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This is What Happened When I Took the Tween to ALA Annual (a Thank You to Scholastic!)

The Tween: “I LOVE A Snicker of Magic!”

As you may know, this year I decided to take The Tween (basically 12 at this point) to the exhibit halls at ALA Annual 2014. Although I hemmed and hawed and hesitated about this decision, it turned out to be one of the greatest decisions ever.

On the whole, it really was a non-issue to be honest. She was amazed – as all book lovers surely are – to walk into the exhibit hall and just see the amazing glory of all the books. She was like a kid in a candy store, except – you know – here candy was books. I was so glad to be able to share this experience with her and will treasure it always.

As a librarian who believes in the 40 Developmental Assets, I recognize that simply showing up and giving kids the gift of attention can make all the difference in their lives. All they want is to know that they matter to adults, that we care. Which is why I was moved deeply by what happened in the Scholastic booth.

But let me back up for a moment. You see, because of the economy, we are one of the many families that have had to make dramatic life changes and these changes have dramatically impacted this child that I love so dearly. She had to leave her home, leave her friends, and start a new life in a new place. And the change has not been easy. Plus, like many in our situation, we struggle financially to make ends meet month to month. And to make matters worse, she has been on the hurtful end of some mean girl issues. The last two years have been challenging for this child that I love, and getting to witness her having this moment was a gift to me as her mother as much as it was to her. This is one of those moments that can make or break a kid, and the people at Scholastic really did everything right.

When we walked into the Scholastic booth at ALA, it was like a bright light shone on her and she became the star. One of the booth attendants, and I do wish I had thought to get her name, walked up to us both and looked directly at my Tween and started talking to her. For those of us that work with youth, this is a very important thing. Since I was the librarian and the adult present, this individual could have chosen to deal only with me, but she didn’t. She enthusiastically greeted my daughter and let her know that she mattered. This is what I always try to do with kids and teens in my library, even when their parents are present. I can not emphasize with you enough the importance of this. This moment was so validating for her.

The two of them then went on to have a conversation. The book A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd was on display and the Tween said it was her favorite book, and the attendant excitedly proclaimed that it was her favorite as well. The two of them then went on to have a very excited conversation about the book and why they loved it. She got to share her thoughts with an adult, and they mattered. She was heard.

Then this attendant just looked at my daughter and says, “We need to get you some books!” They then went through a very awesome Reader’s Advisory interview and my daughter walked out of the Scholastic booth with 3 ARCS. : The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare (which I assured her was like like having gold), Dash by Kirby Lawson (she really loves dogs), and Finding Ruby Starling by Karen Rivers. But really, she walked out with more than that, because she walked out with a positive experience in which an adult had taken the time to tell her that she mattered. And it all took less than 15 minutes.

During the course of that day The Tween also had the opportunity to meet one of her favorite authors, Raina Telgemeier. She was shy and awkward about the whole thing – The Tween, not Raina – but she also spent a lot of time the next 2 days talking about it. In fact, we went back the next day so she could buy and get a book signed for her best friend back in Ohio. I believe she is re-doing her room in Raina Telgemeier posters and book covers.

Another interesting thing happened in the Scholastic booth. I’m not going to lie, since I work with tweens and teens I am constantly paying attention to my daughter and her friends to find out what what they like and are interested in doing. It just makes me better at doing my job. So while we walked around the exhibit halls I paid close attention to what she liked and what she didn’t. In the Scholastic booth, she became obsessed with a book on display called Revenge of the Flower Girls. In fact, all day Saturday she asked me to go back and get a copy of that book for her, which led to a really interesting discussion about ARCs and published books. Since RotFG is already published, I promised her that when we returned home I would buy it for her. But still she longed for this title.

On Sunday, she wanted to go back in. And the first thing she said was that we needed to go back and get that book for her. We did walk by, but Scholastic was in the midst of a Maggie Steifvater signing which meant the booth was busy. But The Tween did not care, she really wanted me to go ask them about this book. It was interesting to see her just blink at the mention of Maggie Steifvater, a hugely popular author, and want to interrupt everyone for this book. I am a huge Maggie fan (I love The Raven Boys series), but she was moved by very different things. This too is an important reminder to us all that we all have different tastes and we need to work to reach all readers. But rest assured, next month after we recover from this trip I am going to order this book for her. She really, really, really wants it.

