Good morning, Hub readers!
Last week, in celebration of The Giver movie hitting theaters everywhere, we wanted to know what YA classic you’d like to see on the big screen. The top pick was Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword, with 27% of the vote, followed by Francesca Lia Block’s Weetzie Bat, with 21%. You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted!
This week, with Labor Day just around the corner, we’re thinking about travel. Are you going on one last summer getaway? What would your preferred mode of transportation be, if you were in a YA novel? Vote in the poll below, or add your choice in the comments.
A few weeks ago, The Hub posted a poll asking for your favorite assigned summer reading in high school. With 49% of the 134 votes, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird was the top selection. This got me thinking about how required reading has impacted us as YA readers.
It’s a safe assumption that we’re all readers over here on The Hub. The results of the poll show that there were some fantastic experiences, but does it mean that all of our past reading experiences were great? I turned to some of our bloggers to get the scoop on required reading: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Read on to hear how assigned readings have made our bloggers stronger feminists, wish fatal illnesses on heroines, and really, really love bacon.
Jessica Lind: “When I was in 7th and 8th grade, I had an English teacher who really challenged us with reading. During her class, I fell in love with Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm, and 1984. I was transitioning out of the books of my childhood and these classics helped to keep me reading.”
Gretchen Kolderup: “My 10th grade US History class was combined into a two-period class with our English class. We learned history and we learned English, but it was all through the lens of social movements in America. The books that we were assigned were really thoughtful choices that illuminated social issues and that weren’t what you’d typically have as required reading — Power by Linda Hogan, All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren, The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, and Catch-22 by Joseph Heller are the ones I remember. I loved that what we were reading was actually put into context so I could understand it — I would have missed so much of the meaning in the books if I hadn’t known what was happening in the world at the time they were published.”
Carla Land: “When I was in tenth grade I was in an honor’s English class and one of our required readings was The Great Gatsby. I absolutely hated it! My teacher was obsessed with the “eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleberg” and spent weeks talking about how important they were. I swore off of F. Scott Fitzgerald forever after that class. Fast forward to my sophomore year of college when I took a Modern Literature course- taught by a professor who was a Hemingway and Fitzgerald scholar. He’d spent his whole career studying them and their words. When we got to The Great Gatsby I held my breath and waited for the inevitable week long lesson on T.J. Eckleberg and his eyes. My professor commented on them once and they weren’t even on the test. After listening to him talk about the book and the author I had to take his Hemmingway and Fitzgerald course the next semester. It’s now one of my favorite books!” read more…
It was rough week in the news– lots of people were talking about Ferguson over the Twitterverse. There are a couple blog posts about it in this week’s tweets.
- @PWKidsBookshelf :Make Way for New Children’s Bookstore in Boston http://pwne.ws/1rmqnkj
- @EpicReads : This list is for after you see IF I STAY in theaters on Friday! ––> http://bit.ly/1rTifTT
- @FierceReads :Sign up for our new #MacTeenBooks newsletter for updates on your favorite books and authors! http://bit.ly/1sunhKH
- @yainterrobang : Happy Tuesday! It’s time to head to the bookstore and pick up new #yalit releases. What will you be buying? http://www.yainterrobang.com
- @BNBuzz : ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER is HERE! @naturallysteph tells us what was cut from the book & other cool things http://bit.ly/1yRLKbf
- @catagator : If you want to be a Cybils judge, the call is out! Consider it. Also? The new website is lovely: http://www.cybils.com/2014/08/call-for-judges.html …
- @PenguinTeen : Head on over to @wattpad to read Part One of @maureenjohnson‘s novella, #TheBoyInTheSmoke, for FREE! http://w.tt/1BtPrYK
In the summer of 1988, President Reagan proclaimed August 21 “National Senior Citizens Day.” With health care constantly improving, and people living longer, more active lives, it is a good thing to honor seniors, who can give younger folks the benefit of their experience.
Seniors and teens go together like peanut butter and jelly. Events like Senior Citizen Proms, and Teens Teach Tech, show how seniors and teens can benefit from spending time together. This is not to say that it is all smooth sailing from the start. People are people no matter their age, and there are ups and downs to any relationship. But everyone has something to share, and when you cross generations, the results can be so very positive.
