OTHER COMMANDMENTS I HAVE BROKEN by RoseMary Graham.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, because sports are a huge part of Middle and High School life and they make an appearance in a lot of titles. Goodreads can be a good place to start looking: Popular YA Sports Books on Goodreads, YA Sports Novels (188) on Goodreads. In fact, leave a comment telling us about some of your favorite titles to help build a great resource list for others. Do you know of any upcoming YA titles that feature sports? Share those with us as well please.

Diversity Discussions: Diversity is the New Black – by Jayla P.

Diversity discussions have been picking up steam lately. These discussions aren’t just limited to libraries and books. Television shows, technology industries, and more are picking up on why it’s important to include people of color into the mix. My Twitter feed is abuzz with hashtags such as #weneeddiversebooks and #diveristyinYA.
Check out the Official Site of the We Need Diverse Books campaign here:
No doubt you have all heard of the recent backlash BookCon received after featuring an all-white, all-male author line up for one of the conference panels. The conference has since added more diverse authors to the mix, and even included a diversity discussion panel on their schedule, but why did it take all this publicity to do so?

It’s really exciting that such a crucial topic is being discussed. It means we are making progress, albeit it’s a slow process. Maybe it’s the pessimist in me but I can’t help to think that all this diversity talk will soon die down. That may take years, but I like that we are at least talking about these things now.
School Library Journal dedicated their May issue to the topic of diversity. If you haven’t read it yet you need to stop reading this and go pick up a copy! There are a ton of killer arguments supporting diversity in libraries. Kathleen Honnings article titled “Still an All White World” provides a solid base for what I want to discuss in this month’s diversity discussions post. I’d like to share two points from the article that made me stop and think.
“We need people to write diverse books” – – Kathleen Honning hit the nail on the head when she made the comment that publishers can’t make diverse books pop out of thin air. People write books. That’s a fact.  The lack of people of color writing books is one of the things killing diversity in publishing. How can we, as librarians, fix this? There are always the good ol’ fashioned writing clubs. Possibly even a diversity book club? Has anyone has experiences with these? Do you think it’s possible to manage?
“We need to buy, read, and share diverse books” – – Taking to Twitter and using the hashtag #weneeddiversebooks is one thing, but we also need to act on this and pick up books that feature characters and writers of all backgrounds. Make it a point to start reading at least one diverse book a month, if you can. Create amazing diversity displays to feature authors of all types of diverse backgrounds.
Finally, there is the issue of diversity as a word. When I opened my copy of SLJ, I was hoping to find a few articles going beyond the racial spectrum of diversity. Lauren Barack wrote a fabulous piece about LGBTQ support for teens in this months School Library Journal. However, it was the only piece that branched away from the typical racial diversity everyone is talking about. Is it too soon to open up the diversity discussion to include not only race, but also religion and sexual orientation? Maybe it’s time we think about adding these topics to our diversity discussions as well. What do you think?
Jayla P. is a new librarian who got her start in libraries as a work study student in college. It wasn’t until one of the reference librarians told me about library school that I began to toy with the idea of becoming a librarian. She currently holds a part-time position as a YS librarian in South Carolina. You can find her talking about books and book related things over at LadyBlueJay.com and blogging periodically here as part of her new Diversity Discussions column.

Middle Grade Monday – Don’t Call it a Quest!

If you get that reference, let me know in the comments.

What do you get when you combine:

  • the court mystician
  • a newly licensed wizard
  • a princess in the body of a handmaid
  • a disgraced former naval officer and current ornithologist
  • a twelve year old adventure guide
  • and 3 obnoxious adventure seekers?

Well, you get a quest into the Cambrian Empire to retrieve the kidnapped Once Magnificent Boo and a wizidrical energy focusing gemstone known as the Eye of Zoltar – BUT DON’T CALL IT A QUEST! All quests have to be approved by the International Questing Federation, cost an upfront payment of 2,000 moolah, and require you to include “a minimum staffing requirement: at least one strong-and-silent warrior, a sagelike old man, and quite possibly a giant and a dwarf too.”

In this newest installment in the Chronicles of Kazam series, Jennifer Strange, the newly minted wizard Perkins, and Her Royal Spoiltness the Princess Shazza journey to the Cambrian Empire to retrieve the Eye of Zoltar in order to save the world’s only two dragons (and themselves) from the evil wizard The Mighty Shandar. The Cambrian Empire’s economy is driven by adventure tourism where foreigners regularly risk life and limb for extreme experiences. The only tour guide who is willing to take on Jennifer’s group is twelve year old Addie, who guarantees a 50% survival rate for the journey (and she’s always right.) Addie is keen to pick up at least 4 more adventurers for their journey in order to secure the safe return of the original party, which is where the three obnoxious young men come in. On their way to find the ex-sorceror Able Quizzler, the last person known to have a lead on the Eye of Zoltar, they also pick up Wilson, an ornithologist and disgraced former naval officer who is on the hunt to redeem himself by making an extreme sacrifice (rather convenient.)

