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Author: Annie Schutte

Trauma-Rama! Embarrassing Stories from Your Favorite YA Characters

by Flickr user mloberg

April is National Letter Writing Month … and National Humor Month. We’ve combined the two to commemorate one of the most sacred teen traditions: embarrassing stories!

Do you ever feel like you’re the only one who’s peed their pants in front of the cutest girl in school? Think again. These embarrassing stories will make her laugh so hard that she’ll pee her pants in front of you! YA characters may seem airbrushed and perfect on the book cover, but beneath that glossy jacket they’re just like you and me. Take a look for yourself … and see if you can guess their true identities. (Check out the key at the bottom for the answers.)

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Cassandra Clare by the Numbers

Clockwork PrincessIt’s hard to believe that Cassandra Clare’s first book, City of Bones, came out less than six years ago on March 27, 2007. Oh, how far Ms. Clare has come — from writing Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings fanfiction online to the release today of her eighth book, Clockwork Princess, which has a staggering first print run of one million copies.

Cassandra Clare has had a pretty big year. Clockwork Princess has seen one of the most ambitious and creative marketing strategies to date. Hype over The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones movie release is already simmering in anticipation for August. And Clare has announced that she has started work on a new trilogy set in Los Angeles. Read on to find out everything you need to know about the books and upcoming movie.

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Publishers Speak Out About Diversity: An Interview with the CBC Diversity Committee

CBC Diversity badgeLibrarians care about diversity in children’s books — quite a lot, it turns out. But they’re not the only ones. Many publishers, authors, readers, and librarians are equally impassioned about the idea of promoting a more diverse body of literature for children and young adults.

I wrote a post in December on whitewashed, obscured, and ambiguous representations of race on young adult book covers, “It Matters If You’re Black or White: The Racism of YA Book Covers,” and a follow-up piece on “Showing Our True Colors: YA Covers That Got It Right in 2012.” The response was stunning. The posts garnered dozens of thought-provoking comments from authors, readers, librarians, and publishers. What I took away from reading these responses is that the issue is a complex one, rife with frustration and misunderstandings. The first step forward is honest and collaborative communication between those who care about the issue.

A group of publishing professionals came together just over a year ago to start this process among themselves. CBC Diversity — an initiative of the national, nonprofit trade association of children’s book publishers, the Children’s Book Council — had representatives speak at the ALA Midwinter conference in Seattle in January about their mission to promote diversity at every level of the publishing industry. They shared with me that the Hub posts in December sparked discussion around their committee table, and they agreed to keep the conversation going by letting me interview them.

CBC Diversity is excited to start talking with librarians about these tough diversity issues, and their interview, posted verbatim below, covers topics ranging from their perspective on the challenges of publishing a more diverse body of children’s literature, how to prevent stereotyping, and how characters are depicted on book covers. Hopefully this can be the start of many productive conversations to come between librarians, readers, and publishers.


ALA Midwinter: The Rise, Fall, and Trends in YA Comics

Wonder Woman reading poster
Wonder Woman Read poster available from the ALA Store!

The year 1953 was the height of comics in the United States. Children that year bought 1 billion new comics — that’s just over 30 comics per school-aged child. Most comics sold at 10 cents a copy, had a first run of around 500,000 copies, and would end up in the hands of five to eight different children per copy. Want to take a guess at how that compares to the top-selling children’s book that year? Black Stallion Returns was the top-selling book in 1953, and it sold only 60,000 copies.

Yet the American comics industry as we know it today — and that includes all types of graphic novels and comics and manga — sold only 80 million new comics in 2012. That’s fewer comics sold than in a single month of 1953.

This rise and fall of comics in the United States was the topic of an outstanding talk by Carol L. Tilley on Saturday, January 26 at the ALA Midwinter meeting. She delved into the reasons for the decline in comics readership, the state of the comics industry today, and the relationship between librarians and comics over the years.


Morris Award Finalist: After the Snow by S. D. Crockett

After the Snow by S. D. CrockettThe William C. Morris Award celebrates new writers in young adult literature by honoring outstanding works by authors who are writing for teens for the first time. S.D. Crockett’s After the Snow is rightfully one of this year’s finalists.

After the Snow takes place in a future ravaged by climate change. The melting polar ice caps have cooled the oceans, changing the currents and plunging the world into a kind of eternal winter. The winters are astonishingly brutal and last nine months out of the year. Society as we know it has devolved, and the West has disintegrated. China and Russia are now the dominant world powers, and those who once lived in a world of air conditioning and supermarkets now have to learn to live without electricity, running water, or modern conveniences.

Most now live in extreme poverty in cities clenched tightly by the fascist hand of the government. But some choose to live illegally and off the grid in the wilderness, relearning how to hunt, grow food, and live off the land. Willo is part of one such family — until he comes back from a hunt one day to find his entire family gone.

Willo’s search for his family and the truth behind what happened to him takes him on a long adventure across mountains and to the city and through valleys and out to the ocean. Below is my attempt at creating a map of the world that Willo travels through on his journey. The book’s language and signifiers indicate that the story takes place in a future version of the United Kingdom. The town and landmark names pinpoint the wilderness even more specifically as being in and around Snowdonia National Park in Wales and the city as being northeast in Manchester, England.

