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Tag: Francisco X. Stork

#QP2018 Nominees Final Round Up

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham
Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: February 21, 2017
ISBN: 9780316384933

“The dead have stories to tell. They just need the living to listen.”

Rowan Chase and William Tillman have stories to tell. Rowan lives in present day Oklahoma. William Tillman was a seventeen year old living in 1920s. Their stories intertwine when skeleton bones are discovered in Rowan’s backyard. Rowan, along with her best friend James, investigates. Together they solve a mystery, a murder and learn more about the Tulsa race riots of 1921.

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One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Francisco X. Stork

I tried for a long time to juggle these two lives until the day when one of my project friends got killed in a stupid accident playing chicken with a train. I decided then I would try to live only one life – one that had some kind of purpose.

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

Researching and formulating questions for this series (especially well ahead of deadline) is one of my favorite parts of interviewing; it’s a process that invariably leaves me with a whole new appreciation for the author in question.  I love how one interview gives a glimpse, and a couple blog posts present an idea, but immersing yourself in as many of an authors’ words as you can find offers–well, it’s not a whole living person, obviously, but the shape of their collected words is, I think, maybe a shadow of the whole?  

I usually come away from the experience with a desire to be president of the fan club, or the conviction we could be best friends, or possibly wishing they would adopt me (sometimes all three.)  I always come away from the experience beyond thankful they agreed to participate in this series, and never has this been more true (including the fan club/best friends/adoption part) than the weeks I spent getting to know the word-shape of Francisco X. Stork.  I read the interviews and the reviews and the articles and learned a lot.  But I was sick earlier this year, really sick, and ended up indulging myself by reading his complete online journal, something I don’t normally have time to do.  It was kind of an extraordinary experience.  I was left not only wanting to immediately re-read all his books, but also wanting to read everything, to talk and listen and explore and to ask questions every day forever.  I wanted to be kinder and more creative and honest and to think carefully about all kinds of topics.  I was inspired.  What an extraordinary man.  And then I got to interview him and that felt pretty extraordinary too.  

Thank you, Mr. Stork.  (And if you would like to start a fan club or are looking for a new best friend or possibly want to adopt me, I’m totally in.) 

Always Something There to Remind Me

Please describe your teenage self.

I was a mixture of outgoing and shy. I did things like act in plays and compete in speech tournaments but I also spent a lot of time alone reading and writing very corny poems and stories. I was a little insecure about my looks. I thought maybe my nose was too big.

Francisco Stork_credit Anna StorkWhat did you want to be when you grew up? Why?

I always wanted to be a writer since I was a little kid. But there was a period during my high school years when I really, really wanted to be a light house keeper. Doesn’t everyone at one point or another?

What were your high school years like?

I went to Jesuit High School in El Paso, Texas. The school had a very rigorous academic program and I struggled at first. But after a few months I discovered that I could actually get good grades if I studied and from then on high school was more enjoyable than not. I actually liked going home and spending my evenings doing homework, Jesuit High School was an all-boys school so the other thing that was fun was going to speech tournaments at high schools where there were actual girls! During those four years I met many teachers that were inspiring but I will always be grateful to Father John Hatcher (now the director of St. Francis Mission in the Rosebud Reservation of South Dakota) who saw that I was smarter than I let on and challenged me to just be myself.

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Genre Guide: Westerns for Teens

By Grant-Kohrs Ranch Historic Collection, bought by the National Park Service in 1972 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Grant-Kohrs Ranch Historic Collection, bought by the National Park Service in 1972 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Definition

Traditional western novels denote a sense of the “Old West” as defined as a time period of American history from about the 17th century to the early 20th century where new settlers dealt with the harsh landscape, lawlessness, and/or the loner who exacts vengeance in the name of doing what is right. For westerns that are written for teens, however, they don’t always follow all the typical western tropes, but most commonly some of these themes are paired with the main character or characters coming of age through the story.

Authors to Know

There aren’t many authors who are well-known for writing westerns for teens, however here are some of the more well-known western authors:

  • Loius L’Amour
  • Zane Grey
  • Larry McMurtry
  • Cormac McCarthy

Characteristics

The setting of western novels usually deem that they be set in western America.  However, westerns can take place in other geographical settings where the landscape may mimic that of the “Old West.”  So, it can be a landscape where there is a search for a valuable mineral or material, or there are desolate conditions that are hard to survive, or it is a new land that settlers must figure out how to tame.  Whatever the case, a richly detailed landscape is one of the main characteristics of a western novel.  Also, a civilized society does not exist in most western novels, usually because the land has been uninhabited and it has yet to be developed. Traditionally, western novels are set in the time period of the “Old West,” but when it comes to western novels written for teens, they do not need to be set in a historically accurate time.  They can be set in the past, alternate past, present, and even future.

