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Book Review: Contagion by Erin Bowman

This past weekend the entire Jensen family drove to Houston to take Thing 2, who is basically space obsessed, to the NASA Johnson Space Center. As we embarked on our trip I thought it would be fun to listen to an audio book that took place in space and Contagion by Erin Bowman was the perfect book for our family road trip.

After receiving a distress call, a corporate mining ship that just happens to be closest is sent to a distant planet. Upon arriving there they find that it looks like everyone is dead. When a sudden storm breaks out, everyone scrambles for cover and one sole survivor is found and the dead rise. That’s right – there are space zombies! And it is epic and awesome.

What follows is an intense scramble to get off the planet before being taken down or infected by a parasite that no one knows anything about and trying to keep the rest of the galaxy safe. At one point there is an intense chase scene that is amplified by the self destruct count down happening every minute. Surviving crew members are racing through a maze of shafts and tunnels being pursued by cosmically supercharged bad guys, some of whom used to be their friends and lovers, and they are racing against a literal countdown to self-destruction. It is a real edge of your seat thriller.

As with any good science fiction, there is also a lot of relational, ethical and political drama. There is the mystery of who knows what, who is or isn’t infected, and what is the moral thing to do when it’s not just your life but potentially the entire galaxy at stake. The book ends with a few twists and turns and set up the next book, Immunity, which is already out and I am on hold for the audio book as we speak. We have to figure out another family trip so we can listen to the book together!

The book itself was good and I highly recommend it, but I also want to take a moment to praise the family book listening experience. This is the second or third time that the entire family has gotten so fully invested in a book that everyone was so into. They didn’t want to turn off the car and each time we got in the car, even to drive 5 minutes down the street to eat, they immediately clamored for me to turn the book back on. It’s not just a good book, it’s a well done audio book.

I will say because we listened to it as a family and you may want to listen to it with your family, there is a character who says the F word a lot. My youngest child is 10 and I just told her to not say that word and we kept listening and it was fine for us. There is also some violence and intense anticipation, for those who would want to know. Though to be fair I do believe I mentioned space zombies.

This was a great, thrilling and entertaining book. I highly recommend it.

Publisher’s Book Description

It got in us

After receiving an urgent SOS from a work detail on a distant planet, a skeleton crew is dispatched to perform a standard search-and-rescue mission.

Most are dead.

But when the crew arrives, they find an abandoned site, littered with rotten food, discarded weapons…and dead bodies.

Don’t set foot here again.

As they try to piece together who—or what—could have decimated an entire operation, they discover that some things are best left buried—and some monsters are only too ready to awaken

Coming Soon: YA Lit on the Small and Big Screen

Like many people, I watch a lot of Netflix. Too much? I mean, it’s possible. But it turns out, a lot of what I’m watching on Netflix came from a YA novel, which should surprise no one.

I first noticed this phenomenon when I saw a movie called iBoy on the streaming service. Isn’t that a YA novel, I thought? And the answer is yes. It’s a book written by Kevin Brooks which was originally published in 2010. I had no idea it had been made into a movie and yet here I was watching it. So today for you I share a round up of current and coming soon small and big screen productions that come from a YA novel. This is by no means a complete list so if you know of more please add them to the list in the comments.

Ranking all the YA novels you can currently watch on Netflix, including Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han https://thewhisp.mommyish.com/entertainment/ranking-netflix-original-ya-novel-adaptations/5/

Trinkets series on Netflix (https://deadline.com/2018/10/netflix-orders-trinkets-series-based-ya-novel-brianna-hildebrand-kiana-madeira-quintessa-swindell-leads-1202483312/)

The Wilds series on Amazon (https://variety.com/2019/tv/news/amazon-the-wilds-series-1203226989/)

Light as a Feather, which you can now see on Hulu, began on Wattpad but you can buy the books and add them to your YA collections now https://www.forbes.com/sites/adamrowe1/2018/10/13/how-light-as-a-feather-traveled-from-a-wattpad-novel-to-a-hulu-tv-show/#450619b95d8c

YA Novel The Stand In is the basis of the Netflix Rom-Com The Perfect Date (https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2019/03/12/1751964/0/en/YA-Novel-The-Stand-In-from-Carolrhoda-Lab-Becomes-the-Netflix-Film-The-Perfect-Date-Starring-Noah-Centineo.html)

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen coming soon to Netflix (https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/netflix-options-sarah-dessen-ya-novels-sets-along-ride-adaptation-1214672)

Tiny Pretty Things optioned by Netflix (https://deadline.com/2019/08/netflix-orders-tiny-pretty-things-ballet-drama-series-based-book-cast-1202662556/)

The Grishaverse/Shadow and Bone series by Leigh Bardugo (https://deadline.com/2019/01/netflix-orders-shadow-and-bone-series-leigh-bardugo-grishaverse-fantasy-novels-1202532783/)