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Showing Our True Colors: YA Covers That Got it Right in 2012

Publishing companies aren’t putting out enough YA titles that feature protagonists of color. And when they do, some book covers try to hide or obscure the characters’ race by showing them in silhouette or in shadow, or at times whitewashing them completely. Even the most diverse library collections sometimes look homogenous when you just see the covers. Don’t believe me? Check out my post from last week: “It Matters If You’re Black or White: The Racism of YA Book Covers.”

The problem is insidious, but it’s not completely pervasive, as many of you pointed out in the post comments last week. There are a lot of publishers, authors, and books that have no problem putting people of color on the covers of their books. So I just wanted to take a moment to recognize and celebrate those folks who understand how important it is for everyone to be able to see their own identity validated on the cover of a book. Here are some books covers that got race right in 2012.

Ichiro by Ryan InzanaA.D.D.: Adolescent Demo Division by Douglas RushoffNever Fall Down by Patricia McCormickBoy21 by Matthew Quick


It Matters If You’re Black or White: The Racism of YA Book Covers

Whitewashing in YAMost of the time, I love young adult literature and am proud to be a YA librarian. But there’s usually a moment once a month when I feel sick, tired, and embarrassed to be working with YA books for a living — and that’s when I flip through my stack of review journals and see a menagerie of gorgeous white girls staring back at me from the covers of upcoming releases.

If a YA book features a white, female protagonist (and this accounts for a not insignificant portion of YA released each year), it seems inevitable that the book cover will display an idealized and airbrushed masterpiece of her on the cover. And when a YA book actually does have a protagonist of color, too often one of three things seems to happen:

  1. The cover is “whitewashed” and shows a Caucasian model instead of a person of color;
  2. The cover depicts someone whose race seems purposefully ambiguous or difficult to discern; or
  3. The character is shown in silhouette

These forms of racism on the part of publishers are unacceptable. And the fact that it is so rampant within the young adult publishing industry seems particularly despicable. The first step toward change is awareness, and so below I’ve tried to pull together a collection of examples of these forms of subtle and not-so-subtle racism. If you have other examples, please share them in the comments.


The Next Big Thing in Fantasy

YALSA’s upcoming YA Literature Symposium will explore the future of young adult literature. The symposium begins on November 2nd, but we wanted to get a head start here at The Hub, so we’re devoting October to 31 Days of the Next Big Thing. Each day of the month, we’ll bring you forecasts about where YA literature is headed and thoughts on how you can spot trends and predict the future yourself.

swordThere were a few years there where fantasy seemed like it was on the outs, relegated to the back table with the Dungeons and Dragons players and fairy-tale enthusiasts. There were a few breakthrough series such as the Eragon books, but for the most part, supernatural titles featuring vampires, wizards, zombies, fairies, and werewolves were taking up prime real estate on library shelves.

The lackluster popularity of fantasy has started to shift over the past few years with authors such as Kristen Cashore and John Flanagan rising in popularity. But even now, the top titles on Amazon in the Teens Fantasy category are all occupied by science fiction and supernatural blockbusters. That’s all about to change. Here’s why:

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A National Book Festival Battle Plan

The National Book Festival has always been an emotional experience for me. The librarian in me can’t help but get choked up at the sight of thousands of people crowding into over-stuffed tents and waiting in hours-long lines to see their favorite authors. But the DC local in me takes one look at the crowds and wants to scream and run away.

I decided that this year would be my learning year. I spent the day Saturday wandering through every tent, browsing the events, and putting together my strategy for how I would dominate the event next year. Here’s what I came up with. (Please share your tips and tricks in the comments.)

1. Bring snacks. And water. And maybe a catheter. I’ve been living in DC for seven years now, and I still have no idea how you get a seat in the Teens & Children tent. My powers of logic have led me to believe that the people with seats must volunteer to help set up the chairs Saturday morning and then never get up. Ever. For anything. They all have Mary Poppins bags filled with everything they need to sustain them for 48 hours, or they fast for two days before the festival so that all bodily functions stop. It’s the only explanation. Here is what the tent looked like 10 minutes before the end of Walter Dean Myers’ presentation:

over-crowded National Book Festival tent

Here is my view for the Lois Lowry presentation 15 minutes later:

the backs of a bunch of people I don't know

Somewhere in front of that impenetrable wall of people, I’m told there are a couple hundred chairs.


All I Need to Know I Learned from YA Fiction: Back to School Advice From Your Favorite Books

Cafeteria TrayDo you feel it? That unique, electric blend of optimism, nervousness, and possibility that comes with knowing your immediate future is about to be skyrocketed or demolished by the perceptions of a few hundred teenagers and a handful of burned out teachers. That’s right — the summer is coming to an end, and the real New Year is just about to start: the new school year.

So put down the Magic 8 Ball and start taking your fate into your own hands. This can be your year — the year that trigonometry finally starts to make sense, everyone finally notices how hot you are, and your parents push your curfew back to midnight. But if you’re serious about turning things around, you’re going to need some advice from the oracle: young adult fiction.

The first 48 hours are critical. Starting a new school is a blank slate for your identity. But there’s always going to be a gauntlet of subpar friend leeches waiting to suck you into a social black hole. It’s important to walk through the doors with an idea of who you want to be so that you can pick the right friends, clubs, and, of course, a romantic interest to match. When you’re standing alone in the cafeteria, it’s tempting to sit down with the first group that will take you, but settling can stunt your growth. Don’t be afraid to snub a few over-eager friends before settling on the right match for your new life. — The Big Crunch by Pete Hautman