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Author: Libby Gorman

Chicago: Read Through the Windy City

Cloud Gate, aka "The Bean" in Millenium Park. Photo by Libby Gorman.
Cloud Gate, aka “The Bean” in Millenium Park. Photo by Libby Gorman.

Our family vacation this year was a road trip from our home in Maryland to Chicago, so I thought it would be fun to find books with a connection to this famous metropolis.

Al Capone Does My Shirts, by Gennifer Choldenko (Best Book for Young Adults 2005, 2005 Audiobook for Young Adults). Although NOT set in Chicago, but rather on Alcatraz Island, near San Francisco, the title character was of course famous for his illegal rule of the Windy City. Since we had the fun of eating deep-dish pizza at The Exchequer, known for being one of Capone’s haunts, I couldn’t Al_Capone_Does_My_Shirtsresist including this title. The story actually focuses on Moose, a twelve-year-old who’s forcibly moved to Alcatraz when his father takes on a guard job there, but the historical details provide some interesting insights on the era when Capone was active.

An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green (2007 Printz Honor Book). Ok, main character Colin Singleton starts this story by needing to get out of Chicago, after he’s dumped by his 19th girlfriend named Katherine. Still, between the road trip and the pictures of his early life around the University of Chicago, the book came to mind when I visited the city myself.

DivergentDivergent, by Veronica Roth (2012 Teens’ Top Ten, 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults). I admit it, I haven’t read this series yet. But now that I know it takes place not just in some abstract future, but in Chicago of the future, I will have to get started. If you are one of the few who, like me, haven’t read it yet, Divergent and its sequels follow the story of Tris, a girl who, on her sixteenth birthday decides to change her “faction” from Abnegation to Dauntless. Hunger Games-like tests follow, along with chilling revelations about her society. 

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Summer Thyme: Cooking Projects for Lazy Days

Photo by Fractalbee on Open Clipart.
Photo by Fractalbee on Open Clipart.

Sadly, I think the idea of the “lazy days of summer” is now pretty outdated, but many of us still see summer as the season to tackle projects we don’t have time for the rest of the year. For anyone who likes to take on cooking projects, the public library has a veritable treasure trove of books that can help you on your way.

The Project: Brush Up Basic Cooking Skills

A summer cooking project can be as simple as wanting to learn how to make a few simple meals from start to finish. In that case, here are some great all-purpose cookbooks:

How to Cook EverythingHow to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. A modern “how to,” that can both help you find something tasty for dinner and answer the question “what do I do with this?” for unfamiliar items in the CSA (community supported agriculture) box.

The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker. The classic American cookbook. I used to avoid it, thinking the recipes were too complex, but for many basic dishes, the techniques are surprisingly simple.

The Real Girl’s KitchenReal_Girl's_Kitchen by Haylie Duff. Based on her food blog, the actress introduces recipes for a variety of meal and snack options. Her gushing about kale might also make this a good choice for the next project on our list!

The Project: Try a New Diet

I’m not a fan of “dieting,” but I do sometimes explore ways to cook food that fit certain dietary choices or lifestyles. My favorite story about this is that I realized I needed to learn a couple vegan dishes when I had a vegetarian friend and a lactose-free friend over for the same meal. All my vegetarian dishes at that point involved cheese! If you are trying to change eating habits for health reasons, or just looking to expand your repertoire, here are some fun specialized cookbooks:

The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook by the America’s Test Kitchen editors. For those who need or want to be gluten free, but miss old favorites, the America’s Test kitchen team takes on the task of figuring out how to make them. America’s Test Kitchen is famous for making a dish dozens of times until they get it just right, so you can be sure these have been well-rehearsed.

teen_cuisineTeen Cuisine: New Vegetarian by Matthew Locricchio. Aimed at teens who are new to vegetarianism, this  option includes vegetarian versions of traditional “meat” dishes, like BLTS, nuggets, and sloppy joes, and also has a good selection of vegan recipes.

Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook veganomiconby Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. Like The Joy of Cooking for vegans, this includes “how to” sections on vegan ingredients, plus a wide range of recipes. 

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May Day!

CC Photo by Flickr user Pete Ashton: Bournville Maypole,
CC Photo by Flickr user Pete Ashton: Bournville Maypole

Happy 1st of May–otherwise known as May Day, or International Workers’ Day. May Day has long been celebrated as a spring holiday, with the most famous related celebrations including dancing around a May Pole or giving baskets of flowers to friends. While it’s not usually as large a celebration, many people still think of the first of May as a marker of the beginning of spring.

But May Day has become more than that. While most of us in the United States think of Labor Day (the holiday for celebrating the average working men and women) as the last gasp of summer in September, many countries celebrate their workers on May 1.