Aurora Rising optioned https://deadline.com/2019/06/aurora-rising-ya-novel-adapted-television-mgm-tv-1202632339/

Panic by Lauren Oliver is coming to Amazon https://www.hypable.com/lauren-oliver-first-look-deal-amazon/

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi is being made into a movie https://www.tor.com/2019/02/21/children-of-blood-and-bone-movie-adaptation-tomi-adeyemi/

Popsugar has a list of some current and upcoming productions https://www.popsugar.com/entertainment/YA-Novels-Becoming-Movies-34609728

Epic Reads also has a list of all the YA books being made into movies https://www.epicreads.com/blog/book-to-movie-adaptations-progress/

Cheat Sheet has a list of movies coming out in 2020 that are based on YA books https://www.cheatsheet.com/entertainment/books-becoming-movies-2020.html/

Screen Rant has a list of movies in production and some possibilities https://screenrant.com/ya-adaptations-development-possibilities/

Also, if you’re interested, here’s a list of all the teen shows currently on Netflix that may be of interest to teens: https://www.thrillist.com/entertainment/nation/best-teen-shows-on-netflix

To keep up with this information, I use resources like those you see above and The Hollywood Reporter, Coming Soon.net, Hypable, io9.com, The AV Club, MovieInsider.com and the coming soon feature on IMDB.

Kicky’s Post It Note Reviews: In which a Teen tells us what she thinks about Raven, Sweat Pea, Guts and more

The Teen has been read a lot this summer and she’s heart today to share her thoughts with some post it note reviews. She’s brief, concise and to the point. In other words, she’s the exact opposite of me. Because we also talk about the books we read, I sometimes expand on her reviews with some of our follow up conversations.

Publisher’s Book Description

When a tragic accident takes the life of 17-year-old Raven Roth’s foster mom—and Raven’s memory—she moves to New Orleans to recover and finish her senior year of high school.

Starting over isn’t easy. Raven remembers everyday stuff like how to solve math equations and make pasta, but she can’t remember her favorite song or who she was before the accident. And when impossible things start happening, Raven begins to think it might even be better not to know who she was before.

But as she grows closer to her new friends, her foster sister, Max, and Tommy Torres, a guy who accepts her for who she is now, Raven has to decide if she’s ready to face what’s buried in the past… and the darkness building inside her.

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Kami Garcia and first-time graphic novel artist Gabriel Picolo comes this riveting tale of finding the strength to face who you are and learning to trust others—and yourself.

Post It Note Review

“Very quick read. Positive message throughout.”

I asked what the positive message was and The Teen said, “You know how Raven’s dad is a demon. Well she doesn’t want to grow up like her dad and the message is that you don’t have to follow in your parents footsteps, that you can be your own person.”

Publisher’s Book Description

A true story from Raina Telgemeier, the #1 New York 
Times
 bestselling, multiple Eisner Award-winning author of 
SmileSistersDrama, and Ghosts!

Raina wakes up one night with a terrible upset stomach. Her mom has one, too, so it’s probably just a bug. Raina eventually returns to school, where she’s dealing with the usual highs and lows: friends, not-friends, and classmates who think the school year is just one long gross-out session. It soon becomes clear that Raina’s tummy trouble isn’t going away… and it coincides with her worries about food, school, and changing friendships. What’s going on?

Raina Telgemeier once again brings us a thoughtful, charming, and funny true story about growing up and gathering the courage to face — and conquer — her fears.

Post It Note Review

“Shows anxiety very well and supportive family and friends.”

As The Teen herself has an anxiety disorder, it is high praise indeed that she felt that this was a good, honest depiction of anxiety. Thing 2 has also read this book and highly recommends it as well.

Publisher’s Book Description

Barbara Dee explores the subject of #MeToo for the middle grade audience in this heart-wrenching—and ultimately uplifting—novel about experiencing harassment and unwanted attention from classmates.

For seventh grader Mila, it starts with an unwanted hug on the school blacktop.

The next day, it’s another hug. A smirk. Comments. It all feels…weird. According to her friend Zara, Mila is being immature, overreacting. Doesn’t she know what flirting looks like?

But it keeps happening, despite Mila’s protests. On the bus, in the halls. Even during band practice-the one time Mila could always escape to her “blue-sky” feeling. It seems like the boys are EVERYWHERE. And it doesn’t feel like flirting–so what is it?

Mila starts to gain confidence when she enrolls in karate class. But her friends still don’t understand why Mila is making such a big deal about the boys’ attention. When Mila is finally pushed too far, she realizes she can’t battle this on her own–and finds help in some unexpected places.

From the author of STAR-CROSSED, HALFWAY NORMAL and EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT YOU comes this timely story of a middle school girl standing up and finding her voice. 