This type of inter-generational relationship has been beautifully portrayed in YA literature. Here are six titles to explore…
Pop by Gordon Korman
New to town, Marcus is desperate to join his new high school’s football team, so he spends his summer practicing in the local park. There he meets former NFL great Charlie Popovich, who takes Marcus under his wing. While this is great for Marcus’ football prospects, it puts him in direct conflict with Charlie’s grandson Troy, Marcus’ new school mate and rival for a spot on the team. Charlie and Marcus are antagonistic not just because of sports rivalries, but also because of Charlie’s illness, an illness Troy and the rest of the Popovich family want to keep secret.
Notes from the Midnight Driver by Jordan Sonnenblick
(2008 Best Book for Young Adults) Alex makes a really huge mistake involving vodka, a car, and a garden gnome statue. For this, he is sentenced to 100 hours of community service. Alex spends the time in a retirement home with Sol Lewis, the meanest old man on the planet. Alex would rather shirk all responsibility and Sol seems to hate the world. But Sol was a jazz guitarist and Alex is studying guitar, so perhaps they can find some way to connect… read more…
Swanee was a free spirit, which is part of the reason Alix loves her so much. But Swanee dies of cardiac arrest while out on a morning run, leaving Alix to mourn the love of her life. Her grief is soon mixed with betrayal when she discovers that Swanee was also in a serious relationship with another girl.
Swanee’s funeral reflects her flamboyant style. Alix observes that it has “…a carnival atmosphere about it.” In addition to balloon bouquets, a flowered arch, and teddy bears, Swanee’s parents have hired a mariachi band that is playing “Livin’ la Vida Loca.”
It’s been fifteen years since Ricky Martin released what would become his signature song. The title is a Spanglish invention that translates as “Livin’ the Crazy Life.” The instant success of this song fueled Latin pop music internationally, while swoon-worthy Martin’s dance moves inspired a revival of Latin dance.
Here is a 2001 live performance featuring Ricky Martin and Kylie Minogue.
-Diane Colson, currently reading Skink – No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen
Last Friday, Katie Shanahan Yu posted a tribute to Robin Williams that included wonderful video clips and a booklist of young adult novels that echo the joyful spirit of Williams’ work. This week, Jennifer Rummel and I extend the tribute with YA lit readalikes paired with some of Robin Williams’ most memorable movies (and one iconic television show.)
Earlier this year, TIME magazine made history by putting Laverne Cox on its cover, declaring that America is in the midst of a “Transgender Tipping Point.” While many would argue we’re not quite at that point yet, given the long way we still need to go to achieve the equal rights, protection, and respect transgender people deserve, there is no denying the definite increase in visibility and support of the this community. Indeed, the past year alone has seen Laverne Cox not only on the cover of TIME magazine but also the first openly transgender person nominated for an Emmy, Barney’s unveiled a trail-blazing spring ad campaign featuring 17 transgender models from all walks of life, and Comic Con had its first panel devoted exclusively to transgender issues…and that’s just in popular culture.
On the legal front, Washington state just opted to provide transgender-inclusive healthcare for all public employees, the Department of Labor is now including transgender workers under its non-discrimination policy, and Maryland passed the Fairness for All Marylanders Act prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity. Progress indeed and heartening news for anyone who advocates for and supports equal rights and social justice.
As someone who works with youth, it’s equally exciting that this increase in visibility extends to young adult literature. Indeed, YA has been ahead of the curve. Luna, the first YA book to feature a transgender protagonist, was published over a decade ago to wide critical acclaim. In the ten years since then, the number of novels with transgender characters have been slowly but steadily increasing (for a well researched list of titles, see Talya Sokoll’s booklist published in YALS and Malinda Lo’s list on her tumblr “Diversity in YA”.) Which leads us to 2014, where in YA as well as larger society, there is a noticeable shift in terms of sheer visibility and volume. That said, I’ll focus the rest of my post on recently published and soon-to-be-published books that feature characters of all genders.
I was lucky enough to attend the Stonewall Awards Brunch this year at the ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas and saw Kristin Cronn-Mills accept her award for Beautiful Music for Ugly Children (2014 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults). She spoke passionately about the need for allies, about the power of music to transcend differences, and the need for cisgendered people to take the initiative to educate themselves about the transgender experience. (Interestingly, hers was the not the only book focused on gender identity issues to win a Stonewall Award this year, Lori Duron also won for her memoir Raising My Rainbow.)