This installment in the series differs from the first two in that Jennifer is removed from her normal environment (Kazam Mystical Arts Management) and sent on a spectacular journey. New, vastly interesting characters are introduced, and we find out more about the diversity of the Ununited Kingdoms. The rest however, is a solid installment of what Fforde does best – an entertaining story full of twists, turns, and really funny throwaway jokes (he describes “an enchanted tent that swore angrily to itself when self-pitching, thus saving you the effort”) where every last detail is important. If it’s not important for this story, it will be in the future. This amazing attention to detail and constant seeding of information that becomes pivotal later is one of the reasons Fforde is my favorite author.

If you read and enjoyed the first two in the series, I definitely recommend picking this one up – it will be out in the US in October. If you haven’t read his books, I strongly recommend starting with the first in this series, The Last Dragonslayer.

Memorial Day Reads

Today is Memorial Day.  Today is a day to honor the men and women who have served and died in the U.S. Military. I come from a military family, the Air Force. Every three years we moved to a new military base. Twice members of my family were stationed overseas. My brother was born on an Air Force base in Japan. Thankfully, no member of my immediate family ever served in a war. But I do have a couple of friend’s whose husbands served in our recent wars. Those men, they came back haunted. Some of them are missing body parts. But they all seem to be missing a piece of them, they all seem so different. I have seen those marriages end as these men (and in this case, they were men) tried to re-adjust back to life as a civilian. Some of them were depressed. Some of them were angry. But they all seemed haunted in one way or another. We don’t do enough to honor our commitments to those who serve, especially in regards to their mental health. So when you pick up a book to read today, read one of these YA titles and get a look into life for the people who have served and the people that love them.

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

Hayley’s dad is so haunted by memories of Iraq that he can’t find a place to stay, a place where he feels safe. This means a lot of moving around for Hayley. But then the return to her dad’s hometown, a place that may help him heal – or make everything worse.

If I Lie by Corrine Jackson

Quin has kissed a guy who isn’t her boyfriend, the local hero Carey. Carey is serving in Afghanistan. Now everyone is telling secrets about Quinn, shunning her for her betrayal, but they don’t know the truth. Secrets, shame, and small towns take center stage.


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.

Something Like Normal by Trish Doller

Travis returns from Afghanistan to to find that his parents have split up, his brother has stolen his girlfriend and his car, and life just isn’t the same. In fact, Travis isn’t the same after losing his best friend and suffering from PTSD. This is Travis journey to creating a life that might be something like normal.

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.

Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers

Even if you give it a fancy name, a patriotic name – say Operation Iraqi Freedom – to the soldiers fighting on the front lines it’s all still the same. No matter what you call it, it’s still a war. And for those soldiers fighting that war, even your war with a fancy inspirational name, it’s still gunshots and fear and sometimes even death. These men and women on the front lines, like the young man named Birdy from Harlem, sometimes after they get there and see what war is really like, sometimes they’re not sure they really want to be there. Because as they say, war is hell, no matter what kind of a name you give it.

The Things a Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt

Levi’s brother Boaz has returned home from the war, but things are not okay. Boaz is different. These are the things a brother just knows. So when Boaz leaves again, Levi follows him. Together they learn things that only a brother knows.


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.


If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth

There are 2 things I really loved this book: 1) It has a very spot on depiction of poverty and the emotions and barriers that a child living in poverty face and 2) it has a very accurate depiction of what military life is like for the child. I particularly related to the getting orders and having to move quickly feelings expressed. This is also a really compelling story about friendship, discrimination, and the life of a boy growing up on a Tuscarora Indian reservation in 1975.

And One to be on the Lookout For . . . 

Perfectly Good White Boy by Carrie Mesrobian

This book is not out until later this year, but make a note. Sean Norwhalt is navigating his senior year of high school. His family is falling apart, he’s been dumped, and he knows that there aren’t a lot of good options out there for him. His only hope seems to be the Marine Corps, which no one believes he will really join. Well, that, and this thing happening with Neecie Albertson, whatever this thing may be. Mesrobian is the Morris finalist for her debut novel Sex & Violence, which won a ton of accolades and appeared on a lot of best of 2013 lists. PGWB captures the voice of a lost young man perfectly. It also provides some very detailed insight into the journey into military life. I have a lot of teens that come in asking for books about the military and I thought this captures the emotional and technical journey into military life quite well. This book resonates emotionally.

What are your favorite titles about soldiers and the military?  Share with us in the comments. You can find some additional lists here, here and here.