Before we went back into the Exhibit Hall on Sunday, the two of us attended the Scholastic Literary Brunch. Here, several authors – including the Tween’s beloved Raina Telgemeier – performed reader’s theater of 6 upcoming books: The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, Sisters by Raina Telgemeir, If You’re Reading This by Trent Reedy, Kinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth, The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis and Love is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson . This was her first experience with Reader’s Theater and she loved it. And the book she chose to read first out of this bunch was Kinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth, which she says is “REALLY very good so far.”

A few other highlights from The Tween’s experience at ALA:

1. I want to make sure and point out the people at the Bloomsbury booth were equally awesome to The Tween on Sunday. They gave her a copy of a The Princess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters by Shannon Hale and repeated this same validating experience. Thank you!

2. She ran into author Edith Cohn just walking around and Cohn told her to go to the booth and ask for her upcoming book, Spirit’s Key. She is really looking forward to reading this one. I can not tell you enough how much I have found that meeting authors and having that personal connection to them can impact readers.

3. At the Penguin/Dial booth she reluctantly took an ARC of the book Life of Zarf: The Trouble of Weasels by Rob Harrell. However, she started reading it that day and LOVED it. She laughed out loud a lot while reading it and we had to take it away from her for a while to get her to spend time with the family. The takeaway for her: you really can’t judge a book by its cover, sometimes what you like will surprise you so try new and different things.

 4. When I ask her what her favorite parts of ALA were she said, “Listening to them act out their books, meeting Raina Telgemeier and getting all kinds of books!” She liked the Reader’s Theater so much I think I am going to try and do more if at author panels. It really made her want to read the books.

5. She also met and got books signed by A. S. King (whom I adore and consider one of my personal inspirations) and Bethany Crandell (Summer on the Short Bus). She is asking if she can read the A. S. King books now and Librarian Me (Read everything! Read what you want!) is wrestling with Mom Me, who thinks she should probably wait a couple of years. But one day she is going to treasure those signed books because she will read them and know how awesome they are! I did read Summer on the Short Bus yesterday to see if she could read it and decided that 1) It is okay for her to read at this age (it’s very PG, a little kissing and 1 mention of a condom) and 2) I really liked how the main character grew in the way she saw differently abled people and I thought it was very entertaining and important at the same time.

2 New GNs Coming Your Way, and a look at Scholastic’s GRAPHIX imprint

This is how things go at my house . . .

Me: Whacha doing?
The Tween: Reading
Me: Oh, you’re reading SMILE again.
The Tween: Yep

So when news came out that there might be ARCs of SISTERS by Raina Telgemeier at TLA, I tweeted Christie: “Our one mission is to get ARCs of SISTERS at TLA and be heroes.” We did not get ARCs of said book. We are not heroes. The tween just keeps her copy of SMILE on the floor by her bed, and occasionally she will say to me, with those puppy dog eyes, I really can’t wait to read the next one.

There’s not a lot out there yet about SISTERS. Goodreads doesn’t even list a release date or ISBN at this point. Another source, however, says 8/26/14 with the ISBN: 9780545540599. So just in case you need to be someone’s hero, I want to make sure this is on your radar. And if you haven’t read SMILE yet, the Tween really recommends you pick it up. It is, after all, a Will Eisner Award winner.

Graphic novels have long been popular in my YA area. And more and more I am getting requests from Middle Grader readers for GNs. Scholastic has the GRAPHIX imprint to help fulfill this need. There is even a fun Create Your Own Comic activity there you can share with your tweens and teens. BONE by Jeff Smith is perhaps the most popular; I have readers come in almost weekly and ask for this series by name. Some other popular titles include Amulet, Cardboard, Chickenhare and Pandemonium.

And here’s a new one coming your way . . .

Cleopatra in Space: Book One, Target Practice
by Mike Maihack

Actually, this title came out in April, so it is brand spanking new.  Here’s the publisher’s description:

“When a young Cleopatra (yes, THAT Cleopatra) finds a mysterious tablet that zaps her to the far, REALLY far future, she learns of an ancient prophecy that says she is destined to save the galaxy from the tyrannical rule of the evil Xaius Octavian. She enrolls in Yasiro Academy, a high-tech school with classes like algebra, biology, and alien languages (which Cleo could do without), and combat training (which is more Cleo’s style). With help from her teacher Khensu, Cleo learns what it takes to be a great leader, while trying to figure out how she’s going to get her homework done, make friends, and avoid detention!

It was a pretty fun read. I mean, of course Cleopatra belongs in space. If you ask me, everything is better in space. We are big Doctor Who fans, and it was kind of fun to read this after watching the episode Dinosaurs on a Space Ship which guest stars – you guessed it – Cleopatra. This is book 1 and we are looking forward to reading more in the series.

