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Author: Miriam Wallen

Miriam Wallen is a Teen Librarian at the Lawrence Public Library in Lawrence, KS.

Fiction and Non-Fiction for fans of The Emperor of Any Place by Tim Wynne-Jones

Tim Wynne-Jones’ latest work The Emperor of Any Place, has popped up on a lot of recommendation lists recently. It is one of YALSA’s 2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults, is one of School Library Journal’s best books of 2015, and is on Horn Books fanfare list. Any Place has a great deal to recommend it and, like many works with an historic element, has the potential to awaken a desire to learn more in its readers.

In Any Place Wynne-Jones delves into such topics as the Pacific Theater in World War II, the mythology of Japan, the experience of that war from the viewpoint of both Japanese and American soldiers, and relationships ranging from those of enemies in battle to beloved family members. It will appeal to those with an interest in history,  as well to those who enjoy both realistic dramas, mysteries, and magic realism.

The Emperor of Any Place tells the story of a 16-year-old boy named Evan whose father has very unexpectedly passed away.  With little other choice, he contacts his estranged grandfather for help. At the same time he discovers a copy of the diary of a Japanese soldier stranded on a mysterious island in the Pacific during WWII, which Evan’s father was reading just before his death. The diary’s prologue, as well as some of Evan’s father’s last words, hint that his grandfather may have played a sinister role in the author’s life. Evan makes the decision to hide the diary and read it in secret while at the same time clashing dramatically with his militaristic grandfather and dealing with his grief.

The vivid and exciting diary that comprises at least half of the novel grabs a reader’s attention and makes them wonder about what is happening beyond the purview of the story. Was the battle of Tinian really as it was described? Did Japanese civilians and soldiers really believe that the Americans would commit horrible acts of savagery, such as eating babies? And are the strange and terrible creatures that haunt the island made up just for this novel, or do they have a basis in Japanese mythology?

To answer these questions, readers may consult a number of non-fiction resources that can help to answer these questions and more. While the uniqueness of the story makes it hard to find solid read-alikes, I have also included a few fiction novels that might be good follow-ups for fans of Wynne-Jones’ compelling story.

Non-Fiction Resources on WWII in the Pacific

More than half of Any Place is composed of diary accounts of the lives of Isamu Oshiro and Derwood Kraft, both of whom are stranded on the same island in the Marianas. For those students who fall in love with this more personal and individual approach to history, there are a number of other accounts, both in print and available online, with which they might like to follow up.

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Booklist: Nonfiction Adventures in Space

There is always some exciting news being made in the areas of space exploration, astrophysics, and the International Space Station, but it is only occasionally that this news is able to make it on to mainstream headlines.

This has very much been the case recently with the announcement of the possible discovery of a ninth planet  in our solar system (sadly, not Pluto.) The last few weeks have also witnessed the blooming of one of the first flowers ever grown entirely in space,  and a rather fantastic crash landing of a SpaceX reusable rocket that is used to restock the International Space Station.

Whether you’re hoping to provide encouragement to a future astrophysicist or NASA engineer, or entertainment for a teen who just saw the amazing footage of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 explosion and wants to know more, there are a great number of space related non-fiction resources out there that can compliment their specific interests.

Two great options for the visual learners and also those who are looking for a friendly introduction to topics in space exploration are Space:Information Graphics by Simon Rogers and Rocket Science for the Rest of Us by Ben Gilliland.
science but not as we know it  space information graphics

Space: Information Graphics can serve as a light and friendly introduction to the subject, especially for younger readers.  The infographics themselves, illustrated by Jennifer Daniel, are eye-popping. In glaring electric greens, oranges and pinks, each portion of Space: Information Graphics addresses a different topic, ranging from types of galaxies to the biographies of important personages in astronomy.

Students who have learned some of the topics discussed in school will be glad for the refresher (now that their interest has been captured outside of class), and for those who are new to the subject it will serve as a fun and unusual way to explore their budding interest.

Rocket Science for the Rest of Us: Cutting-edge Concepts Made Simple by Ben Gilliland, while still a hugely visual resource, goes into much greater depth than could be achieved in Space: Information GraphicsRocket Science offers very funny, light overviews of a number of heavy topics and is a great go-to resource to help readers gain a basic understanding of everything from black holes, to the search for alien life, to exploring Mars and much more. One of my favorite sections is the “bluffer’s guide” to the Higgs boson (an elementary particle in the Standard Model of particle physics), which gives a reader just enough information to have some idea of why it is so important and, just maybe, to have a conversation with someone about it.

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Reading Through Your Doctor Who Slump

The series finale of Doctor Who has just happened and any staunch Whovians in your teen section are probably seeking a way to fill the gaping hole in their lives (until they finally get to see the Christmas Special!) Soon they’ll be checking out DVDs or heading to Netflix to watch old episodes in the series, hoping to pass the time until “The Husbands of River Song.”

To help make the wait until the Christmas Special more bearable, here are a few book recommendations that can ease the transition from Doctor Who back to the rest of the world.


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2015 YALSA Young Adult Services Symposium: Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Saturday afternoon I attended the session Teamwork Makes the Dream Work: Connecting School and Public Libraries to Enhance Teen Services presented by school and public library representatives from Nashville who have been involved in amazing collaboration since 2009. It was in that year, thanks to then Mayor Karl Dean, that Limitless Libraries was started.

Limitless Libraries

Limitless Libraries (LL) is a program that seeks to bring together school and public libraries in order to provide students with access to the widest range of resources possible. The program not only allows for students at public schools to easily share materials, but also provides access to a much larger materials budget that has allowed school librarians to vastly improve their collections.

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Non-Fiction for Halloween

I don’t know about you, but Halloween has always been one of my favorite times of year. This was especially true when I was a teen and not just because I got to put on a crazy costume and run wild, although that was a big part of it, but also because of the spooky atmosphere and the chance to indulge in scary stories and movies.

Creepy Nonfiction for Halloween
CC Image via Flickr user Alejandro Tuñón Alonso

Thinking back on teen me’s favorite Halloween stories, though, I realized that it never occurred to me to look for something scary in the non-fiction section of the library.To help save the teens in my library from such a mistake I started wandering around the non-fiction shelves in our library and came up with a lot of fun non-fiction materials that show that truth can be even creepier than fiction. Here are just a few examples.

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It’s Not Just About Banned Books: Self-Censorship and Library Collections

It’s Banned Books Week! That time of year when we are all encouraged to discuss the importance of intellectual freedom and the problem with banning books. 2015 is not without its share of book challenges and bans making it into the news. For a few examples check out these articles on Ted Dawe’s Into the River, Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, or Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of a Dog in the Nighttime.Banned Books Week 2015

While news articles like these are a great place to start talking about book banning, there’s another kind of censorship I want to encourage us all to think about – self censorship. A simple search will pull up a number of interesting studies and articles on the subject, especially Debra Lau Whelen’s 2009 survey for School Library Journal and the accompanying article “A Dirty Little Secret: Self-Censorship.”

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