And finally, you’ve probably heard of “Mayday!” as the official radio cry for help. It comes from the French, “M’aidez!” (Help me!), and is used internationally in emergencies.

So here’s to May Day, and here are some books to help you celebrate:

handmaid's taleThe Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (Outstanding Book for the College Bound). In this now-classic dystopian story, a Christian theocracy has been set up in the former United States. Women are completely disenfranchised, and the protagonist, “Offred,” is a handmaid, a fertile woman assigned to an upperclass family for the sole purpose of bearing children. As the story unfolds, we learn that there is a resistance movement, called “Mayday.” Will Offred join the resistance? Will she even survive?

Mayday by Jonathan Friesen. This one has nothing to do with either holiday, or with radio cries for help, but with the title, I had to include it, right? And the first of May does play an important part of the story. Crow has sacrificed her life to protect her sister, Adele, from someone evil–but it didn’t work. She has the chance to return to her past, but only if she goes in someone else’s body. The outsider’s perspective forces Crow to re-evaluate what really happened.

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2015 Hub Reading Challenge Check-In #9

Not signed up for YALSA’s 2015 Hub Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post. Anything you’ve read since February 9 counts, so sign up now!

2015_reading_challenge_logo

How’s the reading going? I’ve got 11 finished, 2 more in-progress, and one waiting to start that just arrived from the library. I’ll still be tight to finish within the timeframe, but I’m feeling good overall.

Do you have any favorites emerging from those you’ve read? I don’t know if I have an overall favorite. I do know that both The Family Romanov and Half Bad have really stuck with me, and that The Crossover made me ache with both the beauty of the structure and the sadness of the story at the end of it (since it also won the Newbery Medal, I’m not surprised!). I know that I’ve been checking out the Great Graphic Novels, both because they go quickly and because I don’t generally read them on my own, and I haven’t found one that I LOVE yet, so I need to read more of those as I’m selecting books to get 25 in. And I know that I’m particularly enjoying savoring All the Light We Cannot See right now, since it’s a book that was already on my need-to-read list for this year, before I knew it was an Alex Award winner. What stories do you have to share about the books that have stuck with you so far?

Check in with how you’re doing, and find out what other Challenge readers are enjoying by commenting on the weekly check-in posts or participating on social media. You can use the hashtag #hubchallenge to post updates on Twitter or check out the 2015 Goodreads Hub Reading Challenge group.

2015 reading challenge logo - participantAs you all know, you have until 11:59 PM EST on June 21st to finish at least 25 challenge books (here’s the full list of eligible titles).   If you haven’t already, don’t forget to post the Participant’s Badge on your blog, website, or email signature, and, as always, if you have any questions or problems, let us know in the comments or via email.

If you are a particularly fast reader and have already completed the challenge by reading or listening to 25 titles from the list of eligible books, be sure to fill out the form below so we can send you your Challenge Finisher badge, get in touch to coordinate your reader’s response and, perhaps best of all, to notify you if you win our exciting grand prize drawing! Be sure to use an email you check frequently and do not fill out this form until you have completed the challenge by reading 25 titles.

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2015 Hub Reading Challenge Check-In #6

Not signed up for YALSA’s 2015 Hub Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post. Anything you’ve read since February 9 counts, so sign up now!

2015_reading_challenge_logo

I don’t know about anyone else, but as a slower reader, that June 21 deadline is starting to look awfully close already. I completed the Nonfiction part of the Morris/Nonfiction Challenge (and any reading done for either of those challenges counts, so make sure you include it in your total), but since then, I’ve only finished 3 other books. Yikes, I need to get a move-on!

What are your strategies for getting the reading done? I’m trying to balance books that just interest me with books I think I can read faster (hello, Great Graphic Novels and Quick Picks!). I’m also trying to always have one of the audiobooks going, because then I can read while I’m doing dishes, folding laundry, or driving. My problem then becomes getting immersed enough in any one story to finish it. I’m slowest at the start of a book, while I’m still getting to know the characters and the landscape, then, like a roller coaster, once I reach a certain zenith of interest in the story, I speed up toward the end. Half Bad was especially like this for me–I wasn’t sure what I thought of Nathan for quite awhile, and then I wasn’t sure I wanted to know what was going to happen, but once I got to the action climax, I found myself inventing chores so that I could listen to the ending.

As you are reading, don’t forget to use the hashtag #hubchallenge to share your progress on Twitter, or join the discussion over at the 2015 Goodreads Hub Reading Challenge group.

2015 reading challenge logo - participantRemember, you have until 11:59 PM EST on June 21st to finish at least 25 challenge books (here’s the full list of eligible titles).  These weekly check-in posts are a great place to track your progress, see how your fellow participants are faring, and get feedback on various titles, so don’t forget to read the comments and chime in!  If you haven’t already, don’t forget to post the Participant’s Badge on your blog, website, or email signature, and, as always, if you have any questions or problems, let us know in the comments or via email.

