Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Take 5: Out with the old . . . Great reads for those about to graduate HS

Everywhere you look our seniors are getting ready to graduate, trying to hold it together for just a few more months.  At the same time, one huge question hangs over their heads: What Now?  Nipping at their heels are the junior class, ready to jump into their place so that they can begin a year of prom, senioritis, and face that same big question.  Here are 5 amazing books perfect for seniors, those that love them, and those that remember being one – or are looking forward to being one.  Each of these novels explores that one huge question: What happens next?

Death, Dickinson and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia by Jenny Torres Sanchez
Frenchie has been looking forward to graduating and moving to Chicago with her best friend, but he doesn’t know what happened; the thing that is making her so depressed.  You see, one night she ran into her years long crush BOB and went on a random adventure around town.  The next morning, she learned that after she left him he committed suicide.  What did she miss that night? Could she have stopped him?  So Frenchie finally realizes that the only way to answer those questions is to relive that night, this time hoping to see what she missed.  This is a raw, heartbreaking read. Sanchez capture the voice of Frenchie perfectly in this tale of depression and loss and confusion.  This is an early contender for the Printz Award in my book, reminiscent of the aweseomness that is A. S. King. (Full review coming but 5 out of 5 stars)

[Read more…]

The One Word to Terrify Them All (a guest post by K. A. Holt)

On Sunday, March 10th, author K. A. Holt will be visiting my library as part of our Texas Sweethearts and Scoundrels visit.  If you live in or around the Grand Prairie area, please consider stopping by and supporting libraries and authors. Today, author K. A. Holt shares a guest post with us to talk about the one thing that seems to terrify tweens and teens.
Sometimes I’m afraid that among pre-teen and teen readers there is One Word To Terrify Them All. Or maybe worse: One Word No One Thinks About Until They See It And Then They’re All OH MAN I Don’t Want To Read THAT.

The word?


Wait, wait – don’t run away.

I’m here to convince you that poetry is not boring. It’s not difficult to read. It’s not snobby or foofy or lame or whatever. I mean, it can be… but it doesn’t have to be.

I should probably come clean and tell you that I write books in verse. Not all of my books, but some of them. One of my books is about zombies and chupocabras and humans all trying to go to middle school together without eating each other. The whole book is written in haiku. Five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables. Three-lined poems tell the whole story – brain-eating, fights, crushes (both of the romantic kind and the bone-crunching kid) and more. It’s poetry, but it might not be the first thing that pops to mind when you have that “aaargh, a book in poetry, what?!” reaction.
A zombie novel written in Haiku? Yes please!

Another book I’ve written (that is tentatively scheduled for release in 2014) is about a bully who rips pages out of library books so he can scratch out words and make messages. You don’t usually think of defacing school property as poetry, and yet… That’s the cool thing about poems. They can be anything you want. It’s just a way to focus words on the most important details of a story.

You know those bouillon cubes you drop in hot water to make chicken broth? The cube dissolves in the water, leaving trails of salty silt that you stir to make a warm, filling soup. A poem is like a bouillon cube – all the salty goodness of a story is compacted into a tiny space. The hot water is like your brain. Those compacted words seep out of the poem, filling your brain and spreading out into worlds and characters that the author trusts you to help create. Weird analogy? Sure. But kind of true.

Reading a novel that’s written in verse gives you all the punch and excitement of a prose book (sometimes even more), but with fewer words, fewer pages, and arguably more imagination. You become an important part of the telling of the story because you take those few words and give them life.

Here are some ya titles written in verse, with a fun poetry activity to do w/teens

So please, for the sake of zombies and chupocabras and sonnets and free verse, and torn out pages everywhere, don’t freeze up when you see the word “poetry.” Don’t feel harrumphy when you see “novel in verse” on the cover of a book.

Poetry is beautiful. It’s ugly. It’s exhausting. It’s freeing. It’s simple. It’s complex. It can hold the whole world in just a handful of words.

Book Inspired by a Poem or Poetry . . .
Golden by Jessi Kirby comes out in 2013, based on Robert Frost, so very good
Coming in 2013, and so very brilliant. Great voice.

