Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

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.

Take 5: Reasons to read your December 2013 VOYA


There is a great list of titles that depict Muslims in Young Adult Literature.  Since September 11th, the Muslim population has been the target of a tremendous amount of fear, bias and outright racial targeting.  This is a good and varied list that examines the Muslim life in a wide variety of ways and can help break down those prejudices. (by Amanda MacGregor, page 12)


Last year, Pride and Prejudice turned 200 years old.  There are tons of ya titles that somehow reference Pride and Prejudice, and I’m not just talking about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  VOYA has a list of titles for you and your teen Austen fans. (by Christina Miller, page 14)


As you know, I am a huge advocate for serving teens on the Autism spectrum in libraries.  The December issue of VOYA has a really good look at serving teens with Asperger’s or a Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NVLD).  There is also some good information on what it is and resources.  (by Madelene Rathbun Barnard, page 28)

4.  GETTING GIRLS IN THE GAME: Making Gaming Inclusive

On Tumblr, there has been a statistic going around about how girls make up 35% of the gaming community but less than 10% of the characters in games (loosely, this are not exact figures).  The truth is, I have met a lot of ya authors who are avid gamers.  And a lot of my female teens are avid gamers as well.  This article, by Hannah R. Gerber, is a good discussion about making gaming more inclusive.  I highly recommend that you do some Googling and read up on the issues that women face in the gaming community; it’s not always very pretty and can be quite serious in terms of the threats, hate and sexual and verbal threats that girls can receive. (by Hannah R. Gerber, page 44)


According to the article by Tina P. Schwartz, about 11 percent of teens have a depressive disorder.  That is a huge figure.  Girls are more likely than boys to experience depression.  This article is a good look at the signs, the various kinds of depression, triggers and some resources to help teens understand their mood disorders. (by Tina P. Schwartz, page 16)

Please note, TLT is a networked blog with VOYA Magazine.

The Living by Matt de Lana Pena (reviewed in VOYA December 2013)

I have been reviewing for VOYA since 2001.  This year, something really exciting happened.  On page 55 of the December 2013 issue of VOYA, I reviewed THE LIVING by Matt de la Pena.  Just yesterday, at the ALA Youth Media Awards, it was announced that this title won a Pura Belpre Honor Award. 

“The Pura Belpré Award is a recognition presented to a Latino or Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays the Latino cultural experience in a work of literature for children or youth. It was established in 1996. It has been given every other year since 1996. Beginning with the 2009 award, it will be given annually.” (from ALA)

Here’s an excerpt of my review in VOYA:

de la Pena manages to pack a lot into THE LIVING: there is an examination of social class, a pandemic (already in existence and effecting Shy’s life); the adventure saga at sea, and a conspiracy plot all of which take the reader on a whiplash of adventure.  In less deft hands, the pieces could fall apart, but de la Pena manages to make it all work.  There are a few convenient coincidences that come into play but in the end, readers just will not care because this is an excellent, enthralling ride.  Shy is an interesting main character with an authentic voice . . .

In the end, I gave THE LIVING a 4Q and 5P rating.  Watching a book I love win an award was very affirming.

Congratulations Matt on this well deserved honor!

VOYA: Girl Knights & Boy Queens . . . an addition to the list of cross-dressing titles

In the October 2013 issue of VOYA Magazine, there is a great article by Rebecca Moor about cross dressing teens entitled Girl Knights and Boy Queens: Cross-Dressing in Teen- Appeal Books and Films..  Honestly, it is pretty exhaustive in its exploration of motivation and titles.  It includes a look at titles old, Bloody Jack, and new, The Boy in the Dress.  But a new title has come to my attention that I wanted to add to the list: The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas.

It all began with a ruined elixir and a bolt of lightning . . .

I recently saw Sherry at Austin Teen Book Festival and she described her book as, “Cross-dressing Harry Potter.”  You see, she wanted to create a historical fantasy story with a female main character, but in order for it to work in the historical context she had to acknowledge that women weren’t afforded the same status as men in that time.  Her resolution?  Make the girl dress up as a boy to attend school, but it is not a magical school.  In fact, the main character, Iolanthe, has to hide not only the fact that she is a girl but her magical powers as well.

Back Cover Description:

Iolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation – or so she’s been told.  The one prophesied for years to be the savior of the Realm.  It is her duty and destiny to face and defeat the Bane, the most powerful tyrant and mage the world has ever known.  This would be a suicide task for anyone, let alone a reluctant sixteen-year-old girl with no training.

