What Would They Read?: My Little Pony

MLP FIM (800x450)
from deviantart user bluedragonhans

As you probably know, the television reboot of the My Little Pony franchise (Friendship Is Magic) has managed to find an older audience than the elementary school-aged girls one would have expected. As a regular viewer of the show and frequent YA reader, I thought it would be fun to take a look at what titles the ponies would read in their free time.

One thing I really like about the show is that it has a strong pro-female message. The show presents female characters who routinely solve problems by conducting research, reaching out to friends, and finding strength within themselves. In addition to encountering magical Big Bads, the ponies encounter real world problems such as bullying, low self-esteem, over-committing, and being too proud to ask for help. Because of this theme, I have selected books with female protagonists for all of the characters.

Today, I am focusing on three of the main six ponies: Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, and Rarity.

Twilight Sparkle
from deviantart user shapeshifter95

Twilight Sparkle

When Friendship Is Magic began, Twilight Sparkle was sent to Ponyville to learn the value of having friends. She was the best student studying under the Princess, but she missing a social component in her education. Twilight lives in a tree-house library, surrounded by books and often encourages research when faced with trouble. However, Twilight is also a unicorn and, therefore, magical. She must find balance between magic, research, and friendship to ultimate solve her problems.

Girl-of-Fire-and-Thorns-USI think that Twilight Sparkle would enjoy The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson (2012 Morris Award Finalist, 2012 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults) which is the story of Elisa, a princess and the Chosen One. Married off to a king whose people need her to save them, Elisa lives in a world of magic. She must fight to live long enough to save the people who need her, while avoiding those who hunt her for her power. Twilight has recently become a princess herself and has been forced to save all of Equestria on more than one occasion.

I also think that Twilight Sparkle would enjoy Graceling by Kristin Cashore (2009 Morris Award Finalist, 2009 Teens’ Top Ten, 2012 Popular Paperback for Young Adults) for similar reasons. Royalty, magic, and a strong female fighter would all appeal to Twilight’s love of reading, fantasy, and adventure.  Continue reading What Would They Read?: My Little Pony

World Book Night 2014

WBN2014_logo_672x652This year for the first time, I will be a book giver for World Book Night, which is this evening! This worldwide effort celebrates reading and asks avid readers and book lovers to volunteer to hand out free books to people – the hope is that these book givers will hand the books to non-readers, people who do not have easy access to libraries, or people who may not be able to afford to buy books for themselves. The titles chosen range from middle grade to YA to adult titles; classics to contemporary works; poetry to nonfiction to fiction; English and Spanish; award winners to best-sellers. Book givers can choose which book they are passionate about and hand out 20 copies of them. The authors and publishers of these books have printed special paperback editions and are willing to go without royalties so that they can spread a love of reading and a communal passion for popular titles with everyone. The list is well developed, featuring a decent spread of genres, ethnic and racial diversity, and themes.

If this has you excited, be sure to bookmark the WBN website so you can sign up to be a giver next year. But in the meantime, you can join in the joy and passion by accompanying a friend who is giving out books or by reading one of the books on this year’s list. Here are some ways you can catch up on the YA titles that are on offer…. Continue reading World Book Night 2014

Conveying Disability Through Verse

national-poetry-monthEarlier this month in honor of National Poetry Month, Geri wrote a post about novels in verse with some great recommendations for stories that are told entirely through poetry. Her post gave me some books to add to my to-be-read list, and as someone with an interest in books that include characters with disabilities, it also inspired me to think about novels in verse that center around characters with disabilities. Here are some great options for verse novels that convey the experience of disability.

Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham – Told through a combination of free verse, newspaper stories and correspondence, this novel follows Jane as she recovers from a shark attack that ended with her having her arm amputated. She must relearn how to do day-to-day tasks and become as independent as she was before the attack. Moreover, as an artist, she must decide whether she can still make art in the wake of this experience. Readers who enjoy this book can follow her life further in the follow-up novel, Formerly Shark Girl, which is also told in verse. Continue reading Conveying Disability Through Verse

Get Creative with YA Lit

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image by flickr user Lorraine Santana

Do you know the feeling that comes sometimes when you finish reading a really great book, the one in which you don’t want the story to end? You can always hope for a sequel or a companion novel. If there is a film adaptation, you can experience the world, again, there. Or you can keep the world alive by creating something yourself.

I recently attended the DML2014 conference in Boston and found myself surrounded by people passionately talking about ways to interact with digital media. As a blogger for The Hub, I immediately focused on the ways that people were using these programs and communities to create content based on YA books. This also tied in well with last week’s Teen Tech Week  theme of DIY @ your library. Below, I have listed a handful of ways that youth and adults are taking their favorite stories and making something new.

Create a Program

One of the tools that was frequently mentioned at DML2014 is Scratch, a web-based programming tool that allows users to create and share games, videos, and stories. I searched Scratch for projects related to popular YA titles and found a wide variety of program types including interactive quizzes and games, slideshows, and still image fanart. A few examples include a Divergent Aptitude Test Simulation, Snape’s Potion Game (Harry Potter), and The Mortal Instruments: Downworld Attack game. These users have found a way to continue interacting with books that they enjoyed while also learning how to code computer programs. Scratch is only one of a number of options available in this area, too. Continue reading Get Creative with YA Lit

British Women’s History in YA Lit

womens_history_ya_litMarch is Women’s History Month, celebrated worldwide. In Britain, the Great Reform Act of 1832 excluded all women from voting by specifically changing the word person to male. In 1918, women started to regain voting privileges but it wasn’t until 1928 that women over the age of 21 had the same voting rights as men. As a tribute and celebration to all the previous women who have challenged rules, broken rules, and changed the world, here’s a list of books throughout Great Britain’s history from a woman’s perspective.

Ancient Days: (0-1066)
Major Events Include: Rome invades Britain, Rome conquers Wales, Boudica leads rebellion against the Romans, Hadrian’s Wall is constructed, Rome withdraws, Anglo and the Saxons arrive looking for a fight, Vikings attack, and the Battle of Hastings occurs.

Books in this time period include:
The Edge on the Sword by Rebecca Tingle (2002 Best Books for Young Adults)
Princess Aethelflaed finds herself reluctantly betrothed to an ally of her father’s, in hope that their marriage will bring peace to the land. Betrothed isn’t the same as married, and when enemies attack, Aethelflaed will have to stand her ground.

Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell
Elaine of Ascolat, the Lady of Shalott lives with her family in the camps of King Arthur. As the only girl, she finds herself lonely, until Gwynivere arrives. Unfortunately, Gwynivere isn’t the type of companion Elaine’s been hoping for. Written in a novel in verse, Elaine shares her view of the world of King Arthur.

Middle Ages (1067-1485)
Major Events Include: Oxford University founded, Richard the Lion-hearted enters the Third Crusade, Prince John Signs the Magna Carta, Wales becomes part of Great Britain, Execution of William Wallace, Great European Famine, Hundred Years War, Black Death, and The War of the Roses

Books in this time period include:
Hawksmaid by Kathryn Lasky
Maid Marian (Matty) is the daughter a famous falconer. Matty has her father’s gift with the birds and hopes her future lies with them. When King Richard is captured and his brother rises to power, everything changes. She does her best to help Robin Hood (her childhood friend) make sure everyone survives.

Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen
Scarlet keeps her female identity hidden from everyone in Nottinghamshire, except Robin and his friends. When the Sheriff tries to capture the band, she’ll do anything to save her friends.  Continue reading British Women’s History in YA Lit

What YA Lit Would George Washington Read?

photoWhen you think of George Washington, you might think of his false teeth, or the quote attributed to him about never telling a lie, or chopping down that cherry tree. As improbable as those last two things are, it is true that he was a man of integrity who avoided scandal. So, it might surprise some of you to know that he was a Spymaster during the Revolutionary War. The American spy network in operation during the war was called the Culper Spy Ring and they provided Washington with information on the movements of the British troops. The spies in this network were protected by having pseudonyms, and were identified by numbers (Washington’s was 711) rather than names. They even used invisible ink to conceal their messages.

