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Author: Rebecca O'Neil

Rebecca (Becky) is a Collection Development Librarian at the Westerville Public Library in Ohio. Her interests include art, keeping the largest to-read list Goodreads has ever known, and searching for a dash of magical realism in everything.

“Books Where Stuff Happens”: An Exploration of Hi/Lo Books

“Books where stuff happens…but easy to read. Not a book for kids.” This is a common readers’ advisory question for reluctant or struggling teen readers (and their adults). Such readers often feel keenly the gap between the books they are able to read, and the topics they *want* to read. Must they read from the children’s section, with its juvenile topics and the same titles they would have picked in grade school? Not at all. This is a gap that hi/lo books aim to fill.

The term “hi/lo,” or “high/low,” refers to books that have a high interest level and a low vocabulary or readability level. These books won’t intimidate those reading below their grade level, but will not bore them to death, either. Michael Sullivan’s 2012 School Library Journal article is a great primer for this topic, touching on both the subjective (what makes a book really interesting?) and the scientific (what are the readability formulas used by hi/lo publishers?).

Resources to Help Teens Choose a Career

It’s the time of year when many schools and groups focus on careers and career readiness. I don’t know about you, but I always felt dismay when asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” or “What do you want to do for a job?” I think many teens feel the same pressure to choose, perhaps long before fully knowing themselves and their options. Here are some titles for considering the possibilities.

Books to help teens choose a career

 

careers the graphic guideCareers: The Graphic Guide to Finding the Perfect Job for You by Sarah Pawlewski, consultant

In this one-volume, comprehensive guide, each career’s two-page spread includes what skills and interests would lead to this career, related careers (and their page numbers in the book), and something I’ve never seen in a career book, “The Realities.” For instance, the photographer realities are, “Many hours are spent editing photos rather than shooting. Networking and building a reputation are key to having a successful career.”

 

encyclopedia of careersEncyclopedia of Careers and Vocational Guidance from Ferguson’s

This solid career reference set expands with each edition, including the changes brought about by social media and digital technology. Interested in different career tracks? Not sure what a job title means? There are over 820 different job descriptions here.

Booklist: New Nonfiction Science

It’s been a very science-y week so far! The Hub kicked off Monday with funny science books for teens, and yesterday was the delicious Pi Day (not to mention Einstein’s birthday). Today I’ve got a sampling of some new nonfiction science books available for teen readers. For information on STEAM vs. STEM programming, check out this post on the YALSAblog, or for more inspiration on science programming, check out Anyone Can Do Science! which has lots of fun ways to incorporate science into your regular programming schedule.

Put on your lab coats and take a look — and don’t miss a PDF of this list at the end.

New nonfiction science for teens

 

The Story of Seeds: From Mendel’s Garden to Your Plate, and How There’s More of Less to Eat Around the World, by Nancy F. Castaldo

Discusses the impact of seeds on food supply, and their importance in everything from biodiversity to the global economy.

It’s Getting Hot in Here: The Past, Present, and Future of Climate Change, by Bridget Heos

Examines the history of climate change on our planet, including humanity’s role and current politics, and how young readers can take action. To add to an environmental discussion, pair with Fuel Under Fire: Petroleum and Its Perils, by Margaret J. Goldstein.

Redefining Storytelling: A Wattpad Primer

wattpad logo

I have to admit it — I’m a Wattpad newbie. Even though this online story-sharing community has been around since 2006, it’s stayed on the edge of my radar, something I’d always planned to investigate further if I met a lot of teens who were into it. Then, I heard about Anna Todd’s After series and its beginnings as a Wattpad story with one billion — billion! — reads on the site. Clearly, readers were into Wattpad, and I needed to find out more.

In perfect timing, I read on the Hub about YALSA’s Twist Fate Challenge, a partnership with the Connected Learning Alliance, DeviantArt, National Writing Project, and Wattpad. The Feb. 18 webinar, “Storytelling and Making Redefined: Get to Know the Wattpad Community,” is available to view online, and features input from Jing Jing Tan, the Community Engagement Lead at Wattpad, as well as Kassandra Tate, a teen Wattpad user with over 21K readers.