Post It Note Review

“Extremely good & shows how much harassment affects everything.”

When The Teen moved into middle school in the 7th grade, her and her friends really began experiencing a lot of sexual harassment from the boys at school. There were catcalls, swatted behinds and more. When she read the description of this book she told me, “I know this is middle grade and a little young for me, but I really want to read it.” So she did. She said this was a very important and impactful book and she hopes that it is read far and wide.

Publisher’s Book Description

The first middle grade novel from Julie Murphy, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dumplin’ (now a popular Netflix film), is a funny, heartwarming story perfect for fans of Rebecca Stead, Ali Benjamin, and Holly Goldberg Sloan.

Patricia “Sweet Pea” DiMarco wasn’t sure what to expect when her parents announced they were getting a divorce. She never could have imagined that they would have the “brilliant” idea of living in nearly identical houses on the same street. In the one house between them lives their eccentric neighbor Miss Flora Mae, the famed local advice columnist behind “Miss Flora Mae I?”

Dividing her time between two homes is not easy. And it doesn’t help that at school, Sweet Pea is now sitting right next to her ex–best friend, Kiera, a daily reminder of the friendship that once was. Things might be unbearable if Sweet Pea didn’t have Oscar—her new best friend—and her fifteen-pound cat, Cheese.

Then one day Flora leaves for a trip and asks Sweet Pea to forward her the letters for the column. And Sweet Pea happens to recognize the handwriting on one of the envelopes.

What she decides to do with that letter sets off a chain of events that will forever change the lives of Sweet Pea DiMarco, her family, and many of the readers of “Miss Flora Mae I?”

Post It Note Review

“Super cute and gives a strong message of hope.”

The Teen is a fan of author Julie Murphy so she was pretty happy to read this book. She especially liked how hopeful it was.

Publisher’s Book Description

For fans of Love, Simon and Eleanor and Park, a romantic and sweet novel about a transgender boy who falls in love for the first time—and how first love changes us all—from New York Times bestselling author Amber Smith.

Chris and Maia aren’t off to a great start.

A near-fatal car accident first brings them together, and their next encounters don’t fare much better. Chris’s good intentions backfire. Maia’s temper gets the best of her.

But they’re neighbors, at least for the summer, and despite their best efforts, they just can’t seem to stay away from each other.

The path forward isn’t easy. Chris has come out as transgender, but he’s still processing a frightening assault he survived the year before. Maia is grieving the loss of her older sister and trying to find her place in the world without her. Falling in love was the last thing on either of their minds.

But would it be so bad if it happened anyway? 

Post It Note Review

“I think this relationship was toxic and harmful but at least it’s LGBTQ+ affirming.”

This is one of several books lately where The Teen has come to me upset because she has felt that the relationship presented in the book is toxic and she just couldn’t route for or buy into the relationship. We talk a lot about toxic relationships vs. healthy relationships and I’m thankful every time that books help us have those conversations. She’s conflicted about this book because she was very happy with how LGBTQIA+ affirming it was but didn’t really like the relationship. All the professional reviews I read mention that both participants often are truthful with each other while holding things back and I think it was this aspect that she struggled with. You can read author Amber Smith’s post Out and Proud (On the Page and In Real Life): My Long and Not-Straight Journey to Self-Acceptance here.

Book Review: The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson, reviewed by teen reviewer Elliot

In the first day at his new school, Leo Denton has one goal: to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in his class is definitely not part of that plan- especially because Leo is a trans guy and isn’t out at his new school. Then Leo stands up for a classmate in a fight and they become friends. With Leo’s help and support, the classmate, who is a trans girl, prepares to come out and transition- and to find a new name, Kate. Though Kate and Leo are surrounded by bigots, they have each other, and they have hope in the future.


Elliot’s Thoughts

As someone with a trans experience I was delighted to find a book that followed the journey of not one, but two trans individuals. However, as I delved into this book I quickly realized that the trans representation seemed to be very cliche’ and it was difficult for me to be transported to another world because, for me, this book just seemed like fiction rather than a world that I could escape to.

To start, the characters in this book were not very fleshed out. Most of the characters did not have any backstory and thus lead to them being more like characters than actual people. Even Leo, the character who got the most of a background, still seemed to not be very connected to his past despite being driven by it. 

Characters were often introduced merely as plot devices rather than being used as actual people with connections to others in the story. One of the best examples of this is with Leo’s twin sister, Amber, and his younger sister, Tia. Both of his sisters are mentioned multiple times throughout the novel, but we never learn much about them, their personality, or their relationship to the other characters in the story.