Yes, I’m biased, but I want you to be biased, too. Poetry can be anything you want it to be. Not everything can say that. Not everything can live up to that. So give it a whirl and see what you think.

Sharon Creech, Ron Koertge, Ellen Hopkins, Lisa Schroeder, Sarah Tregay, Sonya Sones, Virginia Euwer Wolff, Linda Oatman High, Caroline Rose, Walter Dean Myers and more, more, more. All of these authors write novels in verse. And so do I.

Why not pick up a book and give it a try?

[I totally did not rhyme that last part on purpose. I swear.]

And more poetry:
TPiB: Poetically speaking, poetry activities to do with tweens and teens 
TPiB: Freeing your life with words . . . more poetry activities

K. A. Holt  is the author of Brains for Lunch and Mike Stellar: Nerves of Steel? You can find out more about her, and her books, by visiting her webpage. It is set up like a comic book and epically cool.

Book Review: In Honor by Jessi Kirby

I finished reading In Honor by Jessi Kirby on an airplane.  I sat there for a moment and finally, I couldn’t resist the urge any longer, I turned to the stranger sitting next to me – the one not drooling and snoring but playing Angry Birds on his computer – and said, “I’m sorry, I just need to tell someone – this was a glorious book.”  He blinked a few times, clearly trying to understand what could possibly be happening here, and looked at me and said, “I’m . . . glad.”  Sometimes a book is just so good you need to tell someone, and so I did.

In Honor is a soul satisfying read about a glorious cross country trip through the journey of grief.  Yes, I know I already told you it is glorious, and I’ll work on expanding my vocabulary later, pinky swear, but it’s just – glorious.  It is just such a satisfying read that reminds us that everyone must travel their own journey through the tunnel of grief; there is no right or wrong way – it just is. 

Honor has just graduated from high school and instead of spending the summer partying, she is burying her older brother, Finn, who was killed in Afghanistan.  On her dresser sits a letter he sent before being killed, unopened.  When she finally opens it Honor finds tickets to the farewell concert of their favorite popstar – in California.  Her brother tells her to go to the concert, have and adventure, and tell Kyra Kelley about him.  So she feels that she must.

Rusty ends up tagging along for the ride.  Oh Rusty, broken in so many ways.  He’s the boy that makes every girl swoon, and knows it.  Rusty was Finn’s best friend for years, though they had a sudden falling out when Finn enlisted in the army.  He also has taken to some serious alcohol consumption to help drown his sorrows, literally.  The journey begins with Honor behind the wheel of Finn’s beloved Pala and Rusty passed out in the passenger seat.

Like all good road trips, there are obstacles that pop up along the way. And some incredible moments that you don’t normally get to experience in life.  There are moments of raw, honest emotions.  And those moments when all you can do is laugh out loud because, let’s face it, you can’t spend 24/7 on the road with someone without the occasional embarrassing moment.

Each moment In Honor adds up to – wait for it – one glorious road trip. (Yes, yes – I’m sick of me too. But you know, it really is a glorious read.)  Honor is both naive and self-assured, she is broken but still likable.  Rusty is the type of guy who seems like he may be one way on the surface, but along the way you learn what ripples beneath those sharp edges.  Every teen girl who reads this book will fall in love with Rusty.  Heck, not so teen girls will, too.

In Honor is a story with a lot of heart, even if it is a broken one.  There are no pretty bows at the end of this journey – Finn is still going to be dead after all – but there is the satisfaction in knowing that Honor and Rusty are at the beginning of their healing journey, even if they are at the end of their road trip, and that they are probably going to find ways to be okay.  And as a reader, you close the pages of this book having taken this amazing journey with them, and you are soul satisfied.  In some ways the novel itself seems so simple, but the emotions involved are oh so rich and complex.  There are moments of rich detail, touching phrasing, and a slight smoldering just below the surface.  A definite 5 out of 5 stars.  And in case you didn’t hear, I think this is a glorious road trip novel. I now duck as you throw things at your computer screen.

Have you read In Honor? Am I right or am I right about the “glorious”? How do you describe it? Tell me in the comments. Karen