As I mentioned, the VOYA article is a well-developed look at the literature and the role of cross-dressing in the lives of teens. It has a pretty inclusive list and a great look at some further information about cross-dressing.  You can check it out on pages 10 through 14 in your October 2013 issue of VOYA.

Take 5: VOYA’s Nonfiction Honor List 2012

While historical fiction may be my Achilles hill (although I have now read 10 historical fiction titles this year – please hold your applause until the end of the post), nonfiction is something I like but just don’t ever read enough of.  As a reviewer for VOYA, they occasionally send me a nonfiction title to review.  For example, I reviewed Friend Me! Six Hundred Years of Social Networking in America by Francesca Davis Diapazza, which was a really interesting way to look at communication throughout history and compare it to our current social media craze.  I also just checked out and read Robotics: Discover the Science and Technology of the Future with 25 Projects by Kathy Ceceri, which had one of the best explanations of coding that I havw read and really helped the Tween understand what we were talking about.  Every year VOYA puts out its Nonfiction Honor List, and this year you can find it in the August 2013 issue of VOYA.  Here are 5 of my favorite titles from the list, which is always a really good list.

The End: 50 Apocalyptic Visions from Pop Culture That YOu Should Know About . . . Before It’s Too Late.  Zest Books, 2012

Okay, so this is a no brainer.  It’s about the apocalypse! It’s pop culture! And, of course, it is from Zest Books, whom I adore for their fun nonfiction titles.  This is a great resource for so many reasons.  Readers of all ages can flip through and learn some fun tidbits about the apocalypse as depicted in various books, movies, televisions shows, songs and more.  It’s easy to flip through casually.  BUT, as a librarian I can’t help but think of how I can use it to put together apocalypse themed displays, trivia contests, and social media contests.  With The Walking Dead season 4 getting ready to premiere (October 13th), it’s a great time to be plugging into pop culture at the library.  Plus, Catching Fire comes out in November.

What’s For Lunch? How Schoolchildren Eat Around the World by Andrea Curtis.  Red Deer, 2012.

Food is a huge issue, especially school food.  Today, 1 in 5 children go to bed hungry and for many American children, their only meals may be those that they have at school.  But is Ketchup a vegetable? (I say no by the way).  This is an interesting look at how children around the world eat lunch at school and how our school meals compare.  I am fascinated with Bento Box lunches from Japan.  I pack my daughters lunch each day and can assure you, they greatly pale in comparison.

Screen grab of a Bento box lunch image search on Google, aka not what my lunches look like

Learn to Speak Fashion: A Guide to Creating, Showcasing and Promoting Your Style by Laure deCarufel.  Owlkids, 2012.

Pair this with The Look Book, Fashion 101, and The Book of Styling (all from the style section on the Zest Books webpage), and you have a pretty thorough collection for budding fashionistas.  Learn to Speak Fashion provides details for putting together everything from your personal wardrobe to a runway show.  And we have already outlined some great fashion programs for you to use as a tie-in, see Project Fashion and Project Fashion, part 2.  And think of all the craft ideas you can do around fashion, from making Duct Tape accessories to upcyclying your jeans.

Rightfully Ours: How Women Won the Vote, 21 Activities by Kerrie Logan Hollihan.  Chicago Review, 2012.

I am the mom to 2 little girls and helping them understand how women used to be treated, how we got to the place that we are at, and how we need to keep fighting for equality (women still earn less then men for doing the same jobs, for example) is really important to me.  I don’t want them to take this life that they are living for granted and become so complacent that we lose the rights that we have gained.  So this book was a title that I jumped on.  It is chuck full of photographs, a timelines and even some hands-on activities (which make this a great title for schools).

The Secret Life of Money: A Kid’s Guide to Cash by Kira Vermond.  Owlkids, 2012.

I never carry cash so my kids think you can just whip out a magic plastic card and take things home from the store.  Financial literacy is so very important, and complicated.  The writing style of Secret Life is very irreverent, which makes it more accessible and less boring.  I remember economics from high school, it could be very dry.  The format of this title helps break down those barriers of interest while still providing the information teens need to become better financial stewards.

It was really hard for me to just pick five from the list.  In fact in this post I actually talk about and recommend 10 nonfiction titles great for tweens and teens.  I just wanted to point that out because I think I don’t talk about nonfiction enough.  Or read it enough.  Many of the titles I didn’t include were equally awesome and cover things like adventure (The Impossible Rescue, which is awesome), civil rights (We’ve Got a Job), and animals.  You can never go wrong with animals.    Check out your August 2013 VOYA for a complete look at the list.  Tell me in the comments, which titles would you add to your 2012 Nonfiction Honor List?