My next biggest problem is how Kate’s identity was explored throughout the novel. The POV rotated between being from Leo’s POV and Kate’s POV and with each rotation, the title of the chapter was labeled as the character’s name to clarify who’s POV the audience was reading. However, instead of titling the chapters from Kate’s POV as “Kate,” author Lisa Williamson titled them as Kate’s birth name, “David.” Perhaps this was because Kate was not out about her gender identity and Williamson just wanted that to be clear to the audience, but to me it just seemed like sloppy trans representation especially because even after Kate came out, her chapters were still labeled as “David.”

One of my last major complaints is that the biggest turning point in the novel was completely spoiled for me…from the description that Williamson gave on the back of the book! Throughout the first half of the novel it is never mentioned that Leo is trans. He blends in and acts just like everybody else until he hooks up with a girl and has to reveal his identity before things get too intimate. If the back of the novel had not already told me that Leo was trans, I would have never suspected a thing and I would have been very pleasantly surprised at this point of the story, but, unfortunately, I did not get to enjoy the reveal and it made me feel disconnected with such an intimate part of Leo’s story arch.

Now that I’ve spent a lot of time harping on this novel, I’d like to take a second to express the things that I DID enjoy about Williamson’s novel. 

From the very beginning of the novel, Williamson made Leo a very mysterious character. His father left when he was a kid and he had a really dark history at his old school which, although he purposefully never talks about that experience, is the reason for his transfer to his new school. This mystery of what happened at Leo’s old school was one of the few things that made me want to keep reading. I wanted to know about Leo’s past- why his father left, where his father went, what happened at his old school, and why Leo is such a hard-shelled person. 

Williamson provided a similar scenario that needed to be answered about Kate’s life. From the very first chapter we learn about Kate’s trans identity and how she has been aware of her identity ever since she was a child. However, Kate never came out to anybody except for her two best friends, Felix and Essie. This leaves us wondering if she’s ever going to come out to her family and how that will change her experience at school and her relationship with her parents. These unanswered questions following Leo and Kate were what kept me reading until the very end, so I have to applaud Williamson for keeping the book interesting. 

In conclusion, I would give Williamson’s The Art of Being Normal a 2 out of 5 stars. It was interesting enough to keep me reading until the very end and I felt somewhat satisfied when I finished. However, there were so many things that I think could have been done better. I appreciate being able to read a story about trans individuals, but I think I set my expectations a little too high. Overall, this novel was good for exposure, and a good place for people to be introduced into the experiences of those with a trans identity; however, I hope that after someone reads this, that they don’t expect Leo and Kate’s stories to represent the whole trans community.

Cindy Crushes Programming: Star Wars Escape Room

Today YA Librarian Cindy Shutts is walking us through her Star Wars themed Escape Room.

To learn more about the basics of hosting an Escape Room, please check out Breakout Edu as they have basic kits that you can use as a foundation. You can also read a couple of previous posts on Escape Rooms here at TLT:

TPiB: Build an Escape Room by Michelle Biwer – Teen Librarian Toolbox

TPiB: Locked in the Library! Hosting an Escape Room by Heather Booth

Cindy Crushes Programming: Hosting a Stranger Things Escape Room

Basic program premise . . .

Your teens will be “locked” in the library and in order to escape, they must unravel a mystery, find the secret codes, and “unlock” the boxes to survive or meet your end goal. Most escape rooms give participants an hour to escape.

Plot: Your planet is about to be exploded by the Death Star. You have 45 minutes to find the key to the escape pod. Use the Force to uncover the clues that will lead you to safety.

Supplies: 

  • You could use the Breakout Edu Kit
  • 4 digit lock
  • 3 digit lock
  • Word lock
  •  Key lock and key
  • Two lock boxes
  • Directional lock
  • Note  ”Rebels must surrender by 12:00 hour or the planet will be destroyed”
  • Note with Riddle
  • Porg
  • Four
  • 4 Wookies with numbers
  • Star Wars planet map printed out from internet
  • Various space and Star Wars props
  • Skelton key labeled escape pod

Room and lock set up

Word lock: Siren.

I will have a riddle “what warns of danger but also can lead to the death of sailors?” Lock on big box. See supplemental materials below.

4 Digit lock: I will hide four Wookies that all have different numbers on them in the room. The number will be 0132. Lock on big box.

3 Digit lock:  I will make a note that says “A space ship enters warp speed and is going 3 times the speed of light 299 792 458 meters per second 3(299792458). How many meters does it go in one second and what are the last three digits of the number”?  899,188,374 (374)

Key lock: Key will be placed place in the big box. Lock will be placed on the small lockbox.  Skelton key labeled escape pods will be placed in small lockbox.

Red Herring: Will be various props and the note that says, “Rebels must surrender by 12:00 hours or the planet will be destroyed”

Directional lock: “S.O. S. This is Rebel Leader Gyn. I am on planet Mooja. We received a message from Arbra that a message from Hok has been received that Javin is in danger from the Deathstar. Evacuation needs help! Anyone who hears this message needs to help the people of Javin!”  Note will correspond with map of Star Wars planets. The combination is Up Down Right Left. Lock on big box.

