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Category Archives: Young Adult

#PresentationMode

PresentationMode

Yesterday was a good day. An early morning run, then a walk with the dog. A new dress for a presentation with a group of fabulous ladies: two school library system directors, one reading specialist and professor, and two school librarians (me included). It was a day designed to discuss books and empowering our readers at every level.

With a keynote that shared how our varying perspectives of how we interpret what we read and what we seek out is usually a very conscious decision. We bring an experience to any book we read that is different from the person sitting next to us and we should be conscious of that and respect the reader. And the message of her keynote led perfectly into my presentation that went next about young adult books since I chose to focus on names: who we are as individuals and striking up a conversation simply by getting to know someone by asking their name.

I covered names of my author crushes (James L. Swanson, Caitlin Doughty, Rae Carson to name a few), fabulous names for books (The Hate U Give, Dumplin’, Puddin’), moms (Allegedly, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter), dads (The Inexplicable Logic of My Life, My Brother’s Husband), girls (The Nowhere Girls, What Girls Are Made Of), boys (The Prince and the Dressmaker, Words on Bathroom Walls), and a whole lot of series, niche student readers, and popular titles with my students. Could I have talked the whole day away? Of course, but there were wonderful conversations interspersed in my my presentation about topics and challenges presented in books, getting books in the hands of readers using their subtopics as a way to diversify their options, and why series books are magic. You can find my presentation and the booklist here.

And once I was finished, the day was just warming up because then it moved on to middle grade titles and then elementary titles. But I’m at the high school, why would I need to hear about middle grade and elementary titles? Librarians should always know what’s new, popular, and discuss-able at every level in part because librarianship means finding the right book for the right reader or the reader’s needs. It might be a teenager wanting a book to read with their cousin, it could be a teacher wanting to use a picture book in their middle school classroom, and any host of possibilities in between.

It’s no secret that readers advisory is my favorite part of librarianship so a day like yesterday was just as good as spending the day booktalking. The next opportunity to share about books to professionals will be with the effervescent Stacey Rattner, my partner-in-crime aka The Leaping Librarian, in July and our theme is #getbooked.

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Are you ready for this conversation?

AreYouReady

 

2017-02-14 15.14.12-2There is no greater purpose for me than when someone, anyone, approaches me to ask for a book recommendation. Be it a student, a faculty member, or my own mother. Multiply this love by one thousand when I’m asked to present to others about books and reading.

This week I’ll be presenting with some of my favorite people: people who love books and spread the love and their appreciation for what books can do. Specifically children. But where do you begin to organize a presentation about them? You most certainly need a thread. A theme. A focus. Because without it I’d literally be a rambling, excitable mess spewing sunshine and rainbows for the printed page and those that write them.

Sometimes the theme is a given, like the hottest books of the year (or yet to come), sometimes like in past presentations they were about books that can inspire activism or that celebrate the vibrancy of people’s life experiences. This one didn’t necessarily have a theme other than to give librarians a chance to hear about books, whether they’ll be adding them to their collection, reading them, recommending them, or sharing them with content teachers. It’s also about celebrating what books can be for us.

After mulling it over, I settled on approaching my talk of young adult books with the theme of names, as in “what’s in a name?” Fabulous titles and authors, the books of my favorite students, books for a specific type of student all inspired by the fact that in a lineup that includes covering elementary, middle school, and high school…. I’m going first! If you’ll be at the presentation on Thursday, you’ll hear more about why I’ve decided to take this approach, but until then, keep reading! And if you won’t be at the presentation, keep reading! And then read my follow up post later this week with some of the titles I shared.

 

Sweet success

Sweet Success

Our high school hosted its first author visit in 2011. I’ll never forget it both as a first for the school and a first for my librarian career. It was also Ellen Hopkins (go big or go home, right?) And it just seemed to stick. I can honestly say that it is a part of our school culture now. It’s not if we have an author visit, it is when.

Jeff Zentner was our second author visit of this school year, with our first being Nic Stone as part of a partnership with The New York State Writer’s Institute. Zentner visited this past Thursday and resoundingly captivated our student and staff attendees with his stories from music, publishing, and law. It’s one thing to write for teens and it’s another to know what kind of stories they’ll be engaged in during school visits. Zentner certainly knew our teenagers, regaling them with snapshots of cases he’s tried, a few chords on a guitar, and a no-flash-photography cover reveal for his upcoming book Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee. In return, our students shared their concerns with writing their own stories, played their music for him, and queried him on politics. He spoke Portuguese with a student, signed posters inspired by his books, and sat “between two ferns” interview-style in a conversation about leading a creative life.

I took notes on inspiring messages he shared, teared up watching our students show off their sound recording studio and music, and smiled from ear to ear at another successful author event when I sipped my tea after the day was done in the darkness of my living room viewing pictures taken by our school’s communications staff.

