Last week, we wanted to know what you think is the most intriguing YA story about being the Witness Protection Program. Don’t Look Behind You by Lois Duncan came in first with 38% of the vote, and The Rules for Disappearing by Ashley Elston was a close second with 33%.
We also got some great suggestions in the comments on last week’s poll! Jessica reminded me about Robert Cormier’s classic, I Am The Cheese, and Jenn suggested Roland Smith’s Zach’s Lie and Jack’s Run. You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks very much to all of you who voted and commented!
This week, we’re getting excited about the announcement of ALA’s Youth Media Awards, which happens next week in Philadelphia at the ALA Midwinter Meeting. Last year on The Hub, we asked which YALSA award you’re most looking forward to. This year, we’re putting a twist on the question– we want to know which YALSA award you feel most confident about predicting the winners. Sometimes everyone’s buzzing about a particular book and you just know it’s going to win that one award– and sometimes the winners come out of left field as a delightful surprise. Which YALSA award do you think you have a handle on this year?
Vote in the poll below, and feel free to leave your predictions in the comments– and keep in mind that we here at The Hub don’t have any insider info, so we’re just as excited as you are to find out the winners next week!
History and biography are among my favorite types of nonfiction to read. There is something extra powerful about a story that reads like fiction, is filled with the same themes that make the best fiction unforgettable, but rests on a foundation of truth and having actually happened. Even the most exciting fiction asks the reader to eventually think “what if this was real?” while nonfiction brings me to constantly reflect on how amazing humans are, and what can be accomplished in the face of incredible odds.
So in some ways I was predisposed to enjoy the YALSA nonfiction nomination Courage Has No Color, The True Story of The Triple Nickles: Americas’ First Black Paratroopers by Tanya Lee Stone from the title alone. I should probably also admit here to a paralyzing fear of heights, so the idea of jumping out of a plane voluntarily is pretty unimaginable to me. Choosing to face prejudice, train independently, and jump out of a plane in the context of military combat is even more incredible, but that is just what the brave members of the “Triple Nickels,” U.S. army’s 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, did.
During World War II, the U.S. military service remained deeply segregated. As the book introduced me to the men who would go on to become the Triple Nickles, it was humbling to me how many enlisted in the army when the war began through a deep desire to serve a country that would not fully accept them and afford them the same privileges as their white counterparts– a feeling reinforced as I learned that for most black men enlisting in the service at that time, the only jobs available were service jobs, such as oiling machinery, working in mess halls, or in the case of the founding members of the Triple Nickles, working as night guards at the paratrooper training grounds of Fort Benning, GA. Walter Morris noted that morale among his men was low, and formed a plan to start training in secret with the same drills that paratroopers practiced by day while on their night watch. This sets the tone of the whole incredible story: men who chose to become the best they could be at a job that was both dangerous and thrilling, in spite of receiving little or no support.
Chip Kidd is a graphic designer (he created the iconic book cover for Jurassic Park) and a novelist (The Cheese Monkeys), a comic book creator (Batman: Death by Design), and a YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Finalist (for his book GO! A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design). Mr. Kidd took some time out of his busy schedule to chat on the phone about his book, about how design is intrinsic to everyone’s life, and about which soap opera star he thinks he’s most like.
The Hub: Well first of all congratulations on being a YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction finalist. Chip Kidd: Thank you, I appreciate that.
TH: Why should teens care about design, unless they’re going to be designers? CK: Well because they already care about it, even if they’re not designers. And PS, I also have the theory that pretty much everyone is a designer whether they realize it or not. There are all sorts of things about your life that you design either consciously or unconsciously. Whether it’s putting together whatever look you’re going to have for that day, or the way you have things arranged on your desk, or in your room, or in your house. I think there are so many design aspects to young people’s lives and I think it helps for them to just consider them and think about them and to, at the very least, understand some of the thinking that goes into pieces of design that they see or interact with every day.