Final Thoughts: This was a fun adventure! The teens thought it was way harder than the last Escape Room and in fact only got the Escape Room done with less than 30 seconds to go.

Supplemental Notes and Materials

Read Wild: Sarah Mulhern Gross Introduces Us to the Concept of Citizen Science

As warmer weather spreads across the country, I have been thinking about ways to get my students outside during their summer vacation. We are doing a joint biology/English field study this week as part of my literature and the land unit, but I know that most of my students spend little to no time outside if they aren’t forced to do so.  One possible solution to this problem is to get students involved in citizen science projects (Jenkins, 2011). Citizen science projects engage non-scientists in scientific endeavors to address questions raised by researchers (Cooper, Dickinson, Phillips, & Bonney 2007). Research has shown that young people who participate in citizen science projects are more connected to the environment and more scientifically literate (Edwards, 2014).  While there is a lack of research on the effects of citizen science on adolescents, due to its recent emergence in science classrooms, one can hope that it will have the same positive effects. If students are not spending time outdoors perhaps a citizen science project will motivate them to do so.  

There are hundreds of citizen science projects out there that teens and adults can become involved in.  Citizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard by Loree Griffin Burns is a fantastic introduction to projects like the Audubon Bird Count and FrogWatch USA. My personal favorite is tagging monarch butterflies!  Once you are ready to dive into citizen science I recommend checking out Scistarter for links to projects looking for citizen scientists.  

Here are a few citizen science/book pairings that could inspire you and your teens to get involved and maybe even spend some time outside:

A 52-Hertz Whale by Bill Sommer and Natalie Haney Tilghman and Orcasound: In Sommer and Tilghman’s book, the main character is tracking a whale as part of a citizen science project.  Interested in doing something similar? Orcasound allows interested citizen scientists to listen to live hydrophones in the Pacific Northwest and log any whale sounds heard.  The project aims to help preserve the population of orcas in the area where the underwater microphones are deployed. 

Silhouette of a Sparrow by Molly Beth Griffin and Battling Birds and/or Feederwatch: Garnet Richardson, a budding ornithologist, is sent to a lake resort to avoid a 1926 polio outbreak. Interested readers can learn more about ornithology by participating in any of Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology citizen science projects. Battling Birds and Feederwatch are my favorites.  Battling Birds allows viewers to watch Cornell’s birdfeeder cams and contribute questions and observations. Feederwatch is a  winter project (November-April) that asks interested citizen scientists to set up bird feeders and periodically count the birds they see. 

Trickster edited by Matt Dembicki and Canid Camera : Trickster is a graphic collection that brings together 21 Native American storytellers and twenty-one comic artists. Each story focuses on a different trickster character including coyotes, ravens, rabbits, raccoons, dogs, wolves, and beavers. When I read the book I was immediately drawn to the wide variety of species represented in different native cultures.  It made me think of the Canid Camera project in NY state.  The project was the focus of a recent article in The New York Times, which is how I learned about it, and is currently seeking volunteers.  Volunteers can sort through trail camera photos and ID the species seen.  A field guide is provided and for students who live in the northeastern part of the US it may help them learn more about the animals in their own area!

Hurricane Season by Nicole Melleby and SKYWARN: In Hurricane Season, Fig’s life becomes infinitely more stressful when hurricane season hits the Jersey Shore.  She and her father already dealt with one storm, but she knows that the weather can make her dad act irrationally. She spends a lot of time watching the weather and weather reports.  Weather aficionados ages 16+ can become trained SKYWARN Weather Spotters in the U.S. thanks to NOAA. Check out their website for info on free training classes.  This is a great citizen science opportunity for high school students!

These are just a few citizen science projects that are out there.  Read a book that deals with citizen science or inspires citizen science action to block out one of the #readwild bingo squares for our challenge.  Share your favorite citizen science projects and books that might inspire action in the comments!

Cooper, C. B., Dickinson, J., Phillips, T., & Bonney, R. (2007). Citizen Science as a Tool for Conservation in Residential Ecosystems. Ecology & Society, 12(2), 1-11.

Edwards, R. (2014). Citizen science and lifelong learning. Studies In The Education Of Adults, 46(2), 132-144.

Jenkins, L. l. (2011). Using citizen science beyond teaching science content: a strategy for making science relevant to students’ lives. Cultural Studies Of Science Education, 6(2), 501-508.

Read Wild: Shark Week!

Happy Shark Week!  Last week I spent some time out on a local whale watching trip, but sadly we didn’t see any whales (or sharks).  It was the only trip this summer that they didn’t see any whales.  Maybe I’m bad luck? 

