During Banned Books Week, libraries take the time to celebrate stories that some thought shouldn’t be told, and the right of everyone to read those same stories. It is a celebration of the rights the First Amendment protects and the wonderful insights and narratives that those protections have enabled libraries to share and for people of all ages to learn from. However, the very existence of Banned Books Week demonstrates that this freedom of expression is still contested, and it is often youth who stand up and protect their own access to their rights. Stories like those that follow help give insight into the emotional realities of taking a stand as a young person. They are invaluable resources for youth trying to understand the importance of this time of year in particular, and the value of their voices all year round.
International books offer teen readers unique perspectives into the lives of young people from other countries. In some ways, these experiences are universal, yet in other ways they are particular to their cultural milieu. They are windows that open readers’ eyes to different experiences, different ways of thinking, and different norms, and in doing so, they may challenge our notions about what we deem socially acceptable.
Only a very small number of international books make it into the U.S. market, and even less into our YA market. Then, a select few of those books are granted the dubious honor of appearing on our Banned Books lists.
It is ironic that the very books whose value lies (in part, at least) in their ability to expand the minds of young adult readers by offering them perspectives outside of their cultural bubbles should be banned — often for those very same perspectives and ideas which are at their core.
Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to read, to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox, unpopular, or “other.” International books may contain elements of all those things. We celebrate them here by exploring a sampling of international YA books that have been banned or challenged at one point or another, both here in the United States and abroad.Continue reading Banned Books: International Edition
There is nothing like escaping into a fun-filled romantic comedy, especially when the pressures of real life loom large, and one could use a little levity, love, and fun. Diving into a romantic escapade can be incredibly satisfying, especially if it is one that can provide “all the feels.”
Rom-coms are often predictable in the best sort of way. If the story is true to the genre, you know the most likely ending…the romantic interests will end up together, but it is the journey to that end that brings us in. There are also other key elements that every rom-com has:
Two Main Protagonists – one, if not both, is adorkable and charming. They will be easy to root for in love and in life.
Side Characters – the tapestry of people that surround our hopeful lovers. They can be supportive, offer comic guffaws, or are the ones helping create obstacles and/or distractions that keep our lovers apart or push hem together.
Location – often as much as a character as our side characters. Our lovers are often traipsing over an area creating memories in key spots.
The “Meet-Cute” or the person next door – how our characters come into contact with each. The meet-cute will often be awkward or filled with tension where the characters do not like each other at first, or it can be charming. Sometimes, often in YA fiction, our soon-to-be lovers have been friends since childhood, and it is just seeing them each other in a new light.
The Challenge – often a false start where there is a misunderstanding, other potential love interest, or obstacle that seems to big to surmount comes into play separating our would be lovers.
The Grand Epiphany – what brings them together in the end. One or both will have a revelation that they can not be without the other, and usually a grand gesture will be involved in declaring love.
Graphic novels can offer a wide range of perspectives on a shared topic, from extremely personal biographies and autobiographies to historical fiction to journalism. In the case of books about refugees, graphic novels offer the opportunity to tell deeply personal stories from a variety of perspectives while also sharing compelling images that bring the reader into the story in a way that is hard to do with words alone. The books in this list can be a powerful way of teaching young readers about the real lives of refugees around the world and throughout history.
The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui – Weaving together the stories of multiple periods in the lives of Thi Bui’s family members, this graphic memoir is simultaneously a story of war, the refugee experience, and parenthood. The book opens with the author in labor with her son. Her experience of becoming a new parent serves as a jumping off point for a reflection on her parents’ experiences growing up in Vietnam during a time of turmoil and multiple wars, culminating in her family’s escape to a refugee camp in Malaysia when Bui was a child. Through her consideration of her own childhood and those of her parents, Bui shows the long shadow that these traumatic experiences can cast and offers a window into one type of refugee experience.