TH: In an interview you gave to the New York Times, you spoke about how the idea of writing for teens made you uncomfortable and that discomfort was actually appealing to you. CK: (laughter) It’s called masochism! It’s the cliche of being in or out of your comfort zone. I mean, I certainly don’t like being out of my comfort zone all the time but I think that it helps to spur creativity. And most creative people I know want to be challenged. If everything was easy all the time, it just gets boring. I think it’s an interesting, valuable trait for creative people to have.
Today, we celebrate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a leader and legend in the Civil Rights Movement of 1950s and 1960s. And what better way to celebrate here at the Hub than to round up some of the incredible young adult fiction and nonfiction exploring this pivotal time in history?
While the major events and people of the Civil Rights Movement might be familiar, one aspect in particular is frequently under-appreciated: the incredibly significant role of children and teens. From elementary school kids to high school & college students, young people contributed their time, energy, and passion while risking their futures, bodies, and even sometimes their lives for the fight for justice. Nowhere does the strength of their commitment come through more clearly than in these young adult novels and nonfiction narratives.
Many of the significant civil rights events in the 1950s occurred at places central to the lives of children and teens: schools. In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its monumental decision in the case of Brown v. Board of Education, unanimously declaring that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. The ruling set into motion a renewed push for school integration across the country.
Warriors Don’t Cry: A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock’s Central High – Melba Pattillo Beals (1995 ALA Notable Book)Drawing on memories, historical documentation, and her own teenage diaries, Melba Pattillo Beals shares her harrowing and life-altering experience as one of the Little Rock Nine–the nine black teenagers who integrated Central High in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957 amid violent protests and an eventual federal military intervention. Her straightforward and honest prose and the inclusion of her diary entries make this monumental historical event personal and alive in a whole new way. For another view on Central High’s integration, check out her fellow Little Rock Nine member Carlotta Walls LaNier’s memoir, A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School.
A year after the contentious integration of Central High, tensions in Little Rock remain high. However, shy Marlee Nisbitt is mostly worried about starting middle school. But when her new outspoken friend Liz suddenly leaves school after rumors spread that she’s a black girl passing as white, Marlee must put her newfound voice to the test to stand up for her friend–and a larger cause.
Not signed up for YALSA’s 2014 Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post. If you’re finished, fill out the form at the bottom of this post to let us know!
I have to be honest: I’m not doing so hot on the challenge this year. Last year I blazed through both lists and really enjoyed the diversity, the new authors, the experience of reading outside my comfort zone. I have no doubt at all that the nominated titles this year have just as much to offer, but everything seems to be conspiring against me. I still haven’t managed to round up copies up of all the books, and interview-centric reading has kicked into high gear again. Plus, like many of you, I suspect, there’s that pile of books I received over the holidays, so new and shiny and enticing…
That said, I did finish Elizabeth Ross’ Belle Epoque and The Nazi Hunters by Neal Bascomb, both of which were wonderful and an excellent reminder of why this challenge is so great. And I’ve got a copy of In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters and a whole weekend ahead of me so I’m certainly not giving up!
What about you? What does your weekend hold?
–Julie Bartel, who will be reading In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters, as soon as I finish these last 30 pages…
While not necessarily a well-known holiday, Thesaurus Day is celebrated on January 18, the birthday of Peter Mark Roget, creator of Roget’s Thesaurus.
The original version of Roget’s thesaurus, created in 1805 and released in 1852, contained 15,000 words. Over the years, the thesaurus has grown, adding thousands of additional words and synonyms. These days, in addition to print versions of the thesaurus, wordsmiths are able to access the Roget’s thesaurus online through Thesaurus.com. If you are interested in a historical perspective, a 1911 version has been cataloged as part of the ARTFL Project through the University of Chicago.
We’re celebrating a day early here on The Hub by using the thesaurus to swap words in some popular YA titles. See if you can figure out the original titles and then scroll down to check!
The Tome Bandit
The Bonus of Being a Loner
An Excellent and Dreadful Virtue
The Insanity Below
A Chain of Ill-fated Happenings.
