As we gear up for ALA Midwinter and the 2021 Youth Media Awards (YMA), we thought it could be fun to highlight a few YMA-related stories. In the coming weeks, we’ll focus on those titles from the past and present award cycles that might inspire you and your readers!
But first, a reminder: you can follow along with the Youth Media Awards announcements starting at 8 am CT on Monday, January 25. You can watch with ALA’s streaming platform or through the various social media platforms using the hashtag #alayma.
To begin our dive into these special awards, let’s look at the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature. Established in 2000, this award is granted each year to the “best book written for teens, based entirely on literary merit.” Mike Printz was a high school librarian for years, and he believed wholeheartedly in finding the right book for the right reader at the right time. In honor of 20 years of service to young adult readers, here are a few then and now connections:
November 20th marks Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day to remember those who have been killed because of their gender identity or expression. While there are not yet many children’s and young adult books featuring transgender characters, here are a few books that can be used in a display or program.
Picture books are a great way for a person to engage briefly with an idea, and most are written for children, so the language is accessible to a wide variety of people.
Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall. This story of a blue crayon who is mistakenly labeled “red” is a great way to introduce young children to a character who doesn’t fit the label s/he’s been given.
I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings. This is the picture-book biography of Jazz Jennings, a transgender teen who publicly came out when she was still in kindergarten.
My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis. This story of a boy who enjoys sparkly, pink things is another way to introduce the idea of being gender-nonconforming in an accessible format.
Be Who You Areby Jennifer Carr. This picture book is the story of Hope, a fictional character who was born Nick and comes to the realization that she is, in fact, a girl.
Rough, Tough Charleyby Verla Kay. This is an account of Charley Parkhurst, a California stagecoach driver who was discovered, upon death, to be a woman who had been living life as a man.
Nonfiction books can provide information, especially when readers are reluctant to search online in fear that someone may see what they’ve been searching for.
Transparentby Cris Beam. Beam profiles four transgender teens at a school for transgender students in Los Angeles. This narrative nonfiction has been described as carefully written and sensitive to a sensitive topic.
Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen by Arin Andrews. Arin tells the story of his transition and life as a trans teen in this autobiography.
Rethinking Normal: A Memoir in Transition by Katie Rain Hill. Katie, who at one time was dating Arin, tells her side of the story in her transition as a transfeminine teen.
Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin (2015 Stonewall Honor Book). This collection of photographs and interviews with transgender and gender-noncomforming teens is another easily accessible way for those who are not familiar with the concept of being transgender to take a brief walk in another person’s shoes.
My Gender Workbook by Kate Bornstein. Hands-down this was the most recommended book when I asked those in the trans* community to identify books that would be helpful to teens and those who work with teens.
Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws by Kate Bornstein. While this book doesn’t focus singly on issues affecting the transgender community, it is true that transgender people have a higher rate of suicide than their cisgender counterparts. This book is a list of suicide alternatives, some silly and some serious.
Did you know that today is unofficially Cousins Day? Neither did I until I discovered that several different websites devoted to strange and unique holidays both designate today as the day to celebrate the bond between cousins.
I didn’t see my cousins much growing up but I do have fond memories of the few times we did get together on vacation. I thought it might be fun to see how many YA books I could find involving cousins.
The obvious book that immediately comes to mind is We Were Liarsby E. Lockhart. Not only have I read it recently, but it’s also been featured here by Carly Pansulla in her July 15th post, “Summer Reading: Vacation Destination Books.” Carly’s description of the book is great so if you want to know more about it, check out her post. I will only say that the main narrator, Cady Sinclair, has great memories of spending summers with her parents and aunts and her first cousins, Mirren and Johnny, at their family’s private island off the coast of Cape Codâ€¦ until one fateful summer when everything changes.
Another notable book featuring first cousins is meg rosoff’s 2005 Michael L. Printz Award winning how i live now. This riveting novel is narrated from 15-year-old Daisy’s point of view. She leaves Manhattan to stay with her cousins Osbert, Edmond and Isaac (twins), and Piper, the youngest, on a remote farm in England. Soon after Daisy settles into their farmhouse, her Aunt Penn becomes stranded in Oslo and terrorists invade and occupy England. Daisy and her cousin Edmond fall in love, but when soldiers take over the farm, the boys and girls are separated and sent away to different places. Daisy and Piper struggle to stay alive in the midst of this devastating invasion. The book was made into a film that was released in November 2013.
Springtime is when love is in the air. New relationships are blooming, the warmer weather drives people outdoors and puts everyone in a better mood, and it just seems like the perfect time to fall in love…
But what happens when you don’t want to fall in love? When you just want to snarkily smirk at those silly people holding hands and picking flowers? How do you avoid, nay how do you embrace the idea that falling in love is just not for you..?
Well, one good way is to read books about love gone wrong. Luckily, teen lit is filled with excellent examples of books about all the ways love can be so harmful to your well-being. From bad breakups to unrequited crushes, check out the list below if you want to fall in love with a bad romance!
The Tear Collector by Patrick Jones
Cassandra comes from a long line of vampire-like creatures who need human tears to survive rather than blood. Cassandra is very good at collecting tears by being the shoulder for her friends to cry on, and even volunteering as a grief counselor. However, Cassandra is growing tired of her life and wants to be human, especially when she begins to fall in love with Scott.
My sister and I were trying to plan our weekend. After a texting spree that reminded us why we had an unlimited messaging plan, we still had some details to figure out. I suppose we could have just called each other, but personally I love to text and chat, or both simultaneously. I started thinking why text, tweets and IMs aren’t a more common form of communication in books when they are main way I converse in real life. People do so much online these days that we have whole websites like Autocowrecks that revel in the hilarity of auto-correct trying to tell us what we mean. With whole Twitter and tumblr hashtags devoted to texting mistakes, it seems that online conversations are the preferred way to talk. I was inspired by two previous Hub posts about novels that use letters and emails to tell a story. Check out Epistolary Novels, Old and New by Hannah Gomez and Signed, Sealed, and Delivered: A Love Letter to the Un-Epistolary Novel by Wendy Daughdrill– and here’s my list of YA books that tell a story with the help of texts, IMs, and other forms of digital communication.
YALSA’s Young Adult Library Services Journal recently featured a list of titles featuring transgender teens, including the book Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger. The books tells the story of Grady, a high school student who identifies as a male and the difficulties and support he faces at school and home. The story is told with humor, warmth, and a deep respect for the courage Grady displays in forging his identity. I was lucky to ask Ellen Wittlinger a few questions.
I think to some degree, defining your identity and constructing your self is a part of any adolescent experience, and makes stories about transgender characters relatable. How did you think about the process of constructing a gender identity for Grady in Parrotfish? In general, how do you as a writer signify gender identities in your characters? How does the gender identity of a character affect the way you think about them as you are creating them?
I’m going to answer your first two questions together because my answer is pretty much the same for both. How does the gender identity of a character affect the way I think about them? It doesn’t necessarily. The way I begin to think about a character is to imagine who they are at their core, their center. I think everyone is pretty similar deep down, no matter what their gender, race, religion, or ethnicity happens to be. I look for the place in which we’re all human–that’s where to begin building the character. In other words, I don’t begin with the differences, but with the similarities we all share, things like, our hope for a good life, our fear of death, our need for love. The big things. Continue reading Transgender Characters in Teen Literature: An Interview with Author Ellen Wittlinger
When I began this series on religion in YA literature, I wasn’t quite sure what I would find. I started with the noble ambition to read as widely as I could in YA literature for every religion, and I managed to do that for Buddhism and Hinduism (at least in part because there were so few choices). Needless to say, I had to reign in those expectations for myself as school got into full swing, and as I delved into Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. The bad news is that I didn’t read nearly as many books as I had hoped. The good news is that I now have a TBR list dedicated solely to YA books, both fiction and non-fiction, that feature religion. (If you’d like to view that list of books, click here.)
I am wrapping up this series today with a look at Atheism and Agnosticism, which, as I suspected, are not easy to find in the world of YA literature. While there are tons of books that don’t mention God or faith in any way, there appear to be few that tackle the beliefs of Atheism and Agnosticism head on. In fact, I hesitated to include a few of the books I found because it seemed that they were telling a conversion story, rather than the story of young people who consider themselves to be Atheist or Agnostic. While I understand and appreciate the importance of stories that feature teenage characters searching for faith and finding new beliefs, those aren’t the stories I hoped to include here. Any such qualms about the titles below are included in their descriptions.
Everything You Need to Survive the Apocalypse by Lucas Klauss
Phillip’s father is a hard-core Atheist, but the girl he falls for is active in a Christian church. What’s a “vaguely atheist” boy to do but start going to her youth group? A number of reviews comment on Phillip’s conversion from Agnosticism to Christianity, which made me hesitant to include it in this post. Continue reading The Big Five (+1) in YA: Atheism and Agnosticism
Last month, I had the pleasure of attending the Massachusetts Library System’s 4th Annual Teen Summit. This year’s theme was “The Library as Safe Space.” It was a day-long opportunity to connect with teen librarians around the state, share ideas, and focus on services to LGBTQ youth and other marginalized populations. It was an all-around inspiring day, but the highlight, for me, was the keynote speech give by Ellen Wittlinger, author of the 2000 Printz Honor book Hard Love (also a 2000 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers, a 2000 Best Books for Young Adults title, and a 2002 Popular Paperback for Young Adults) and 1999’s Parrotfish, one of the first YA books to feature a transgender protagonist. Her moving speech at the Teen Summit touched on many of the sad statistics found in last week’s great post by Molly Wetta but also explained her reasons for writing queer YA. Ellen was kind enough to agree to a brief interview, which I’m happy to share below.
Tell us a little about your background — how did you, a straight white woman, come to write about characters like Grady, a transgendered boy, and Marisol, who proudly calls herself a “Puerto Rican Cuban Yankee Lesbian?”
In my mid-twenties I was fortunate enough to live in Provincetown, Massachusetts for three years as a fellow of the Fine Arts Work Center. I’d always had a few gay friends, but usually they weren’t out to their family or co-workers. But in the early 70’s I was at ground zero for people who were “out and proud” and it affected me profoundly. Because of my own difficulties with my family, I’d always felt I had a lot in common with my gay and lesbian friends, but it was in P’town that I first began to think of myself as an advocate as well as an ally.