Days before the visit, an art teacher shared a few images on her social media account with a group of students touring an art museum on a field trip. She quoted her colleague who said “this is why I became an art teacher” as she watched her students enjoying themselves at the museum. I had commented that we all need days like these. And not more than two days later, that day was again knocking at my door because nothing can beat the connection that students make with authors: it could be from reading their books. It could be the motivational messages imparted by them. It could be validating our teenagers’ struggles. Zentner’s words struck a chord when he mentioned that Toni Morrison was 39 when she published her first book, and she is a pillar in the literary world– writing knows no age. Readers want mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors. Everyone has a story to share.

Are author visits stressful? Absolutely. No matter how many we do, they’re still nerve-wracking. Are they worth it? Every last moment spent on them because I get to talk to the students for days and years after the visit about what we learned from their visit. I still reference Jason Reynolds’ message from his with us two years ago. Plus, I feel more connected to my colleague as we support each other in our efforts to build the best library program we can for our school because they deserve it.

As I close, I’ll share several of my favorite pictures courtesy of our communications person, Jake. And, a picture of a sweet treat I made to celebrate the sweet success of the visit.

 
 

Whatcha been reading?

WhatchaBeenReading

March is a month of uncertainty– between weather in upstate New York (a fourth Nor’easter possible next week?!) to party schedules with numerous birthdays (including my own two sons’) and things to plan and schedule. Yet no matter what, I manage to squeeze in some reading. This is certainly not a “six sensational” list nor a glowing review of a five-star book I recently read, instead a snapshot of what I’ve been reading just in case you were about to ask.

 

  • Some true crime… The Girl on the Velvet Swing: Sex, Murder, and Madness at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century by Simon Baatz
    • Who doesn’t love true crime, honestly? Give me documentaries, podcasts, and books about real life crime dramas and I’m hooked!
  • Some middle grade… Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly
    • Read this award-winner so that I can meet up with some librarians and eat some pizza and discuss some books #mykindofparty
  • Some re-tellings… The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty by Anne Rice writing under her pen name A.N. Roquelaure
    • Ask me to tell you this story in person
  • Some nonfiction… Noah Webster: Man of Many Words by Catherine Reef
    • Who doesn’t love someone who loves words? And to know that many people disliked him made it even more fascinating
  • Some graphic novels… Speak illustrated by Emily Carroll based on Laurie Halse Anderson’s 2001 classic and another The Breadwinner: A Graphic Novel based on Deborah Ellis’ series of the same name adapted from the animated film available on Netflix that I literally watched a week before this book was shipping to our library through Junior Library Guild
    • I get that visual content appeals sometimes to a different audience, but I’d say both graphic adaptations captured the mood of the original books in a way that makes me adore them both.
  • Some feel-good humor and hijinks that never gets old… Lumberjanes: The Moon is Up by Mariko Tamaki
    • Three words: hecka heart eyes
  • Some more “love and madness”… Mary’s Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lita Judge
    • I’ve already tweeted my adoration for the mashup of beautiful black and white images and the captivating story Judge shares about our favorite haunted woman who created a horror classic
  • Some women’s empowerment for Women’s History Month… What Would She Do?: 25 True Stories of Trailblazing Rebel Women by Kay Woodward
    • With a vivid cover and a unique voice, it stands above others being published in recent years focusing on women who made an impression

While these are just a handful, it’s a taste of the wide-ranging reading that I do daily because I follow my interests and passions, want to be sure I have books in my back pocket to recommend to my students, and heck, there’s just awesome books being published every day by awesome authors. If you want to follow every book I read, you can find me on Goodreads.

 

 

Let me profess my love

Let me profess my love

So far, I have read “The President Has Been Shot!”: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy, Chasing Lincoln’s Killer and now finished the newly published Chasing King’s Killer: The Hunt for Martin Luther King Jr.’s Assassin. Yes, James L. Swanson has written adult novels about similar topics, but as a high school librarian I’m more interested in the young adult novels or adaptations, though have it on my list to read the adult ones. I can only imagine how engaging the adult content is if the young adult content is any indication.

ChasingKingsKillerImage

What do I mean? Swanson writes the real life dramas as if they were heart-stopping tragic adventure stories, not real life acts of terror and rampage. In the case of each of his books, the parallel stories of (at least) two men on a collision course with one another is riveting. It’s the engaging prose and pictures. Swanson does not distract readers with footnotes or text boxes, instead it is the essence of wonderful narrative nonfiction because it flows seamlessly, uses the elements of story with command, and connects with readers.

 

As I finished Chasing King’s Killer, I thought out loud to anyone who would listen how tragic this decade must have seemed and hopeless Americans felt: In the span of a handful of years, there were assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy. Anyone who was standing up for something was torn down by violence. And, like an encyclopedia, I repeated “did you know?” facts to anyone in earshot.

  • Did you know that James Earl Ray was actually a prison escapee when a year later he took Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life?
  • Did you know that Martin Luther King, Jr. was stabbed with a letter opener at a book signing years before his assassination by a mentally unstable woman? He literally could have sneezed and died but in true calm fashion, he asked that the opener not be removed from his chest until he was at the hospital. Good thing because it was a hair away from nicking his aorta.
  • Did you know that James Earl Ray left the country (and went to more than one) before being apprehended?