Luckily, Shark Week in NJ is always fun, especially for those of us who live along the Jersey Shore.  The Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916 get a lot of play during the summer months.

The Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916 even get highlighted in the popular juvenile fiction series I Survived

Shark Week is a little crazy these days (so many celebrity shark shows!), but sharks are still some of the most fascinating creatures in the ocean.  Why not spend some time this summer reading about these amazing creatures?  

The Line Tender by Kate Allen is one of the best books I’ve read this year.  It straddles that mystical line between upper middle grade and the entry into young adult books.  Lucy’s mom, a marine biologist who studied sharks, died a few years ago. Since then, it’s been Lucy and her dad taking care of each other.  When tragedy once against strikes Lucy, she becomes fiercely devoted to a shark research project her mother was heading up before her death. Full of gorgeous illustrations and lots of cool shark info, this is a perfect read for Shark Week! Plus, it works great with some of the current shark sightings in and around Cape Cod.  

Close to Shore: The Terrifying Shark Attacks of 1916 by Michael Capuzzo is a heart-pounding narrative nonfiction RIDE.  In 1916 the Jersey Shore was a resort paradise that people from all over the country (and even world) visited.  Over 12 days in July, everything changed. A shark (likely a great white), attacked five people and killed four of them.  One of the attacks took place ten miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean! This obviously set off wave of panic that led to shark hunts aimed at eliminating the shark(s).  This isn’t a book I’d recommend reading on the beach….

Speaking of great whites……Neighborhood Sharks by Katherine Roy is a must-read this Shark Week.  Katherine Roy was lucky enough to visit California’s Farallon Islands in 2012 to observe  the great white sharks that migrate there to dine on seals. The islands can only be visited by scientists, so Roy’s book provides a rare glimpse of these sharks in their natural habitat.  This is a stunning book that will enthrall children and adults this Shark Week.


And last but not least, you could always read Ibsen’s “An Enemy of the People” and then watch Jaws! Ibsen’s play, about the effects of pollution on a small town,  influenced Peter Benchley’s Jaws and, of course, the movie of the same name.

Applying Information Literacy Skills to Shark Week

The Jensens love Shark Week. Or maybe, Thing 2 and I love Shark Week and the rest of the Jensens just humor us because what are you going to do. We kicked off Shark Week this year with another great Shark Week party in which The Teen, who decided this summer to try her hand at baking, made shark cookies. And The Mr., who was an art major in college, sculpted a shark out of watermelon. It was epic, if I do say so myself.

But I’ve been thinking a lot about Shark Week viewing and how it requires a bit of information literacy skills. You see, not all Shark Week viewing is created equal and there is an important distinction. Shark Week is a great opportunity to take something fun and interesting and use it to help our youth think about and develop basic information literacy skills.

Let’s start with the movie Jaws, a movie that the Jensens watch every Christmas Eve because nothing says Merry Christmas and Joy to the World like a movie about a shark terrorizing a beach on the 4th of July weekend. Although I’m a big fan of the movie, it did have negative consequences for the world’s shark population. It created such a fear in viewers that sharks had far more reason to fear humans than humans had to fear sharks. Peter Benchley, the author of the novel Jaws, was so disturbed by the negative impact that the book had on our shark populations that he dedicated the rest of his life to shark conservationism.

What does all this have to do with information literacy and Shark Week? The ways in which sharks are depicted in media can and has had negative impact on our oceans and teaching our youth to be discerning viewers and information gatherers makes all the difference. Here are some of the things that I talk about with youth when discussing Shark Week.

Language Matters: Beware of Shark Week Shows that Refer to Sharks as Monsters, a discussion on loaded terms

Sharks are not monsters and this type of language is loaded and intended to prey on our darkest fears. Yes, they are predators. Yes, they kill other creatures and are capable of killing human beings. But they are animals following their natural instincts and participating in the circle of life. This is an example of how language can be used to pre-dispose the listener to certain messaging and it’s a good way to talk about how prejudice and bias work and can be included in messaging. It’s also a safe and formative moment to teach youth how to analyze and break that messaging down.

Calling sharks monsters is just one example of how media can and does use language to send coded and dangerous messages to viewers. A more current and more nefarious example of this is happening right now in the news when the President of the United States tells people of color to “go back to where they came from” or refers to certain neighborhoods as infested. In both cases dangerous stereotypes, tropes and language are used to cause harm. I am in no way here comparing the two scenarios, just demonstrating how we can provide examples of how we can talk about these subjects with our youth and help them begin to develop the skills necessary to be discerning media consumers so that they understand how language can and is being used. After helping our youth understand how calling sharks monsters is harmful, you can then help them take the next step to understand how the same types of tactics are used against our fellow human beings and help them make those language connections. Having these conversations with our youth is important. I would argue that it is one of the most important conversations we should be having with our youth as we see what is happening right now to people of color and how they are being talked about in our media and by people with tremendous power and the negative impact it is having on their lives. As a white woman raising white children, it’s a conversation I’m having as often as possible with my children.

