Teen Perspective: A Trio of Tales about Dragons

The amazing thing about fiction is that it allows us to use our imaginations to come up with whatever our heart desires. From giant rock monsters to hedgehogs that ‘gotta go faster’, modern media has proven how simple it is to take a pre-existing creature and modify it to be more entertaining to the masses.Dragon books

Yet, out of all the creatures out there that mankind has devised for modern media, the dragon seems to be the most popular among boys and girls of all ages. What is it about them that makes them so appealing? Well, I would say that it’s how each creative mind in the world is able to interpret them in their own personal way. Some people see them as mindless beasts that only want to destroy mankind, while others see them as wise and cunning creatures of the land, sea and sky! Continue reading Teen Perspective: A Trio of Tales about Dragons

Middle School Pride : LGBTQ+ Tweens in Literature for Youth

rainbow heart ballons guillaume paumier
Image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/gpaumier/

Middle school (usually 5th through 8th grade) is an incredible time.  Kids begin to see themselves as part of a larger world, their minds and bodies go into development overdrive, and their relationships with everyone can shift dramatically.  Middle schoolers are heavily invested in figuring out their identities; they push for increased independence from adults while often desperately seeking a sense of belonging among their peers.  These experiences can be especially confusing, painful, or frightening for kids who feel different–such as kids whose gender identities or sexual orientations stand out in our still very binary and heteronormative culture.

This spring, Buzzfeed published an article titled “Coming Out As Gay in Elementary School,” which interviewed a few children and their families on their experiences coming out as gay, genderless, and queer at ages ranging from 7 to 13 years old.  The article also cites research and interviews with Dr. Caitlyn Ryan of San Francisco State University’s Family Acceptance Project.  In a 2009 practice brief, Dr. Ryan notes that their research shows that “both gay and straight children have their first ‘crush’ or attraction to another person at age 10” and on average, adolescents in their studies identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual at age 13.4 (2).  In the same report, she reiterates that children develop and express gender identity at ages 2-3 (2).

As a librarian,  I want to be able to provide all of my students with stories that both reflect their lives, experiences, and identities and expand their understanding of our diverse world.  Since these studies and testimonies clearly illustrate the relevance of LBGTQ+ stories to middle school students, I wondered: how many middle school age characters who identify on the LGBTQ+ spectrum show up in middle grade and young adult fiction?

Happily, we are beginning to see more and more novels featuring 10-14 year old LGBTQ+ characters. However, I struggled to find representations of girls who like girls or transgender boys, which was disheartening.  We’ve got some great titles currently available and several exciting titles set to be published this year. But I’d love to see even more, especially featuring lesbian/bisexual/queer girls and transgender boys!

dramaDrama – Raina Telgemeier (2013 Stonewall Honor Book, 2013 Rainbow List, 2013 Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens)

While her painfully bad singing rules out a future as an actor, theatre fanatic Callie has found her place backstage as a set designer. When talented twins Justin and Jesse join the middle school musical, the drama on and off stage reaches new heights. Callie’s thrilled to have a fun new friend in openly gay Justin and she hopes that quiet Jesse might be the boy to help her get over her crush on her old friend Greg.

so hard to saySo Hard To Say – Alex Sanchez

Thirteen year old Xio is confident, bubbly, and ready for first kisses and romance.  When shy Frederick starts at school, Xio is happy to lend him a pen and invite him to join her lunch table.  The two quickly become close friends but as Xio’s attempts to transform their relationship into romance escalate, Frederick finds himself increasingly attracted to handsome soccer player Victor.

Better Nate Than Ever by Tim FederleBetter Nate Than Ever (2014 Rainbow List, 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2014 Stonewall Honor Book) and Five, Six, Seven, Nate- Tim Federle (2015 Rainbow List, 2015 Lamda Literary Awardfive six seven nate

When thirteen year old Nate hears about open auditions for the lead in the upcoming Broadway production of E.T. : The Musical, he will stop at nothing to get to New York City and claim his rightful space in the spotlight.  Along the way, Nate faces merciless competition, perilous public transportation, and growing questions about his sexuality and identity.  Nate’s adventures continue in the sequel, Five, Six, Seven, Nate!   Continue reading Middle School Pride : LGBTQ+ Tweens in Literature for Youth

YA Books to Make You Laugh Out Loud

CC photo by Flickr User Joao Paulo de Vasconcelos
CC photo by Flickr User Joao Paulo de Vasconcelos

One of the most frequent readers’ advisory questions I get is  also one of the most complicated. Often, a reader asks for a “funny” book. But what does that mean?

Humor is subjective. Some readers might be looking for a book with slapstick-y humor, others might appreciate darker humor, like satire. Some readers don’t mind a book with bits of humor but more dramatic themes overall, others just want an easy, breezy comedy.

Bottom line: matching books with readers looking for a funny book can be tricky.