And I want to end by talking for a moment about reading and re-reading books. As I mentioned above, the Tween reads SMILE a lot. And last summer she kept reading The Diary of a Wimpy Kid books a lot. This drove The Mr. crazy. At one point he started to storm into her room and tell her she needed to read something different, anything, just something different. So we talked about it and I said things like this:

1. It’s okay to read books over and over again, don’t worry. Each time she’ll pick up something new.
2. She’ll read something different when she is ready.
3. Don’t turn reading into a war between you and her. Don’t fight about it. Don’t put your rules and expectations on it; if she enjoys reading books multiple times then let her do that, even if it doesn’t make sense to you. Don’t take the joy of it away from her. If you make reading become a battleground, you will lose this war and she will lose because she will lose her love of reading.

I personally am not a huge re-reader. Except that I have read The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin probably once a year every year since the 5th grade. I really love that book. But every time she reads Smile it makes her happy, I just can’t find anything bad about that.

Graphic Novel Review: Drama by Raina Telgemeier

If you don’t have Eisner award winner Raina Telgemeier in your collection, you need to start.

Her newest work, Drama, brings us into the world of 7th grader Callie.  Deeply in love with the theater, Callie’s dream is to design sets for Broadway.  For now, however, she’ll settle for being on set crew for her school’s production of Moon Over Mississippi, and is determined to bring Broadway to Eucalyptus Middle School.  And on budget.  Yet things get complicated on stage and off when romances develop, misunderstandings blow up out of proportion, and a last minute crisis threatens the entire production.

Drama by Raina Telgemeier, published by Graphix in 2012. ISBN: 9780545326995

Review:

Drama is engaging from the first pages, and readers are grabbed from the beginning by Callie’s sense of humor and a sense of immediacy that reads exactly how a seventh grader takes EVERYTHING in their world.  Lost in her unrequited romance with Greg, Callie throws herself into her first passion: the theater.  Determined to take Moon over Mississippi to Broadway level (including a working cannon), Callie meets twin brothers Justin and Jesse, who seem to be polar opposites in every way.  Yet, will Jesse be the love Callie wants in her life?  And will the play even go on with the drama threatening the production?  Great for middle ages and up, and could be paired with Telgemeier’s other graphic novel, Smile, or theater fiction like Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen by Dyan Sheldon, or Pink by Lili Wilkinson4.5 out of 5 stars.  Goodreads currently lists Drama at 3.97 stars out of 5 as of February 20, 2013.  Drama is a 2013 Stonewall Children’s Award Honor Book and a 2013 Rainbow List Top 10 Book.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysWrqAMktc0]

SPOILER SPACE

I LOVED Drama.  Working day in and day out with middle school kids, Callie, Jesse and Justin could have been *my* kids- that’s how believable they were.  They have their own quirks and foibles, their own ways of acting out and reacting to situations makes them more believable.  Telgemeier’s drawings are something that I could never hope to aspire to, and have that art that draws readers of all ages and all genders in- I had my personal copy on my desk at work, and within minutes had a 21 year old “new adult,” a 12 year old, an 8 year old, and a 16 year old all want to know when I was getting it for the library or whether they could borrow my copy so they could read it.  

The romantic back-and-forth between the characters is extremely real, and for me the fact that no one is doing drugs, alcohol, or anything remotely off-kilter (aside from some possible grade cheating) is really refreshing in a graphic novel.  No one has super powers, or is solving crimes- these are real tweens and teens going through real issues.  They may be a bit more high strung than most, but I’m not sure about that.

The storyline of Justin and Jesse hits home especially hard for GLBTQ readers- Justin is completely out to his parents and friends, but it’s not until near the end of the book that anyone even suspects that Jesse is gay as well.  No one, not even Callie (who has every right to be when he deserts her at the prom), ends up mad at Jesse by the end of the book- they accept him for who he is, which is the way it should be.  

As for Callie, she is what I wish I had been like in school- she is such a strong female character with a huge sense of self that she could be someone to look up to for middle school girls.  She knows what she wants to be when she grows up, she sticks to her guns when she knows she’s right, she accomplishes everything she sets out to accomplish, and she doesn’t let her relationships (up or down) diminish her confidence in her identity.  

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For more theater productions gone out of control, check out No More Dead Dogs by Gordon Korman. And for more MG GNS, check out Cardboard by Doug Tennapel, Chickenhare by Chris Grine and Giants Beware by Rafael Rosado.