If you are a particularly fast reader and have already completed the challenge by reading or listening to 25 titles from the list of eligible books, be sure to fill out the form below so we can send you your Challenge Finisher badge, get in touch to coordinate your reader’s response and, perhaps best of all, to notify you if you win our exciting grand prize drawing! Be sure to use an email you check frequently and do not fill out this form until you have completed the challenge by reading 25 titles.  

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The Japanese American Incarceration in Youth Literature

"In biology class," by Ansel Adams at the Manzanar Relocation Center, obtained from http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/ppprs.00184/?co=manz
“In biology class,” by Ansel Adams at the Manzanar Relocation Center, obtained from http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/ppprs.00184/?co=manz

On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which allowed for military leaders to “prescribe military areas…from which any or all persons may be excluded, and with respect to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War…my impose in his discretion” (emphasis added). This order goes on to provide for furnishing food and other necessities for the residents of these designated areas, one large group of which was to be Americans of Japanese descent. Over 100,000 Japanese Americans were unjustly imprisoned as a result of this order, in what Martin W. Sandler describes as “American concentration camps.” Below are a few resources for learning more about this dark period in our history, both nonfiction and fiction:

Nonfiction

Dear Miss Breed: True Stories of the Japanese American Incarceration During World War II and a Librarian Who Made a Difference by Joanne Oppenheim (2007 Amelia Bloomer Young Adult Book List). In this particular slice of the Dear Miss Breedimprisonment history, Oppenheim tells about Clara Breed, a San Diego librarian who had befriended many young Japanese American patrons and who kept in touch with them during their incarceration. Excerpts from letters between the correspondents and from interviews the author conducted with camp survivors help tell this poignant story.

Farewell to Manzanar: A True Story of the Japanese American Experience During and After the World War II Internment by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and John D. Houston (1997 Popular Paperback for Young Adults). A now-classic memoir of one girl’s experience of being imprisoned at Manzanar War Relocation Center.

imprisonedImprisoned by Martin W. Sandler (2014 YALSA Nonfiction Award Finalist) In this overview of the Japanese American experience during World War II, Sandler purposefully uses strong language to point out the truth of that experience: unjust incarceration of civilians who had committed no crimes. Sandler relies on first-person accounts, but also draws the wider context of prejudice against Americans of Japanese descent even before the war and shows how the imprisonment affected Japanese Americans after they were released.

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YA/Picture Book Pairings: Holiday Reads

It’s almost Christmas–which means that many of us have a few days off to look forward to, hopefully with some reading time scheduled in. I always look forward to picking up one of my new Christmas gift books, but I also like to read and share with my kids fun seasonal stories at this time of year, too. Here are some possibilities for both you and the young kids in your life this holiday season:

Picture Books

captain_sky_blueCaptain Sky Blue. By Richard Egielski. Jack receives the pilot Captain Sky Blue (“Sky”) and a model plane kit one Christmas, and the two of them have great fun building and flying the plane. When a fun trick, an errant hat, and a bad storm blow Sky far away, he has a wild adventure getting back to Jack–and he saves Santa’s flight on the following Christmas along the way.

Hershel and the Hannukah Goblins. By Eric Kimmel, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. This is an older Hanukkah book–I remember reading it when I was a kid–but the pictures that earned Ms. Hyman a Caldecott Honor and the fun story about Hershel tricking goblins continues to make the book a fun choice.

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When Friends Become Family

As we draw close to Thanskgiving, we often turn our thoughts and plans to family. While there are YA characters who have strong families, astomorrow Jessica’s 2012 post  and Kelly’s post from last week shows, there are also lots of YA books where the protagonists have either lost family members, been separated from them, or never had a proper family to begin with. This doesn’t mean these characters have no family relationships, though. Lots of YA characters, when faced with a lack of a regular family, create their own. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Ellie and her friends in the Tomorrow series by John Marsden (the movie version was chosen as a Fabulous Film for Young Adults 2013). This action packed series, which starts with Tomorrow, When the War Began follows a group of Australian teenagers who go away for a camping trip and come back to find their country has been invaded. As the plot unfolds, the friends rely on each other more and more to be both fellow soldiers determined to take back their homes and a family that both provides emotional support and takes on the everyday tasks of making a place to live. I especially like that the last book in the series, The Other Side of Dawn, deals with the difficulty of reintegrating with their parents after the enforced separation and self-sufficiency, and the companion series, The Ellie Chronicles, continues to explore the toll that war takes on families, both given and self-made. Although I haven’t yet read them, I think Emmy Laybourne’s Monument 14 series (2014 Teens’ Top Ten) covers some of the same ground in terms of a family forged out of necessity. 
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