Delivery Matters: Beware of Shark Week Shows that Sensationalize Shark Attacks, a discussion of bias and presentation

As I mentioned above, not all Shark Week shows are created equal. Some of the shows clearly have a scientific point of view that emphasizes facts, respect for their subject and emphasize conservation. Other shows, however, employ tabloid news tactics designed to tap into our worst fears. They sensationalize shark attacks with dramatic re-enactments, use music to create a mood, and play on our emotional reactions. These shows are sensationalist and can, in my opinion, be harmful.

Right now we are in the midst of a war on journalism and a lot of people don’t know who to trust. Delivery matters and we can use these examples to help discuss some of the tactics used by tabloid journalism and help our youth distinguish them from more reliable news sources. See resources such as Common Sense Media and Medium for more information on teaching youth information media skills. Again, we’re using a more safe and familiar starting point to help open the door and then applying these lessons to the broader media in general.

Facts Matter: Look to See Who is Delivering the Message and What Facts or Credentials They Have to Back That Message Up, a discussion on information authority

This Shark Week kicked off with an episode called Shark Trip: Eat Pray Chum. This show five celebrities presented as kind of bumbling idiots who went around and did a variety of shark related things. On occasion they talked to an expert, but the hosts of the show weren’t experts themselves. I’ll be honest, it was one of my least favorite Shark Week offerings ever.

It’s not the first time that Shark Week has employed celebrities to try and raise ratings. In a previous year, Olypmic swimmer Michael Phelps swam against sharks and this show used someone we know to help deliver information about things like the swimming speed of sharks and how it compares to humans in the water. The information was delivered and hosted by experts in the field and was interesting, entertaining and authoritative. That’s right, we can use Shark Week shows to talk about things like information authority and how to analyze information presented to us to determine whether or not it’s a fact or opinion. Helping youth understand things like bias and authority are essential information literacy skills.

Six Questions That Will Tell You What Media to Trust

If your library is anything like mine, you’re probably putting up Shark Week book displays and even hosting Shark Week related programs. It’s a great opportunity for tie in with a built in audience. I’ve even shared some of my programming before here on TLT. But it’s also a great opportunity to help our youth brush up on their information literacy skills by tying those discussions into something they are already watching and enjoying. You can do this formally, but you can also do this informally as you just talk to the youth in your life about the Shark Week things they are watching. Whenever you can, cease on opportunities to help the youth in your life develop more refined information literacy skills.

Read the Rainbow: An LGBTQIA+ YA Lit Infographic

As I mentioned earlier, we’ve been doing a lot of youth staff training on diversity and inclusion at the Fort Worth Public Library. My supervisor, Kathryn King, and I recently talked with library staff about LGBTQIA+ literature for youth of all ages. Today, I’m going to share with you some of the YA/Teen Literature information we shared with staff.

To create the information you see below, I adapted a tool I had previously created. I spent months reading and working with a variety of trusted and respected experts in the field. I also shared this on Twitter to get feedback. What you see below is the culmination of months of research and vetting. That being said, it’s important that you know that the number one determination after quality to get on this infographic is that we had to have multiple copies in our system. It’s an RA tool to help staff connect patrons with books so we are looking specifically for books that our library system owns.

I want to give special thanks to Dahlia Adler from LGBTQ Reads who gave a lot of her personal time and energy to help me make sure that I got this right for our teens. Any mistakes made, however, are mine and just means that I got one of her feedback notes wrong.

Although we focused on fiction, there is one award winning nonfiction title that I highly recommend every one read:

Resources

LGBTQ Reads https://lgbtqreads.com/

YA Pride Masterlist http://www.yapride.org/masterlist/

10 Transgender/Nonbinary YA Titles (not all Own Voices) https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/teen/10-great-ya-novels-transgendernonbinary-main-characters/

Queer Books for Teens http://queerbooksforteens.com

Our Most Anticipated LGBTQAP YAs of 2019: July – December

Middle Grade LGBTQ Reads

LGBTQ Reads for Middle Graders

Great LGBTQ Inclusive Picture & Middle Grade Books

LGBTQ Science Fiction and Fantasy YA by Own Voices Authors https://bookriot.com/2017/02/15/lgbtqa-science-fiction-and-fantasy-ya-by-ownvoices-authors/

#OwnVoices LGBTQ Reads https://bookishnessandtea.wordpress.com/2017/06/21/50-ownvoices-queer-books-to-read-this-pride-month/

Barnes and Noble: 25 YA #OwnVoices of 2019 https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/teen/25-of-our-most-anticipated-ownvoices-must-reads-of-2019/

Best own voice LGBTQIAP+ books https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/105318.Best_own_voice_LGBTQIAP_books

Resources for Building a Collection and Supporting LGBTQIA+ Teens

Things to Consider Regarding Own Voices and LGBTQIA+ Lit

The Problem with #OwnVoices and LGBTQIA+ literature: There’s one more aspect to #ownvoices in LGBTQ lit: the pressure to be an out author. See: https://bookriot.com/2017/04/21/the-problem-with-ownvoices-lgbtq-lit/

And always be sure and check here at TLT as Amanda MacGregor works hard every month to share lists of new and forthcoming LGBTQIA+ books to share with teens.