The video is long, but an excellent overview of Wattpad’s features and teen appeal: storytelling that is multi-format, multimedia, and social. (In-line comments and chatty author’s notes erase any space between writer and reader, and comments often influence the direction of a serialized piece.) At 18:43, host (and YALSA president!) Candice Mack asks what type of support educators and libraries can provide to Wattpad users. Kassandra notes Wattpad’s ease of providing feedback and challenge exercises, and Jing Jing points out Wattpad’s untapped potential by educators as a network for consumption, collaboration, and creation.

Line by Line: Poetry in Teen Fiction

Poetry in YA

Poetry has been figuring in a lot of teen literature lately. Have you noticed? I don’t mean novels in verse, quality as some recent titles have been. Nor do I mean poetry collections for teens (a la Poisoned Apples or Paint Me Like I Am). The Guardian noticed this poetry trend, too, pointing out a few examples in a recent article, and asked its readers for more.

I liked how the article noted authors’ uses of poetry, such as Meg Cabot beginning the chapters of Avalon High with stanzas from The Lady of Shalott. These stanzas just happen to give a clue about the characters’ identities. The article also mentioned a similar use of poetry in Clockwork Angel, by Cassandra Clare: the lines that open the chapters are all from poets who lived in the time of the novel’s setting, late-19th century London.

Throwback Thursday, Book Cover Edition: Everything Old Is New Again

It’s a truism of reading that books are judged by their covers, no matter how much we feel in our hearts that we shouldn’t be swayed by looks. In my experience, teen readers feel especially passionate about this. Shabby book? No way. Juvenile or dated-looking cover? Pass! So I pay extra attention when older books are issued with fresh new covers. In the visual world of teen marketing, it can mean a new lease on life for many older books, and discovery by a whole new generation. Here are just a few examples:

face on the milk carton pair
1990 design vs. 2012 design

 

forever pair
1975 design vs. 2014 design

Display Idea: First in Series

Don’t get me wrong — color-themed book displays? I love them. They’re eye-catching, easy to make, and easy to refill. But the most successful super-simple display we’ve had outside of those? Book #1 of the series.

Display

My library recently undertook a project to add the spine label “Book #1 of the series” to all of the series openers in our teen and adult fiction. Since the fiction books are shelved by author and then title, an ordered series is usually out of order, and a reader browsing is hard-pressed to figure out where to begin. Many teens bring an intriguing book to the desk to ask where it falls in the series, only to discover that it’s book 3 or 4. The label has made finding the beginning a snap for those who wander the shelves.

Cross-Unders Revisited: Great Teen Books for Tween Readers

Today’s post is co-written by myself and Kenzie Moore. Kenzie is a student in her final semester of Syracuse University iSchool’s MLIS program, where she’s been focusing on teen services in between watching episodes of Teen Wolf and going to One Direction concerts. You can connect with her on Twitter.

It feels like every day we meet new tweens who are reading above their grade level and seeking recommendations. Cross-unders, or teen books with tween appeal, were well-covered in this 2013 Hub post from Erin Bush and Diane Colson. The YALSA Blog chimed in with reasons why these books are an important part of a teen collection serving reluctant and ELL teen readers as well as advanced tweens and younger teens. Knowing how frequently we search for titles to fit these diverse needs, Kenzie and I offer some additional cross-under suggestions. Feel free to add your own in the comments!

Cross-Unders Collage for the Hub

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie — 14-year-old Junior is going to do something he thought was impossible: he’s going to leave the Spokane Indian reservation where he lives. Not permanently or anything, but he deserves better than decades-old math books, and he’s mad about it. Mad enough to do something. Sherman Alexie’s highly-buzzed book deals with some complicated topics: bullying, racism, alcoholism, but it also deals with what it is like to find your own path to walk as a young person. That, combined with the humor in Junior’s voice and his drawings that pepper the pages, is going to make this a high-appeal book for readers just starting to dip their toes into the teen waters.