Soviet Daughter: A Graphic Revolution by Julia Alekseyeva – Julia Alekseyeva tells the story of her great-grandmother Lola interspersed with biographical segments about her own life growing up as part of an immigrant family. Starting with her childhood as a poor Jewish child outside Kiev, this book traces Lola’s life through the Bolshevik revolution, her time working for the Soviet government, and her decision to move to the U.S. as a refugee. The book covers her time in the Red Army and her work as a secretary for the predecessor to the KGB, which will offer readers a peek into a fascinating part of history. Continue reading Women in Comics – Refugee Experiences
It’s been a wild and sometimes scary ride lately with the political climate changing in the wake of the United States Presidential election last November and, unfortunately, racism and hatred spreading wildly. It’s hard to know where to start when you can’t vote and may not be old enough to work. The best first step: Getting information. These books can help teens do just that as you get informed and inspired.
Strike! The Farm Workers’ Fight for Their Rights by Larry Dane Brimner: A carefully researched account of the 1965 strike and the ones that followed as migrant Filipino American workers fought to negotiate a better way and set off one of the longest and most successful strikes in American history.
Yes You Can! Your Guide to Becoming An Activist by Jane Drake and Ann Love: This book includes accounts of the founding of organizations like Amnesty International and Greenpeace along with practical steps for social change including how to run meetings, write petitions, and lobby the government.
Voting for the 2017 Teens’ Top Ten is now open! Teens aged 12-18 can vote for up to three of their favorite titles among the 26 nominees, now through Oct 14. The top ten titles will be announced after Teen Read Week™ which takes place Oct. 8-14. Encourage your teens to vote for their favorite titles by sharing the nominations announcement video.
Last month I wrote about graphic novel adaptations of famous books and series, but increasingly authors are moving beyond merely adapting works into graphic novels and instead creating graphic novels that are entirely new stories in an existing universe. Whether they are building on universes created for TV shows, or movies, these works do more than adapt existing stories. For fans of the original work, they can be exciting opportunities to spend more time in a world that they love and gain a new insight into their favorite characters.
There are many online platforms for sharing and creating art. Teens are taking advantage the various mediums of creating and sharing their works. But what happens when your work becomes a smash hit? How do manage instant fame? How do you take advantage of opportunity when it comes your way? Many new teen titles are exploring the effects of being or becoming an online sensation. Teens are relating to these stories both on the artist/creator end of things, and even though they may not gain instant fame, teens still have to navigate similar tricky waters in the day to day of who is a true friend, and how to manage negative comments and bullies.
The following titles are about teens experiencing internet fame:
Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee
Natasha “Tash” Zelenka has turned her literary crush of Leo Tolstoy to good use. With the help of her best friend, Jack, they have created a web series “Unhappy Families,” a modern retelling of Anna Karenina. When a famous vlogger gives a shout out to the series, it goes viral. Now she, along with the cast and crew, are finding what it means to be a hit sensation and are managing the adoration, and the trolls, coming their way. The instant fame is also creating tensions among the crew. The story is paralleled with Tash, who identifies as a romantic asexual, navigating flirtations coming her way. Admist the fame and romance, Tash is also dealing with her older sister creating distance, her parents announcing a new sibling on the way, college applications, the impending end of the series, and the big “What’s next.”
Bang by Barry Lyga
Sebastian loves making pizza. Not your basic generic pizza, but pizza that starts with homemade dough, recipes he has thoughtfully researched, homemade sauce, and the best toppings and combinations. This isn’t enough to keeps the memories at bay though. When he was four years old, he shot and killed his baby sister, and now has plans to do the same to himself at the end of summer. When Aneesha, a Muslim girl, moves into the neighborhood she encourages him to create a YouTube channel with her about his pizza creations. Things start to shift in Sebastian’s outlook, until the YouTube channel takes off, and he is recognized, and called out for his painful childhood past. Continue reading Going Viral – YA Books of Teens Managing Online Fame