In honor of Presidents’ Day, originally held on the anniversary of George Washington’s birthday (February 22) but in 1971 moved to the third Monday in February, I thought I would highlight some YA books that I think George would have really enjoyed reading.

To assist him in his role as Spymaster, Washington might have found this book useful:

  • Top Secret: A Handbook of Codes, Ciphers and Secret Writing by Paul B. Janeczko (Editor), Jenna Lareau9780763629724 (Illustrator) (2004) Janeczko gives middle grade aspiring codemakers and codebreakers everything they need for staging their own information exchanges–terminology; instructions for making simple devices; concrete advice (assemble a “spy toolkit,” using film-canister “vials” to store homemade invisible ink); and plenty of practice activities with answers at the back of the book accompanied by fascinating historical anecdotes and nice illustrations by LaReau. Continue reading What YA Lit Would George Washington Read?

Schneider Family Book Award: Rose Under Fire

Schneider Family Book Award SealLast week at ALA Midwinter, the 2014 ALA Youth Media Awards were announced (if you missed the ceremony, you can still watch it online). The Youth Media Awards encompass many different prizes recognizing media created for children and young adults, including the Schneider Family Book Award, which was established by Dr. Katherine Schneider and “honors an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.” This year, in addition to being named one of YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults top ten titles, Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein is the the Schneider Family Book Award’s teen award winner.

Though it is a companion to 2013 Michael L. Printz Honor book Code Name Verity and references characters and events from that title, Rose Under Fire focuses on the story of a new character named Rose Justice. Continue reading Schneider Family Book Award: Rose Under Fire

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Auschwitz in 1945. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany.
Auschwitz in 1945. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany.

Since 2005, January 27th has been designated International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this day, the world takes time to acknowledge the millions of victims of genocide at the hands of the Nazis during World War II. Below are some books that address this difficult and important period in history.

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein – This companion to 2013 Printz Honor book Code Name Verity offers a horrific and visceral story of the Ravensbrück concentration camp. The book follows Rose, a young American pilot, who finds herself in Ravensbrück after her plane is captured by the Germans. There she meets others women who have been captured and subjected to medical experimentation. With vivid descriptions and a clear attention to historical detail, this book is a powerful read for those who want to more fully understand the Holocaust. [Edit: Earlier today, this book was awarded the 2014 Schneider Family Book Award in the teen division.] Continue reading International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Literary Knitters

Knitting by Libby GormanI love to knit–I’m very slow at it, and not very advanced, but ever since my husband’s grandmother taught me almost ten years ago, I’ve enjoyed it. The cold temperatures this time of year (especially over the last week!) put me even more in a knitting mood, and the only problem then is deciding whether to spend free time reading or knitting. Audiobooks occasionally help with that dilemma, but so do books that feature knitters!

There seems to have been a resurgent interest in knitting over the past few years, but while there are a ton of great nonfiction knitting books out there, I wanted to stick with a list of fictional knitters. It was hard to find very many, so I’ve cheated a bit by branching beyond YA books. Hopefully, one of these knitters will strike your reading mood this winter:

  • tale_two_citiesMme Defarge from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. To start off with perhaps the most famous literary knitter, I may be veering away from YA lit, but not from a memorable story and character. A Tale of Two Cities presents Dickens’ take on the French Revolution and a British family that gets caught up in the chaos. It’s one of his shorter works and includes enough romance and heroics to make it easy to stay connected with the story–not always so with a Dickens work. Mme Defarge is something of a side character, but her knitting takes center stage when the reader learns that she uses it to keep her register…a register of those she, her husband, and their co-revolutionaries have marked for a date with Mme la Guillotine. Continue reading Literary Knitters

One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Elizabeth Wein

Check out previous interviews in the One Thing Leads to Another series here.

There’s something about Elizabeth Wein’s writing that makes me cry.  I know I’m not the only one who did ugly crying over Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire, and I remember it happening more than once as I worked my way through her Arthurian/Askumite cycle, especially during the trials and tribulations of the singular Telemakos.  (And can I take a moment here to beg you, if you have not had the pleasure of reading these books, please do yourself a favor and dive in.  You will not be sorry, I promise.)  So when I confess that I’m currently sitting in the cafe I work in while my daughter is at school crying over this interview, wondering what it is about Elizabeth Wein’s writing that brings me to tears so easily, I’m hoping and guessing I’m not alone.  There’s just something about her blunt, honest, openhearted approach to the dark parts of life that gets me in the gut; I’m reduced to tears in about ten seconds (or five sentences,  whichever comes first.) 

Elizabeth’s generosity in answering my questions and her willingness to share both some really difficult experiences and the insights gained from them is pretty stunning, frankly.  Thank you, Elizabeth, for talking with me–it was a privilege.

Always Something There to Remind Me

Elizabeth Wein
Elizabeth Wein

Please describe your teenage self.

I really kind of hate to think about my teenage self. I was such a weirdo.

I had a good excuse. My single-parent mother died in a car accident at the age of 35 when I was fourteen. In the same accident my brother Jared, who was three years younger than me and very close to me, was so severely brain-damaged that he was in a coma for a year (more than 30 years later, he is diagnosed as a spastic quadriplegic and requires constant nursing care). My younger sister and I were also involved in the accident but were uninjured. Afterward we moved in with my mother’s parents, who raised us.

I dealt with this tragedy in a number of ways, all pretty cerebral. Initially, I escaped into the fantasy world of The Lord of the Rings. I read it about twenty times in the space of a couple of years (I don’t know how; I read a lot of other things, too, and I can’t imagine where I got the time). Then I discovered King Arthur. Oh, I discovered Shakespeare, too. I did a LOT of reading. I also had this notion that everyone expected my schoolwork to deteriorate with grief, so I set out with a fierce determination to prove this wrong.

Because of the relocation to my grandparents, I had to switch schools at the beginning of high school, and this was really the event that saved my butt. I ended up going to Harrisburg Academy, an independent school in Harrisburg, PA, where I made some of the best friends I’ve ever known and undoubtedly was taught by the best teachers I’ve ever had (and that includes those I knew in college and graduate school).

I’ve spent a couple of paragraphs describing the background of my teen years but haven’t really told you anything about me. I spent much of my life in a dream world of nostalgia (for the nuclear family unit of my exotic early childhood in Jamaica and England) and creative stories–I was constantly making up my own stories, and it was at this time that I invented the characters and plot which eventually became my first novel, The Winter Prince (now available as an e-book from Open Road Media.)

I used to organize my friends into costumed adventures such as playing at defusing bombs during the London Blitz. My best friend and I memorized the last scene of Hamlet and acted it out, interminably, in my handkerchief-sized back yard, using broomstick handles as swords and enlisting the small girl from next door to play the minor roles. We’d read aloud to each other from The Once and Future King (T.H.White) and The Thirteen Clocks (James Thurber). I was obsessed with The Empire Strikes Back (I was 15 when it was first released); I saw it in the cinema 13 times in 1980, and used to hike around in the woods in my Luke Skywalker costume pretending I was a Jedi in training on Dagobah. But my biggest crush was not any media star but the early 20th century English poet Rupert Brooke, and I memorized just about his entire life’s work and wrote longing poetry in his name.

I drew pretty heavily on the somewhat loopy side of my own teen self in creating the backstory for the first narrator of Code Name Verity; and I drew on the more literary side in creating the heroine of Rose Under Fire.

Continue reading One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Elizabeth Wein