The Commander of the Loops
Thirteen Rationales of Cause
The Categorically Bona Fide Journal of a Part-Time Native American
In my reading of many other books on the same topic, I’ve learned that the vocabulary used to describe this event holds a great deal of weight. The official term most of us learn in history class, â€œinternment,â€ is considered sanitized and inaccurate by many who actually experienced this disruption and trauma in their lives. Japanese-American advocacy groups such as Densho tend to use the term â€œincarceration.â€ Therefore, Sandler’s choice to use the word â€œimprisonedâ€ for the book’s title and â€œbetrayalâ€ as part of the subtitle immediately informs the reader that this book holds a strong position about the injustice of the incarceration of Japanese-Americans during World War II– and the text most certainly supports that position.
Sandler’s clear, well-organized writing draws on personal narratives of Japanese-Americans who lived in the â€œinternmentâ€ camps and is accompanied by a wealth of black & white photographs. The narrative is thorough; Sandler not only details life in the camps, but also puts the incarceration in context by touching upon the prejudice against Japanese-Americans before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He also addresses the aftermath of the incarceration during the following decades. The reader will come away with a clear understanding of this piece of history and its significance.
Reading this book brings to mind the dystopian fiction trend in YA lit. A government-sanctioned incarceration of innocent citizens, with little warning or a valid explanation? It sounds like the latest Divergent readalike, but sadly, it’s our history. Sandler’s book comes at a time when teens can make a clear connection from the futuristic fiction they love and the stark recounting of true-life events.
I think this book is an example of nonfiction that teen readers will really connect to. Kudos to YALSA’s Excellence in Young Adult Nonfiction Award committee for recognizing Imprisoned.
-Allison Tran, currently reading an ARC of The Shadow Hero, by Gene Luen Yang & Sonny Liew
As a fan of both Emile Zola and Paris at the turn-of-the-century, I was very excited to read Elizabeth Ross’ debut novel Belle Epoque based on Zola’s short story â€œLes Repoussoirs.â€ Zola’s story briefly outlines how one particularly unsavory businessman opens an agency that rents out unattractive lower-class women to attractive upper-class ones in order to highlight the latter’s beauty. Near the end of Emile Zola’s story, the narrator states: â€œI don’t know if you can realize what it is like to be a foil; they have their joys and public triumphs but they also have their very private sorrows.â€ In many ways, this one sentence is at the heart of Ross’s novel as she explores with nuance and depth the complex internal lives of these women acting as foils to more beautiful women.
Belle Epoque primarily focuses on the story of Maude Pichon, a poor young girl who has run away from an arranged marriage to find her fortune in the City of Lights. She soon discovers that life is not as easy as imagined in Paris for a plain woman with few prospects. Hungry and desperate, she answers an ad looking for young women for â€œundemanding workâ€, as she soon finds out the work may be undemanding physically but it is emotionally taxing. Although not ugly, Maude is deemed plain enough to serve the purposes of the Countess Dubern who needs a suitable companion for her willful and beautiful daughter Isabelle. Maude’s interactions with the Dubern family form the basis of the story set against the sumptuous backdrop of Paris in the 1890s.
Having always been a fan of Alice in Wonderland, I was stoked for the spin off TV series Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, airing on ABC. Though it has been met with some criticism as well as praise, I have loved watching this new spin on the classic tale. As the show goes into hiatus until the spring, I started thinking, what could I read in the meantime that was similar to Once Upon a Time in Wonderland? What YA novels out there are spins on the classic Alice in Wonderland tale? I also thought about how at the beginning of Lewis Carroll’s book Alice states, “…what is the use of a book…without pictures or conversations?” If Alice saw no use in books without pictures or conversations as a child, would her tastes have changed as she grew up and became a teen? What would Alice read?
Of course, I had to start digging. What I came up with is a list of books that Alice may have read as she got older, after her adventures in Wonderland. The novels I found have direct tie-ins to the Alice tale, they are set in the time that Alice lived, or they are about fantastical journeys similar to the one Alice took when she fell down the rabbit hole. Check them out and be sure to add any suggestions you think Alice would enjoy!