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Books for National Disability Employment Awareness Month

National Disability Employment Awareness MonthBy Presidential Proclamation, the month of October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Despite legal efforts to eliminate discrimination and to increase access to education and job training, only 20.5% of people in America who have disabilities are employed. But, many people remain unaware of this inequity. This month, raise your awareness about disability employment by reading one of these books that highlight characters with disabilities in the workplace.

Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller by Sarah Miller – While many are familiar with Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan, few realize that Sullivan was actually visually impaired herself. At a time when few women worked outside of the home, she nevertheless became Helen Keller’s governess and teacher at age 20. Learn more about her life in this fictionalized account, which draws heavily on Sullivan’s own writings.

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Geoguessr and YA Lit: Navigating the World with Barely a Clue

Like a lot of people, I’ve developed a fondness for a little game called Geoguessr over the past few weeks. The game presents you with a Google Street View of somewhere in the world, and your goal is to identify the mystery location based on what you see. I’m really into it. You might even say I’m obsessed.  I mean … sleep? Who needs it?! I just guessed within 30 feet of a location in Japan! (No cheating with Google, either. Booyah!)

geoguessr_abashiriWhat I love about this game is the feeling of disorientation — the feeling of being dropped in the middle of somewhere unfamiliar and having to figure out your location based on clues. Sometimes the clues are clear, like a famous landmark or signs written in an identifiable language. Other times, the clues are nothing more than the type of trees or the color of the soil.

And as awesome as it is when you guess accurately, it’s just as delightful when you mistake Paraguay for Portugal, because you learn something new about the world from the experience. In fact, navigating the world this way is kind of like trying to get through the teen years: you revel in your wins and gain knowledge from your mistakes.

Playing Geoguessr makes me think of YA novels where characters are thrown into a situation that requires them to navigate almost blindly, whether it’s a new place, a new emotion, or circumstances that are simply beyond their control. They’re forced to muddle through based on whatever clues they can piece together as they go, and they usually come out on the other side with a whole new perspective.

In between Geoguessr rounds, I’ve put together a list of a few titles that come to mind while playing this game.

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Great Contemporary YA Novels for Book Clubs

While teens are all unique individuals, most have one thing in common: they are social creatures. One of the best ways to foster a love of reading in young adults is to make it a group activity that allows for socialization (snacks help, too). Book clubs are a great opportunity for teens to make new friends and explore reading material they might not otherwise consider. To get teens coming back, you have to pick the right books, which can be a tricky task.

What makes a good book club book?

In selecting books to read with a group of teens, there are many important factors to consider. Try to avoid books commonly assigned for English and literature classes in school. It doesn’t hurt to check with teachers in your area to see what’s being read in class. Though I think it’s important to give teens a voice in choosing what the club reads, providing them with options helps the selection process. While books read for the purpose of being discussed can be entertaining and fun, they should also be thought-provoking. Likewise, selecting a book everyone will love can make for boring conversation.

What does provide for lively discussion are three-dimensional characters who must endure difficult circumstances. Though there’s no reason not to explore fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal, or any genre with a teen book club, today I’m sharing some of my favorite contemporary young adult picks. These books about real-life teenagers dealing with the problems of growing up are sure to provide fuel for thought-provoking conversation.

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People First: Disabilities in YA Lit

“You’re really pretty for someone in a wheel chair.”

As hard as it is for some to believe, YA novels are not all supernatural romance books about sparkly vampires or good vs evil, save-the-world-by-finding-the-chosen-one-and-watching-him/her/it uncover-special-powers-intended-to-overcome-the-forces-of-darkness novels. Okay, maybe lots of them fall into these categories, and, if we’re honest, we all have our favorites among them. However, many YA novels offer a deeper and more realistic look at life, self-discovery, and what it means to move toward adulthood as a part of a larger community. They help the reader see the world from a different perspective. One of these perspectives is that of a person with a disability.

I know there is controversy surrounding the correct terminology to use when discussing this topic, so let me start with this. I will be using person-first language (“person with disabilities” instead of “disabled person”) because we’re all people first. Also, while terms like “other-abled” or “differently-abled” may be apt and appropriate, I won’t be using them here.