Not Just for Adults: Books that Resonate with the Teen Reader

Today’s post is written by teen Jayla Johnson. In her own words: Jayla is an avid reader, and her favorite type of books involve anything with fantasy, dystopias or science fiction. Jayla loves writing nonfiction, giving out recommendations and talking about books; she is really excited to be a guest writer on The Hub, especially since it combines all of these things. She will be attending Denison University this fall, majoring in biology and minoring in literature studies.

Thank you, Jayla, for sharing your thoughts with us! -Rebecca O’Neil, currently reading The Marvels, by Brian Selznick.

As a long time reader, I’ve always felt that in order to truly appreciate books you have to explore and read all types of them: children’s, young adult, and the adult genre all hold gems that deserve to be discovered and treasured. I only read kid- and teen-related books up until I was around fourteen or fifteen; the idea of taking a plunge in the adult fiction section before that was too scary to even imagine. Even when my interest in adult books finally peaked, I was still slightly at loss as to what books to try, and wondered how different they could be. It wasn’t until I read Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (2008 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults) that I realized, perhaps quite obviously, adult fiction could posses just as interesting and page-turning stories as teen books. And, suddenly, my entire world of book reading possibilities expanded tremendously.

For teens who have not yet ventured to reading non-YA books, or reading them for fun and not for school, it’s easy to get stuck in the thought that adult books are only composed of either dusty, boring classics or lengthy, seemingly unobtainable novels (I’m looking at you War and Peace). Fortunately, that’s far from the truth. There are countless books geared to adults that can generate just as much, if not sometimes more, interest in a teen reader.

Whether you have already read several books from the adult genre or are searching for your first to try, check out the list below of seven books that offer exciting and mature plots, intricate characters and absorbing settings. Ranging from romance to fantasy to poetry, these books, while marketed towards adults, offer plenty of appeal to teenagers.

Parasite – Mira Grant

parasiteIt is the year 2027 and all diseases have been eradicated thanks to a genetically modified parasite created by SymboGen Cooperation. Once the tapeworm is inserted into the human being, that person begins a life guarded from illness. Behind the success of SymboGen, however, lies deep secrets that the company is hiding. Secrets that may come to light as, all around, the very parasites put in to protect people are now the ones taking over their lives. With zombie and dystopian stories more popular than ever, and especially beloved by teenagers, Grant’s Parasite is a great addition.

The Rosie Project Graeme Simsion

rosie projectWhat would you do for love? Professor Don Tillman is an awkward, and incredibly smart genetics professor who decides to create a scientific formula to find his perfect wife. Despite being brilliant, he is clueless when it comes to love and is mostly socially disliked by both his peers and the general public. During his hunt for a wife, proclaiming it as “the Wife Project”, Tillman sets to stick to his strict rules that together form his ideal picture of a wife, yet realizes along the way that, a lot of times, the best people come unexpectedly. Similar to a lot of teen romance books, The Rosie Project features an unlikely couple falling in love, and the trials and trumps of discovering that perfect person the character was destined to be with.

Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan

s-typeopts13Among the fictional land of Avryn, Hadrian Blackwater and Royce Melborn make their living working for the various nobles and aristocrats. Hadrian, an adept mercenary, and Royce, an expert thief, are hired for a seemingly normal job until they suddenly find themselves charged with regicide and arrested. Now, on the run from authorities and angry over whoever framed them, Hadrian and Royce set out to seek revenge. What starts as a straightforward mission ultimately leads the two partners in crime to ancient conspiracies and on a quest that could alter their whole world. While this book has its plenty share of elves, goblins, and exciting sword-fighting scenes, the witty banter and faithful friendship between Hadrian and Royce are what sets this fantasy book apart from others.

No Matter the Wreckage by Sarah Kay

no matter the wreckagePerhaps you might recognize her name from her infamous TED talk or spoken poetry performances. If not, Kay’s debut fills in for the moments and locations where it’s not possible to be consumed live. She writes about love, family, traveling, history, friends and dozens of other topics in this debut. Each poem various in length, but they all pack an emotional punch, equally raw and honest.