Since April is National Humor Month, it seemed like a good time to break down the subcategories of humor and offer suggestions for readers looking for funny books.


Satire is the use of humorous exaggeration to expose and criticize, particularly in the context of politics or culture.

beauty queensBeauty Queens by Libba Bray (2012 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2012 Amelia Bloomer List, 2012 Rainbow List, 2014 Popular Paperbacks) is about a group of beauty pageant contestants who crash land on an island: hilarity ensues. But while a less adept writer might have just mocked the beauty-obsessed girls, but instead, she creates complicated characters who for various reasons—money, love, approval—have all bought into the rigid standards beauty pageant contestants are expected to embody, and in the process, critiques consumerism , reality TV, and of course, pageants.

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults) is the story of Jennifer Strange, a wizard for hire who becomes the last dragonslayer. Like Bray, Fforde critiques the corporate world and consumer culture in this fantasy series sure to put a smirk on reader’s faces.

Teen readers who love satire should also check out the classics from authors like George Orwell and Kurt Vonnegut.  Continue reading YA Books to Make You Laugh Out Loud

2015 Amazing Audiobooks Top Ten Listen-a-Likes

Photo by Flickr User jeff_golden
Photo by Flickr User jeff_golden

This past year I had the immense pleasure to serve as chair for the 2015 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults committee. It was a really great year for audiobooks and my committee was fortunate to consider a total of 395 audiobooks for our selection list!  After hours and hours of listening, we had to whittle down a list of no more than 30 selections that were the year’s best.  If you have not yet had a chance to checkout our list you can see it here.  It was released last week, after the Midwinter Conference.

We also had the even more difficult task of selecting our Top Ten Audiobooks of the year. Below are our Top Ten titles for 2015, along with a suggested listen-a-like, in case you are ahead of the game and have already listened to these Top Ten selections.

2015 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults Top Ten

  • ACID by Emma Pass, read by Fiona Hardingham with Nicholas Guy Smith and Suzan Crowley. Listening Library, 2014. 10 hours, 48 minutes; 9 discs. 978-0-8041-6832-8.

The brutal police state ACID rules all, so when Jenna is broken out of prison by a rebel group she has to fight to survive as ACID’s most-wanted fugitive.  Unique ACID reports and recordings read by Smith and Hardingham’s excellent pace combine with her authentic teen voice to highlight this exciting story.


The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, read by Steve West and Fiona Hardingham: For those listeners who are looking for another title narrated by Fiona Hardingham that is packed with action and adventure and that has a strong female main character. (Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults 2012,  2012 Odyssey Honor  Audiobook)


  • Curtsies and Conspiracies by Gail Carriger, read by Moira Quick.  Hachette Audio, 2013.  9 hours, 30 minutes, 8 discs, ISBN: 978-1-4789-2648-1.

In the second installment of the Finishing School series, Sophronia and her classmates use their training to search for a dangerous device that may have fallen into the wrong hands.  Quick’s lively narration highlights the wit and humor in Carriger’s story.


The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud, read by Miranda Raison: The Finishing School series, narrated by Quirk, is filled with sly humor but also packs a punch with Sophronia’s adventures.  Likewise, The Screaming Staircase is not only is an action-packed steampunk mystery, but Raison brings variety to her narration by highlighting the nuances of the quirky cast of characters characters, including the darkly comedic Anthony Lockwood. (Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults 2014)

curtsies and conspiracies audio  screaming staircase audio Continue reading 2015 Amazing Audiobooks Top Ten Listen-a-Likes

If You Like… Robin Williams Movies

Last Friday, Katie Shanahan Yu posted a tribute to Robin Williams that included wonderful video clips and a booklist of young adult novels that echo the joyful spirit of Williams’ work. This week, Jennifer Rummel and I extend the tribute with YA lit readalikes paired with some of Robin Williams’ most memorable movies (and one iconic television show.)

Hub Williams 1












Hub Williams 2











  Continue reading If You Like… Robin Williams Movies

Genre Guide: Young Adult Humor

comedy masksDisclaimer

It is almost impossible to define or categorize what constitues a “humor book” versus a “book that is funny.” Nonetheless, I think it is important to be able to point to books that have an overarching comic, comedic, or humorous plot. These are the books I will label as part of the “humor” genre, even though humor is a lot more complicated and broad than that.


According to arbitrary rules of comedy that comedians/comic writers break all the time, a comic plot is one that continues to escalate, or “raise the stakes,” until it is fundamentally resolved in some manner, and ends with the general success of the protagonist, often (but not necessarily) romantically. I’m personally going to say that a young adult humor book is one in which some comedic device, whether it’s a classic trope like the ol’ mistaken identity trick, or something more complex, like a plot that relies a lot on situational irony, takes up most of the plot. The plot can still include romance, fantastical or science fiction elements, tragedy, etc.