If you haven’t read Beautiful Music for Ugly Children yet, the book tells the story of Gabe, who is in the early stages of transitioning, much to the dismay of his family. He finds solace in his passion for music and with the help of his close friend and elderly neighbor, John, becomes a DJ on the local radio station. His sudden rise to local fame as a DJ results in a number of confrontations that result in both tragedy and redemption. What I enjoyed most about Cronn-Mills’ novel is the fact that it does not solely revolve around Gabe’s gender identity. It’s obviously at the heart of the novel but, equally so, is his passion for music. In that sense, he felt more fully developed as a character–lending the novel a depth often lacking in other books about trans teens. read more…
Summer vacation is drawing to a close, but whether you have time to squeeze in one last trip or you just have time to remember the trips you already took, it’s always fun to curl up with a good book about vacation spots. Both YA and picture books abound with these stories, and here are some suggestions if you need a last (literary) getaway for the summer.
YA Pick: The Moon by Night by Madeleine L’Engle (1998 Margaret A. Edwards award winner)
This is still the quintessential camping book to me–the book that still makes me imagine I will one day take my family on a cross-country camping trip, seeing all the great national parks out west. The Moon by Night follows the Austin family (from, among others, Meet the Austins and A Ring of Endless Light) as they make just such a trip, but the vacation gets especially interesting for Vicky when she inadvertently picks up an admirer with a bad boy streak and the romantic plan to pursue her across the country. Vicky’s interactions with Zachary, her family’s disapproval, her upcoming move to New York City, and her ordinary growing up struggles are all on Vicky’s mind in the midst of enjoying the astounding beauty of her surroundings.
YA Pick: Patiently Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
I’ve loved the Alice series since I was a kid, and this is one that stands out as being a good mix of fun and serious issues. Alice, Pamela, and Elizabeth decide to spend part of their summer as assistant counselors for a camp for disadvantaged kids. Their camping experience is a mixture of learning how to handle all sorts of issues (including racial issues) with their young charges and counselor hijinks during their breaks. There’s less romance for Alice than in other installments of the series, but Elizabeth has a summer romance that can keep the romantically-inclined reading!
Picture Book: Carl’s Summer Vacation by Alexandra Day
Lovable Rottweiler Carl gets into adventures with his young charge, Madeleine (now getting to be less of a baby and more of a little girl) while they are supposed to be napping on the back porch of the family’s summer cabin. They enjoy a boat trip (until the boat overturns!), berry picking (before they have to run away from a family of skunks), time on the playground, and sneaking a snack from another family’s picnic. When it’s time to get up for dinner and fireworks, Madeleine’s parents can’t understand why the buddies are so tired. If you enjoy this, there are lots of other Carl episodes.
Picture Book: Lost in the Woods: A Photographic Fantasy by Carl R. Sams, II, and Jean Stoick (2005 Independent Publisher Book Award Winner, Children’s Picture Books 6 and under). This isn’t so much a camping story as a story that might inspire young readers to get out into the woods. This husband-and-wife team are nature photographers who took the beautiful, up-close photos that make up the pictures, then created a story to go along with them. Readers follow a young fawn as he waits for his mother. Other animals are sure the fawn is lost, but the fawn knows he’s just supposed to wait… read more…
As a reader, I’m not sure if I went to the movies because I wanted to watch The Giver or because I wanted to hatewatch it.
I did a little of each. I’ll try to explain my reaction to the film, while also leaving out enough information to keep the movie surprising if you’d like to be surprised. That may leave this post incomprehensible until after you’ve seen the movie. I’m not sure. You’ll have to let me know. But be forewarned: this post either has spoilers or is impossible to understand.
I think your liking of this film will depend on how passionate you are about the book. I’m not someone who thinks movies have to stick to the book word-for-word; different media require different approaches. But I’m also not someone who likes it when a movie slaps a book title on its poster and does nothing else to base it on the novel. The Giver is somewhere in between, and it’s not really a bad movie so much as a film that suffers from the glut of dystopian movies, TV, and books and designed itself to be attractive to people just catching on to that genre, not people curious to see Lois Lowry’s beloved book come to life.
That’s not to say that readers won’t enjoy this film. The creators did a brilliant job of dealing with the colorless world. The slow transitions and back-and-forth from plain to color and back again, as Jonas learns new colors and as he goes back and forth between the colorful world of the Giver’s home to his own bland dwelling, is just perfect. The set design is spot-on, and the costumes and props are stylized but not too corny. This film has excellent trappings, but it didn’t do much to translate the power of the book to the screen. read more…