YA literature is famous for tackling issues and not shying away from uncomfortable topics, which, for some, includes disabilities. So how has the world of YA literature presented the perspective of those with disabilities? The short answer is: in a variety of ways. Of course, we’re not just going with the short answer.

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Books That Make You Fight Back

Right now its a beautiful summer day outside my door. The sun is shinning, a cool breeze is blowing, and it is hard to imagine a day more perfect. What isn’t hard is imagining a worse scene. News reports, documentaries, even Twitter all bring stories and images of a darker world. Sometimes it’s even as easy as opening a book.

For many teens, adolescence is when they start seeing the dark in the world, near and far. Many teens themselves live in dangerous areas where violence and crime are everyday occurrences that affect them. Teens are also used to having little or no voice when it comes to many important choices. They can’t vote yet and are subject to their parents’ and school rules. As a result many are very aware of social injustices, unfairness, or lack of equality in their own society and others. YA literature is full of books that look closer at social injustices that make you want to fight back.

Shine by Lauren Myracle (2012 Teens’ Top Ten Nominee)

Cat doesn’t have many friends anymore, but she’s shaken when one she was close to, Patrick, is severely beaten and left for dead. In her small, rural community, many people are willing to think and say he was asking for it by being gay. Cat doesn’t care why; she wants answers and she wants to know who.

Myracle creates more than just a story of homophobia and intolerance. She looks at deeper layers involved: poverty, abuse, drug use, and bullying. What could be preachy or after-school special is instead a complex and fully realized story. Myracle makes the effort to create a place where terrible things can happen but also shows that the violent cycle can be broken.

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Why YA in the Classroom

Recently a report on high school students and reading levels came out with an alarming headline: “High Schoolers Reading at 5th Grade-Level.” Covered previously here at The Hub, the report gathered data suggesting that a majority of high school students are reading below grade level. It also asked an important question: what should kids be reading? One answer to this question is using more young adult literature in high school classes to increase interest and reading levels. YA is more popular than ever thanks to a certain dystopian series being turned into an insanely popular movie. But this strategy is not without its drawbacks.

Last month a teacher in South Carolina was suspended for reading aloud a passage from Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, a YA science fiction book considered by many a classic and often taught in schools in units dealing with identity and morality. The Arizona State Legislature passed legislation last year effectively banning YA titles that had previously been used in successful multicultural studies curriculum. John Green recently defended his book Looking For Alaska (the 2006 Printz Award winner) on Twitter after it was removed from a school reading list on the basis it is “pornographic.”

YA books are far from being universally accepted in school classrooms. Their inclusion presents unique challenges (sometimes literally) but also amazing opportunities. A compelling reason to include YA literature in classrooms is content. Teens, like most readers, appreciate characters and situation that are familiar to them and their lives. Readers have a stronger connection to the text when they can see themselves and their struggles in the story. YA literature also offers readers diverse characters, compelling stories, and high quality writing. When incorporated into literature curricula, YA titles can offer a wide spectrum of views on popular themes like identity, conflict, society and survival. YA literature can be easily incorporated into classroom through literature circles, supplemental reading lists, multimedia projects, and of course being paired with canonical texts typically used in classrooms.

Here’s a list of YA titles that would fit into the classroom, organized by theme.

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Writing the Good Fight: Teen Characters With Cancer

flickr image by SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget

Writing about cancer can be challenging, making even the most confident author nervous and even uncomfortable. It’s a private subject for some, and in our attempts to be sensitive and supportive, it’s difficult to know what to say and what not to say unless you’ve personally experienced the disease in one of its countless terrible forms.

Enter John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, a heart-wrenching novel featuring teens with cancer that’s more than that. While the disease plays a major role in the book, it’s not the focus of the story, and while characters Hazel Grace and Gus are afflicted with cancer, it doesn’t define them or their abilities. In any other writer’s hands, a novel about cancer-stricken teens may have delved into tearful sentimentality, but Green gives his story and cover for The Fault in Our Starscharacters, particularly Hazel, the strength, wit, and humor to be both brutally honest and realistic about her slim chances of survival.

When Hazel Grace states that “cancer books suck,” I was intrigued by her declaration. What books could exist in her fictional world that merit such a harsh assessment? More to the point, what books about teens dealing with cancer are available for readers like you and me? John Green isn’t the first young adult author to tackle writing about the disease, but he’s certainly set the bar high in terms of depicting an honest, realistic portrayal of it. What follows are titles that show that cancer books do not suck.

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