A Brief History of YA Literature, an Infographic

Several months ago someone on Twitter asked a question about YA literature and I went looking for an answer. That sent me down a rabbit hole in which I started reading a bunch of research and articles about YA lit. It was a fascinating journey through space and time, and my life as an adult. I started working as a YA paraprofessional in public libraries in 1993 at the age of 20, right around the time libraries really started committing sincere time and energy to serving teens. I became a degreed librarian in 2002, just a few months after The Teen, a prolific YA reader herself, was born. So this research was both professional and personal. In many ways, the timeline you see below is a timeline of my career working with teens and reading the books that I was sharing with them. My life as a reader and my career as a YA librarian is woven into the fabric of this infographic you see below.

To make the following infographic, I took a deep dive into the history of YA literature, reading a lot of research online and in professional journals. I also sought out the help of my fellow TLTers who checked and then double checked my work. We checked initial book publication dates. We swapped out lesser known titles for more well known titles that represented that era best. We looked to make sure we were as inclusive and diverse as we could be, understanding that early eras of YA literature were sadly definitely not focused on representation. Then we combed through this searching for typos (I sincerely hope you don’t find any!). My friend and YA librarian extraordinaire Heather Booth was a particular help to me on this and I thank her. The infographic itself was made using Canva.

Today I present to you a brief history of YA literature, an infographic

Please note, because this is an infographic, it is by no means comprehensive. There are lots of great YA titles and authors that I would have liked to included here. For example, Sarah Dessen’s first book, That Summer, was published in 1996, just a few years after I started working with teens in libraries, and she has always been there with me working with teens in libraries. It also seems weird not to have John Green on this infographic given the influence he had on YA readers in the earlier 2000s. It seems especially weird not to have one of The Teen and I’s favorite authors, A. S. King, on this infographic. There are way more amazing books and authors that everyone should know about, hands down, but this infographic is a place to start.

Also, a brief note about Monster by Walter Dean Myers. It was originally published in 1999, but it won the first ever Michael L. Printz Award for Young Adult literature in 2000 so I put it on the 2000s.

It’s also interesting to note that although YA literature originally was defined as being a book written for someone aged 12 to 18, today most YA literature is suggested as being for readers ages 14 and up and more often than not contains a protagonist who is 16 and up. More and more, it’s is Middle Grade fiction, defined as being for readers ages 8 to 12, that the youngest teen readers turn to. Younger teens, those ages 13, 14 or 15, are often left out of the literature all together these days. Andrea Sower did some anecdotal data collecting about this which she shared on Twitter.

Whether you are an experienced YA librarian or someone who is just diving into the world of YA lit professionally or personally, I hope you will take a few moments to journey into the history of YA lit and learn a bit more about it. Understanding the history of YA lit helps us understand a bit more of what makes YA lit, well, YA lit and why that matters.

When you think about YA literature, what are some of the authors and titles that you think of as being representative of that time in YA history? Talk with us in the comments about the history of YA literature and what it means to you.

Resources and Some Further Reading:

Be sure to go down the rabbit hole yourself and follow the links on each article to even more reading about the history of YA.

https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-10522-8_2

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/how-young-adult-fiction-blossomed-with-teenage-culture-in-america-180968967/

https://historycooperative.org/fantasy-to-reality-the-history-of-young-adult-literature/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Young_adult_fiction

https://www.pearsonhighered.com/assets/samplechapter/0/1/3/3/0133066797.pdfh

https://blog.bookstellyouwhy.com/what-exactly-is-young-adult-literature-a-brief-history

https://medium.com/the-establishment/the-critical-evolution-of-lgbtq-young-adult-literature-ce40cd4905c6

https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/rise-young-adult-books-lgbtq-characters-what-s-next-n981176

http://theconversation.com/telling-the-real-story-diversity-in-young-adult-literature-46268

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diversity_in_young_adult_fiction

https://www.timetoast.com/timelines/history-of-ya-literature

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/08/how-young-adult-fiction-came-of-age/242671/

https://my.visme.co/projects/w4ynw9mo-timeline-of-young-adult-literature

A Brief History of YA Literature