I could go on. But it’s the presentation of the information in a balanced way that makes readers appreciate Swanson’s skill. You forget the history you know in order to be swept away by Swanson’s captivating storytelling.

Swanson is a much-recommended author in my high school library because of it’s content equal to it’s beauty. I hope to get a few minutes to meet him in less than a week at the American Library Association’s Midwinter conference where he’ll be on stage with a panel of authors celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. But I’ll have to get back my already lent copy of the most recent book from the people I’ve shared it with because he’s one author I’d love a John Hancock from.

He’s unforgettable and makes his stories this way as well. Post-It count: high.

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2018 in Adult, Authors, Nonfiction, Young Adult

 

I Maya want more from Samira Ahmed

LoveHateFilters

Coming off of reading American Panda at the end of 2017, I stayed up past my bedtime to finish the last chapters of Love, Hate, and Other Filters which I consider its sister book or really: if you like this, you’ll love this. They feature female main characters struggling with the traditional beliefs of their parents’ non-native backgrounds and the fast-moving changes that they believe raising their child in America is causing. You can see my homage to American Panda here, but now I’m going to gush about Love, Hate, and Other Filters. Bonus points that I discovered through some Twitter conversation that Samira Ahmed and Gloria Chao are friends and neighbors!

LoveHateOtherFiltersOf course again, there are wonderfully realized secondary characters to talk about including the two boys in Maya’s life: the “good on paper” older Indian college student, Kareem, and the white all-American classmate that she’s been pining away for, Phil. There’s Maya’s best friend, Violet, Maya’s dentist parents, and Hina, the coolest aunt ever who has deigned to swim against the current and be an Indian American woman who has forged a career in graphic design but has not married and has never had children. But, I digress and focus on the most memorable character, the main character Maya who is in her senior year and feeling the pressure from family to go to one college and study a certain thing rather than attend another college in another state and pursue her passion of film-making. Understandably, her parents moved to the United States for more opportunities for her, but they still have traditional values and want to keep Maya safe. So whether it’s her post-graduation plans or her love life, Maya is confused and needing to work through her doubts but empower her needs and wants. Her complexity of feelings and emotions are what drive readers to follow Maya on her journey.

That journey, especially as it relates to her parental problems is by far one of the most realistic portrayals featured in the memorable quote:

“The best way to get out of this conversation is to keep my mouth shut. I totally know this, yet apparently I prefer to bang my head against the wall over and over because I think arguing can change my mother’s mind. Note to self: It can’t. It never has.”

Yeah, I remember those teenage thoughts. I know my own kids who are not yet teenagers likely think this. Every teenager thinks this and yet, the arguing still happens because everyone involved in stubborn.

And while there are any number of scenes from the book that are memorable for their romance, their realism, their beauty, I think the scene that portrays a dark reality of hatred toward Muslims is the most memorable scene. I will not go into details because readers must experience it for themselves (actually several different times throughout the story), but Ahmed builds a secondary story from intermittent italicized pages that collide with Maya’s story in a powerfully contemporary way.

Ultimately, I dislike insta-romances and while Ahmed has a saccharine romance unfolding, it was not so unbelievable. Rather, it provided a juxtaposition to the harsher elements of tradition and Islamaphobia that Maya experiences. There’s commentary on fashion, school, friendship– literally everything that exists in a teenage world. It has a calming effect but serves as a lesson and discussion for any book club wanting to dive in.

And it is so worthy of being a book club book. It hits shelves on January 16th and when American Panda arrives on shelves on February 6th, book them close together, like an awesome book pairing of peanut butter and jelly, chocolate and more chocolate, or milk and cookies (or in Maya’s case- chocolate cake).

 

Covers to keep you warm or make you cold

CoverstoKeepyouWarmorMakeyouCold

Books covers to warm you up… 

AmericanPanda

Who doesn’t love hot chocolate with heaps of whipped cream?

American Panda by Gloria Chao

Patina

Running will certainly keep you warm.

Patina by Jason Reynolds

SunnySideUp

So will basking in the sun while sitting on a pool floatie like our title character, Sunny!

Sunny Side Up by Jennifer Holm

Invisible

But a flame can only do so much, I’m sure you’d rather than a heater than a match. Invisible by Pete Hautman

90DaysofDifferent

And there’s only one thing that will get anyone thinking of summer and that’s ice cream. 90 Days of Different by Eric Walters

Book covers to keep you cold… 

AndWeStay

Even in tights, wearing a skirt in winter is it’s own kind of chilly. And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard

TheSnowChild

A little girl with snow in her her bones and beautiful (but still cold) lashes lined with frost running around the Alaskan wilderness.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Peak

I make sure I’m bundled up on my way to the car, but Peak Marcello needs more to summit Mount Everest, that’s for sure.

Peak by Roland Smith

Winterdance

And speaking of extreme sports, what about the Iditarod that Gary Paulsen ran and wrote about several times?

Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod by Gary Paulsen

IfYouComeSoftly

It looks beautiful, only if you’re not standing out in it.

If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson