It’s March, and I’m getting ready for C2E2, one of Chicago’s best pop-culture conventions. Whether you prefer the term nerd, geek, fanboy/girl, or pop culture enthusiast, 2019 is an excellent time to proclaim your love for things once stigmatized as being not cool, from playing Dungeons & Dragons to cosplaying as your favorite anime character to writing fanfiction of your favorite TV shows. YA authors and publishers are not immune to the geek chic trend; in Publisher’s Weekly May, 2017 article, “In the Age of Conventions, YA fans rule” they argue that the rise of novels with “plots that feature fandom, cons, and cosplay” is inevitable as authors interact more and more online and in person with their fans. In the novels that follow, fellow nerds find friendship and even love in comic book shops, at conventions, and while playing MMORPGS (for the uninitiated, that’s massively multiplayer online role-playing games).
Ask About What?
We have all met students who we know are destined to go on and do great things because of deep empathy for others or their leadership skills. And as graduation season wraps up for colleges and high schools across the country, I have been inspired to change my conversation with students in my high school after a slide shared at a conference went viral a while back.
“Don’t ask kids what they want to be when they grow up but what problems do they want to solve. This changes the conversation from who do I want to work for, to what do I need to learn to be able to do that.” (Casap)
I spend more time now talking with students about things they want to change or issues that they see and how they are feeling and thought it would be good to visit the topic of child exploitation. It’s more than just an awareness, but how choices they’re making are a part of a global community. How is that coffee farmed in your Dunkin Donuts cup? Where are those Nikes made on your feet and how much do they pay their employees?
It can start with a discussion over one of these titles that features children being exploited: sexually, physically, or psychologically.
Discussing It Through Literature
The Bitter Side of Sweet by Tara Sullivan
Amadou and Seydou are brought to work on a cacao farm while being starved, beaten, and punished, unable to escape the devastation with little hope of escape until Khadija, abducted from her mother’s home provides the strength to try after a traumatic injury threatens the youngest boy’s life.
Breaking Free: True Stories of Girls Who Escaped Modern Slavery by Abby Sher
The nonfiction titles showcases diverse stories related to trafficking for labor or sex. Inspiring stories that graphically detail their struggles in 2014.
Each year, School Library Journal presents a Day of Dialog, which allows librarians, educators, and library students the chance to come together and learn the latest about childrens and teens publishing trends and upcoming releases. This was the first time I have attended a Day of Dialog and I would definitely recommend future attendance to anyone who works with children and/or teens promoting books and reading. Check out my recap of the middle school/high school panels and speakers from the day!
Friday, April 22, 2016 is National Earth Day, a day celebrated around the globe to demonstrate support for environmental protection. Started in 1970 and gaining momentum in the 1990s, Earth Day is great time to reevaluate the impact that we are having on the planet. Environmentalism has often been a cause taken up with passion by teens and new adults, and one recent study shows that during the recession years, conservations efforts among teens rose.
In honor of Earth Day, here is a list of nonfiction and fiction titles that explore a variety of aspects of environmental issues and conservation actions.
It’s Getting Hot in Here: The Past, Present, and Future of Climate Change by Bridget Heos
Exploring the science behind global warming, Heos examines the past, present, and future of climate change, the effects of political denial, and how we can work together, tackle, and lessen the impacts of a warming world.
Plants Vs. Meats: The Health, History, and Ethics of What We Eat by Meredith Sayles Hughes
Covering the historical, nutritional, and ethical impacts of what and how humans eat, Hughes brings in discussion around popular diets; the health and science of what we ingest; environmental impacts of food production; political, ethical, religious factors that lead to personal decisions; and what the future of food may look like.
The Story of Seeds: From Mendel’s Garden to your Plate, and How There’s More of Less to Eat Around the World by Nancy F. Castaldo
Another look at the impact that food production has on the environment with the importance of plant biodiversity prolonged by seed preservation. It also explores the impact of monocultures and genetic engineering on food production.
Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines by Paul Fleischman
A guide to help teens navigate conflicting information around environmental issues that are represented in a variety of newsfeeds. Full of resources and ways that teens can make a difference. Also, see the updated resources and information from Fleischman on the book’s website.
Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World by Bill Nye
Nye applies his scientific rigorous understanding of the world to climate change, showing opportunities in today’s environmental crisis as a new beginning to create a cleaner and healthier world.
Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
Investigative journalism in a graphic novel format Part diary, part documentary, this looks at our relationship with the planet and explains what global warming is all about.
Tim Wynne-Jones’ latest work The Emperor of Any Place, has popped up on a lot of recommendation lists recently. It is one of YALSA’s 2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults, is one of School Library Journal’s best books of 2015, and is on Horn Books fanfare list. Any Place has a great deal to recommend it and, like many works with an historic element, has the potential to awaken a desire to learn more in its readers.
In Any Place Wynne-Jones delves into such topics as the Pacific Theater in World War II, the mythology of Japan, the experience of that war from the viewpoint of both Japanese and American soldiers, and relationships ranging from those of enemies in battle to beloved family members. It will appeal to those with an interest in history, as well to those who enjoy both realistic dramas, mysteries, and magic realism.
The Emperor of Any Place tells the story of a 16-year-old boy named Evan whose father has very unexpectedly passed away. With little other choice, he contacts his estranged grandfather for help. At the same time he discovers a copy of the diary of a Japanese soldier stranded on a mysterious island in the Pacific during WWII, which Evan’s father was reading just before his death. The diary’s prologue, as well as some of Evan’s father’s last words, hint that his grandfather may have played a sinister role in the author’s life. Evan makes the decision to hide the diary and read it in secret while at the same time clashing dramatically with his militaristic grandfather and dealing with his grief.
The vivid and exciting diary that comprises at least half of the novel grabs a reader’s attention and makes them wonder about what is happening beyond the purview of the story. Was the battle of Tinian really as it was described? Did Japanese civilians and soldiers really believe that the Americans would commit horrible acts of savagery, such as eating babies? And are the strange and terrible creatures that haunt the island made up just for this novel, or do they have a basis in Japanese mythology?
To answer these questions, readers may consult a number of non-fiction resources that can help to answer these questions and more. While the uniqueness of the story makes it hard to find solid read-alikes, I have also included a few fiction novels that might be good follow-ups for fans of Wynne-Jones’ compelling story.
Non-Fiction Resources on WWII in the Pacific
More than half of Any Place is composed of diary accounts of the lives of Isamu Oshiro and Derwood Kraft, both of whom are stranded on the same island in the Marianas. For those students who fall in love with this more personal and individual approach to history, there are a number of other accounts, both in print and available online, with which they might like to follow up.
If your library is anything like mine, your LGBTQ displays and books are among the most popular in your collection. LGBTQ fiction and non-fiction is what we like to call window and mirror books. When teens see themselves in the book, it’s a mirror. When teens see other people in the book, it’s a window. Either way, LGBTQ books serve many purposes. Bullied teens can find inspiration and the will to live in these books. LGBTQ books can be cathartic to the teen who feels alone. Teens with LGBTQ friends or family members seek out these books to understand and/or support their loved ones.
Below is a list of books that feature LGBTQ teens from all genres including non-fiction, humor, paranormal, romance, and graphic novels.
Paranormal Romance is a sub-genre of Romance. For a novel to be a Paranormal Romance, a simple thing must occur: love must begin between a human and a supernatural being (whether wholly supernatural or partially, just as long as there are supernatural elements present). However, this can be a broad interpretation. Usually, the protagonist (often the human) in these novels is put in some kind of danger, where they come to realize they can overcome this danger either on their own or with the help of the supernatural love interest.
Authors to Know
- Kelley Armstrong
- Cassandra Clare
- Claudia Gray
- Amanda Hocking
- Julie Kagawa
- Stephenie Meyer
- Ellen Schreiber
- Cynthia Leitich Smith
- Maggie Stiefvater
Main characters include both humans and supernatural beings. The supernatural being can be wholly supernatural or partly, and include but are not limited by the following “types”: vampire, werewolf, fairy, magician, mermaid, zombie, psychic, ghost, demon hunter, demon, angel, shapeshifter, dragon, and gods or goddesses. Additionally, the human in Paranormal Romances can have a touch of the paranormal as well. An example is the teen psychic that can see the ghost. Quite often, when it comes to paranormal romances written for teens, a love triangle is involved. There could be more than one human, or more than one supernatural being in the triangle.
Tomorrow is Bastille Day! To commemorate this day check out some French authors who have had their titles for teen readers published in the US…
You know the saying, “April showers bring may flowers!” As we experience some changing weather this month, let’s take a look at some teen novels that center on extreme weather to drive their plots.
Torn Away by Jennifer Brown (2015 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers)
Hurricane Song by Paul Volponi (2010 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults)
Empty by Suzanne Weyn
Last month I wrote about canines in YA literature. This month I want to give equal time to the felines. Firstly because I had the joy of growing up in a household of cats. Secondly, there are dastardly cat gangs out there which watch our every move, and I don’t want to get on their bad side. Or so goes the familiar negative image of cats in some popular lore. However, anyone who has actually shared their life with cats knows that this is not at all the reality. Each cat, like each dog, has its own characteristics, whether affectionate or independent, forgiving or wary. With that in mind, in the following list I’ve tried to include fiction titles which I feel are well-suited to teens and which include feline characters in a variety of roles and with a variety of personalities.
Blacksad (Blacksad series) by Juan Díaz Canales & Juanjo Guarnido
The Spanish Canales and Guarnido originally created their Eisner Award-winning detective noir graphic novel series for French readers, but the setting is early 1950s U.S. This first volume collects the first three issues, which include a murder mystery and stories concerning the effects of white supremacy on individuals and the Red Scare. Private Investigator John Blacksad is an unforgettable feline. Lucia Cedeira Serantes, in her summer 2005 Young Adult Library Services article “¿Es un Pájaro? ¿Es un Avión?.…Spanish Comics for American Libraries” mentions two of the issues in this volume as being among the best in graphic novels and comics from Spain. (Adult Graphic Novel)
Book of Night with Moon (Feline Wizards trilogy) by Diane Duane
This is the first novel in a series which combines science fantasy, adventure, horror and even humor. There is a secret civilization of cats in Manhattan complete with its own language, a glossary of which is included in the novel. When the world is threatened with invasion by monsters from the “Downside”, four cats – Rhiow, Saash, Urruah and Arhu — seek out the wizard responsible for the dire situation. The cats make interesting observations about the differences between human and feline culture. (Adult Fiction)