Continue reading Genre Guide: Young Adult Humor

YA Sniglets

Humpty Dumpty
Humpty Dumpty in Through the Looking Glass

In the 1980s HBO tried out a sketch comedy show based on a British news parody show. The show, Not Necessarily the News, featured a regular segment from a comedian named Rich Hall. Hall dealt satirically with a number of topics by creating new words to describe our modern lives. He dubbed these creations “sniglets.”

Rich Hall described sniglets as “any word that doesn’t appear in the dictionary, but should.” Often these sniglets were portmanteau words which have a long and celebrated history that is usually traced to Lewis Carroll but surely has deeper roots than that. Carroll, for example, used slithy which he defined as a combination of lithe and slimy. Modern popular culture loves portmanteau words and gives us lots of new fun versions like Bennifer (Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez) or mankini/manssiere/manscaping, sexting, and frankenfood. The list goes on and on.

I thought that YA was due for its own collection of sniglets/portmanteau, so here is my contribution. I hope that you will follow up with some of your own.

In Honor of Towel Day: A Mini-Guide to Other Essential Items You Should Never Hitchhike the Galaxy Without

Hello fellow Earthlings.

Did you know that Douglas Adams, the man who wrote The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, has become such an inspiration to intergalactic travelers that creatures across the many galaxies celebrate a very special day once a year in his honor? In fact, that very day happens to be tomorrow.

douglas adams
Douglas Adams, picture courtesy of Jill Furmanovsky

May 25th is the annual celebration of Towel Day. All across the universe, fans of Douglas Adams proudly carry a towel about with them.

The-Hitchhikers-Guide-to-the-GalaxyWhy a towel, you ask? As we know from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the towel is just about the most massively useful thing any interstellar hitchhiker can carry. The towel has great convenient and practical value, including being something to sleep upon, something to wrap around yourself for warmth, and even something to dry off with when one has gotten a bit too soggy. Its true value, though, is more psychological!

Continue reading In Honor of Towel Day: A Mini-Guide to Other Essential Items You Should Never Hitchhike the Galaxy Without

Woman Laughing Alone With Books

April is National Humor Month, and as The Hub’s resident amateur stand-up comedian, I’ve been asked — okay, fine, I’ve taken it upon myself — to cover humorous YA novels. The category itself is fairly broad. After all, don’t most books have a little humor to lighten the mood? When can a book be classified under the “Humor” genre and when is it just a novel that happens to be funny, among other things? Are there differences in how authors approach “boy” humor versus “girl” humor? (If you thought I wouldn’t sneak gender politics into this post you were sadly mistaken.) Are there “classics” in YA humor? How far is too far when it comes to comic novels dealing with the tricky stuff? I can’t answer all these questions, but I can think about my own favorite YA novels that are pretty seriously funny, and tell you why I think so.

Everybody has different notions of what makes a book funny. You might be someone who says, “I’m just more interested in science fiction than in comic novels,” or “You know, I really prefer romance to humor.” That’s why I’ve got ten really great, really diverse books that defy genre to happily recommend to any reader, no matter what your comedy interests are.

Will Grayson Will GraysonFirst of all, I’d be remiss not to mention Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green. At this point, everyone on Planet Earth has read, or at least heard of, this book. I’m not even going to summarize it for you because you’ve probably read several summaries already. But Tiny Cooper happens to be one of my favorite characters in YA fiction, and easily one of the funniest, and his musical about his own life is enough to give this book a go for National Humor Month.

One of my unspoken rules of YA is that if an author I love loves another author, I have to read that second author’s work too. It’s the transitive property of YA lit, or something. That’s why I’m happy to report that Meg Cabot’s review of Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway did not let me down. Audrey, Wait! tells the story of a girlfriend who dumps her lead-singer boyfriend, Evan, only to become famous by association after Evan writes a song about it. Audrey, Wait! has a subtle feminist message about how being someone’s “muse” isn’t always a good thing, but more than that, it’s seriously funny and features a likable protagonist.

Continue reading Woman Laughing Alone With Books

Holy Humor, Batman!

knockknockjesus-vox.newsWhat does “Holy Humor” mean to you? I confess that I immediately thought of Christopher Moore’s novel, Lamb; The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal. Lamb covers Jesus’ adolescent years that are skipped in 21st century Bibles. While Jesus is pure thoughout the book, party-hardy Biff offers advice, protection, and intense loyalty to his friend. Coarse language and debauchery surround Biff like an offensive odor, but Jesus maintains both an innocence and a radiating spiritual knowledge throughout.

More recently, Seth Grahame-Smith’s Unholy Night relates the night of Jesus’ birth as experience by three street-wise criminals. The chief of these, Balthazar, has risen from a traumatically impoverished childhood to become one of the most feared desperados in Judea. The baby Jesus inspires in Balthazar the tiniest burp of compassion, long buried by years of murderous rampage. As with Lamb, Jesus is treated with reverence and awe, made more extraordinary by the sinfulness of the supporting characters.

Continue reading Holy Humor, Batman!